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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sauraha's Furry Residents

A few months ago, I started off this year’s blog-a-thon by telling you how my little village of Sauraha has changed and yet stayed the same.  Now, as I’m ready to leave this home for my home in Canada, I’d like to conclude my time in Nepal by telling you about some of Sauraha’s furrier residents. Let’s start off with some of the big boys.

These are girls, actually. Male elephants are considered too unpredictable to ferry tourists into the Chitwan jungle. I am also happy to report that Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, made sure that elephant dung does not smell bad.  Elephant farts on the other hand…

There has been some work for the benefit of the elephants.  An American woman has started a wonderful project that ensures these big, beautiful, family-oriented animals live together in enclosed areas rather than being chained up to a post alone. Some tour offices in Sauraha are now suggesting that it would be better for the elephants to spend less time carrying tourists through the jungle when visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk on their own two feet. Once again, I strongly suggest you come to my little village of Sauraha and take a walk in the jungle


One way to get around town is to take a horse cart.  There is something very 19th century about hearing the clip-clop of horse hooves on the newly paved streets of Sauraha.  Some of the horses are better cared for than others, which is unfortunate — but at least Nepalis aren’t fond of horse meat.


These big guys work for a living, carting tourists around the town.  It’s a lot better than being on someone’s plate for dinner.


Being a male human in Nepal is good. It’s not so good being a male of any other species.  Female buffalos make more buffalos and milk.  Male buffalos make good mo-mos.


This male goat looks sad because he knows that, sooner or later, there is going to be a festival, marriage or some ceremony that he’s going to be invited to. He won’t be attending as a guest, but will end up in many guest’s bellies. Not an ideal way to experience a party.


The same goes for these ducks. But I will tell you that there is a lot less quacking and cock-a-doodling in town after a big holiday

This misplaced camel probably knows Sauraha is no Sahara, but is powerless to do anything about it. 

The cow--sacred to Hindus--has nothing to fear in sunny Sauraha. This adorable mom and baby are revered and well looked-after. They won't end up on anyone's plate anytime soon. 

Cats, being extremely camera shy, are very hard to photograph — except for this little guy who found me a most excellent salt lick.

WELNepal’s great friend, wordsmith and dog lover Ashley was very happy to hear that the great folks from HART were back in town this year, neutering all the strays they could capture.  Street dogs are not the Nepali’s favorite animals and the dogs know it.  They keep a very low profile during the day.  But when the HART van drove through town, there was always a very angry pack of doggies still recovering from their surgeries tearing after the van, letting them know exactly how they felt about their new situation.  At least they are not on the menu at festivals.

I’m going to miss all my friends in Sauraha, human and not, as I prepare to head home to enjoy the last gasps of winter.

---David Daai

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Helping Women Grow

Nowadays, woman’s empowerment and literacy is being much popular in the context of Nepal, especially in rural area where the people are uneducated and illiterate. 
I personally believed that such types of programs enhance the people in upgrading their knowledge, including recognizing the advertisement and banners in the street while they are going far away from their home.  They are also capable to expose their feelings in front of huge mass of people without any hesitation.  Moreover it is said that a woman is literate in the family, then the whole family are literate. 
With the help of these classes they can sign in respective document instead of thumb print at bank or anywhere else. 
So in my view these classes are very important for the people of rural area, for those person who are uneducated.  By the help of these classes they can learn simple language and they can read and write.  So it is great benefit for the people.
Bipana Shivakota
Bipana Shivakota wrote the above quote. She has been facilitating one of our remedial classes for the past three years.  This year she will oversee the fourth year of remedial classes for the women in her village of Kumroj.  Bipana has also just completed her final year at nursing college and will soon begin her career in a local hospital.

Her sentiment matches our own. We've blogged about the success of our remedial classes before, and fortunately there’s more good news on that front.  All 700 women in our remedial class program have completed their two-year literacy course.  These women — from 50 different classes — meet once a week in order to keep their reading and writing skills honed. The classes also let them discuss other topics and share their feelings. Here are some success stories:

Shova Adhikari
Shova Adhikari told us that one of the lessons in our Remedial 1 class dealt with uterine prolapse — a condition common to women here in the villages who have multiple children and return to arduous labour too soon after giving birth.  After reading the article and discussing the condition, three women who were previously too embarrassed and too shy to deal with the problem promptly went to the hospital for treatment. While uterine prolapse may be an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition (it occurs when the uterus slips into or partially out of the vagina), it is treatable, and it’s good that women in our classes are no longer suffering in silence.

Our remedial classes are not only about keeping the women’s literary skills sharp. Shova also told us about the death of a woman in her village of Jutpani. The woman died after giving birth to a healthy son, and the women of our remedial class were not satisfied with the doctor’s shrug of his shoulders. Their persistence in questioning the woman’s untimely death revealed that the death was caused by a hospital error.  The women were able to sue for close to $10,000 and are using the money to pay for the young boy’s upbringing.  

Sarita Dahal from Pithuwa told us that one of the women in her remedial class successfully
Sarita Dahal
filled out a complicated visa application form so she could visit family in the U.S. We’re incredibly happy she had the chutzpah and confidence to walk into the very well-guarded and somewhat intimidating American Embassy in Kathmandu. She is now visiting her family in the United States.

Sangita, a student in our Remedial 3 Class, told us that she now has the confidence to take part in local programs and has no difficulty voicing her opinion.  She also tells us that the money she is earning from our organic farming and mushroom cultivation project is going to pay for her son’s computer training. Sangita says that she has learned through her remedial studies that computer skills are necessary for attaining better positions in the working world these days.

Sangita also tells us that, although her marriage was arranged without her having much to say about the choice, she will take part in the marriage of her daughters but be much more responsive to her girl’s wishes.

As I have mentioned in previous messages and blogs, some say that literacy classes for women are not, on average, successful.  I am very proud and happy to say those who believe that should come and meet the women in our remedial classes.

The women in our literacy class were once learning to read. Now they are reading to learn.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Meet the Kumals

The Kumal family stands In front of their little shop. Sunil is standing beside his wife Sante.  In front of Sunil is middle daughter Nalina. Sitting between her mother and father is little Sarina, and their oldest daughter, Rojina, is on the left. As you can see, the Kumals named their shop after Rojina.

Rojina with customers
Rojina is now old enough to look after the shop when her parents  are busy with other duties.  Rojina, as the oldest, is also in charge of helping her two sisters. She is an excellent student (first in her class) and is being generously supported by one of WELNepal's donors.

All three girls attend a private school. This is especially remarkable considering most parents wouldn't spend money on a top notch education for their daughters. For many, education is still seen as wasted on women. Fortunately, Sunil and Sante feel differently. Sunil's family, back in the remote village of his birth, still urge him to try again for a son, but Sunil tells me that he is proud of his three girls and does not want or need any more children.
Line of shops

The Kumals sleeping space
All five Kumals live in one room in the back of their shop. The pictures tell the story.  As you can see, all five sleep together.  There are a few posters and photos on the bare brick wall. The room is also crowded with shop stock, and since Sunil and Sante need to sell locally-produced liquor to eke out a living, that one room also serves as a bar.  Sunil tells me that there is no drinking allowed in their living quarters until the children have finished their homework. You would be forgiven for wondering where the drinkers even sit! 

When it comes to poverty, the Kumals are not the exception — they are the rule. ALL families that operate rental shops live the same way.

Kumals kitchen
All of the families use the outhouse at the back of the shops and share one water pump that provides drinking and washing water. Sante and the rest of the women go to the river to wash their clothes, which is difficult and time-consuming.

Despite the difficult living conditions, it’s encouraging to see families valuing education above all else — especially when they’re going against the grain and educating women and girls.