Monday, February 28, 2011

A Day Of Giving

Oliver handing over school supplies.
 And what a day it was! We all woke up early and started carrying back packs and supplies down four flights of stairs. Everyone was excited and even the guest house staff all pitched in helping us. Biju had arranged a vehicle to pick up the supplies and after it was all loaded we were all off to the school. It was a buzz of excitement as we off loaded, everyone trying to catch a peak at what was happening. The school had invited all the parents to attend as it was a big event for them. First all the children were lined up and we were formally welcomed by the school with a speech. They asked me to say a few words and Biju translated it. We handed to supplies and back packs to each child and the vice principal gave each child a tika as they received their gift. The children were called and their parents escorted them. It is a moment I will never forget, a smile a thank you and a moment of connecting with each child. It made all the hard work worth it as the children clasped their back packs. I so wish we were able to give each child a back pack, but we hope to do it soon. Every child received a package of school and art supplies. A big thank you to everyone that made this possible. Then after everyone received their gifts there was another speech and all the teachers received tika’s and scarfs. We felt very honored when asked to participate. Greg gave the teachers a tika and I handed them the scarfs thanking them for their work. The local newspapers were there to report on the story and it was in two newspapers after the event. We then enjoyed a small meal with the school that consisted of a slice of apple, a sweet and a local snack. It was such a special day and I wished everybody could have been there to see the joy and smiles of the children.  We all can make a difference no matter how small it may seem as you never know where it might lead. We have taken the first few steps on a journey that has been such a rollercoaster of emotions, happiness, sadness, joy and frustration.
Greg in a moment.
Me handing over the backpacks.
Nicole with the children.
Oliver receiving thanks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another day of fun

Painting masks.
Greg and Nicole have been feeling a bit sick, so Oliver and I headed off to the school with all the extra art supplies as well as some ideas. It was lunch time when we arrived and we ended up taking a seat on one of the benches, waiting for class. We had decided on painting masks using paper plates and extra paints we had. Not long after we had a crowd of children gathered around us. We decided to use the time to play some English language activities, which was quite fun. The children all played along; counting and spelling words they knew. All those little smiley faces and runny noses brightened up my day. When everybody returned from break we headed off to the classroom and art in action began. It took some time for the children to unleash their creativity, but once they did everybody joined in. A few children were still hesitant and did not know what to paint, but after they saw what the other children were doing they quickly added their own personal touches. Children had paint going everywhere, brushes, markers and crayons were used, in every color. We ended up having a two hour lesson instead of 45 minutes. The children ended up redoing their masks after they had some new ideas, and we had enough paper plates for each child to do as many as they wanted to. Every minute spent is so rewarding, seeing how excited they get and how the shyness disappears, how proud they are of their work, looking for acknowledgement that they did well. I am just as excited as they are for what the day will bring. See you tomorrow everybody!

Art in action

Wikki stix art.

I went out early in the chilled air to find a shop that had some bars or nuts for sale. Greg had a really bad night with his stomach, but it seems much better now. The air is really crisp and clear so early, the only time of the day that it is quiet and not dusty outside. Street children are gathered around the door of the shop asking for food, barely clothed, but still children, in need of love like the rest of us. We did our first art class yesterday. We decided on doing the wiki stix and they had given us two groups in total of about 22 children. How much fun was it for us all. We gave a picture that they had to connect the dots and then they would color in the dinosaur shape, adding the wiki stix on the outlines. Greg and Oliver ended having more fun coloring in and sticking the stix. Four teachers also eventually joined us and ended up making shapes from the wiki stix and we decorated the wall with all the shapes they made. It went a bit slow in the beginning as they only wanted to stay with one color. But once the children realized they could mix and match colors and draw shapes on the dinosaurs it took on an entire new adventure for them. Our lesson was over so quickly and we took pictures with everybody’s art. Seeing them smile and light up was the best reward ever. It made everything worthwhile, and I feel blessed to have had this experience. After we returned I went shopping in the local market looking for some math sets for the children to use in class. It was a long walk through dusty roads and side streets, but was able to find 60 sets for the children Yeah! We also met with an engineer to see if it would be possible to do the water tank at the school. The children have no drinking water and we hope that we can do something about it. For now it looks like our budget will not be enough to complete the tanks as we had hoped. The system with the filter to collect the monsoon water would be too costly at this point. We might only be able to find a way in which to purify the water from the underground source, which was not our preferred method of doing it. We will know on Friday if it will be affordable and possible.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blessings and good morning smiles.

Carrying the furniture down Kathmandu streets.

On the rooftop of the guesthouse sorting school supplies.
My husband got into bed at 6 PM this evening (Monday) as we are all exhausted from our day. We met at 8 AM this morning, with a few other helping hands from the restaurant next door to where we were staying. Jenny had donated four tables and two benches from her shop and we decided to carry it down early this morning before traffic started. Otherwise it gets very difficult too maneuver through the chaos. School only starts at 10 AM in the morning and there were no other staff on site, except for the night watchman when we arrived. Everybody formed a long line carrying a piece of furniture on their heads, a normal site in Kathmandu streets. It was such a joy to see his smiling face as he rushed to meet us, bowing his head and placing his hands together. He could not speak any English, but we tried to explain that the furniture was for the school. I was humbled by his sincere joy and he quickly gestured that we should sit down He went inside his small room and came outside to rinse a few cups and make us some hot tea. We tried to communicate with each other, but without much success. But his warm smile, and thank fullness made everything worth this morning. After we left, we went for breakfast and Greg and Oliver went to fetch the last of the school supply donations on the other side of town. Nicole and I started unpacking and sorting the school supplies on the rooftop of the guesthouse. I could not believe how much supplies we had, more than I could ever have imagined. The Nepali Association had also dropped off over $600.00 worth of supplies to add to the collection. Shortly after two of the guesthouse staff joined us and we quickly started forming an assembly line.
It got really hot really quickly, and I even managed to get sunburnt on my hands, don’t ask me how that happened. Biju visited and he arranged Banana Lassie for the four of us. We were really hot, and realized that we had to hurry as the rains were quickly approaching. It took us about four hours to get everything sorted into back packs and kits made for each child. It included a pencil bag, ruler, eraser, 7 pencils, pen, sharpener, activity book, coloring pencils, crayons, paints, paint brush, notebook and puzzle for 150 children. We also had 67 back packs for the children. We were so happy at how the back packs turned out as we had them made by Biju at his factory. Oliver and Nicole were working so hard with us, never taking a break, Thank you again both of you for all your help today. It was really great working as a team and getting it all sorted.
We finished around 3 PM, just in time to hear the thunder and then the rain drops came. We are planning tomorrow to see if we can purchase 50 or so geometry sets for the older children. The school had mentioned that none of the children had these sets for math and we thought it would be a nice added surprise for them, and it would help the teachers teach the children. It is around 8 PM now, I can hear the shop shutters closing outside and it is lowly getting very chilly here in the room. Will be bed time for me in a few minutes as everything closes down very early because of the power situation.
Today has been such a blessing. The night watchman made such a lasting impression on me, a look and smile I will not forget.  The only thing I do wish is that we had enough funds to give back packs for all 150 children in the school. Something that we will work towards in the future. It has been a day of working together with some great people, who offered their time and hands to make this dream happen. We will be going off to the school tomorrow to give our first art lesson. The children were so excited the last time we were there and they all raised their hands for wanting to draw and paint. We ended a day with a great meal at a local favorite of ours, Daal and rice with some hot Nepali Chia. How more perfect can a day be, good night everyone.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Real needs.

We had a meeting with the school members today to identify the needs in the school. The biggest request from teachers is sponsorship to keep these children in school. For less than $5.00 per year we could send one of the younger children to school. These children’s parents do not have the means to pay for their education. For less than a burger at the drive thru we can change the life of one child. The children were so excited when they heard that we will do art with them. Their smiles lit up when they heard they would be drawing and painting, something that is not available in school. One of our friends also donated four tables and two benches that we will be carrying down to the school in the morning, as it is much needed. Nicole and Oliver suggested a football match for the children and we arranged that on Saturday we will have a match with the children at a local field a distance away from the school. We went to buy two balls and a pump today, a red one and a blue. They do not have any outdoor activities at the school, due to lack of funds and also space. There is hardly any ground available and no grass in site.    

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The school that time forgot.

The entrance to the school area. 
Our first meetings have been with friends that have been so close to me all these years, more like family as Greg would say. Nothing much has changed in this crazy beautiful city, other than there is more load sharing and power is becoming a luxury. It is as if time stands still here, and it feels as if I have never left.
We had our first visit with the school yesterday, Friday February 18 at 2:30 PM. Nothing could prepare me for what we saw. It was half day at the school, so at the time we arrived all the children had been sent home. It gave us time to soak everything in, taking our time to walk from class room to class room. The school looked as if it was in a stage of being broken down. Anywhere in America this building would have been demolished, not fit to be used, most definitely not for children. Metal rods were sticking out of concrete walls, parts of the wall where steps leading down once had gaping holes, there was no support on one part of the school, as the stairs had been broken down. Barren rooms, school benches turned over and the greyness of bare concrete walls is what these children had to look at day after day. How can you be excited to go to school each day, how can you want to concentrate in class? My first impression was shock, but then I met the most humble and warm teachers. They have a passion for teaching and talk about the children with such love. This is a school where time did stand still and nothing has changed for over sixty years. The principal has been with the school for forty years; it is his life and had been his life for all this time. Some of the teachers have been here for most of their teaching careers. It is a forgotten school, tucked away behind buildings in a small side street. The children that come here are all from remote areas of Nepal. Their parents are laborers that came to the city to find work. These children have little and no chance of breaking the cycle. Life is about the struggle to survive day after day. Education is not a priority for the parents if you need to put food on the table. 
The teachers asked us and told us that they do not expect big things from us, not even huge amounts of money. All they need are little things to help them with the education the children. Things like books which they do not have access to, a writing board for the teachers with markers, teacher volunteers that are willing to assist in training for teachers. They gave me so much to think about and I felt blessed to be sitting down with them, drinking a cup of tea. This school has changed my life forever, how can I ever look at things the same again. Not once did they complain about their situation, or have any expectation. On Sunday we will be returning to the school to visit with the children and show the two volunteers that are joining us the school. We will have another meeting with the school and talk about some other ideas for the future. All I can promise myself is to make a commitment to these children, to dedicate the time that I have to work towards giving them the opportunity to have a better education and environment.           
I do know that we had been led to this school, a place where we will find beauty in all the greyness, where children’s smiles and hope will make us grow. Can we look away, can you look away when nothing is asked from us or you, but more is given? Where it is not about what can I get from you, but what can I give you, if only my smile and love. This is a journey not of what we will give, but of what we can learn.  Namaste! Namaste! The echoes of young children as we walk by, touching their palms together in greeting, smiles warming up your heart. Nothing for me will ever be the same, and for you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Beginning.....

During this year the one question that everybody asks me is, “Why are you doing this?” I read a quote this morning from my husband’s favorite writer Dr Seuss that said, "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." I tried to explain it to everybody, making it sound more complicated than what it was. But if we listen and go quiet we can hear what our hearts are telling us, and for me I always knew that I wanted to help in some way. How to do it was never clear and that was the journey. Finding out what it was I needed to do, was much harder than making the decision with my husband to actually do it and to stop thinking about it.

I had lived in Nepal for 8 months and when I had to leave I knew that I would be back. My husband joined me on a trip two years ago and then the seed was born. For a year we talked about it, not really knowing where to start or what to do. We were thinking about the cost of the tickets to return and then on a domestic flight with Delta, they offered us each a $400.00 coupon to take a later flight. At that point we knew that we needed to go back. We had $800.00 discount on our tickets to Nepal, but still no plan. For about three months we looked at so many different options, not really knowing or having any experience. I probably wrote to every government agency and non-profit organization in Nepal to ask for information. None of them replied as I guess they thought what does this crazy woman want to do. She has no money, no plan and she is talking about coming here to start some project which she is not even sure of. But eventually we decided that we would want to do water tanks, because it was fairly simple to do and there is a huge water shortage in Nepal. Second phase I started writing again, and still no response. And then I saw the Prilosec OTC competition. It was a competition where you could write about your passion or dream and Prilosec OTC would sponsor a certain amount towards this project. I entered and we were able to get over 700 votes. The journey to find the school to work with on this project was another story. I think the recipients of these emails from me really did not take me serious or did not really understand what our plans were. My husband learnt everything he could about building a ferracement tank and we looked at various options. After about three months later, and a few schools that did not work out one of my old friends from Kathmandu contacted me and he suggested that we work with his old school. We were so ecstatic as eventually we had a school we could focus on.

We started collecting school supplies for 170 children, through donations, writing and looking for sales we eventually reached our goal. We were also able to secure sponsorship for 60 back packs and some extra back packs were also donated. I have been working on a plan to do some art and craft classes at the school. I believe that each child has the need to dream and be creative. I am not sure exactly how this all will come to be at this point. We have collected enough paints, coloring pencils, markers, activity books and crayons to start these activities. With the help of two volunteers that will be joining us, we plan to do activities with each classroom.     

This is all in a nutshell what happened this year. Now we are at the beginning of a new beginning, a new story to tell. As of yet, we are not quite sure how things will work when we get there, but we are two people with a dream and a passion to make it work. Thank you for reading our story and sharing your time with us. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I read this post this morning and thought I would share it with you. This pretty much tells the story of our journey up till this point. How many times did I doubt or fear failure, and even now sometimes when I look at the future and what we want to accomplish I have to ask, "Will this be possible, are we biting off more than we can chew?" But I have also realized that this is a journey and our goal might not be the destiny or outcome we believe it should be. Nothing is a failure and nothing is in vain. If not to make a change in one child’s live, it is for me to overcome my fears and learn from the children. My husband has been beside me all this time, and he is walking with me, for that I am truly blessed. Thank you for everybody’s support and love, without you this would not be possible.

A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled
with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him
to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained
that the man was to Push against the rock with all his might...

So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sunup
to sundown, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface
of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might!

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that
his whole day had been spent in vain.
Since the man was showing discouragement, the adversary (Satan) decided to
enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: (He will do it every time)!

'You have been pushing against that rock for a long time
and it hasn't moved.'
Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible
and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.

Satan said, 'Why kill yourself over this? Just
put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good
enough.' That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a
matter of Prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

'Lord,' he said, 'I have labored long and hard in Your Service, putting
all my strength to do that which You have asked. Yet, after all this
time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter.
What is wrong? Why am I failing?'

The Lord responded compassionately, 'My friend, when I asked you to serve
Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done.

Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it.
Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed..

But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and
muscled, your back shiny and brown; your hands are callused from constant
pressure, your legs have become massive and hard.

Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass
that which you used to have. True, you haven't moved the rock. But
your calling was to be Obedient and to push and to exercise your Faith and
trust in My Wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock"

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He Wants,
when actually what God wants is just simple obedience and faith in Him.

By all means, exercise the Faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God Who moves the Mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong...........................
Just P.U.S.H.

When the job gets you down.............................
Just P.U.S.H.

When people don't do as you think they should.............
Just P.U.S.H.

When your money is 'gone' and the bills are due...........
Just P.U.S.H.

When people just don't understand you ......................
Just P.U.S.H.

P = Pray
U = Until
S = Something
H = Happens