November 13, 2013
Though I am only one of many people’s efforts to ensure the success of our vocational school, the Chelsea Education Center, I am the fortunate one who gets to lay witness to its evidence.
Yesterday I was heading out the door of the center and past the motorcycle repair class when I saw three of our students doing a repair to a shiny motorcycle while its owner stood, helmet in hand and chatting with our teacher, both smiling amiably upon the work being done. The man had been driving by and saw the boys working on our bike and asked if this was a repair shop and our teacher said yes and so he stopped. The boys went out and listened to the problem and said they could fix it and did so quickly and professionally.
These are photos from the beginning, in the past year the students have taken this bike apart several times, every part of it and rebuilt it. The bike has gone in appearance from a mud encrusted, battered and bruised non-running machine that people gave up on to a fine-lined, tightly wound spitfire-clean piece of purring machinery. As the motorcycle returned to life with robust energy and new muscled confidence, so too can it be considered likewise in the lives of our boys. We are now looking around for a later model motorcycle made in India for the boys to learn both a little universal culture and repair.
Staying with the CEC for a moment, the children of our Computer Software class returned after their vacation to find a brand new laptop at each of their stations. Laurie Levine, a member of our board of advisors, has focused on the CEC and, by way of fundraisers wonderfully supported by friends in her Australian city, purchased 6 of these computers. Laurie visits once a year and will be returning in January with a small group to work with the children during their winter vacation.
Sigrid Lightfoot has been involved in early childhood development for the past 30 years in Vancouver. She is a great friend to NOH and is here currently for the second year in a row. She kindly shares her experience with me throughout the year, insights that are much appreciated. In addition to other valuable support, she and our mutual friend Manon Pruvost carried four new laptops from Vancouver to ensure every child in the class had a new one to work with.
Nepal falls under the spell of Dashain and Tihar in October of each year. These are very important Hindu celebrations of life, family and one’s relationship to the many gods they have. A little more than 100 of our children are reunited with family, but those who remain with us are treated to an impressive list of annually returning volunteers who educate and entertain them in creative and fun ways.
I want to thank four friends who have all shared many years of involvement and support of NOH, my cousins Anne McCadden and Liz Early, Jehan Seirafi our former director of Volunteer Nepal and Cici Calliet. They all brought extra luggage filled with medicines, educational toys, underwear, beautiful baby clothes for Hope, jewelry making pieces, art supplies, books and long-missed edible treats. Cici is a teacher and extraordinary baker from France who, like my cousins, has held sold out bake sales over the past couple of years in support of us.
My great friends Lou Poynton and Kylie Tiver came from Australia; Kylie her fourth or fifth year in a row and she will return again at Christmas, and Lou for her third year. Lou had inspired her son Will to jump off the private ship he crews somewhere off the Russian coast, and fly here to meet her and his sister Tori of Halifax Nova Scotia, last year. Tori, about three years ago designed our beautiful NOH pendants, which she manufactures and sells with all the proceeds supporting the children. Please see Tori’s site at http://store.torixo.com/ to view her jewelry and the NOH pendant shown here.
Kylie and Lou combined their time with taking the children on field trips and spending quiet hours with them daily, just talking, playing and having fun.
Jody Hall arrived from Canada to teach math and otherwise entertain and mentor the children. Jody volunteered with Volunteer Nepal 5 years earlier in Narti. She is an energetic and intrepid soul who, after her time here, left for an adventure kayaking journey in India.
This year we missed Sirkka Turkki of Finland who has been present each of the last five years. She was hospitalized in October. Her absence was sorely felt and she remains in the hearts and prayers of the children many hours of every day. In letters to the children she has let us know that she is recuperating at home now.
This year we had two incredible opportunities presented to the children during Dashain.
The first was a two-week photography course taught by professional photographer Sara Khazem who founded “Capturing Neverland” several years ago in order to open the world through the camera lens to young people in developing countries. Sara is Lebanese and currently resides in Dubai. She arrived after lots of preparation with her associates Ribal Nasr and Leia Hasrouty who provided the children with additional fun, friendship and valuable technical guidance. Sara donated very fine high pixilation cameras to each of the 19 children who signed up for the workshop which culminated with a special exhibition at a magnificent hotel in downtown Kathmandu. Many people attended and viewed examples of the kids’ finest works, professionally printed and gallery-style displayed. I was so proud to watch our kids stand by their works and answer questions from an admiring public.
Sara, Ribal and Leia enabled the kids to see life a little differently and to feel the all-embracing warmth of personal creative expression being admired by many attendees, some of whom were also professional photographers who had heard of the event.
I was personally grateful to be allowed into the shy world of a few of our children who had never revealed much of themselves before this. What they chose to photograph and even more illuminating how they named their photos built some confident bridges between them and their futures. We are deeply indebted to Sara. Please visit her website at www.capturing-neverland.org to see all the good she does in so many countries.
Juna and Gita, left and a shy Kolpana who brilliantly shared her world through her camera
The second great adventure for the children will pay dividends in the children’s health and by virtue of that, their ability in school and the sports field for many years to come.
Several years ago we had a young couple Adam and Alissa volunteer with us. Inner city schoolteachers, highly gifted and enthusiastic, they returned home, felt that the world’s many problems could be addressed by individuals, and figured out a way that they might influence a healthy change in at least one area. Thus was born the “Cookbook Project.”
Adam and Alissa have traveled to countless developing countries to hold workshops in orphanages where they teach the children and staff how to prepare and eat a healthy diet based upon what is locally produced. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of food science and health as well as the hardships confronting the diet of many poor areas and homes in those areas.
The two week workshop was highly entertaining and taught so much more than food science, including team building, creativity, public speaking, thinking outside the box, confidence and the ability to laugh your way through unexpected obstacles.
Adam and Alissa really knew how to reach each of the participants individually, which I found key to their success. On the final Saturday they stood by while the students prepared a banquet of mouthwatering delights, all of which consisted of foods that are highly nutritious, chemical free and readily available.
We have adopted two of the suggestions discussed. First, we have introduced brown rice in a 50/50 mix with our regular white rice and will slowly go to 100%. Second, we are making plans to provide the children with a natural home cooked lunch instead of the current offerings. Adam and Alissa were pleased to see our daily fruit intake and saw our morning and evening meals, once the white rice is replaced, to be extremely healthy.
After leaving Papa’s House, Adam and Alissa were returning to India where last year they helped the older girls in an orphanage to make delectable sweets made from all natural ingredients and market them. We were most fortunate to have them spend their time with us and steer us into a healthier diet, which will make more vibrant children in every way. Please also go to their website www.thecookbookproject.org to learn more about their valuable work.
A busy kitchen preparing a cornucopia of savory main courses and sweets and serving it.
Each year we lease a bus to Narti, taking the girls originally from Dang district, those who were Kamlari and who are still interested or able to return to their home villages. This year I had 62 girls on the bus with me.
We placed our scooter on top of the bus so that I would have it to visit the children. I spent three days doing that before returning to Kathmandu. The ride home was long but truly delightful; the bike offers a different awareness of your surroundings and makes the journey very personal. It took about 11 hours, but the scenery and thoughtful daydreams kept the time moving at a good pace.
I enjoyed visiting many of our children’s “homes,” and meeting the temporary guardians of our children had beneficial effects that are still a bit vague, but can’t be discounted.
Below are some photos from my trip.
My journey to find one of our daughters sold by her family into a marriage involved a long motorbike ride on a black top road, 20 minutes on motorbike on walking path, pole boat across a wide and rapid river, then a walk across the Serengeti to the foothills beyond.
I found Kamala, seen here in foreground, with people who just got off the pole boat. She walked me back to the river and there said goodbye. I tried to convince her to return with me, but she was afraid. Her days are filled with cutting grass and sleeping, the area is very poor and challenging, and at 15 her future is as desolate as the Mohave Desert. She was married to an older man who is in India where she said he plans to take her soon. She does not like him. She once easily communicated in English, once her eyes sparkled and she always smiled a little mischievously, once she had plans, hopes and dreams, once she enjoyed laboring over homework on the carpet of her room before turning out the light and nestling in her warm bed, laughing with her roommates before sleeping peacefully, once she was a little girl able to enjoy being a young teen. But last Dashain, a few days after going to her alcoholic mother and uncle, she was sold and gone and no one seemed to have any idea where until I found her little sister, who lives in another orphanage. She knew and took me to Kamala. She lives with the family of her husband, they seem neither good nor bad. They just exist like the landscape does.
Hope Angel is growing fast; she turned six months on October 30th. She is delightful, full of life and play. She is endearingly contemplative — after long moments of thought she will turn, smile at you and let you know she loves you. She is just beginning to sit on her own, still a little wobbly and she is getting her knees up under her and lifting her body high in preparation for crawling. We are slowly introducing cereal into her daily diet and she seems to know not to suck it. She can find me immediately if I appear in a crowd and she reaches out in my direction. She occasionally returns my wink.
This pretty much wraps it up for a short update; the children have another week-long holiday coming as Nepal approaches elections and the government wants people to be able to return to their villages to vote. This week there is a transportation bandh (closing) supported by a party-opposing election, but it has not been too successful. School is open and 60% of the teachers are appearing. Life goes on.
I leave you with a few of my personal favorites of the couple thousand photos taken by our 19 children from the “Capturing Neverland” workshop.
All my best,