MISSION NEPAL, MARCH 2010 (by Irene Pujatti)
It is exactly one year since we have seen the sky in Kathmandu, but days spent working for Hanuman and chatting with our Nepalese friends about our projects have kept us close; as soon as we land at Kathmandu airport and we embrace again, it is as if we had never left.
Our enthusiasm and will to walk along those streets will be satisfied beyond all expectations; an intense programme is waiting for us in the next days and we will find ourselves in a lot of strong experiences.
The meeting point to taste our first masala flowered Nepali tea is at Lai Lai Hotel, in Thamel. This year we are eight people, and other two will reach us next week. With the big group of Hanuman volunteer friends the hall swarms with people and doesn’t lack in laughs.
And we begin…. At last a pleasant heat makes us forget the cold never-ending Italian winter. Our correspondants for handcraft Nepalese products to sell in our markets are waiting for us with a lot of new items; what nice colours and drawings! Each object will tell us about Nepal, it will make our markets lively and help us to collect funds for our projects.
We spend the day choosing bags, souvenirs, jewels in the noisy hot streets of Kathmandu, but in the meanwhile, even in the turmoil, we can see the changes of a country in evolution. They build, open new facilities, asphalt even narrow lanes.
The following morning we get on the bus toward Benighat village. Along the road we can see the other side of the coin… progress is eroding a lot of green hills to get material for bricks and concrete in order to build new buildings around the towns. A lot of farmers have already left rice fields in search of a fortune in the main towns, and maybe it will not be a success. After a couple of hours we see the light blue colour of Schree Lower Secondary School!
They know we are coming and children are standing in a queue waiting for us with their smiles and huge flower garlands. At the end of our meeting they will cover the whole garden. We are really happy to see that the community, first of all the teachers, have managed to keep the school tidy; it was rebuilt by Hanuman a few years ago. Besides, they have even improved it obtaining new rooms for other pupils and we will help them again with the electrical systems, in order to open the school also in the winter.
We say Bye Bye and go to the “elder sister”, the Schree Chandrodaya Multiple College. What a beauty! A nice garden has flowered, with flowerbeds and a central gazebo to enjoy fresh shadows during breaktime between the lessons. But the biggest surprise still has to come: after the usual greetings and thanks, a ceremony during which the School Council representatives cheer our President and give her the School Honorary President Nomination. And hear, the school has become a College! What an amazing step! A lot of students will finally be able to continue their studies and reach an important goal for their future. We know that Hanuman contribution, offered in several occasions and years, has been essential for this school that from secondary has been qualified a college. The community dedicated itself in this project and besides, not satisfied, hopes to carry out even a university. Benighat is an important district, because a lot of students will be able to complete their studies. Up to today, infact, they had to move for a long distance to reach the first available college, or even worse, interrupt their studies, loosing an important opportunity for their future.
In the evening we meet Ravi, one of the most important promoters of our projects in Nepal. This year he will have his first nephew and his family and he welcome us as if we were more than friends, free to refresh and give ourselves up to their rhythms, first of all that one of light which rules days and nights.
Just after sunrise we are leaving for our next tour: the first one is the Irang Richok Primary School, which has been rebuilt with our contribution and is being opened with a plate dedicated to the President of Hanuman Irene Pujatti (what an emotion!!!). Very nice, like all the other schools we have opened. Our expectations of a year, in the shadow of an aged old tree, has been exceeded.
The inauguration ceremony is attended also by the political representatives and by the main local newspapers and magazines. An occasion that confirms the administration’s support to our projects. It is very important for us, because only with the involvement of the community these buildings will not become “cathedrals in the desert” as we often happen to see along the streets: very nice schools but empty, huge libraries and children centres which are not used. Certainly it would be better if more resources – that are often not satisfactory - were assigned to the teachers or to the always necessary school material. We always distribute it in quantities to each school we visit. On the hill, next to Irang R. P. School, the government has integrated our intervention building other two rooms, that at the moment cannot be used for lack of teachers. Looking at this waste of resources is quite unpleasant, but the community has repeatedly confirmed that in the future the government requests will be better aimed, so that the results could be the most positive possible.
Walking along the paths, as every year, we also pass by the other schools built by Hanuman: Shree Basanta Primary School, Shree Bayrabi Primary School and Shree Janagaun Primary School, where we have found order, cleanliness and teachers devoted to the children, with our utmost satisfaction. Nevertheless we feel a certain disappointment because of a change due to new ministerial instructions that favour the centralization of enrolment in equipped schools to guarantee the attendance to more school years. They are schools situated only in the biggest towns. We hope that teachers will go on reaching also the smallest and farthest realities to assure everywhere an adequate education level. If not, schools on the hills or in inner areas will be destined to accept only preschool age children, with the risk that the older or poorer will not attend lessons any more.
Now we are back to the village, at our friend-brother Ravi’s house, where an architect will reach us. He will develop Hanuman Village, the new and biggest project in progress. It is an important step for our organization, above all to give strong continuity and development to what has already been realized from 2001 to the present. All together we go to the place where this new building will be realized. We care about the smallest details, we can’t help considering it like our home. Papers, measurements, changes of mind, shrewdness, the project is made!
In the following days spent at the village every available hour is dedicated to the children of “Educating Children” project. With a volunteer guide of the friend association Co.Y.On we reach each single children to know them and their life condition better. Our guide is a teacher, Keshab Kadel, himself a volunteer in Co.Y.On, the Nepalese association with which we cooperate for our activities in Benighat district.
Since 2006 Hanuman support 50 children, orphans of one or both parents, with the help of generous Italian supporters. With the contribution they pay every year school attendance and every primary need of the child and his family is guaranteed. For lack of time, in the past we have always met those children directly in schools, during celebrations, sometimes together with their relatives (themselves anxious to meet us). Little by little we have asked our Nepalese friends to look after them directly, talk to their teachers and visit them at home to verify their conditions, eventually collect their requests, check if they do not attend school and verify their results on school reports every three months.
This year, for the first time we have decided to go directly to each house where our supported kids live. And we have discovered another world, hour after hour, entering narrow streets, interwined lanes full of families, with children playing, men and women working till night in the still dark, lightened only by the moonlight. We learn a lot climbing along paths to reach some of the children living on the slope of the hills in lonely houses. While we get on we realize that the one we are walking with a great physical effort is the same road that each child must walk every day to go to school and then come back home. Only few words can describe what we can see: houses made of earth with beds shared among brothers, a few tools for the house or job in the fields, a few clothes and no furnishings. Sometimes the nearest water spring is placed at more than half an hour walk. A lot of situations characterized by estreme poverty but rich in dignity, above all in children’s eyes. They are growing up and shyly introduce themselves, tell us about their relatives, sometimes recognize us and look at us with gratitude.