February 2004 - first expedition and new important experience.
The mission of the Nepal Project consisted in bringing there products of everyday use, like: clothing items variously assorted to the poorest people, and scholastic items to children of some Primary Schools.
In about six months of intense and profitable search we were able to build a considerable contingent of material (118 items for a total of 1500kg) to be given in person directly on the spot.
The 27th of February the mission related to this project has materially begun. Some representatives of Hanuman Onlus, assisted by a group of friends and sympathetic volunteers, left for Nepal to follow the distribution of the material obtained. The group consisted of about ten people who had the important duty of following the materials from the frontier to the final destination and distribution of the products to the people in need. People who are used to survive with little or no food or clothing, people who do not have a pair of shoes or that do not have a wool sweater to face the winter. People who because of their pride do not ask for anything, but are not able to earn the bare minimum to feed themselves, or to send their sons to school, or to marry their daughters. The 15th of March 2004 the group of volunteers has come back to Italy after happily concluding its first expedition in Nepalese territory.
October 2004 - II ª SHIPPING AND FIRST NEPALI CHECKS
The first shipment of the Project Nepal was held in February. It has given us enormous satisfaction in terms of concrete results and personal gratification for a thousand thanks received .
But mostly we were able to verify on the spot the real basic needs of the children we have gradually known in the villages.
An analysis very concrete resulted in the decision of our association to help with a money payment , the construction of a new wing of the Primary School in the village of Benighat . Three new classrooms for 60 children in a school situation that already exists, but too small for the large number of pupils of different classes . The students were forced to study the ground or even outdoors , as they are too numerous.
In October, we were able to check the progress of the work, almost entirely completed. In fact , we launched together with the various local authorities , the opening of the new wing of the school.
In the same venue, in the euphoria of simple, but joyful celebration organized as a sign of gratitude , we decided to raise the second floor, in order to obtain three new classrooms.
Total capacity at the end of the meeting , scheduled for February 2005, about 120 students .
February 2005 - Important results
In February 2005, the last three new schoolrooms of the second floor have been finished, as decided in the past autumn.
On time as scheduled, here is the first completed school built by our organization in the Benighat village. The maximum capacity has been reached with 120 children of the elementary school that will occupy the 6 new schoolrooms inaugurated by us in the recent visit.
It's with pride and satisfaction that we thank all who believed and contributed to the realization of this project and we hope will continue to support us.
6 February 2005:
a few days before leaving, the emotion is high. Coming back to Nepal is always a great adventure. Seeing again the dear friends from there and visiting the villages, where our children anxiously wait for us, make the last hours before leaving interminable. And so it is that the first of February we learn, from the little news the press reserves this small Himalayan nation, that there has been a coup d'état: the King of Nepal, Gyanendra, has declared the state of emergency and deposed the government. He has taken full powers and put on house arrest the prime minister and the highest dignitaries of the government, suspending the most elementary democratic freedoms (among which the closure of the telephone lines both into and out of the country).
Alarmed, we look for news on the Internet, but all the websites of Nepal are obscured. We try to call our friends in Katmandu, but with negative result. King Gyanendra has also suspended fundamental democratic freedoms like freedom of press, expression and association. The news items in Internet, in the various Italian and foreign websites, are few and seem contrasting: some declare that the capital is completely closed by the military tanks of the army and some who say that the arrests among demonstrators and the people continue without breaks, involving representatives of the civil rights also. We are not able to get a complete picture of the situation and few days remain to the departure; deciding whether to leave or not is not easy.
Go to Nepal , this time , is a triple major event : the opening of the school in Benigat , the participation of some of us at first marathon in Kathmandu, organized for charitable purposes and not least the marriage rite Nepalese , two of our members . We do not know what to do. At only forty-eight hours from the start, yet there is no precise information . We find comfort in the long confrontation telephone with Paul Nugari of Adventures in the World , a friend and partner of our association. And finally the decision : leave the two of us ! And once you reach the Nepal endeavor to communicate the state of things to friends in Italy , also in the process of starting , if the news will be more reassuring .
The plane flight was pleasant as usual , but unlike the other times passengers are all of Indian nationality , Arab or Nepalese Westerners there are only two members of Hanuman . They arrive in the Nepalese capital on a sunny day and temperature, as usual this season , it's nice . Customs formalities are very fast , because there are only two foreigners. On leaving the airport the atmosphere is calm , quiet . Our friends are not there and initially this is a concern, but you 'll find out later that they had arrived late because of incorrect information about the flight schedule . Vitaliano and Francesca meanwhile reach the hotel by taxi .
The city is , as usual chaotic, traffic congestion , and tanks , of which so much was said in the press, even the shadow. There are the usual military to patrol the hot spots of the capital, as always, since the start of the Maoist guerrillas several months ago. Our two leaders are greeted with the usual heat from friends in Nepal , which will give ample reassurances about the situation , confirming that the whole valley is relatively quiet and the few tourists that we are , in no danger . Telephone lines and internet are still blacked out indefinitely , both within the country and cross-border . The two Italians decide to try to enter the French embassy there know where the satellite connection. Thanks to their initiative and after much anticipation , they manage to send some brief email to friends in Italy , reassuring them about the situation, and encouraging them to leave.
The following week, as scheduled , the other volunteers and friends of Hanuman arrive in Kathmandu. Now the group of 16 people is full. After the welcome given them upon arrival , including multi-colored necklaces of fragrant flowers and luggage to download, begins the preparation of the program for the important events of the next few days.
14 February 2005: All is ready!! There are around thirty people, between those of us from Hanuman and our Nepalese friends. We are divided in two coaches, one of them being filled with school material and children's clothing. We leave on a beautiful sunny day. The enthusiasm is sky-high, we can't wait to meet the children and friends of the village again that we left just last November. We leave early so we have the longest possible time to pass in the village. But after only 45 minutes of traveling, at the check point, we have to stop. The military doesn't allow any vehicle to pass, as there has been proclaimed the general strike of the Maoists and there is the danger of being assaulted by the rebels, that attack the vehicles that don't respect the strike, killing the drivers and burning the same cars. We manage to talk to the captain of the check point and after insisting for over three hours, we reach an accord: two military tanks will escort us to the village, but we will have to come back to Katmandu by 16:00 to avoid the darkness. Finally, at 11:00 we leave, not without worry. Two tanks in military asset escort us to the village. On the road we see some carcasses of cars burnt by the rebels and outside of the capital we realize how the army is really present to guard the streets and the territory around them.
We arrive in Benighat after about two hours. We find awaiting for us all the inhabitants of the village dressed for the occasion and all the school children. A band of musicians greets us together with the honor committee, represented by the school principal, the village mayor and the delegation of the teachers. Greetings and hugs are numerous and watery eyes from both parts are added to the smiles and to the kaleidoscope of colors of the uniforms of the many children present. The school is almost completed, missing only the last coat of paint, because the various strikes decreed by the Maoists have impeded the delivery of building material.
We are moved and proud. We have created the first concrete help that, for the next years, will allow many poor families to give an education to their children, avoiding for them the possibility of being involved in jobs straining even for adults. To the many children present we distribute clothing and school material, and then together with the school principal and the village mayor we proceed to the inauguration. During the ceremony, the president of Hanuman Onlus in her speech will announce the intention of the Association to build a new school, this time even bigger, made of 10 rooms.
This will be one of the next important projects that Hanuman wants to realize in Nepal during the year 2006.
After duty, comes pleasure! To our surprise, all of us from Hanuman are accompanied by the inhabitants of the village up the hill to the house of the mayor. Music and dances are present and during the journey they explain us that a colorful banquet has been prepared, full with excellent Nepalese treats. Unfortunately time is a tyrant and we absolutely have to go back. Descending the hill, we see the soldiers sitting on the edge of the road, waiting to escort us back to the capital. Even they will give us, as some kind of greeting and thank for what we are doing for them and their people, a smile. We come back to Katmandu serenely; inside the coaches there is almost a sort of magic that embraces everything and everybody. Allied in this are surely the authenticity, simplicity and availability shown once more by this great community. We have almost forgotten the situation of danger we are living even in the presence of the tanks and of the hundreds of soldiers that guard the street for the safety of the population and of the public.
Arriving back to the capital we discover that finally the phone lines and Internet are working again. Nepal is not isolated from the rest of the world anymore.
18 February 2005: the first marathon of Katmandu has taken place as a fundraising event, where people from all over the world have taken part. The only Italian representatives were the six Hanuman Onlus volunteers, among whom our president Francesca Meneghello, who arrived first in the half marathon of 21 Km, winning not only the gold medal but also a prize of 500$ that has been donated to the Scheer Memorial Hospital of Banepa, Nepal.
Nepal is living a difficult situation that worries and involves the whole international community. Dark clouds loom on the future of this nation. King Gyanendra's move, even more "strong man" of Nepal, risks the setting of any aspiration of democracy, with a harsh return to absolute monarchy.
However, we wish, even more strongly, to continue the implementation of projects to help children of these people, along with Nepalese friends who work so hard to make this happen.
The projects are currently two:
Your help is crucial to the success of any initiative. Do not skimp to show your generosity. Thanks for everything you want to do and give.