Shiva Puri Cottages and voluntourism extension in Dadagaun Village

Before we left for Shiva Puri Cottages, Cory, Tom, Pam and I started to walk to Assam Market, an authentic Nepalese market near-by. En route, we met an artist who took us on an unexpected tour. First, we stopped at a small temple, then to his Monastery about a ten-minute walk from the temple. We wound our way down the narrow streets to find a lovely Monastery with a Thanka shop and painting school. It was an unexpected highlight of our trip. Tom was returning to Maryland and planned to leave his job at the end of the year. He spent time talking with the artist and buying a thanka painting to symbolize his journey to the next chapter in his life.

These paintings were made in an old monastery- they seemed filled with light


Tom purchased a painting from the artist. He plans to leave his current job at the end of the year and join a law practice


Later that morning, we received a warm welcome to Shiva Puri Cottages and lunch on the patio. Lesley, from England and who’d just returned from a trek, joined us and seemed part of the group. In addition to our service. work there was time for yoga in the morning, rest and enjoying spa services.

The service work is optional. The work we do here continues to build on previous years and the contributions from other groups around the world. It is heartening to see the progress and how the villagers have learned to feel at ease with us and vice versa. The school was closed and many Mountain Village Children’s home residents were away for the holidays. The school calendar has changed allowing teachers and children who travel to visit their home villages to stay for one month for Dashian and Diwali. As always, Neeru Webster organized, planned, and facilitated our work in the village.

MUSIC PROGRAM:

Before #10 TOYL group started trekking, we went to Sarangi for dinner. As always,  the musicians were there playing including Subash Gandharba, the music teacher for Dadagaun Village School. In between singing and dancing, he explained that the school sorely needed 15 more flutes because children love playing the flute and just don’t have enough. He also thought they’d enjoy a drum that looks like a large black box. It is a new instrument in Nepal. Using donation money given to me, Subash ordered the flutes and drum and will surprise the students with them when school starts again.

Music Teacher for Dadagaun Village children


THE MOUNTAIN CHILDREN’S HOME

After we were settled in at Shiva Puri, our first stop was the Mountain Children’s home to introduce ourselves and plan for the following days. While on a tour with two of the residents,  Uma said, “I’m so glad to be living here. Or else I’d be in Kathmandu.” She also asked me to say hello to Christine, in Australia.

To my surprise, there were 4 young women from the United States who had been volunteering at the Children’s Home for nearly one month! They are in-between high school and college, working at Papa John’s to save enough money to return to Nepal. Kieva Foutz, Elise Jones, Lydia Selden, and Naomi Koski were homeschooled in Arizona.  I suggested that they might like to help out at the school teaching English and supporting the teachers. They were receptive to my suggestion and delighted to know about the school. One said, “I wasn’t planning to go to college, but after being here I want to go so I can learn to help more.” They love spending time with the children and met us at the school our last day. Two of them had been there previous years and this was the third time for one who had first come with her mother.

They also told me the home currently two motorcycles, one car (Sarah Griffiths donated) and three horses. They were worried because 4 children they knew previously were no longer at the home. They also told me that the residents love their “Father” Ramesh, but are afraid of Gita, their mother. One of the older students said she hits them. It is comforting that older students feel comfortable talking with us and will communicate openly with us.

After leaving the school we stopped by the children’s home again. Most of the children were hiking with volunteers from the States. A few older boys who said they were attending University and would start back to class the next day, gave us a tour because Lesley Hill hadn’t seen it before. While the tour was going on, I spoke to one of the students. He was quite articulate and explained about the missing children. Two brothers went to live with their sister and the other two returned to their villages. What a relief to know!

WOMAN’S GROUP

Since our visit occurred during the holidays, we had an opportunity to spend more time with the woman’s group. and follow-up on the computer program, the sewing project, and the woman’s group.

Home Stay Project

I was delighted and surprised by the progress the woman’s group has made since our meeting in July! The home-stay project is well underway. Tom, Linda, Pam, Neeru and I visited many homes belonging to the women’s group members. Two homes are ready to accept visitors. We shared their excitement, enthusiasm, and admired the quality of the accommodations.

Interior of home being used for home stays


we were treated like honored guests


A couple of women are making crafts to sell, like the stool and behind the post an arrangement


This is a mat for the market


BANK ACCOUNT

Dhorje explained that the women have about 80,000 rupees in the bank. They received some from the municipality for the homestays, and contribute small amounts monthly. Their account has grown! When we met last year, my understanding was that they had just opened their account with 50 rupees. Villagers can borrow money from the account and pay the loan with interest. Dhorje borrowed some to continue the work on his house which is near completion. It is clear that many homes have been rebuilt but some are just beginning to rebuild from the earthquake.

AGRICULTURAL PROJECT

The women selling flowers and vegetables enjoyed showing us their organic gardens, buckwheat, and millet. One is raising rabbits and another woman is raising goats to sell. The purple flowers shown in the photo are sold for brother’s day and can be dried.

The previous afternoon, Arjun, Neeru and I drove into nontourist parts of Thamel, Kathmandu to buy the supplies for making organic compost in 18 days and the greenhouses. I continue to be amazed at how much can be accomplished with reusing materials and small donations.

Neeru, Pam, Arjun and I returned the next day to show the women how to make the compost. It was heartening to see how interested they were in this endeavor. It makes sense since it builds on their agricultural experience. Once the demonstration was completed, there was a lively conversation about selling the compost and scaling it up. They discussed buying 15 more barrels!

Very little instruction was needed re the greenhouses. They readily accepted the plastic we bought for them to use with the bamboo frames. Neeru knew what plastic to buy and how to make the compost because she uses the same system at Shiva Puri cottages to make organic compost. The joy was palpable.

Neeru Webster planned, bought supplies and taught the agricultural committee of the women’s group how to make organic compost in 18 days to sell at the market.


The children were curious and enjoyed learning too!


The grill used at the bottom of the barrel for the compost


An interesting observation was that though they do not have a formal structure, the group seems to have 3 natural leaders. One for the home stays, another for the agricultural projects and another for the crafts.

HOW TO MAKE ORGANIC COMPOST TO GROW ORGANIC VEGETABLES, FLOWERS AND TO SELL IN THE MARKET

WHAT IS COMPOST AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Organic vegetables and flowers sell for a higher price than others Using compost produces 15%-40% more vegetables and flowers Organic vegetables and the food is healthier for pregnant women, babies, children, parents, and grandparents. Organic compost feeds your gardens and keeps the soil healthy Using pesticides and insecticides is dangerous for animal and human health kills your healthy soil, and the environment. Organic compost can be made in 18 days

SUPPLIES AND BUDGET NEEDED TO MAKE COMPOST

From the scrap yard-used barrels and rods to make racks for inside the barrels. Cost of cutting the barrels, making the racks, and a stand for underneath the barrel to keep it off the ground. Microorganism solution EM-1 (this solution adds nutrition to the compost and shortens the time to make it.) Ropes and plastic to cover the barrels completely with plastic and wrap the plastic onto the barrels with rope.

MARKETING AND SELLING THE COMPOST

After 18 days, turn the barrel upside down. Put the compost inside a container to sell. For example, cut the top off the top of large empty soda bottles, fill with compost and cover with recycled plastic.

NEXT STEPS Make labels with your logo and contact information Include information on how you made the compost Decide of the price-the cost for organic compost, vegetables and flowers is higher than non-organic produce Decide on where, how often and when you will sell your crafts, organic compost, eggs, vegetables and flowers Your products from your greenhouses will sell in the winter-very little competition

CRAFTS

They are making mats to sit on, stools, placemats, and table decorations.

CARD PROJECT

Dhorje, Saru, a young man living in the Children’s home and I discussed the card project we started a year ago. We all agreed that the emerging young leaders at the Mountain Children’s Home could spearhead this project. It would be a good project to help them learn about starting a small business. The plan is that they will produce the cards at the school.

By WhatsApp. I contacted Raju who was away for the holidays but is willing to continue to help. He has been helping the women’s group with their banking and is keenly interested in assisting us.

With Neeru’s help, Pam Miller purchased a new color printer. Tom Gagliardo and Lesley Hill ,(who joined us following her trek), contributed money for refills for the ink cartridges. This purchase will save money for the school because it is very expensive to replace the ink cartridges for the one being used currently. I bought paper to print the note cards and to make envelopes for them.

Pamr, bought a new printer for the school. This will save money in the long run because the ink cartridges are refillable. Ink cartridges for the old printer cost almost as much as a new printer.


Tom and Lesley donated ink for the new printer and school supplies.


SEWING PROJECT

Dhorje also requested a box of needles for the sewing machine which I had left over from the 2016 sewing project. Speaking of that, the young women helping from the United States, told me they’d seen the washable sanitary products hanging to dry in a corner of the girls’ dormitory. Furthermore, they had more to donate. This was heartening news because it was unclear in 2016 if our effort teaching how to make the products would be accepted.

During the visits to the home stays, I noticed a sewing machine in the living room. I casually asked Saru if she thought the owner could use more needles. I still had a few packages of needles I bought in Maryland left over from the sewing project. Saru followed-up with me that night and said the owner did need more needles. Like nails, sewing needles made in Nepal break easily.

COMPUTER PROGRAM

The computers are working except two which needed new USB boxes and connectors. From donations received, two more boxes were purchased.

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