Today was an early wake up call, throwing us all straight back into the hustle of life with the Street Child team. After a buffet breakfast with mounds of fresh papaya and watermelon (cue angels singing!) we sardined ourselves into the family mini bus and set off to meet the Street Child Nepal team in their local Kathmandu office.
Much to the delight of many groggy heads, we were greeted with strong coffee and biscuits! United by our shameless caffeine addiction I quickly got chatting to two new members of my Street Child family, Charlotte and Lauren. Charlotte, like myself, had been out to Sierra Leone and couldn’t resist joining Street Child again for another life changing week! Lauren, Charlotte’s housemate, had been inspired to come along for the adventure to kick start a five month period of globetrotting! Having already been in Kathmandu for a few days, these ladies managed to make the sleepiest of us new arrivals come alive with laughter. I knew from this moment that we were going to get on like peas in a pod.
The Nepal team, led by a passionate young lady named Nameera, introduced us all to the key projects they’ve been devoting their time to since the catastrophic earthquake of 2015. She said something profoundly powerful that stuck with me for the remainder of the trip. She said that their approach is ‘not to look for the fragility and struggle surrounding them, but to look for the pockets of resilience’. Resilience is an incredibly powerful tool in the face of poverty, disaster, and fear. It’s a catalyst for positivity! A force for change which Street Child are able to harness by working alongside local communities and organisations.
To bring a close to the morning workshop we were lucky enough to be taught some useful Nepali phrases, by a local member of the team. Some of my favourites include:
- Namaste – a traditional greeting
- Vetera kusi lagyo – nice to meet you
- Kalo coffee – black coffee (very important)
- Mitho – delicious
- and Dhanyabad – thank you!
It felt like a blessing, to be welcomed in this way, through the sharing of language. It’s as if they were sharing their world with us, a symbol of pride for their own country.
With education at the heart of their efforts, the team then took us to visit a successful school project created by an organisation called Kopila Nepa in 2001. The only school of its kind, this shining success story is a true labour of love that the team are aspiring to recreate with their own school in Jhaukhel.
Out in the midst of the Brick Fields, this school is known as a Brick School. The brick making industry is huge in Nepal, with families migrating across the country to work in factories for 6 months a year. As a result, over 59,925 children have to leave school in their hometowns and often cannot enrol in education whilst they are away. Repeated displacement causes major disruptions to their education, and sadly, many of their hometown schools will not take them back upon their return. They are simply too far behind to catch up. Additionally, although it’s very much swept under the rug, some of these children are unlucky enough to become victims of child labour, and are made to work in hazardous environments like the brick kilns.
I was absolutely blown away by the quality and vibrancy of the school we visited!
At the heart, was a lady called Anita. Head teacher, motherly figure, and friend to many of her pupils.
She greeted us with such warmth and handed us an abundance of balloons, all colours of the rainbow. With her colleagues she sang in celebration of our arrival and then we each let go of our balloon and watched as they drifted into the cloudless sky. An image of endless possibility and hope for the future of Nepal.
Not only were we greeted with songs and balloons, but you could just see how honoured the teachers were to be giving us a tour and teaching us about their work. The passion with which Anita spoke about her work was so heart-warming and you could just tell that she would be adored by every pupil. Unlike a normal school, the Brick School provides its children with food, uniform, shoes, healthcare and so much more! They even have a monthly visit from the hairdresser to educate the children on good hygiene and self-care. By holding regular meetings with parents the teachers really do become a part of the family, almost like a third parent to the child.
We even learnt that, during the other 6 months of the year when the brick maker’s children are back at home, Kopila Nepa use the school for women’s education. Teaching women age 16 and up transferable skills such as sewing, and health education classes, this incredible space is really used to the max and has been a real hub for social change since it was built in 2001!
After our tour we were gifted mango juice and enough biscuits to feed a small army, as Anita answered our questions with sheer excitement and pride, before taking us into the Brick Fields themselves. A truly barren landscape, littered with tiny shelters where the families stay during brick season. This I must admit was a heart breaking shock. Yet, inspired by Nameera’s earlier message to look for resilience, I was given hope by a group of young boys back flipping into a small wallow, having an absolute blast! It’s moments like these that blow my mind. We are so incredibly lucky and yet we are blinded by negativity in our modern society.
When it was time to say goodbye, I hopped back into the mini bus with a new goal to express gratitude at every single moment I am lucky enough to do so. I shared this with my friend Tom over a classic mystery sandwich, and we gazed out the windows on our way back to the hotel, taking in the meaning of our morning.
Later that afternoon, back at the hotel, we collected our bags and gritted our teeth as they were lifted onto the roof of our Street Child family mini bus. Bags secured, we were off for the next part of our adventure!
Lots of love,