Nepal's Banksy was here!

Nepal's Banksy was here!
Strong message, Simple words

Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas reflections after a tough year for Nepal

What a year for Nepal! If you are a regular follower of these blogs you will already know about the continuing difficulties that the lovely people of Nepal are suffering. The newspapers around the world have moved on to many other troubles and stories but as we approach Christmas it is time to reflect. Simon and I have been in Nepal for nearly 18 months now, a testing time in many ways but also a lesson in humility. There are so many Christmas "stars" here in Lamjung - here are a few. 

The terrible earthquake has led to a very hectic year for the Global Action Nepal team starting with a UNICEF funded 3 month plan to build temporary learning classrooms for the worst hit schools. Eight months later and we are nearing the end of the second Emergency Education Project (DFID funded). This time we are providing semi-permanent classrooms and rebuilding toilets, the building of which has been a further challenge due to the fuel crisis and the lack of availability of materials. Both projects have included training for Youth Volunteers, Teachers and Community members on how to deal with psychosocial concerns following trauma, the use of educational games, disaster preparedness and related issues. The Community Mobilisers and Youth Volunteers have also had skills training including how to perform Street Theatres as a means of opening discussions and raising awareness of issues such as alcohol abuse, gender equality, school attendance (and girls drop out ), domestic violence, modern medicine versus witch doctors etc. 
Samjhana, Sarita and I spent several long days inspecting schools. The second earthquake had caught us on a narrow path an hour before this photo was taken.

The Community Mobilisers have facilitated much of the training and work in the field, have handled all of the tasks asked of them and they have all risen to the challenge with good humour and maturity. Hard to remember that most of these girls are in their early 20's. 

Manju has sadly left our team to become a Project Manager for GAN. We miss her enthusiasm, natural talent for teaching and training and her infectious charm.

Sarita addresses our Big Sisters and Adult Champions. 

Samjhana and Anju organise the distribution of school bags to the Little Sisters of Baglungpani and Karapu. The bags were given by DFID and were full of learning goodies which thrilled the Little Sisters and their parents.
Anju, 4th from the right, in Karapu. The habit of straight faces in front of a camera is a hard one to break!

Menuka and Sunita have recently become Community Mobilisers although they were previously both involved in the larger team. Here we were sorting out the huge pile of resources which went out to the 320 Little Sisters. Quite a logistical challenge in a small space!

The cheerful faces of the Big Sisters of Bajhakhet. The smiles hide the weight of these boxes which they carried to their school, an hours trek.

Without this young lady, Suchana, the office would be a much sadder place. She is very determined to learn and has been promoted from office assistant to finance assistant. Her smile and cheeky cheerfulness brightens the room.

The team is mentored by Krishna and managed by Srijana. Both of these hard working young people come from areas which were very badly affected by the earthquake. It has been difficult for them, being so far away from their families. A six day week does not give much respite, however their energy and professionalism has been amazing to see.

Srijana and Krishna saying goodbye to Ann Marcer who returned to the UK at the end of her VSO placement.

There are many teachers who one cannot help but admire and I am impressed by the effort that they make to get to school. Samjhana and I had a tough walk one morning to a school high above Besishahar. It took us over 3 hours, a 1000 meter climb. Having visited the primary school 2 teachers joined us for the descent. This was a Friday afternoon and one was walking down and then up to a village about 4 hours away and would return for a school day on Sunday. The other was going back down to Besishahar and told me that she does this commute every day. Little wonder that they look tired. They soon left us in their wake!
To the left the valley bottom and between the teachers' shoulders is Gausehar, the destination of one flip flop clad lady.

I recently held a training day for 40 Headteachers and I thought it would be a real challenge to introduce the idea of games and activities as an additional method of learning. The schools have been given a trunk of sports equipment and stationery (DFID funded) and the idea was to give them ideas of how to include them into the school day. The concept of educational games, fun relay races and circuits was a far cry from the norm of Nepal education. Little did I realise that they would enjoy themselves so much!

Little need for a caption!

Star Jumps after a dal bhaat - was that a good idea!

Without these next "stars" I am not sure that I would have coped with the challenges of 2016. The first needs introduction. Raj was our team leader (Project Coordinator) here in Lamjung when I first arrived. He is now the Project Manager in Kathmandu although thankfully he visits us regularly. His home village was badly devastated on April 25th and his family and neighbouring uncles' houses were all destroyed. They now all live in temporary dwellings and it is hard to know when they will be able to re-build. Despite this trauma he has continued to smile and exude  incredible compassion and sensitivity. I have a tremendous amount of personal respect for this lovely man and it helps that we have a similar sense of fun! 

Can't quite remember what Raj and I were doing here but the children enjoyed us making fools of ourselves!!

If it was not for Raj and this next young man I think that I might well have packed my bags. Simon and I have both been through a lot of soul searching in 2015 especially as our projects  have meant us living 7 hours apart. However, we will soon be looking back at this experience and reflecting on all of the life enhancing experiences. Without Simon I would certainly not have come here and without him I would not have stayed.

Receiving a welcome just days after the earthquake as we visited the worst effected villages of Lamjung.

So a big thank you to Global Action Nepal, Raj and Simon. So many memories of 2015. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let us hope that Nepal has an easier year in 2016.

The Ghorka epicenter behind the silhouette of my super star.


  1. Great blog Jude! What a busy year and so much achieved by the GAN Lamjung team. Proud to have been a part of that team. Wonderful people!

  2. Love this blog! Great photos (especially the headmasters skipping - would love to see a few of our staid, data-obsessed heads doing that here in the UK!). And a great overview of all you've done. What a year.