See the LA Times full story at:
Saturday, 26 April 2008
See the LA Times full story at:
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
I am a commissioned officer and Inspector with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Vancouver, British Columbia. I have been involved in Esther Benjamins Trust after working in Kosovo with Gurkhas and having a desire to help the people of Nepal. I worked again briefly with the Gurkhas in Afghanistan. The more I learned of EBT, the more I wanted to establish a Canadian Branch of the organization to assist the children as you outlined in your [my] message. My participation with EBT included purchasing commissioned art from one of the young people in Nepal.To establish EBTC under Canadian international charities law, I sought to establish EBTC as a way to provide educational scholarships and bursaries to children under EBT care. I think this is the best way to"pay forward" as they say, to the lives of these young children. Education can heal the past and create opportunities for fulfillment and growth. In this sense, the objective will be to raise money for scholarships/bursaries for candidates nominated by EBT and partner agencies in Nepal. After two to three years of working on getting approval, we are in the final stages and have been informed that we will receive charitable status under Canadian law and officially begin the work of EBTC. Once completed, we hope to report on successful fund raising in Canada and allocation of educational bursaries in Nepal to help the wonderful children and young people in their quest to re-establish themselves.
It's taken a couple of years of perserverance and vision to get this off the ground but as we know a Mountie is famous for always getting his man in the end. Well done Paul.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
I hope that I manage to have them all on the edge of the pews later on this morning.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Maoist Chairman Prachanda is already sending out reassurances to potentially unsettled foreign stakeholders that the Maoists will follow a constructive path and I really hope they can. At the end of the day we are all (development organisations included) aiming to make society a better place and to help the downtrodden, although our methods have differed somewhat in the past. There is such a need for social reform in Nepal that it can only really be fully addressed by action from central government. Organisations like mine can only nibble at the edges of issues like the trafficking problem and child labour, hoping that through our advocacy and example others more powerful will intervene. Now the Maoists can do something that really would be revolutionary in Nepal.
This afternoon I took a little trip out to Dwarika's Shangri La Resort in Dhulikhel, about one hour's drive out of Kathmandu. It was great to escape the filth of town for a few hours and to see in the Nepalese new year with a drink, a dal bhat (lentils and rice) and the sound of the cuckoo.
Friday, 11 April 2008
I learned of the facility's existence through a visit to our Godawari arts centre two days ago by a British man, Geoff Pugh, who had been volunteering there as an English teacher. From the arts centre's balcony he had pointed out to me the buildings where he had been working, these including an HIV/AIDS home that he said had 23 residents. This was the first that I knew of its existence, not surprisingly given the stigma that is associated with HIV (along with so many other things) in Nepal.
This afternoon I paid a visit to this home and was shown around by the nun who seems to be looking after the 10 women and 13 children well nigh single-handedly. She is such a remarkable, inspirational lady, who seems to have the delightful trait of rounding off everything she says, no matter how unhumourous, with a jolly laugh. "Here's the vegetable patch, hohoho" and such like. But she's doing a wonderful job and the children there were tiny and oh so sweet with their innocent smiles, pig tails and ruddy cheeks. The facility is newly built and in pristine condition, its only drawback (to my eye at least) being the over abundance of bare walls. I have now offered to make mosaics for the rooms, mosaics that can be sponsored by supporters overseas. Father Pius, who runs the centre, may not take up my offer but I'd love to have this as a project for later on this year. Whatever his decision I already have agreement to our sending up some of our older refuge children, suitably equipped with guitars and toys, to interact with the children and brighten up their lives.
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
On the way back from my Godawari arts centre this lunchtime I passed a donkey grazing by the roadside, clearly with an open sore on its bank. On returning home I opened this e mail and adjacent pictures from another animal welfare activitist:
"I took these pics at a brick factory site in Siddhipur. The donkeys carry unfired bricks from the place where bricks are made from mud to the factory and back. According to the staff (many of whom are children) the boss hardly cares for the donkeys. So many have died already. One donkey's ears were cut off when it was young, no idea why. Half of the donkeys have open sores which go untreated."
I am now looking at how I might extend my children's charity work beyond the immediate facilities we operate and out into the community that straddles the Godawari road that runs southeast out of Kathmandu. Whilst our expenditure of course will continue to have to go on children and young people, sights and messages like this make me think of what we might do for young people that can offer some parallel advantages to domestic animals and wildlife. And one day soon I am going to have a look at the brick kilns and their child labour for myself.
Sometimes it feels like one is living in a kind of mediaeval hell hole over here and no one seems to care that much.
Monday, 7 April 2008
Last week on April 1st (note the date) a news item ran on the front cover of The Himalayan Times saying that sale of alcohol had been banned in the run up to the election. After quotations for and against the move the reader was directed to page 2 where it said "Cheers". Bizarrely though this April Fools Day prank has been prophetic as the Election Commission has since decided that such a ban will be a good idea after all. Other restrictions will come into force including no vehicular movement being allowed on the day of the election itself. This is presumably in the assumption that all voters will be by then back in their home areas and within walking distance of a polling station, which I find rather optimistic. The cuckoo's arrival could be well timed.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Some headstones really stop you in your tracks. I was particularly struck by the tragedy that befell the Wilkins family, husband and pregnant wife with three children who all died in the PIA air disaster of 1992. Reflective of the Wilkins couple having been Christian missionaries is the statement of faith on their headstone, an arguably defiant verse from the Gospel of John - "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand." And I felt for the British residency surgeon, Dr Wright, who must have felt so impotent in spite of his profession as he lost his young wife in February 1873 followed by his only child, aged 18 months, the following June.
There is also some humour to be found. There's the grave of former British Army 10th Gurkha Rifles officer, Micheal John Cheney, "Friend of Nepal", with a Buddhist stupa that I think must have deliberately comically-lugubrious eyes. John Richard Fletcher's epitaph states that "To have known him was to have known laughter", while three year old David Wilson's memorial reflects that he was one "who chuckled through his short life and so enjoyed the sounds of Nepal". A favourite has to be the headstone that lies over Freddie Bowles, "the bartender bard - who was the first Englishman to become a Nepalese citizen and who found his Shangri-La in Nepal".
My newly-written Will stipulates that if I die in Nepal that I be laid to rest in the British Cemetery. Where better? I hope that someone can find something good to write about me in spite of the vituperative content of some of my Blog posts.
Charities that work with children and young people should make every effort to allow those in their care to express themselves. This is particularly important if there is a need to come to terms with past trauma. Last summer a group of our volunteers in Hetauda, south Nepal, were taken aback when some of our hostel girls (circus returnees) staged an impromptu play about their experiences. This drama was then refined for the girls by a subsequent volunteer, British playwright Nic Discombe.
Watching in the wings at the final performance, I found the play very disturbing, especially hearing the audience laugh at some very bleak scenes. However a clinical professional later reassured me that being able to laugh at such things represented great therapy and advised me not to worry about it.
Here is the final product on film, recorded by my friend Subi Shrestha and edited yesterday (at long last) by me. Like the best drama it is much more powerful than a factual documentary on the subject.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
But today the Blog proved some other real worth as I was delighted to meet one of my readers for the first time when she came all the way from the USA with a bag of 30 pairs of top quality shoes for the use of our refuge children.
Increasingly I am becoming interested in somehow supporting conservation projects here (not that there are many to choose from), perhaps through sales of mosaics. Much of Nepal's wildlife seems particularly fragile in the midst of the current chaos and no one cares less than the politicians who are jockeying now for power.
Friday, 4 April 2008
He kept his promise on Wednesday when he joined us for lunch and volunteer Rebecca Hawkins' farewell party at our arts centre in Godawari. He's a very confident, handsome chap with outstanding English who made quite an impression - especially no doubt on the older girls. Afterwards he went to the refuge where he rounded off a programme of entertainment that had been laid on by the children with a little bit of rapping, a foretaste of the concert that he says he will do for us "after the election" (commonly heard words these days!). The kids were bowled over by their surprise visitor and it's young men like this who provide such great role models for the teenagers that we are caring for.
The central "Tiger Tops" accommodation at Bardia is the Karnali Jungle Lodge. This is accessible through a one hour flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj followed by a two hour drive. My tip though is to bypass that Lodge and go straight to the Tented Camp in the jungle itself. Surprisingly the accommodation is arguably more comfortable, you're right in the middle of it all and the views over the Karnali river from the campsite are phenomenal.
Safaris are conducted on elephant back, jeep, and by dinghy with these options offering very different perspectives on the park's wildlife. Many tourists go to the Park in the hope of spotting the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger which is not seen that often as, like many of the big cats, it is nocturnal and during the day it hides in the long elephant grass. This time around I managed to see the tiger from the top of my elephant twice but I am afraid these were too fleeting glimpses to provide you with a photo. But I did enjoy the very rare sighting of a leopard in the early morning light during a jeep safari; see the very grainy picture on the right. There's loads more to be seen though - the one-horned rhino, the gharial crocodile, four species of deer, the freshwater gangetic dolphin, and a vast number of bird species. I guess that on Monday we must have seen around 100 bird species ranging from flocks of bee eaters to woolly-necked storks.