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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sauraha's Recycling Project
Sauraha's extensive bottle collection
The miracle is that recycling has come to our little village, and the miracle worker is Martina Manders.  Martina is originally from The Netherlands, but now calls Sauraha her home.  Martina succeeded where all others failed. Yes, the photo (right) indeed does look like a confusing mess of various bits of this's and that's, but it is ALL being recycled. 

Other than the usual detritus accumulated in every village, town, and city everywhere, Sauraha accumulates a huge amount of plastic bottles. Empty plastic bottles tend to accumulate quickly in a country where tourists would rather invest in bottled H20 than risk trying drinking local water.

Organizing the detritus 
Those bottles are turned into rope by the thousands.  The heavier plastic recyclables are converted into plastic bags and pipes for plumbing use.  Glass is being crushed and reused to make more bottles.  All other reusables are separated  (sort of, as the photo illustrates) and are sent to places where they can be saved and made into useful and profitable articles.

How Martina did this is a testament to the patience, education, and support from Nepalis who were aware of the dangers of filling the planet with garbage.  She started by convincing the larger and better lodges to separate everything that could be recycled.  She then convinced the smaller shops and local people to follow suit.  Like anywhere else, some folks just didn't get it, or just didn't care to get it. 

Martina would go herself and, in front of the embarrassed shopkeeper or homeowner, take the time to start separating waste from recyclables. Martina tells me that the shame alone caused many reluctant doubters to comply.  Martina still encounters people who think burning plastic bottles — or better still, throwing reusables into the river — is the best thing to do.  Martina's patience with them is remarkable. She says that "shame on them" seems to work in due time.  Gentle persuasion and more awareness programs are doing the trick.  

Our little village is now littered with marked refuse containers that are filling up with the appropriate material.  From someone who hated seeing piles of recyclable and reusable articles piling up along the river or smelling burning plastic, the sight of locals carrying out their "garbage" all separated and ready for pickup is a wonderful indeed.  Three cheers for Martina Manders!


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A Dedicated Teacher

The foundation of WELNepal's work (and much more importantly, of the women's lives), is literacy.  Literacy is the first step these women must take in order to change their lives, their family's lives, and ultimately, their country.

Fortunately, this year we were able to fund 20 new Basic Literacy Classes.  That means more than 600 women will learn how to read and write in their own language for the first time.  Unfortunately, we had to ask more than 20 women's groups to wait until next year due to lack of funding.  But, out of so many groups wishing to start literacy training, how do we choose which groups which will start this year and which groups will have to wait for another year?  It used to be "first come, first serve" but over the years we have learned better.  Experience has taught us that the teacher is most important part of a successful literacy class, and ultimately a successful program.  The teacher who motivates, encourages and challenges the women is the teacher who will get the best out of their fellow villagers.  We always remind the prospective teacher that if one or two students miss class, that is a minor problem.  But if the teacher misses classes, that is a major problem.  Decisions on who is in and who is out are made by our coordinators and myself when we visit the prospective groups.  And I have been down some bumpy, extremely poor excuses for roads for the past three weeks meeting these prospective groups. 

It is interesting to see, that even without much communication in the outlying villages, news gets around.  Women's groups, who were previously unaware of our program, now ask to join.  These groups are put on "next year's list". However, there are always exceptions. While meeting with a potential literacy group, a woman from a village a few miles away came and introduced herself as Mon Kumari Chaudhary. Mon Kumary asked for a literacy class for the women in her village.  Our literacy coordinator Jugge told her that she was too late this year, but to prepare a class list and find a suitable room for her class to be held next year.  Mon Kumari found Jugge's phone number and called him that evening.  She had prepared the class list and had found a good room for the women to take their classes THIS YEAR.  Jugge again informed Mon Kumari she was much too late this year, however next year was possible.

The next morning, at the office of our coordinator's NGO, Mon Kumari was waiting for us to open. Mon Kumari insisted that we give her the class this year.  She said that her group of women did not want to wait until next year and wanted to learn NOW. We were pleased to make Mon Kumari Chaudhary and her group of 25 women in the village of Gawai our 20th Basic Literacy Class for 2012.  By the way, "Mon" means "HEART" in Nepali.  Below you can see Mon Kumari proudly holding the sign with the name of George and Eva who will be sponsoring her group this year.
Mon Kumari proudly standing with the students enrolled in George & Eva's Class