April 11th is behind us, and here's the report of the meetings.
Not everything is relevant for some of you, but you can skip or forget about those parts.
Jeroen with the latest developments regarding Muchu School.
Due to recent economic developments, the community shop is no longer needed.
We have proposed to Wilde Ganzen to allocate the freed-up budget to a more robust construction, which is a bit more expensive, and support to Thehe School, which we discussed before but never budgeted for. We are awaiting Wilde Ganzen's response.
Pepijn Trapman, director of ICCO and honorary consul of the Netherlands. We discussed the collaboration between large and small organizations. He suggested taking each other seriously and providing support. His initial initiative was to offer assistance in obtaining support from the EU and ministries by formulating matters within the current Sustainable Development Goals. You understand that I need help here; it's not my jargon.
Aruna Uprety from RHEST. She worked with us through SNV in the past. Contact was lost. She now works with organizations like Stichting Vrouwen voor Vrouwen. I promised to establish contact upon my return. She has conducted extensive research on the Chhaupadi Tradition [related to sending 100% of girls to school]. There's a booklet about it. I will send the PDF [once I'm home] to those who are interested. The immediate result was a booklet that Jeroen can distribute for free to all girls in Baglung about personal hygiene. Tomorrow, I will visit their office and receive more literature.
Shiv [STWF]. We agreed to return to the basics, which is assisting individual students. The funding stream for the Medical School will need to change in the future. Shiv is facing issues with the government because it falls far outside the STWF's mission.
Willem Grimminck from One to Watch. Willem apologized for his colleague's blunt rejection in the Netherlands and is very eager to contribute on September 15th. He will provide more details about the speaker.
That's it for today; we'll continue tomorrow.
Today, the day started at 11 o'clock with Manoj Gautam from The Jane Goodall Institute Nepal. A good conversation about the combination of nature conservation, high-end tourism, education, and economic development. Where this will lead us, I don't yet know, but it's certainly food for thought. In any case, even after the discussions with Pepijn Trapman and Willem Grimmink yesterday, it's becoming clearer that we are moving towards social entrepreneurship, and in this, foundations and organizations like ours can play a significant role.
Jeroen alternates with Manoj. I gain insight into the SWC's procedure, which Aruna Uprety commented on yesterday, saying that Jeroen got it done surprisingly quickly. While we felt it was taking too long.
EBMF gives insight into ongoing projects in Makwanpur. The construction phase is completed. Now comes the training of teachers, etc. EBMF has also requested a name change and will be called Child Rescue Nepal. We discuss ongoing matters and possible future projects. I mention that we need time for fundraising and they should inform us well in advance. We also discuss changes in communication [internet, twitter, etc.]. They will provide us with compelling visuals.
After their departure, I continue to discuss EBMF's information with Jeroen. It seems that SWC will be placed under the Ministry of Social Affairs & Welfare or Finance. We fear more paperwork to be filled out. On the other hand, there is also a movement to give more space to INGOs and NGOs and to let go of the mandatory regional ties.
That's it for now. Tomorrow, I'm off for a field visit to Shree Kalika in Nawalparasi at 5 o'clock in the morning. A 6-hour drive there and back in a jeep. We can only stay there briefly because there is a splinter group of Maoists [called Biplap after leader Netra Bikram Chand] that makes it difficult for our builders.
It's now day 3, and I overlooked that it's the 13th.
Now, the day started chaotically. The hotel forgot the wake-up call, and then Jeroen was knocking on the door at 05:20. Rushing at that time is not ideal.
We took a jeep to Nawalparasi and chose the "High Way" that runs south of the road to Pokhara. The only thing "high" about this road is the chance of inhaling diesel fumes. Wrestling through accidents and other traffic jams, it took us 6 hours to reach the under-construction Shree Kalika School. Indeed, the school was under construction, and they were working on the restroom building. It was supposed to be completed before the start of the school year, which begins next Monday.
Unfortunately, a splinter group of the Maoists has caused significant disruption. They are threatening the contractor and the workers. Jeroen is now trying to negotiate that they receive a "donation" when the school is completed. I suggested appointing two Maoists as guards.
The government and the police have been informed but are not taking any action for now.
A portly man on a motorcycle rode onto the premises. It turned into a staring contest. He was a local Maoist.
I walked around, took photos, and then we left.
Adjacent to the school stood a new stupa. Although I don't find this the most relevant part of the school, I was assured that the Maoists have respect for it. The construction will take another three months. In the meantime, education continues in parts of the old building that has been patched up for appearance's sake. However, it's not safe.
The return journey was only 5.5 hours, with the usual traffic jams and accidents. To brighten things up, there was thunder and rain. Let's say it's good for keeping the dust down.
Shortly, Linda Ris will arrive, and we'll discuss the Volunteer Society Nepal.
Tomorrow, Sankhu is on the agenda, and I will report further.
Yesterday ended with Linda Ris from Volunteer Society Nepal. It was a good exchange of ideas and experiences between someone who has been here for a long time [that's me] and someone who stays here for a long time [5 months a year]. I understood from Linda that Cas also met the young Dutch crowd in Nepal. More worlds to connect.
Thursday, I will meet Jimi Oostrum, a Dutchman who is here and has a lot to do with education. [He didn't show up and didn't send a cancellation notice].
Today was Sankhu day. If you have Facebook, you can see the photos.
Chairman Madan Shrestha of Friends Of Sankhu [FOS] arrived at 9 o'clock with a Mahindra jeep and shook me vigorously from the Summit Hotel all the way to Sankhu. The construction materials are there, but the road is a collection of potholes and pits. In Sankhu, it became clear to me that VNN has been providing support for the restoration of temples for many years. I visited several. Of course, the first was the recently restored temple of Ganesh, but also further into the center, there's a square with small temples, and then into the mountains to what Madan claims is Nepal's oldest Hindu-Buddhist temple. New Year was celebrated here with offerings and candles. However, the temple had suffered considerable damage from the earthquake. A plaque commemorating the earlier restoration by VNN was buried under the debris. Many cracks, many steel pipes to hold it together. The place itself also suffered a lot of damage, and Madan took me to the sad ruins of his house. He now lives in a rented house in Kathmandu.
It takes getting used to the type of projects where VNN apparently excels, namely socio-cultural restorations.
In the temple on the mountain, I was allowed to see the four statues that are carried down the mountain each year in a procession and displayed on a platform next to the Ganesh temple. This is for a festival in honor of the new year and the villagers' honor.
Madan is very interested in building the road to the village of Rakha. From the water, it's only 12 km but by road around 60 km. A few of the villagers are related to Madan. But there's also someone from Katmandu, and we enjoyed a great meal.
We visited the little health center, where a curtain separates the [normal] patient area from the "maternity ward" and the room where the patients in labor receive the injections. All very primitive, but the nurse appeared to be skilled. "And the deliveries all go well," she said proudly.
And so back to Kathmandu, where I am just in time for the 16:00 meeting with Maarten from Heifer.
That's it for now, from Sankhu, where they have faith in God but keep on hammering nails.
Yesterday was Heifer day. Their slogan: "Ending hunger begins here." Maarten has been here for 3 years. Initially, Heifer was only involved in cattle breeding. But now the project involves goats, chickens, pigs, and even fish. The initial idea was that you received one goat. But when the goat had kids, you had to give them to your neighbors, who also had to give their kids to their neighbors, and so on. The result: a lot of goats. Hence the need for additional livestock to keep the numbers in check.
The distribution of the livestock is done by local committees, which Maarten feels work very well. Heifer is also heavily involved in the farmers' cooperatives. The purpose is that the farmers can also sell their products. The chickens are kept by women. The eggs are collected, but the meat is allowed to grow to a good size before being eaten. The fish farms are new, and so far, Maarten is very enthusiastic. However, it's too early to say whether it will be a success.
There's also an educational component, and the farmers have to do an internship.
Maarten says that the transport of the animals is a disaster. One time, he received a container of pregnant goats. After some days, the water was completely red because some of the goats miscarried. There's also a lot of corruption. And yet, the number of projects is expanding. There are many requests from all kinds of organizations.
Maarten said that the cooperation with the private sector is going well. All the eggs are sold to the same buyer. There's also a new method of breeding goats, which was developed at the university. This could be very useful because Heifer is facing limits in the supply of goats.
Heifer is also active in other countries. In Nepal, they work with 13 municipalities. The municipalities provide the land and the materials, and Heifer ensures the infrastructure, for example, roads and water. Sometimes, Heifer provides financial support for the land as well.
That was a summary of yesterday.
Today was the day that I expected a visit from Jimi Oostrum from, as he stated in his email, "Elan vital Nepal education." In my email, I corrected him that it's called Elam, and when I met him, it turned out to be Elon vital Nepal education. I have not heard from him.
For the rest, the day was very quiet. This morning, I took a stroll through the Thamel area and saw the Kumari Devi in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. It seems that her living conditions have improved.
Now, I'm back at the Hotel, and this afternoon, I will return to the Netherlands.
The most important thing I have learned on this trip is that the situation in Nepal is incredibly complicated. The government appears to have lost control, and it's unclear whether they ever had control. There's widespread corruption and bureaucracy. And while there are many NGOs and INGOs, it's uncertain how much of their work actually benefits the people. And there's a clear division between Kathmandu and the rest of the country. The capital seems to be a world of its own.
I have also seen that VNN has been involved in very different projects from the schools and student sponsorship. There's a strong focus on socio-cultural restorations, such as temples and water taps.
Finally, the visit was extremely useful for me personally. It has deepened my understanding of the situation in Nepal and allowed me to meet with various organizations and individuals who may be able to assist us in the future. I have made many contacts that I can follow up on when I return to the Netherlands.
With this report, I conclude my travelogue to Nepal. I hope you have found it interesting and informative. If you have any questions or would like more information about any aspect of the trip, please feel free to contact me.