Friday, 28 March 2008
You can donate to her online sponsorship form through this link:
She'll be covering all her expenses en route from her own pocket.
Good luck Eve!
Thursday, 27 March 2008
Last weekend, in the midst of selling mosaics, we hosted a camp in our back garden for the Trust's refuge children. Thirty camped with us on Sunday evening and sixty on Monday evening. I've paid for this one myself but we hope that some generous funders out there will cover the costs of future camps - about £500 will cover a really adventurous activity and camp for the children. Drop me a line if you're interested...
Here's a short film - shot by my wife Bev - profiling the work of the disabled daycare centre in Butwal that the Trust has been supporting since 2000. We have provided professional volunteers, funded capital works at the centre and the revenue costs of a home visit programme. Ultimately I'd like to find the funds to purchase a minibus for the centre that would allow much greater outreach.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Not far from the base of the tower lies the Sundhara Bakery Cafe, a branch of Nanglos. Inside the cafe you can find not only a rather nice plaque explaining the history of the tower (right) but enjoy one of the best smoothies in town. As per some of the other bakery cafes it employs disabled staff members who would not find employment anywhere else. The reason for my visit last Thursday was to investigate the possibility of mosaicing a wall at the cafe at the invitation of Nanglos, with the mosaics to be made by our deaf school leavers in Bhairahawa. It is going to be a massive undertaking but a challenge that everyone can rise to, not only artistically but also in finding the funds to complete the task. I look forward to filming progress by stages later on in the year.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
At the auctions the very stylish Esther, who adored antiques, bought rather pricey items whereas Eve, who had much more business sense, bought cheap trinkets, antique bottles and the like. When it came to the fairs Esther's stuff didn't move whereas Eve's junk (or as her husband Paddy termed it "junque") sold like hot cakes. The customers just wanted cheap souvenirs of their visit to wherever the fair was being staged. I still have some of Esther's items, unsold, whereas Eve went on from that to set up and run a very successful second hand book business.
I was reminded of this over the weekend at the sale of mosaics that we held at the Summit Hotel in Kathmandu. Essentially the most attractive, more pricey, mosaics didn't sell quite so well as the low cost alternatives (which represented old stock) that went very quickly. So my conclusion for the future is to have the girls working to two standards with the better ones continuing to make exquisite mosaics to commission while the less able produce smaller items that will have wider public appeal.
So I've learned a lesson from Eve, who by the way will be doing a sponsored walk for the Trust in August. When she sends me a link to her online sponsorship form I'll pass it on to you...
Monday, 24 March 2008
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Yesterday morning I joined Nepali Times journalist Pranaya Rana and photographer Min Bajacharya on a trip to Bhairahawa. This was to visit the mosaic course for deaf school leavers that we launched two weeks ago.
Meeting Pranaya at Kathmandu airport I asked what his latest story had been. He told me that he'd just returned from the south of the country where he'd been reporting on a couple of dentists who were cycling the width of Nepal with the oral health message on the need to brush teeth twice a day. As a former dentist myself I felt rather happy that I had found other, arguably more pressing, causes.
In Bhairahawa we linked up with my London staff member, Camilla Kinchin, over for her regular one month of field work - a great way to stay in touch with what's going on. She has been assisted by gap year student Holly Wheaton and the two of them have been superb leaders. I had also detached two of my mosaic-trained former circus girls, Manju and Rina, as instructors.
The course has gone extremely well and their are now 18 students taking part, including two young married couples. Once the word gets around others will be breaking the door down to join as there are so few job opportunities for deaf school leavers in Nepal. Interestingly, although able-bodied Nepalese call deaf people "lato" ("stupid") Rina has commented that they are faster and producing better work than the girls who are at our arts rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu.
This morning I followed up the visit with a trip to a "Bakery Cafe" one of five in a chain of cafes that employ deaf waiters. I am hoping that I have successfully encouraged the owner to purchase some mosaics for the walls of the cafe. That would be a great advertisement for him, for us and for the abilities of deaf young people.
The article is expected to be published on Friday 21st March and I will link to it through this blog.
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
I found myself drawn to a billboard advertising a new brand of alcohol with the slogan "You don't need an occassion (sic) to celebrate with passion”. With my hard-learned knowledge of the 3R’s, the outcome of an old-fashioned Irish education, I dislike bad spelling - with a passion – and it is doubly shocking when even major displays (as opposed say to quick e mail exchanges) exhibit spelling errors. Oh, and the alcohol brand in question was called “Passion Cooler”; this is probably clinically accurate but I’d have thought that the product’s marketing people would be trying to push this stuff as offering exactly the opposite effect.
The final sight, just before I arrived home, was that of an election jeep from the Nepal Rastra Party winding its way in front of us along the back streets. The blaring loudspeakers were bad enough but to my horror Party workers were throwing leaflets out of the back adding to Kathmandu’s already gross litter problem. Such conduct would be anathema these days apart from anywhere else but here. I expect the paper hadn’t been recycled either.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Sunday, 9 March 2008
On the flight I met an Argentinian tourist who was visiting Kathmandu for the first time and he asked my advice on what should be his holiday priorities within the scope of a four day visit. Inter alia I recommended two old favourites of mine that I visited myself just this afternoon. The first was the superb Chez Caroline restaurant in Baber Mahal which is a great place to while away a Sunday lunch, even with a restless Alisha. The other is Garden of Dreams in Thamel, a nobleman's fantasy garden from the 192o's that was re-discovered in 2000 in a very dilapidated state and restored to its former glory over the ensuing six years. It's a delightful place and I am particularly fond of the inscribed tablet with a verse from the Persian 12th century "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". I would love to use this poetry as inspiration for a mosaic project in due course.
Friday, 7 March 2008
Yesterday my colleague in Nepal, Shailaja CM, and I joined Kelvin Symon of ChildLine India and a former circus girl in lodging a petition to the Supreme Court of Uttar Pradesh, north India. We did so at the Allahabad offices of human rights lawyer, Mr K K Roy, who is a member of the Human Rights Law Network (http://www.hrln.org/). The petition was supported by affidavits from 50 circus victims that we had contacted in Nepal and it requested that the Court investigate the excesses, abuse and exploitation of circuses registered in or visiting that State. We hope that such an investigation could lead to circuses having their licenses revoked and shut down if they are found to be acting illegally and trampling over human rights. Uttar Pradesh is notoriously lawless and this may not lead to anything but if by good fortune it does it could result in many more releases of trafficked girls. It's certainly worth a try. We submitted two other petitions to the criminal court, one asking for action to be taken against a named circus owner for rape and another requesting that five girls who were sent to circuses and have gone missing be traced.
During the meeting the young girl who was with us, now 22, told how she had suffered serious stomach pains at the circus. The owners had ignored this, accusing her of faking it in an attempt to escape their clutches. Eventually though they relented. When she returned to Nepal she was diagnosed as having stomach cancer (this was supported by her medical notes). It seemed that the worst experience for her was the punishment that was meted out for "bad behaviour". The circus owner, who was paraplegic, would have the girl perform a full body massage on him. She was so ashamed of this that she we learned of this indirectly through her companion at the interview.
Leafing through the paperwork supporting our requests I stumbled upon a picture of one of the missing girls that had been sent to the parents by the circus. This is part of the trickery to show the girls happy and successful. Pathetically it showed the girl holding a phone to one ear while in the other hand she had a cut out picture of a Bollywood star holding a phone, the implication being that the young girl had herself achieved some star status or was mixing in the right circles. It was an image that haunted me all day.
In the afternoon, and to clear the head, Shailaja, Kelvin and I took a stroll at my invitation to visit Allahabad cathedral. I had spotted this piece of late Victorian architecture the previous day looking very incongruous in the heat of the Allahabad skyline. My intrigue was rewarded with a chance to study some brass memorials that were so evocative of the last few decades of the Raj. There was mention of long-forgotten regiments like the "3rd Brahmans", and army officers dying from blood poisoning (two doctors within two months of one another) and even from a polo accident. There were some great stained glass windows, sadly now in need of restoration, but best of all an altar piece of the crucifixion with a gold leaf mosaic background. I was really getting into that when I was spotted running my fingers over it (one of the delights of mosaic is its tactility) and was politely but firmly shooed off by a cathedral attendant. Apparently I had been standing on some kind of hallowed ground.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
I shot this footage at the end of last week. The following day volunteer ceramicist Alex Hunter had his farewell party upon completion of his six month stint with us. After the girls danced for him and gave him presents (always touching given how little they have) he bade them a tearful farewell. Most volunteers seem to leave us in tears - for all the right reasons!
Looking at Uttar Pradesh I suppose you can understand why the circuses that are so antiquated and tacky continue to enjoy audiences in that part of the world. Their splash of colour must rest nicely with the murals of underpants and provide at least some welcome distraction for less than discerning locals.
Monday, 3 March 2008
Tomorrow I am off to India to take our campaign against the Indian circuses to a higher level. Over the past couple of weeks my colleagues here in Nepal have been collecting affidavits from survivors of trafficking and their families so that we can petition the Supreme Court of Uttar Pradesh (the State just across the border) to investigate the excesses of abuse that we know continue to be visited upon its children and teenage girl performers. If the Court forms a committee (which will be our request) to look into the issue and if that committee reports objectively - and without interference - this could be the beginning of the end for child trafficking to circuses. Uttar Pradesh though is notoriously "lawless" so it remains to be seen what impact our efforts will have. We can but try.
Saturday, 1 March 2008
No, not me....
This is the third dance video I am uploading from dance choregrapher Sue Way's volunteer stint with the Trust last year. Traditional dance is of course very popular in Nepal and Sue wanted to introduce the children to a different tradition. I loved the spine-tingling sound of the Northumbrian pipes and to see the children's response.