Volunteer: Jenny from Australia

May 26th, 2013 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Jenny volunteered in Nangi for five weeks in December 2012 and January 2013. Her is what she had to say about her experience:
“I first heard about Nangi village 11 years ago from another volunteer and recently I was lucky enough to volunteer there myself. It was a fantastic experience. The people of Nangi are so welcoming and big hearted and happily include you in their daily life and work. The village and surroundings are just stunning…pine forests, farm land and snow capped mountains.
I had read on the Nangi website from a former volunteer that although the students of Nangi could read and write English quite well, they weren’t very confident speaking English, so that gave me the idea for my project. My original plan was to help the older students learn spoken English but when I arrived, I was instead asked to teach grades 2,3,4 and 5 which was fine.  The other part of my project was to get the children reading English books for fun and enjoyment. In Nepal the children learn English from text books that seemed very boring. Before I went to Nangi, I collected second hand books and teaching aids (puzzles, games and picture cards) that were high interest, colourful, culturally appropriate  and (most important) light weight and these really helped with the teaching as I was completely hopeless at learning the Nepali language. 
I took my classes outside in the sun whenever possible because it is so cold and dark in the classrooms in winter. I was in Nangi for 5 weeks which didn’t seem long for what I was doing but I did see the students become very engrossed in reading the books each day and certainly get more confident in speaking English. Another positive outcome was the setting up of the Himachal English Fan Club for the senior students, thanks to Chandra the English teacher. It’s a sort of English for Fun club run by the students with a collection of comics, sports books, puzzle books,etc that they can keep in the class and borrow any time. I also got them a small collection of English DVDs (mostly family movies so they wouldn’t be too culturally confronting) which they can run on film nights. It’s hard to speak English when you rarely hear it spoken! I also got to guide the primary kids on their first ever use of a computer using a very simple language program/game I’d brought from Australia which was incredibly exciting for all of us.”
TIP: If you want to keep in touch with the outside world take your own laptop. The school has computers but they’re not always available.
Ideas for future projects?
1) Teaching the primary children and their teachers basic computer skills and usage. There is a small computer lab with 6 or so computers for the primary classes but it’s not used much at the moment.
2) Helping students with English speaking and reading aloud.
3) Increasing the usage of the books and resources in the library.

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BRIEF REPORT OF COMMUNITY MANAGED ECO-TREKKING TRAIL

April 12th, 2013 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

 

September 2012 to January 2013 by Chitra Pun, HEF Field Officer

I am very happy to get an opportunity to acknowledge to all respective people about Community Managed Eco Trail and its progress in 2012.

We held a meeting of communities in Nangi village on the 25th January 2013 to distribute money that was earned during the last tourism season of 2012. In the meeting, people were participated from Banskharka village, Dandakateri village, Nangi village, Aula village, Tikot village and Khibang village where community dining hall with home stay and community lodges for trekkers have been run by communities.

Name list of members who attended the meeting

  1. Mr. Raman Pun, Nangi village
  2. Mr. Dil Bahadur Pun, Nangi village
  3. Mr. Bir Bahadur Khoraja, Nangi village
  4. Tek Bahadur Khoraja, Nangi, village
  5. Kishan Pun, Nangi village
  6. Mr. Raman Purja, Nangi village
  7. Mr. Partu Purja, Nangi village
  8. Ms. Pok Maya Purja, Nangi village
  9. Mr. Chitra Pun, Nangi village
  10. Mr. Yam Bahadur Garbuja, Banskharka village
  11. Mr. Akash Pun, Banskharka village
  12. Mr. Am Bahadur Purja, Dandakateri village
  13. Mr.  Gam Bahadur Garbuja, Aula village
  14. Mr. Kumar Garbuja, Aula village
  15. Mr. Dakraj Garbuja, Khibang village
  16. Mr. Pradeep Pun, Tikot village
  17. Mr. Tek Bahadur Pun, Tikot village
  18. Mr.Yubraj Pahare Pun, Tikot village
  19. Mrs. Yamsara Pun, Tikot village
  20. Mrs. Man Kumari Purja, Tikot village
  21. Mrs. Uma Devi Garbuja, Tikot village
  22. Mrs. Purni Maya Paija, Tikot village
  23. Dr Mahabir Pun, Live from Kathmandu

During September 2012 to January 2013, there were more than 200 trekkers and community has become a success to earn Rs. 2,136,445 ($24,489 USD) in total. Out of Rs. 2,136,445 we distributed Rs. 147,600 ($1691 USD) for porters’ remuneration, allocated Rs. 250,000 ($2865 USD) fund for scholarship and Rs. 100,000 ($1146 USD) fund for nature conservation and community development.

Village’s Financial Distribution

S/No

Name of village

Benefit Distributed

1 Banskharka village 130,850
2 Dandakateri village 173,670
3 Nangi village 770,715
4 Mohare Danda 241,455
5 Hampal Danda 50,400
6 Dandakharka 69,000
7 Tikot village 152,455
8 Khibang village 50,300
Total 1,638,845

The trekkers were from different countries including USA, Britain, Australia, German, Israel, France, Spain, Korea, and Japan. Trekkers experienced making handmade lokta paper, wearing Pun Magar traditional clothes, home stays as well as lodge living. Some trekkers planted trees from community forestry nursery run by Himanchal Higher Secondary School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elsa from France

March 21st, 2013 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Elsa is a volunteer nurse from France working with the women to improve healthcare. Here is what she has to say about her experience.

Elsa and Women’s Group

My name is Elsa, and I am a nurse from France. I quit my job in September 2011 after working for two years in a hospital ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in Paris and took a one way flight to Nepal. I came to this country without any fixed plans, with only a little bit of medical equipment from my hospital in Paris and a lot of hope and love to share….

I was very fortunate to meet the renown Dr Mahabir Pun in Kathmandu a week after I arrived and with his introduction I was allowed to spend some time working  in the Kathmandu Model Hospital. When I learned about the efforts Dr Mahabir Pun and Dr Saroj Dhital were making to improve the lives of the mountain villagers through the use of modern communication techniques, I found myself intrigued and grasped the chance to go and live in a remote village of Nepal.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I arrived in the Himalayan village of Nangi in November 2011. I discovered their way of life to be totally different from mine. I slowly tried to follow the flow of the days. I got involved in the village clinic, the kindergarten, the paper making center and in the fields sharing the simple life, getting to know the people around me, learning about their crops in the fields and their animals and how they use all the things that nature provides them to live a simple and comfortable life. After Nangi, I went to three other villages including Ramche, Tikot, and Sikha to see the health-centers and work with different local health workers. Slowly, slowly after a few months working with these people and observing their lives the idea of an association came to me.

Elsa and Lila in Nangi Clinic.

The women of these villages have traditionally made wool bags for everyone; children who are going to school, husbands who are going to work, to teach…I believed that the women could raise money for themselves and for the community in general by using their traditional skills and selling their products/crafts.  I started meetings  with the women to explain and discuss different ideas with them. We created community groups run by committees of a dozen women in Nangi and Tikot villages. The sales of these bags in Nepal, France and elsewhere enables the implementation of fair and sustainable economic activities in these remote villages. The women are paid per day of work in Nangi and per bag in Tikot.

The profit from the sale of the bags is also used to improve villagers’ access to basic health care. The committees work closely with local health workers. The cooperative is presently supporting pregnant women with money from the sale of these bags and has already paid for the expenses of three childbirths in Nangi. Women’s skills for sustainable women’s health” is the heart of this association. After six months in Nepal, I went back to France to create the association and to begin to sell some bags there. The name of the association is “MilleZola” which means “a thousand bags”. You can visit our website  http://www.millezola.com and also follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/MilleZola2012

I am now back in Nangi to continue to work on this project. I want to create a new design for the bags, particularly for the French market. The association  is looking for textile designer volunteers. I will probably stay five more months in Nepal. I just want to say that these people have changed my life. They have taught me how to live in the precious present moment, how to become liberated of judgment, how to live in harmony with nature around.. how to never stop smiling, how to be happy, be happy, be happy !!!!! 

 

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Volunteers: Danny and Marj from Australia

January 14th, 2013 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Danny, Marj, their daughters and nephew Jason volunteered in March 2012 to renovate and rewire the volunteer roundhouse, rewire student housing, teach English and creative writing to students. Volunteers returning to Nangi will appreciate the new open floor plan in the main volunteer roundhouse which made the kitchen and common room one large area. This provides an open space for socializing and cooking together. The addition of one bunk room allows for more volunteers to share the space. The new wiring assures safe electrical service….when the electricity is flowing! Marg’s creative writing classes for older students will be the basis for the new section called Meet the Students which should be up over the next several weeks. This is what Danny had to say about his time in Nangi.

Marj, Danny and daughters with trekking guide.

“As my wife & I had been to Nepal previously (twice) we had always said that once our children were old enough we would return.   I came across the HEF website through a work collegue in our initial planning stages for our adventure.   The underlying HEF goals and mission seemed to correlate with what we wanted our children to experience.   The next hurdle to overcome was to decide how an “unskilled” person like myself, could contribute to the HEF, village and school.   Given that I was fairly handy with carpentry work and general odd jobs, Deb Stoner proposed that I could complete several renovations to the volunteer round houses.   We stayed almost 9 weeks in Nangi and I completed, (with some assistance from nephew Jason) many odd jobs including: a new kitchen bench, additional lighting, laying ply & lino flooring, toilet plumbing, making bedroom shelves and L shaped double bunks.   We also renovated the kitchen in the old roundhouse & made a rodent proof cupboard.   A major piece of work was the rewiring of the student huts.”

“Advice for future volunteers is to try and get specific details of what your volunteer work will entail.   This may allow you to pre plan what tools, materials and other resources you may need prior to your arrival.   Materials take a number of days to order and arrive in remote areas and this leads to a lot of down time.   I was fortunate to be able to borrow an electric jig saw for the majority of the timber cutting.   This meant I had to plan for when there was power available.   My best piece of advice for future volunteers is to be patient and remain flexible!   Working for the village and school is a rewarding experience.   A contribution, no matter how small makes a difference.”

 

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Jonni, Volunteer from Finland

January 7th, 2013 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Jonni, from Finland, is a long time volunteer with HEF. His first project was building a Finnish sauna in the village several years ago. The sauna provides health benefits along with relaxation for hard working villagers and volunteers. He was in Nepal this past October to work on the sauna and several wireless-dependent meteorological projects with Mahabir:

“I cleaned the sauna stove thoroughly, which had rust and ash from moisture. We made a new chimney for it. The old one was simple and broken, and I think rain could get in. Ash must be removed regularly so it does not absorb moisture that must greatly accelerate corrosion. The new chimney was built of rock, with a large flat rock on top and holes on the sides of it.”

“I went to Mohare Danda, Khopra, Khayer lake and Larke, to install equipment for Mahabir   These were: an IP camera to Mohare, weather station to Khopra and repairs in Larke.”

“Shortly put: the camera in Mohare Danda is useful for several purposes. The destination can be advertised better, and Mahabir is thinking of puttinga screen with live video from the camera in the Nepal Connection Café in Thamel. The installation trip took 4 days. We wanted to protect the camera from weather, but the installation and cabling were problematic – we had to use parts that were available in Mohare, so there were several improvisations, like using a water tank lid for roof, and a part of an Ethernet cable for power. Also, Dept. of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) was interested in making weather observations about cloudiness from these images. The images are stored at:

* http://www.nepalwireless.net/webcams/mohare/

In Khopra, I was to install a small Vaisala weather station. Vaisala calls this product a “weather transmitter”, as it’s not a fully functioning station, but Mahabir calls it a “weather station”. Difference is: The transmitter does not log values, and also it isn’t fully equipped to measure all things. It cannot measure snowfall at all, and it has everything in one box  which makes accurate measurements difficult because wind measurement should be at 10 meter height and temperature at 2 meters.”

“When in Khopra, I found that the communication part was defective, and after despair, found out that the laptop in Khopra could be used for this purpose. We had additional installation and transmission errors that have rendered this project of little use for now. There’s no data for the night, and if there’s also mostly no data for the day, there’s just not much data at this time but we will work on correcting the errors.”

“In Larke, there are old installations – both a camera like the one in Mohare, and a weather station like in Khopra. Both were not functioning. We just took that down and brought to Pokhara for repairs. I could fix the weather station, as its only problem was the transmission of data. I set up a new transmission and the results can be seen at a link below.  This is interesting for the aviation to Jomsom, and also for DHM.”

* http://www.nepalwireless.net/weather/larke/index.html

“On my trip, I also visited DHM to increase understanding and prepare for possible future collaboration between DHM and the Finnish Meteorology

Institute.”

 

 

 

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Meet the Teachers

December 27th, 2012 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

We will be starting new pages dedicated to the teachers and students. While the pages are under construction I would like to start introducing the staff of Himanchal Higher Secondary School. The school is divided into segments which include: Grades 1-5 Primary; Grades 6-8 Lower Secondary Level; Grades 9-12 Higher Secondary Level.

Raman Pun, Principle of Himanchal Higher Secondary School, Nangi, Nepal October 2012.

Raman Pun is the school Principle. He earned his degree in Commerce and Education from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal and has been teaching since 1998. He teaches Grades 9 & 10 Accounting and Grades 11 & 12 Business Study and Marketing. His administrative duties as Principle  include assuring curriculum exceeds Nepal standards, managing the school within the budget, hiring teachers, discipline of students and teachers, and the many challenges faced by school principles across the globe.

Raman told me he has many wishes for his students, one is to “earn good income from education”. He is concerned about the small number of female students able to study at the college level. The social standards in Nepal do not favor women traveling alone or living in dormitories unless they are with family. Most can not afford college tuition in the cities. He especially wants to advance the school to a Bachelors Level Program which is a 3 year degree program. He would like to offer degrees in Computer Science and Education which would allow female students to live locally and advance their educations.

Raman would like to hear from other educators about the challenges they face as teachers and administrators no matter where you live. Please leave your comments and we will forward to Raman.

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Family Trekking in Nepal by Janita

December 6th, 2012 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Jharana, Indigo, Janita, Todd and Sari in Tikot, April 2012.

Annapurna Dhaulagiri Community Eco: This new community trail in the Annapurna region is a beautiful trail that our family trekked in April 2012 with our good friend Mahabir Pun. We hope this short documentary encourages other families to travel with their kids and explore this part of the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYAKHq8MZOEpage1image1080

Our recent trip to Nangi village was particularly special as we were able to share our experiences with our 5 and 7 year old daughters.

Tips that we would encourage other parents to consider when planning a trip to Nepal include:

  •  Seek out good paediatric travel advice regarding vaccines and associated travel medicine issues (gastric issues, altitude etc) well before travelling by visiting a Travel Clinic or your family physician
  •  Books can be purchased on Amazon such as: I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket by Ed Young; Namaste! by Diana Cohn and Amy Cordova; I See the Sun in Nepal by Dedie King, Judith Inglese and Chij Shrestha. Children can also use these books as a conversation starter in the village or take photographs throughout their trip and stick matching images inside the books.
  •  If you have an ipad, there are some wonderful apps that not only help your child understand Nepal more, but act as a conversation starter with children in the village:Nepal Sisters is an app that shows the typical day of a variety of young school girls.MyNepali is an app that has some basic Nepali words, complete with voice over and text of animals and transport.SneakyPeaks is an app that captures the 8000+ metre high mountains in a puzzle, and when you solve the puzzle, it tells you about the peak.
  •  Prepare children for trekking prior by setting a realistic distance goal and drawing a barometer to chart their success – consider incidental opportunities like walking home from school – as long as they have their hiking shoes on it’s counted!
  •  Set realistic travel plans. Kids will walk slower, need more frequent breaks, be distracted by anything and everything and be prone to whining if the pressure mounts. Having trekked many times in Nepal before, it was actually quite refreshing to be slowed down by the kids, the added benefit being that none of the family experienced any signs of altitude illness!
  • Try introducing Nepal or Indian food into your usual diet prior – make a fuss about cooking dhal (lentils) and rice – make chapatis a quick, easy bread kids love.
  •  Engage the services of a doko porter if nothing else, to keep peace of mind that the kids can alternate between walking and being carried throughout the day. Remember, kids tend to walk in bursts rather than sustained endurance at a young age.
  •  The biggest aspect to consider is that a family trek is just that a family event, so make your decisions based on what will enable the children to have lasting positive memoriesJanita, Todd, Indigo (7), Sari (5), Jharna Pun (7) in Tikot, April 2012

More information about the trek can be found by contacting Chitra Pun at chitra@himanchal.org and here:

http://thegreathimalayatrail.org/trek/annapurna-dhaulagiri-community-trek/

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Epilepsy Training Seminar Brings Hope

October 15th, 2012 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Nepal is a beautiful country, famous for its stunning Himalaya, rich culture and generous hospitality.  In a country that is only 65% the size of Victoria, its population is greater than all of Australia!  Yet, there are less than twenty neurologists in the whole country.   A significant percentage of people live in poverty, and most people are dependent on agriculture for a living.  For those living with epilepsy, access to specialist support, medication and community understanding of this highly stigmatized condition, life can be very isolating and overwhelming.

A partnership between the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria (EFV) and the Nepal Epilepsy Association (NEA) has recently seen Janita Keating, Education and Training Manager, EFV and Hemav Rajbhandari, Vice President NEA develop and deliver epilepsy education to teachers and health workers in the remote village of Nangi in the Myagdi District of West Nepal.

 

The training focused on emphasising that epilepsy is a medical condition that should be treated by a doctor (not a sharman or witch doctor); that epilepsy is not contagious; that when correctly diagnosed and treated by the appropriate medications seizures can, in 70% of cases, be well controlled; seizures are not the result of punishment or bad gods; and how to appropriately support the person during and after a seizure. Five health workers and thirty teachers attended the sessions, with one health worker walking nine hours by foot to attend. Pictorial resources were distributed to the health workers to better enable them to continue the educative process with newly diagnosed villagers. Linkages with NEA were established, so that any future questions or referrals can be addressed via telemedicine communications. Feedback from health workers and teachers was very positive.

The video entitled “Juneli” a Nepali Documentary Drama, based on a true epilepsy story was produced by Nepal Epilepsy Association (NEA) and shown to all participants and interested villagers. It can be viewed on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2K96GQnjgU

The experience has highlighted international epilepsy organisations can be for both countries. Future joint EFV and NEA outreach epilepsy clinics in West Nepal are planned for September 2013.

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Volunteer family donate yak.

September 17th, 2012 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

In 2011 Jiwan Giri, a former BOD member, wrote this about the yak breeding program:

“The villagers and school in Nangi are working hard to establish a Cheese Production Factory and the first step is to build a herd of cross-bred Jhopas. As many of you may already know, at Khopra Lodge Mahabir has established a Yak Farm.  These yaks are primarily  for meat, milk and wool. They also work as pack animals in the higher elevation above snowline.   But the males serve another function which is to mate with a local female cow to produce a cross breed offspring called a Jhopa.  Because one of the parents is a Yak, it allows the cross bred animals to live in Mohare. We have breeding program that has been already successfully done. Now we need to increase the herd. Therefore we need more cows.”

Although the program is successful they still need to increase the herd. Marg and Danny from Australia volunteered in Nangi this past spring renovating the volunteer roundhouse and teaching English at the school. After hearing about the yak breeding project and visiting the site, they decided to make a donation to the yak breeding program. Marg explains their decision in her email to me:

Yak donated by Marj, Danny and family, former HEF volunteers from Australia. July 2012.

“Given our good fortune to live in a first world country we wanted to assist the people of Nangi in some small way.  It was important that our donation would help generate further income, allow village ownership whilst maintaining their pride. As our 10 and 8 year old daughters also contributed with some of their pocket money we wanted our gift to be tangible and something we could see the benefits of in the future.   This would enable our daughters to have a greater connection to Nepal and see the positive benefits of their actions. 

Buying a yak for the Cross-Breeding Program ticked all the boxes.  Having only 2 yak bulls at Mohare a new (virulent) bull would extend the breeding program and reduce interbreeding. We are very happy with the two year old yak purchased and hope to see many offspring in the years to come!!” 
HEF extends it’s gratitude to Marj, Danny and family for their donation which characterizes vision and an understanding of HEF’s goals.

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Meet Patrick Gray – new BOD member

September 5th, 2012 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Dr. Patrick Gray

 

Himanchal Education Foundation would like to introduce our newest Board of Directors member, Dr. Patrick Gray. Patrick joined HEF two months ago after graduating from Yale University last year with a Ph. D. in English and Renaissance Studies. He is a former HEF volunteer first going to Nangi twelve years ago, after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught English at Himanchal High School for an academic year, from the fall of 2000 to the spring of 2001. Patrick continued his studies but always coveted a desire to return to Nangi or find a way to serve the school. Please click on the right hand link under Meet Our Board to read more about Patrick.

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