Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sing me a song

Binod waiting to see the doctor
Bindod is a 9-year-old boy who attends Kalankee Primary School, where he is still studying in nursery class. He has obvious difficulties with his sight and Manisha UK volunteers have been trying for at least a couple of years to take him to the eye hospital. Getting parental permission to do this has proved difficult, but with the help of the community, we finally persuaded Binod's parents that a trip to the hospital was a good idea, that we had Binod's best interests at heart, and there was no risk of them incurring a bill they couldn't afford to pay. So they jeep picked up Binod, his father, his older sister and a community member who has been helping us and brought them to the eye hospital in Tansen, where Saran and I met them. 

The doctors told us that Binod is blind in one eye, with severely restricted vision in the other.  Sadly, there is nothing that can be done to improve or restore his vision. Clearly, this wasn't the news anyone wanted, but now that we know the situation we have started taking specialist advice and will put together a plan, with resources needed, to help Binod access education and progress from nursery class. In spite of all this, I truly believe Binod had a very enjoyable day out, enjoying the jeep ride and playing with his balloon in the waiting room! He is still the same affectionate and happy little boy that volunteers have met over the years. 

Before making the trip to remote Gyanodaya School in Okhaldhunga, there was just time to squeeze in a brief wedding anniversary celebration. It's hard to believe it's now two years since I married Bimala during my first trip to Nepal. It has been a crazy time but we're both still very happy and loving life here.

Reading in the sun
At Gyanodaya we set up our final library. In scenes that continue to excite me, however many times I see them, we saw the children enthusiastically delve into their new books. When we asked for volunteers for student librarians, pretty much the entire secondary school volunteered, so we had to ask the teachers to narrow it down a little. The village is so remote that most of the children will never have seen books like these before, and the window they give to the outside world will be invaluable. And of course, we expect them to have a very positive impact on the children's reading and writing skills.

Student librarian team at Gyanodaya
Orphan boy and his friend with new books
 We also learned about an orphan brother and sister who have started in the primary school. They are looked after by their uncle in the village, but the family are clearly struggling to provide decent clothes for them. They don't have uniforms and often come to school without pencils or exercise books. We measured them up and when we return we'll be taking uniforms, school bags, stationary and books for them. The Nepali Red Cross have agreed to provide some further clothes, so it should be a good little parcel to help them. 

Playing the 'madal' drum
This week we visited Bhagawati School in Bhalebas, to record the Steve Sinnott Foundation campaign song 'A Better Place to Be'. We spent the morning working with year 7 pupils to learn the song, before recording in the afternoon. It was a massive challenge to learn a song in a different language, with a style alien to the local music. The children were all absolutely fantastic and worked really hard, as did the teachers. However, to see the final result you'll have to wait until next month when SSF share the finished product!

The year 7 singers did a great job!

More happy readers
We returned to Devwani school to do some more work on the library and help the school get the most from it. Again, it was a joy to see the children with the books, and we made sure every child in school in the primary checked out a book to take home. We returned the next day, and loads of children had brought back their finished books and were demanding access to the library to get the next one! We were also invited to attend a celebration being organised by year 9 for the leaving year 10 pupils, who will shortly be taking their final exams at the school. They put on a great event, with an excellent forfeit game which had everyone in stitches as the year 10 pupils sang, did impressions and found a dozen different to make fools of themselves, all in the best possible fun. 

Year 10 leavers photos

Students focused on the next quiz question
Learning shouldn't have to stop just because it's the weekend, and so neither do I. On Saturday I was invited to a digital quiz organised by local youth groups. Despite the quiz starting two hours late, I was hugely impressed. The organisation was excellent and showed real maturity from 14 and 15-year-old organisers and the PowerPoint presentation through which the quiz was conducted was of fantastic quality. Computer skills are lacking in general in Nepal, but these children showed that when they have access to computers and resources on a regular basis, they can produce brilliant work! I was grateful that I was only there to watch the quiz and not participate, as a lot of the questions were far beyond me, but all the kids taking part were excellent and impressed me with their knowledge of a variety of subjects. 

It was good to see how children can make great use of resources, as I've been spending a lot of time working on our proposed joint project with the Steve Sinnott Foundation to set up a learning resource centre here in Tansen. The children really proved that if we can give them the access, they will put in the time and effort to get the most from them. Let's hope we can make the project a success! 

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