Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jyoti Rehabilitation

Finding good didis is Dinesh's largest challenge and probably the largest challenge for most of the children's homes in Nepal. It's an extraordinary job--becoming mother to 20 children, 24 hours on call, without modern conveniences like dish washers, washing machines, hot water tanks, ovens, and other food processing gadgets. Everything it seems, with the exception of boiling water for tea, is done by hand.

We are so fortunate to have great didis--Sarita, Sushma, Tara and Asuna. Not only do they work extremely well, but they seem to really enjoy each other on a personal level. They often get together on their off days, or they return to the house just to hang out with the others. But they seem to be the exception. Dinesh says most of the other homes have a high attrition rate with didis (somewhat understandable). It also helps that we pay our didis better than the going rate.

Fortunately, as we look to grow, we may have a solution for locating future didis.

In a previous post we talked about didi Kamala who is training at Sam's House for three months. She is paid by an organization called Child Welfare Scheme Nepal (CWNS), which provides various programs for assisting uneducated, primarily low-caste young adults. Sam's House provides Kamala's boarding and work place, and Child Welfare pays her salary. It's a great deal for us and Kamala has worked out very well.

Kamala graduated from the Jyoti Rehabilitation program of CWNS. Jyoti educates low-caste children between the ages of 16-20, most of whom are illiterate, giving them the basics in math and reading, and preparing them in one of three vocational tracks: child-care, electrician, or plumbing.

Kamala was in the first graduating class of the child-care program. She asked Dinesh and me to visit Jyoti to see the grounds and meet her teachers. It was really sweet because I think she was rather proud to go back with her "Sir" and show that her training had paid off and she was working.

It was an impressive place, south of Pokhara, looking much like a boarding school. We visited some classrooms. The child-care program was exclusively women but the plumbing and electrician programs had a few women each.

The child-care students are trained in nutrition, First Aid, CPR, cooking and other home economic topics.

The child-care graduates hope to catch on with children's homes in Pokhara or work as nannies in upper class Nepali homes. The electricians and plumbers are hoping to take advantage of all the work demand in the Middle East and Australia.

We hope to continue our relationship with Jyoti. If the future graduates are like Kamala, we'll feel very good about providing the children with caring and diligent didis.

Kamala with her teacher and the school principal.

The child-care students. They will be the second graduating class. I believe that CWNS is only four years old.

CWNS is an international non-profit, like Sam's House. Most of its supporters live in Hong Kong and the UK.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sam's House Goes Green

Thanks to a recent donation, Sam's House has acquired solar panels for emergency lighting. I'd like to tell you that it's our commitment to going green (that's certainly part of it), but moreso because electric power is extremely unreliable during the dry months in Nepal.

Presently, per government mandate, all homes and buildings have 36 hours of blackout per week. In a home with twenty children, as you can imagine, this is particularly challenging. The solar panels will charge up to four lights in our house and keep the children walking around without fear of stubbing a toe or, better yet, tipping over a candle!

Here are a few more photos I didn't have time to post...

Bye for now.

Sandeep and Asuna share a joke.

Young scholars of Nepal on the bus.

Maya, Pratima and Kiran waiting for the bus.

Suraj pulls on his socks while Santosh waits for his line partner.

Ranjit and Ama's granddaughter, Sumenta, with Maya and Mina. As the lone 11-year old in the house, all the younger girls are quite smitten with and imitative of her. Sumenta's really great with all the children. Takes dance lessons with the group on Saturdays.

The Pokhara Valley from our picnic site.

Dhiraj points out Gorkha English Boarding School to Saran.

Some more dance moves from the prime minister. Reminiscent of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.

Diksha and Maya before the balloon stomp.

Sarita fixes a blindfold for "pin the tika."

The didis brought an extension cord for the radio, presumably to reach that house in the top of the frame.

Shelling hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.

Tea break.

Laxmi and Maya at the picnic.

Babit walking with Carole to the picnic. Though the other children ran ahead, he stayed with my mother the whole way.

Rina in her picnic dress. Funny thing: of course, given Rina's play habits, the dress is rather dirty in no time at all. But every time she sits down on the grass, she's careful to smooth it flat underneath herself. Very cute to watch.

Laxmi showing Maya the proper technique to "bump" the volleyball.

Sushma steals a quiet moment during volleyball lessons.

"Gordon Uncle" drawing a crowd.

Sarita, Sabita, Maya and Pooja.

Santosh, Ritesh and Saran after school.

A quick Namaste from the Colonel. Waiting at the bus stop for his siblings to come home.

The prime minister hitting the books.

Rina, only shy at first.

This is Umar, our part-time accountant. Dinesh knew him from his previous employment at the International Nepal Fellowship.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Exams Begin

Exams for the second term began this morning. The children had a day off school last week specifically for preparation. Laxmi spent all day drilling the children and going over questions. It's pretty serious stuff.

More pics, mostly from the day's school preparation.

The Colonel says: "Just because I'm being potty trained over here doesn't mean you forget to salute a superior, soldier. Drop and give me twenty."

Sarita sweeps the front walk.

The morning chores--dishes and clothes. All done by hand in cold (icy cold) water. Did we mention how hard the didis work?

Amrit primped and ready to go.

Rina and Mamata. You may be wondering about Rina's shiner. The other day she decided to blindfold herself and walk around the playground. Within five seconds, before anyone could intervene, she fell, face first. Fortunately she was only momentarily deterred and soon bounding around the playground again.

Hello, my name is Suraj and when I'm preparing for exams I take my one-a-day gummy Cars vitamin. Just one vitamin a day keeps me sharp and ready for all the challenges of my school day. Even though I'm only in lower kindergarten, gummy Cars vitamins make sure I get the most of every minute. Gummy Cars vitamins--in the health aid section of your local grocery store.

(A super huge thank you to Allison Coho and her students at Deer Run Elementary in Dublin, Ohio who collected more than 100 bottles of multivitamins for the Sam's House children. Thanks to them, we have well over two years of vitamins, making sure the get the best nutrition possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

Laxmi doubles as a stylist after the morning lessons.

Gordon helps the Prime Minister with his shoes.

Ready to head out.

Laxmi hands out test cards to the children. You need this card for taking your exams. I'm not quite sure why they use this, perhaps test fraud, like bringing your ID to the LSATs?

Manju's test card. No one will be illegally taking her exams. She doesn't need it. Manju placed third position in her class last term.

On the way to the bus stop.

Sabita's pencil box and clip board.

Banita, Mamata and Dhiraj on the bus.

Maya with a couple of school friends.

Maya and Mina at the back of their lines during morning assembly.

p.s. Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time might appreciate this... the other day my mother and I rode the bus to school with the children. In Nepal, the schoolteachers ride the bus with the children to ensure good behavior. There was an older teacher who I remembered from my previous visit. When I sat down she told me that all the Sam's House kids were so "good and disciplined." Of course it was nice to hear that. Then she said, "except one." Who might be this solitary child? Bishal, the prime minister, of course. Oh well. 17 out of 18 isn't bad. Just wait until they get a load of Rina, who, as my mother will now attest, is just as much a stinker (though a cute stinker) as her pictures suggest.


1st Anniversary Picnic

I spent most of my cybercafe time posting pictures so I have little time left to narrate. We had a picnic today to celebrate the first anniversary of Sam's House, marking a year since Dinesh and Rekha began putting all the pieces together for our opening on March 1.

The children were, needless to say, quite excited for the outing. It was a beautiful day and tons of fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It's days like this that you enable these children to enjoy.

Last summer I took the older children to this same hillside just for some exploring. On our way down tonight, Mina pointed out every landmark she remembered from that trip--where we drank water, where we rested, where we found objects, where we played certain games. It just reminded me that though we can't afford to make outings like this all the time, the children make the most of it and they enjoy every minute.


The didis modeling their SH shirts.

Laxmi putting cold cream on Maya's face. She did this for all the girls.

KC and Binita.

Carole and Sabita waiting for departure.

Queueing up and head count.

Mountains in the distance.

KC leads Saran and Bishal along the route.

Taking a rest on the way up.

Our picnic site.

Saran learns how to yo-yo from Gordon, sort of.

We started with breakfast of donuts, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes and tea. You can't beat it.

Dinesh leads away a stray goat that had wandered into our picnic area during breakfast.

When we first arrived, the girls set up a dance circle, which they like to do. Those sitting sing a song and one person dances. Too cute for words. This is Sabita.

We had a balloon stomp. Here are the final three: Maya, Kiran and Mamata.

The didis played "Pin the Tika on the Woman's Forehead." Sarita didi won. Check out how close.

Sarita brought a radio and some of the girls struck up a dance party, led by the Prime Minister in front...

... and there was UNO.

Part of the gang looking for SH from the hillside.

The director and me. One year in the books.

Rekha, Mina and Laxmi.

Diksha Rajbhandari grabbing a catnap among the coats and sweaters.

The lunch line. A catered lunch! Thirty people served for $100.

Pooja and Pratima enjoying lunch.

Sandeep having an ice cream cone. He would eventually consume three.

On the way home, still having a good time.

After the picnic, resting back at SH. Sushma asked me to take a photo of her serving my mother water.