Mission Nepal January 2011 (by Irene Pujatti)
Every eagerly awaited trip is a peaceful return home but at the same time an extraordinary novelty. This year will not be any different because of the important and festive events that we will be attending. We are leaving on a cold winter’s day, rather than on a warm spring one, because we have been invited to two of our Nepalese fraternal friend’s weddings. As per tradition, the ceremonies are celebrated mainly, in the months of January and February, when the stars and the auspices are more favourable.
Our schedule, always full of so many commitments, will be enriched by these important occasions and by the warm reception and involvement of all family members, who have come to celebrate the happy event.
Since our arrival, we have been involved in the preparations - from helping with the sewing to choosing the elegant male robes and the splendid coloured materials for the beautiful female saris, including the embarrassment of not knowing how to dress ourselves in the Nepalese style…
Nevertheless, with our friends help, we will also be elegant. We join the procession, through the busy streets of Kathmandu, reaching the house of the bride to start the celebrations. We meet Roti, who greets the family to be entrusted to the new family of the groom, Amresh, in a sparkle of light, music and dance, in the garden and in the streets until late at night. The official religious ceremony will be held in private at the temple, in the next few days, when we will already be heading towards the village of Benighat.
We immediately stop at two schools along the main road, where we always find new improvements: a well looked after garden and the new classrooms nearly completed! What turmoil! What enthusiasm from this community, that every time you are greeted you are astonished by the strength and the will to progress. The children of the distance support project are distinguished by the reception they give and their will to learn. However, there is a lot to do, they are growing up and some of them are getting ready to leave school. It is an enormous satisfaction for everyone, but at the same time, it becomes a new challenge. We have taken children who otherwise would have to help their parents in work camps and abandon school at an early age, and now we will give them a decent future. There is a lot of attention on our project from the part of the community, but in the middle of the family, there is little. The economic difficulty and the living conditions are hard to deal with and the children can be faced with lots of distractions. School is their only hope towards a future involving work and for a life without hardship.
Finally, we meet our well-loved friend Ravi, who is the president of the association of volunteers and who, for years, has collaborated with us for the scholastic initiative and for the children of distance support. It is emotional being at his wedding, which we will celebrate with the sweet Manju. What a feeling, it is a grand event for the entire village. All are gathering for a sumptuous lunch and for celebrating with dancing and singing. The celebrations will also continue during the next few days. We feel lucky to be able to help at the wedding of such well wishes that started this morning with close family. In this particular joyous moment, they make you feel more like family, attentive and welcoming with affection.
Without losing any time or forgetting our responsibilities to our humane commitments, we start with a visit to the school on the hill, early in the morning. While we are still far away, we hear the swarm of voices, the laughter and the music of the party, of which there are many participants. There are groups of youngsters, women, the representatives of the community and the army, all gathered to honour the new union.
To recuperate the hours lost while partying and also with lots of activities to carry out, our motto will be “RUN!!!!” In fact, we have no time to walk among the nature. We reach the schools by transport, lorry or car. Therefore, we have time to check the conditions of all the schools, check the work to be done, speak with the teachers, and above all, meet the children, who as always welcome us with big and wonderful smiles. We listen to the requests for new toilets, the widening of the nursery, and a boundary wall to protect the school and the children from invasion of animals, while they play. There are lots of projects to be done and there is a lot of satisfaction to find the teachers attentive and liked so as to make going to school easier. It is still a welcoming refuge for all the children that live in a very precarious situation. Among other things we were able to revisit the child called Bayalkoty, who has four little sisters from 4 – 8 years. Since recently they have been followed by the project of distance support. They come and greet us with their Grandmother, who thanks to the generous intervention of an Italian benefactor has been able to take care of them after their mother died and their father abandoned them. Now they can sleep under a safe roof where the neighbours and teachers make sure that they have everything that they need. Unfortunately, this little one still does not have a smile for the world, but we hope that for our next visit, she will be a little more trusting and join us in games.
When we return it is already dark and after a brief rest, we all leave for Pokhara. We are travelling with the children of the project of distance support. There are about a hundred of us! Some of us break off momentarily to get to the region of Chitwan, in south Nepal. We have to meet the school advisor for the programme of work for the restructuring of a school and the realization of a new wing. It’s huge!! There are about 500 pupils!!! But it really needs our help, it is no longer safe and now it is too small to accommodate lots of pupils.
We reach Pokhara, and what chaos. We have to allocate the hotel rooms, then shower and rush to eat!! At the end, all in single file, we go and explore the city. What an enjoyable special moment, with our guide who sings with the children... who start to laugh, tell jokes and ask questions.... what’s your name? Where are we going? And so it is that we find and make new friends, who are shy and reserved at first, but after a while join together in a large group - the curiousity of these children that run smiling are admired by tourists passing by!! We visit the wonders of this city and sail on the splendid lake in which the tallest mountain range in the world is mirrored. What a view, a rose sunset behind fifty lively children singing ring a ring a roses.
During dinner, we try to involve also the children who we now know to be more reserved. Somewhat grown up, we try to explain that they should look after the smallest, even when we are far away. We give them their duties to check that everyone attends school regularly and to tell our Nepalese friends if they have any particular needs or need a doctor. So we hope that everyone helps each other and that they can feel supported by us should they need it. This evening finishes with a big party. Every one of them gets a surprise, thanks to the generosity of our Italian friends and other nationalities who participate in the project for distance support. In the morning, after a night of revelry and cheerful laughter for the enjoyment and novelty of travelling away from home, all are displaying new shoes and colourful tracksuits, besides backpacks with lots of gifts they received for their schoolwork.
It is here we say goodbye to the children with a big hug and a promise to return next year and theirs, that their school reports will be full of excellent grades.
We go back to Kathmandu, where we still have many things to do and a special event. We have organised a news conference to celebrate 10 years of the association. What an achievement! The operations accomplished on Nepalese ground are many. With pride and with our friends we retrace the steps with satisfaction from everyone, for the concreteness and continuation of our activities and in the trust that will continue in many new projects!!
These are great results. Nearly 10 schools, of which the most recent at Ramechaap, which is a good 6 hours drive away from Kathmandu, is opening at this moment. There are also two new schools in construction that will be opened at the beginning of 2012, to ensure that another 5000 children will study in a secure and protected environment. In short, 60 children and their families will be aided, thanks to many Italian “parents” through the project of distance support.
The greatest pride is knowing that help is strongly needed, as provided in full respect of their environment, their culture, their desire for progress and a better future for young students and those most in need.
Again, with no time to lose, we have to hurry to our suppliers, who now have become friends, to choose the beautiful new products of Nepalese crafts. Thanks to these, with ease and regularity we can organise the markets for the fundraising that fuels all our new projects.
Everyone in chorus shouts the last salutation “Hanuman go!!!!”
Who knows, maybe next year we will be celebrating a Christening.