Monday, November 29, 2010

Future Village in Nepal

Hi All,

I am finally sitting down to write my experiences in Katunge.
The Start
My team (7 members) from Barclays assembled in Tibet Guest House, Kathmandu and we were joined by 6 others from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, and the guides Danbar (the key local member of the team) and Ramesh. Our journey to Dhading (nearest town from the village) took around 2 hrs. We had our lunch and roamed around the town to see the colors and sounds of rural Nepal.
 Little did we know that in a short while we were in for a roller coaster ride. All of us thought the guide was joking when he asked us to climb into this truck. We stuffed all the DHL boxes (with notebooks, stationaries, pencils etc) and our luggage into it and got into our luxury ride and I for one felt like cattle going to the slaughter house. It was one bumpy ride through the mountains in a muddy road (closed during the monsoons and the only way to the village is a 6 hr hike). On one side was the mountain and the other side was the beautiful and deep valley. The truck was precariously wobbling through the roads. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, it did. The heavens opened up as if to welcome our arrival and the cats, dogs, cows and buffalos were all falling from the sky. We were getting a nice cold shower from the top of the truck and the guides immediately sprang into action and put a huge big plastic cover over the truck.
The village:
The road ended and we carried our luggage through the trees via small mountainous path that opened up into the vast and beautiful valley. The sight of the valley with endless terrace farms, a river far away in the bottom and surrounded by mountains was stunning.

We arrived at the Future Village School. It had 2 classrooms on the ground floor, 2 guest rooms (for visiting teachers to stay) on the 1st floor. There was one room for the teacher to stay (not in the picture, one kitchen and one toilet in the back). The first day was spent brainstorming about the classes and also sorting books into categories for the library. It got dark by 6 pm and I was tired after the 6 hr drive. After dinner I hit the bed and slept at 8 pm (a first for me).

The Introduction
The next morning I got up at 5 AM when it was pitch dark outside and felt really fresh. There was no electricity so we had to use torch to move around and also needed it to use the restroom. The morning in the village was fresh and misty and there was energy in the air.

I got ready by 6 AM and the first of the children started coming in. Many of them sat huddled on the school wall. I went and introduced myself to many of the kids with a “Namasthe” meaning “Hello” in Nepalese. Most of them were shy at first. They each introduced themselves when I asked their names. By 6 30 AM all of the 50-60 students (Ages 5 – 15) had arrived and were ready to go in. We decided to split the class into two groups: the elder kids who knew a bit of English and the younger ones who didn’t know to speak but could write. As the resident Hindi (very similar to Nepalese) expert I was assigned the tough task of taking on the little ones. We had two classes per day Morning Session (6:30- 9:00 AM) and Evening Session (4:00 – 6:00 PM).
The Young Ones

I started with introductions. All the kids stood up one by one and introduced themselves. The morning session lasted 2+ hrs where we split the initial 3/4th of the time into a bit of teaching alphabets, a bit of fun (kids singing), rhymes, and pictionary (& relating Nepalese words to English words). The last quarter was spent taking the kids out and making them do exercises (the teacher made them do it). Some of the young ones (6 year olds), especially the girls were really smart. They wrote neatly, kept their pencils sharpened and were sincerely getting up to show their answers to me first. The guys on the other hand were busy making paper aeroplanes and trying to hit me (Future Rocket scientists and pilots no doubt). I enjoyed the experience with the younger ones and grew quite found of them. I was very soon accused by other teachers of favoritism.
The Elder Kids
After a few classes the teachers decided to exchange and I went to teach the elder kids. This was a lot easier because they understood English. One of the useful things we did with these kids was to get Nepalese-English Dictionaries and taught them to use it. We asked them to say something in the local language and then use the dictionary to find the corresponding English sentence. This I am sure will be very useful to them. We also taught them a bit of Math, English, Geography (this was funny as there was discussion on what the 7th continent was, among the teachers). Some of the kids were really good and most of them very sincere and sharp in learning. All the morning classes started at 6:30 AM so the guide was kind enough to get us black tea by around 7 AM and I enjoyed it while teaching the kids.

The treks
In between the morning and evening sessions, we usually trekked to various parts of the village. Each of these destinations was at least 1 hour trek from the future village. One day we went to see a Buddhist monastery which was way up in the mountains. The local market was around half an hour’s trek and we had amazing food there and ended up finishing their supply of chow mein. On one occasion I reminded everyone of Haagen daas and we went on a futile search for icecreams in the village market and the whole team was cursing me for this. We also met with some local families and one of them was kind enough to make lunch for all of us. The house was in the middle of the rice fields and was made of mud and they had few buffaloes, chickens, goats, papaya trees and orange trees. They were completely self-sufficient and the food was very tasty.

The Library
One of our aims this trip was to help establish a library which could be used by all kids in the village. The room and books were ready, but the shelves weren’t. So we decided to paint the walls and also advised on how best to make the library work. This will be taken care of by future teams once the wood work is complete. We decided to paint the walls. I was given the tough task of painting the rainbow and the real artists painted characters from Disney.

Song and Dance
Every evening after the class, we asked the children to sing and dance. They would do it with amazing grace. I am still waiting for one of my team members to give the video.

Food and Lodge
The breakfast was usually after class. We had noodles with cabbage every day. I was so hungry by 930 I ate the most. And we needed the energy for the day treks. Lunch was usually in the village or the village market. The dinner was a couple of hours after the evening session. It was pitch dark. We usually had rice with some curry (usually vegetarian), some cucumber, apple and orange. The food was simple and tasty and when you work real hard the whole day, it tastes amazing. One night (the last night) the guide also got a chicken from the village (a live one), and cooked it fresh. After deliberating with myself about eating someone I just met, my hunger got the better of me (hehe).

The Experience
This experience in Nepal was one of the best of my life. The combination of natural beauty, wonderful people, the serenity, the amazing night skies with a billion stars, the freshness of the air and the energy is something very unique to Katunge.
Quoting one of my fellow travelers The cliché that you need to get lost in order to find yourself absolutely applies in this place. The word wondrous is not an apt enough description. Nepal is India on Valium. It is Bhutan on methamphetamines. It is a place that will forever be in our hearts.

The Future
The Future Village program is very special and we would like to invite our fellow colleagues to help us to continue and grow this program in perpetuity. Future trips and fund raising events are planned and there is a constant need for visitors – if only to spend time with the children and help them practice their English. I say without reservation that you will get as much from the experience as the locals do. Please let any of us know if you would like to assist us in this endeavour.We want to focus on the following
Primary Focus
  • Higher Education for Girls (Scholarship has been created)
  • Education for all Kids (Scholarship for high school 5 years, stationary funding, teacher’s salaries, library funding etc)

Secondary Focus
  • Rural Electricity (funding for Solar panels)
  • Sanitation (funding for toilets)
  • Health camp (funding)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The team - fantastic Seven on the painting library day !!

Time to introduce the Team - crazy, fun, couldn't have done it without them.

From the left:
(1) Vinayak Doraiswamy (striped) - Awesome blog & class designer!
(2) Shruti Garg (black) - Sweet matched fund runner & class designer !
(3) Peter Hepenstall (grey) - If you are happy and you know it...barcap vendor's donation, big credit to you ! 
(4) Yue Wang (orange) - Artist!! We can't make the awesome library without you!
(5) Jessie Lai (pink) - The project initiator.
(6) Liling Toh (white) - great stationery donation funder!
(7) Prakriti Sofat (green) - Super fund raiser !

Donation fund allocation

Run Completed, Collection!

I completed the 10 km Singapore Bay run on 12th September. A big thanks to all my donors who have helped me over my target $1600 for the Nepal Charity Group.  My team has collected a total of $25,000 for this project. Barclays Capital has generously matched this to make the total contribution GBP 3,000 for 4 runners.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Run For Nepal

Hi All,

I have registered to run 10 km SAFRA Singapore Bay Run to raise money for Child Education in a remote Nepalese Village using the Future Village project. I will also be part of the team visiting the village for a week to teach the kids, distribute stationary, books etc and manage minor developments in the village.

How can you help?

  • Please donate cash or cheque. Your generous donate will be transferred to the Futures Village project.
  • Your donations will be matched up to £750.
What is the money used for?

  • My team will be heading to the village in Nepal in October (100% self sponsored) to teach the children for a week and to ensure that the money is put to good use by the organization.
  • $50 will sponsor one child's education for a full year.
  • $75 will help improve one family's sanitary conditions by building them a toilet.
  • $400 will cover the cost of one child's high school education.
My Target: £750

Future Village - An Introduction

Future Village is the name given to a two storey cottage in a remote village in Katunge Village(Dhading District) in Nepal. The Village was founded in mid 2004 by a group of enthusiastic visitors from Hong Kong, who raised fund to build the cottage. This project has so far achieved the following:

• 87 primary students benefit from child sponsoring program (around USD 50 per kid)

• 4 students got support for higher study in Kathmandu.

• Helped improve water facilities & upgrade Primary School to Junior High School

• School has been rebuilt and extended to 8 Junior High students. Total: 160 students

• 3 Full Time teachers are supported by FV project

• New project from this May to help each family to build toilets to improve the sanitation.