Mission Nepal March 2009 (by Irene Pujatti)
Finally! After many hours of waiting, we are once again in Kathmandu with our friends who greet us with joyful shouts and welcoming music. Hanuman Italy, Hanuman Nepal and the Co.y.on, we all exchange an emotional embrace before leaving the airport and heading for the hotel.
Here we are immersed in the dark, chaotic city traffic. Each time we take a different route where we try to recognize something familiar, but even if it all seems the same, these are streets of a land that is changing, that wants to grow and to build. Even in front of our hotel the precarious scaffolding of bamboo cane makes way for a new three-storey building and now the once-muddy track is a tarmacked road. However, the smells and tastes don't change as they serve us a traditional, welcoming dinner: we savour every tasty morsel. The typical “dhal bat” (rice and lentils... and much more) confirms - “we are in Nepal once again!”
We have just arrived, but we have only a few hours to organise ourselves before leaving the following day for the village of Benighat, the main port of call on our trip. It's early Sunday morning and we leave the city for the hills, the rain for the sun, the turmoil of the car horns beeping for the music of the trumpets: there is infact a grand procession to welcome and guide us towards the “Shree Chandrodaya Lower Primary School”.
Two long lines of children wearing their sky-blue uniforms and carrying multi-coloured flowers welcome us at the entrance. There is always a warm air of celebration and curiosity but today also a certain nervousness… it’s the end-of-year exams!!! In turn, as soon as they’ve finished the test, the pupils gather in the garden, that in the last few months has been maintained and adorned with new trees. At last we are able to re-embrace the children of “Educating Children”. We always save a special greeting and a particular little gift for them. They are in fact the less fortunate children who can only continue school thanks to the generous donations of Italian parents who support the “Project of Support at a Distance”. And now they are all in a line because, as for every other pupil in the school, there is an exercise book, a pen, a pencil and other important materials for their education which, unfortunately, are not always available to everyone.
We then receive infinite thanks from the headmaster and the teachers with whom we exchange words of satisfaction for this school which is now so spacious and looked-after and always alive with the sound of happy children.
A group photo!!! And then off, the sun is now high in the sky and it’s already time to go!!!
We can already hear the music that accompanies us to the new school that we are opening today. A procession winds down the street, headed by our school headmaster and an important representative of the Nepalese government, the Minister of Public Administration. We go down the street to the “Shree Chandrodaya Higher Secondary School” for the opening ceremony: in the past few months the school-college has been extended with a new second floor with six classrooms plus a spacious computer room equipped with a good 21 PCs. With great wonder, in front of the school, we even find a well looked after garden with blooming flower beds and tidy gravel paths. On the lawn a large stage has been set up and, in front, an already numerous audience awaits the guests: Hanuman Onlus Italy, Hanuman Onlus Nepal, Co.y.on Nepal and the Nepalese minister with his entourage.
It is our headmaster who, together with the Nepalese minister, cuts the ribbon to officially open the new school wing. With pleasure we all visit the new classrooms, surrounded by students, teachers and the representatives of the village.What pride to see our efforts recognized and acclaimed, efforts that started a few years ago, aimed at helping this community to build an important place, where school education is the first step to a dignified growth, healthy and free, destined to guarantee the new generations a better future!!!
Important words of thanks and of reciprocal commitment are expressed by all the representatives of the Onlus associations who collaborated on yet another big project. Also the volunteers, who, for the first time, have accompanied us on this trip, can also be protagonists with us on the stage. But it is in the voice of our first “leaders” that we hear the excited wonder at seeing an important stage completed: the school is now among the largest outside Kathmandu, complete with all equipment required in a complete structure, even including a good 21 computers and relative workstations!
But our happiness is even greater with the thought that we will be able to dedicate ourselves to other important projects, already ready to be planned.
Music welcomed us and music accompanies us along the last part of the path to the house of Ravi, our host and, by now, practically our Nepalese brother, where we are always welcomed warmly by his relatives. It’s evening, and voice of our arrival has already spread with an ample tom tom to the neighbouring villages. Numerous children run around us. They remember that there are always new clothes and cuddly toys for them, and for this reason they quickly appear from different paths down from the surrounding hills. We are surrounded by well over a hundred of them!!! They hug us and ask us questions. The older ones have learnt our names by now and greet us with affection.
The next morning we walk up into the hills, where our wonderful Nepalese guides to accompany us, step by step, to the various schools we have built over the past few years.
The trek along the paths, through mustard fields and rice paddies, is very enjoyable, but the earth is very dry because it hasn’t rained for several months. Without hurrying we arrive at the Shree Basanta Primary School. What serenity around us! The school is being decorated with characteristic drawings, symbols of their land. Inside the clean and tidy classrooms, they have painted the alphabet and numbers, so everyone can read them, even those less fortunate who cannot afford school textbooks. A small party is waiting for us, a choir of children, and, after having given out exercise books, pens and pencils, we continue our walk to the Shree Janagaun Primary School.
Here we are shocked. The many children and the headmaster treat us with every honour, but we are disappointed to see that the walls of the school have all been ruined. We find a lot of dirt behind the school and in the bathrooms, which have not long been finished and not used yet. We must speak to the head of the village: when you’ve worked hard to build a school, it is essential that everyone works together to keep it decent, efficient and, above all, available to the children. We know it is not easy, but it is only in this way that we can guarantee that the new generations will be able to understand the importance of discovering themselves, of searching for what is best for their own opportunities to grow and be educated. Going to a nice, well-kept school, helps the children to happily be together and study in a safe, clean environment, and to make these their own values.
We’ll be back soon! We want to check that the school is well looked after and sorted out in the way that the community has promised us it will be.