A recent visit from friends of EHN

At the end of October EHN had two guests from a Church group in Hong Kong who have already donated a large amount to EHN following on from the earthquakes.  They came to see what EHN does and also to look at funding an education project in Nepal through EHN.  I met James and Pastor Yang when they first arrived and took them to see Bhaktapur as it is both a historical site and was one of the worst hit urban areas in Nepal. Both men were first shocked at how much of KTM was unaffected but as we walked the side street of Bhaktapur they started to realise just how bad they have been hit. 30 to 70% of homes destroyed in many of the streets with 1000’s still living in tents and tin shacks.  We finished the day visiting one of the families that EHN helped who have a shop in Bhaktapur. The little boy was only 4 months old when he was buried alive with his grandmother but is now a smiling little fellow with no idea just how lucky he was. The second day the three of us flew up to Pokhara to visit Shree Rupa School who EHN has been working with for 2 years now.  We showed them the new solar and battery system installed by EHN to provide constant power so the school can run regular IT classes.  Both men were happy to see a simple yet effective way of helping to improve the level education taught at the lowest level. One thing with EHN is we never try to be to cleaver and understand that working with what you have rather than trying to change the system is much easier and therefore tends to show better results. We have not tried to change the way they teach as the final exam in Nepal is 100% Q&A with no problem solving so it’s important that the children learn to pass this exam.  What we can do is support the English and IT teachers and help them improve the practical side and skills of the students. Both English and IT skills give the children a much better chance of finding work when the finish school but do not interfere with the standard lessons and exams. Once we have internet installed in the school we will work on teaching setting up emails, social media platforms, CV writing, online job hunting along with a few other life skills that will help. With the visit to Rupa complete we headed back to Lakeside for dinner and to get ready for the long ride to Gorkha to visit the school we want to help rebuild.  The vehicle, even though it was an off roader could not make it to the village so we ended up walking in the rain for about 2kms then some teachers picked us up on their bikes.  The school kids were as always very excited to see us as where the staff. We met with the principal and staff so I could discuss the rebuilding work and then went to see the old school or what is left of it. We finished the visit having lunch in a traditional home before jumping in the back of an old truck full of glass bottles to get back to our vehicle. All in all out guests managed to see several effected areas plus the school we hope will become a model for all the Government schools we work with.  They also got a little taste of life in the villages and how hard it can be to get to them. We do hope that the group from HK along with others will support EHN in the future with some the education projects. Many thanks to James and Pastor Yang for coming to see what we do and we sincerely hope to see you both again in Nepal.

EHN team visit to Harkapor for rebuilding

This week’s blog covers the trip to Harkapor in the district of Nuwkot with Franky a civil engineer who has been working on some new traditional house designs which provide a more earthquake proof building.

 

Franky, Sunju, Phil and little Phoenix set off from Kathmandu early Monday morning picking up Nicole (Another volunteer who wanted to join us) and Prabin one of the young men from the village we were visiting along the way. The drive took around 3hrs with the last 45 minutes winding up the valley side on dirt roads through green terraced paddy fields and broken traditional homes.  We arrived just up from the village as the road that takes you directly there had been washed away over the monsoon months. We jumped out of the 4×4 just and where met by Baso and Hari two of the fathers of the homes we are helping.  After 30mins or so walking down we arrived to a very warm welcome and as always tea and biscuits from our hosts.  I have known the villagers for nearly 3 years now and stayed many times but this was the first time I have stayed with them since the earthquakes. I have been up twice to drop supplies and volunteers but never stayed so this was a chance for me to see how life has changed.

The first thing I noticed was of course the tin shacks that they now call home and the pile of rubble that was their home before but looking past that they have managed to get themselves back on track rather well. The rice was planted in June and will be harvested in three weeks and they all still had their livestock and some basic supplies so all appeared fine at first. Then when I started to spend a little more time with them in their shacks and found that they were all in one room now with limited spaced to store food and supplies. With the onset of the rice harvest about to start they all need room to store the next year’s rice and supplies but with the old house gone and no room in the tin shacks they are now worrying about where to store the rice. If it’s kept at ground level there is a higher chance of rot getting into the rice plus more rodents feeding on it so it has become more of an issue living in the temporary tin homes.  Then we started to talk about Dashain the main festival of the year for Hindus in Nepal and all of them said they could not have as many family visit this year as they have nowhere for them to stay and are limited on what food they can offer. Now to many this may seem like a trivial problem but to a Nepali being able to look after people when they visit is an honour, In Hindu tradition all guests are God’s so not be able to respect them can be a big embarrassment for them not to mention being heart-broken at not seeing their loved ones at such an important time of year.  Add to this a rising prices on food and supplies due to the protests in the south and Indian Government refusing to supply Nepal with fuel they are finding it much harder than I first imaged.  One thing I have learned about Nepali’s is that they are very reluctant to complain and will always put a brave face so you really do have to dig deep to understand what’s really going on.

By now I have been in Harkapor for one day and got to know some of the issues they are facing but both Franky and I were very keen to see how they would respond to the new structural designs. The homes in rural Nepal tend to use local materials to keep cost down plus getting building supplies to remote villages is not an option in some cases so they have learned to become self-sufficient.  The main walls are nearly half a meter thick and made of odd shaped stones and bonded with clay which proved to be very inefficient at dealing with earthquake. What Franky has come up with a simple change to the traditional home that involves weaving a bamboo fence panel that is fixe in-between the thick wooden main supports. This is also supported by some pole every half meter that all fix to the foundations. Then they build an identical bamboo wall on the inside leaving an air gap of around 30cm for installation and plaster over the bamboo wall inside and out with the red terracotta clay that they love so much.  The second part to the construction is that under no way should they use large stones to hold the tin roof sheets on, these must be fixed only with screws to reduce weight.  The end result is a much lighter structure which looks nearly identical to the last home but has hollow walls and a frame of wood and bamboo giving it flexibility which is key to withstanding a large earthquake.  They did seem to have trouble putting so much trust in bamboo and the cost of good hard woods in Nepal is not cheap but EHN will help cover some of the costs if they promise to stick to the design.  We have also got plans which included putting the stone wall in-between the bamboo wall panels but this will increase the amount and size of the bamboo and timber used for the structure. One example how little they regard bamboo was when I asked how much weight a piece of bamboo could take, I was holding a piece about 3inches thick. Answer was 3 to 4kg but when I told them it was in excess of 300kg they very surprised but still not convinced so we made a 1m by 1m piece of the bamboo wall panel and I jumped up and down on it without any part breaking. This seemed to get the point across and helped prove our point.  Now we are looking at a 6m by 4m structure with 70cm thick hard wood poles to take both floors with 3 to 4 cross beams to run the second floor on. In-between the timber will two panels of woven bamboo panes locked into place with bamboo poles on each floor. The second floor will be the same bamboo laid over the timber and then covered in the red clay to finish and a bamboo, timber or light steel roof trusses with zinc sheets roof panels.  The 3D model that Franky has done shows this structure can take up to and possibly past a 9 ricter earthquake without any problems to the building apart from some new plaster on the bamboo wall panels.

We are at the stage of working out exactly what materials they are happy to use and whether or not they will go with the hollow walls or not as they still have a tendency to think thick stone walls are stronger. That being said the seed has been sown and the points put across for safer home design now we just need to find volunteer with some building experience to come and help them rebuild from mid Nov onwards until April 2017.

 

Nepal rebuilding with EHN

Namaste everyone,

As many of you know Nepal was hit by two earthquakes back in late April and then early May both over 7 on the ricter scale. Between them they made millions homeless and took nearly 10,000 lives.  EHN has been looking at ways to help Nepal and its people recover and one of those ways is to work with local government schools and district education officers to rebuild classrooms in some of the worst hit districts. Now things are slowly (very slowly) getting back to normal and as the monsoon comes to an end we have volunteers coming in to help with our work.

Two weeks ago I met with the secretary of the NTA Nepal Teaching Association to ask for their help identifying schools that need help. We now have one school in Gorkha and I will be talking with the head of the NTA for Dhading district later today to find another school in that district. Once we have three schools to work with we will focus on getting the new reinforced concrete classrooms built and the children back into a safe environment to study.

Reports say that Nepal lost around 16,000 schools as a direct result of the earthquakes of which at least, a statement from Save the Children estimates that in Gorkha district alone, 90% of the 500 schools have been destroyed or badly damaged, affecting 75,000 school children.  Hence my focus on helping to get as many children as possible back into strong safe buildings to continue their education.  One of the main things that hold the development of nation back is its level of education and while Nepal does not has a brilliant educational system they do manage to provide lessons for most of the country’s children.  As a result of the natural disasters 1000,s of children have already lost one to two months of education this year and now face a cold winter in tin huts or tents.

Last week I was in Pokhara in the Kaski district to visit two schools, one of which EHN has been working with for nearly two years now and the other is a new project partner that have asked if EHN can help.  Rupa school was EHN,s first rural school partner and since working with EHN they have seen their school transformed into a colourful place of with the average English exam result going from 77% to 88% as a direct result of the teaching volunteers we have been placing there. We have also helped them link up with a school in the UK through the British council and the Principal of Rupa school will visiting the UK to see how the education system is there.  The final stage to helping the school offer a better level of education was to pay and install a solar and battery backup system so they can get regular power and run the computer lessons at fixed time and this week I hope to see the internet installed and the school go online. Once they are up and running the students and teachers will be introduced the students and teachers from the UK schools exchanging ideas and stories.

One of the reason I made a decision to only work with Government schools is they offer the education free and therefore tend to provide education to the poorer people of Nepal and also the girls who in many parts of Nepal are not offered the same level of education as the boys.

I love working with rural areas in Nepal and cannot begin to explain how doing my job makes me feel but one thing I will say is, Nepal and its people are beautiful and my heart will always belong to them !

For more details please see http://ehn-nepal.org/

Our 2015 Project with the Seed Foundation has started.

EHN Nepal and The Seed Foundation along with some foreign sponsors have raised the funds to start building a multi-purpose centre to provide rural woman in Nepal with the chance to learn new skills and generate their own income. EHN recently transferred £2000 to the SEED foundation to begin construction of the woman’s centre situated on a ridge between Begans and Rupa lakes in the Kaski district of Nepal. 
The centre’s main focus is to empower local woman in Nepal by teaching them new skills such a sewing, knitting, Jewellery making, baking and even coffee roasting and grinding as well as basic training in sales and marketing. We feel this will give the woman a much needed confidence boast plus a means to earn their own money and support themselves. Many woman in Nepal have a much lower status than men and will not complete fulltime education which hinders them from becoming financially independent. A chance to learn new skills and generate their own income would be simple but very beneficial way to help empower them. Along with training and production facilities the centre will also have a small retail outlet at the front where the community are currently building a new pathway for tourist to walk around the lake. The shop will enable the woman to sell some of the products they produced to passing tourists and locals alike. We are also looking to work with local businesses in Nepal on a contract basis so we can help maximise the potential to sell the products manufactured in the centre. EHN and the SEED foundation believe that by using Nepali businesses alongside tourism to generate income the project has a much more sustainable future.
Damodar of the SEED foundation has already requested several local construction companies to submit tenders for the building work and we should be able to start construction of the first floor in the next 3 to 4 weeks. Once we have the first floor up we will need to furnish and equip the centre before we can open. As soon as the centre is operational we will start to discuss the second floor and possible roof top café. In the end we would like the centre to have a training room, production room, Storage, small shop and kitchen with a roof top café. The café would not only be an outlet for the coffee grown by the local community and another source of income for the centre but it would also give two or three local woman the chance to train as barista’s and have full time jobs.
EHN still needs help funding the furniture and equipment for the centre as well as the second floor plus we will be looking for volunteers to come and help train the woman in various arts and crafts as mentioned above.
We will post some pictures of the building work starting by the end of March, many thanks to one and all.

Support a reforestation project in Nepal with EHN

Last year Education & Health Nepal took part in tree planting, medical camps and school painting projects with our partners in Nepal and they were a great success. In 2015 we would like to do the same and have been planning several over the last couple of months. One of these projects relates to continuing the tree planting that took place in the Padampur community forest expanding on the success of 2014. This will take place later in the year and will involve small groups of volunteers helping in the planting.
Education & health Nepal will be using some of the excess funds it has raised over the last 12 months and will help pay for the protective fencing that insures the saplings have a better start in life. But we are looking for sponsors & donors who would be willing to help donate or raise funds for us to achieve this. So if you’re interested in helping our organization & would like to become more involved in the work we are doing then please support this campaign.
The reason we are running this project is because over the last few decades Nepal has seen a massive amount of deforestation resulting from landslides population growth and the introduction of the community forests which were set up to protect the National parks. So in order to achieve this WCN have set up nurseries to grow the native trees and have identified the areas where this is needed.
Because the local people are not allowed to gather firewood from the national parks the community forests where the reforestation will take place have provided a valuable resource for the locals who use them for animal feed, building, cooking and a host of other uses. And this helps create a balance between the protection of wildlife & the local communities. In other areas targeted the trees will provide protection from landslides in the monsoon season as the tree roots play a big part in holding the soil on the valley sides or the banks on a river where local communities have set up home.
This is a long term project that we hope will plant in the region of 5,000,000 trees over the coming years.
So please support our work in Nepal by following the link below.
http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/reforestation-project-in-nepal

The truth about Volunteering in Orphanages and children’s homes in Nepal…

Education and Health Nepal was set up by two Englishman with a love of Nepal and its people. We started out working in slum areas, rural farming projects and schools. We then added children’s homes to the EHNs list of projects. After about 18 months and 8 to 10 Children’s homes later we couldn’t justify sending paying volunteers to these anymore of these homes.  The reason for this is simple, we have yet to see a benefit to the children in the homes and the Orphanage we worked with and the childcare community is getting more and greedier.

If you are a volunteer who has dreams of helping orphans in under developed countries then you should really take into account that you may not be helping the children in anyway. If that’s not bad enough you may also be contributing to a growing child abuse issue. In Nepal there are many ways the children are obtained for the homes, some are just relatives of the home owners, and others are from families in poor villages that thought they were giving their child a chance at a better life. In fact what is happening is the children are taken away with a promise of a good home and education but in reality they are used to con volunteers into sponsoring them and giving money. The system is such that the people taking the children ask for the birth certificate if they are to take the child. This is then burnt and new documents are drafted making the child an orphan even though they have parents.  

Things a volunteer should look out for when volunteering in an Orphanage or Children’s home in Nepal.

1: The children are to dependant on the volunteers… This is normally because they have been trained to do so or they are treated so badly that only when a volunteer is around are that shown any love or care.

2: Bad skin and hair… This shows a lack of health care for the children and in some cases the bad skin is the first sign of protein deficiency. They should always get some meat and or milk and eggs.

3: Bad clothes… If the home is run well the children will have clean clothes and shoes plus toothbrush and other hygiene products. In allot of cases the donated toys and clothes are sold off for extra profit plus it means the home owners can ask for more money. 

4: Being pushed to sponsor a child or repeated complaints about not having enough money to run the home… Again if the project is well run most homes and orphanages in Nepal have been well supported for years. Also some homes have far too many children so the question you should ask is why take so many of you can’t support them?

6: NO toys or books to use… Most volunteers bring some items to donate and in allot of cases the children only get them while you’re there. This is again another source of income for the home owners. I have personal experience of a home owner taking books and pens to a stationary shop two after receiving themas a donation. He even asked another volunteer to help him pack them!

You may finish reading this and think “Why would I want to volunteer in Nepal now” in answer to that.

1: Nepal is the poorest country in Asia now and is seriously lacking behind other countries in terms on development.

2: Even with the information above Nepal does have some great children’s homes that need help and support to continue their work.

3: There are many other ways to help the children of Nepal and if you look at the way in which a rural Nepali child grows up compared to a well-run children’s home I would have to say the rural life is much harder even with parents.

4: Once you get past the few corrupt locals out to make money you will find the general population of Nepal some of the warmest and most welcoming people around. Add to that jungles, forests, rivers, valleys, gorges and of course the Himalayas mountains and you have one of planet earth most amazing diverse countries.

Reforestation project in Nepal

Planned reforestation project planting trees with WCN in Nepal

Reforestation project in NepalWe need people to help plant trees and contribute to the cost of protecting those trees in rural areas of Nepal. Nepal has seen a massive amount of deforestation over the years and as a result we have seen many more landslides as well large areas of national park being badly affected. WCN are growing native trees which need to be planted and protected in areas set aside for reforestation. These trees provide a valuable resource to the local people as they are used for animal feed, building and cooking not to mention the positive impact on the local environment. In other areas the trees provide protection form landslides in the monsoon season as the trees roots play a big part in holding the soil on the valley sides.

As with most EHN projects the volunteers will be staying with local people in their homes while working on the project. The volunteer will work alongside the Village Community Forest User Group who will be helping to plant the trees and will be the main beneficiaries of the tree planting project.

Your money will go towards the fencing needed to protect the trees from animals until they are big enough to survive. After that we pay the home stay family for your accommodation and food and the rest is used to run EHN and fund future projects.

There are four location that EHN & WCN are looking to reforest, some are in the south in the region called the Terai and the others are in the valleys regions a few hours from Kathmandu.

We are looking to send 2 to 5 people in each team with a minimum of two weeks commitment required from June to August 2014.

For more information please email phil@ehn-nepal.org