Miguel and Montse from Petit Món have come to visit the Bhimphedi Children’s Home. Petit Món is a Catalan Foundation, it has a Children’s Home in Jorpati, Kathmandu, called “Sano Sansar” among many other projects. It makes us very happy that they could finally come to visit us, but they brought still another surprise. At night, Miguel becomes Santa Claus! Although Nepal doesn’t celebrate Christmas that much, everyone recognizes the character at first glance and in a second the entire center is upsite down. Children come from everywhere, running with a huge smile on their face, to meet Santa Claus.
Once we are all in the room, Santa Claus takes out of his bag plenty of paper cups containing candies for all boys, girls, didi and volunteers. There are of all flavours and even some chocolate! This gift was prepared by the Seolmi, a Korean girl living in Nepal (Thank you!).
Finally, when everyone has his candy cup. Santa Claus takes out a final gift from his sack: A projector! (donated by Andrea and Jordi from Terrassa). There is a ovation in the room. But just when the ovation is over, younger children ask older children in nepali “What is a projector?”, when the big boys explain, the second ovation comes, louder than the first.
Just after few minutes, the projector is already working to show “Chicken Run”, although the sound is not very good. But no matter, no child misses the first film of the new cinema. They don’t look away from the screen (a bedsheet) until the popcorn comes.
A few days later the projector has a good sound system and it’s ready to project television, DVD, flash drive… From now, every Saturday, the only holiday of the week in Nepal (apart from a infinite number of festivals and holidays), we will watch a movie as if we were in the cinema.
After the arrival of hens and fixing the henhouse door, kids decide they want to further expand the family: Saturday we will go to fish! Kul and a couple of assistants repair the old eating place in the area of animals, to use it as a fish tank.
Saturday we eat breakfast, consisting of a huge bowl of rice with fresh seasonal vegetables and lentils (this is called “dalbhat”, all Nepalis eat it twice a day, and we are not exception), and we gather the expeditionaries to fetch the fish: 19 children and two adults, will it be enough to catch any fish?
In Nepal, winter is the dry season, almost no rain at all in half a year. So the river next to the Children’s home does not have water, and we go about 3km away, where there is another river with some water, near there is a small dam where children are convinced that we will find fish, and bigger kids will swim for a while in this wonderful sunny day.
Older children walk ahead, and once Edu and I arrive to the place the kids have already caught a few small fishes. After one hour, they have 10 fishes and three crabs. Now we eat the picnic and return home trying to leave no plastic behind…this will be more difficult than collecting the fish…
The cement of the “tank” is not dry yet, so the fish will stay in a bucket for a day. We leave the bucket at the door of the room of the volunteers, but the next day it’s not there! Weird… It’s 7 am and I go to wake up the kids with a “good morning”. I go room after room, some smiles and some sceptical faces not believing it’s already time to wake up. In one room, surprise, I find the bucket with the fish. One child say “it’s too cold out there” … Okay, but today we put them in the tank.
Finally time tells us the kid was right… one day after putting them to the fish tank all the fish are dead! Some have jumped out of it, other lie inert… Small failure… Why has this happened? Children make their hypotheses: the water is too cold in this tank, or perhaps we should put a net so they can’t jump out, or perhaps the cement needs some extra days to get dry…
We decide to forget the project until it’s not so cold, but in the same evening kids have already another idea. “This idea is really good!” they say. Even one of the caretakers, Maya didi, looks eager for it. We have to bring ducks!
In the third terrace of the garden, the largest of all, we grow three types of vegetables during the year. In June we plant corn, in September beans and in December potatoes. So now time for potatoes!
This time we have decided to cover more area than ever with potatoes. Will we succeed? First we get rid of the huge grasses occupy the entire field, some are really annoying and leave your hands and clothes covered with spikes.
The second step is to plow. So we called the “man of the oxes”. After trying few days, finally, one morning, he appears. Everybody is happy! But at twelve o’clock he has to go to another field… but he has almost finished the work, we will do it ourselves.
On Saturday there is a group of children who help in the kitchen-garden and extend a bit the area to plant potatoes. Everyone is happy enough. For now we will leave it like this.
Is it time to plant? No… we need to put fertilizer so potatoes can grow well… For now we have some buffalo compost, but it will not last long.
The next day we go in search of fertilizer, this time chicken fertilizer, it is more expensive, but they say it is better. We decide to go to bring it ourselves. After walking for about ten minutes we arrive at a house made of mud and stone (like many of the houses), we go to the rear where there is a chicken farm. Further there is a pile of manure in rice husks. After some months we will also have fertilizer from our hens.
They give us ten sacks and two shovels and we start loading. All older children have come to help. They load the bags as much as they can, same price! Even two of the didis have come to encourage us, these two women are wonderful (all kids call them “didi” which means elder sister). Maya is very sweet and always smiles. She does not speak English but cooks wonderfully. Every day after eating we tell her “mitho chha” (the food was delicious) and she answers with a shy smile “thank you”. Beli didi is the caregiver who sleeps in the center to take care of the smaller kids. She is very energetic and has a powerful voice that can be heard from anywhere. The two women take care of their children as if they were their own kids. They are the best “didis” we could have. Children and Amics del Nepal are very lucky to have them in the children’s home, taking care of children, helping to cook, cleaning everything, helping the responsible of the kitchen-garden…
Come on! Let’s carry the sacks! Two boys per sack. We are 10 people, so we can carry five today and five tomorrow, I propose. Ashok Siwakoti, the only kid of the Children’s Home studing class 10, laughs and says that they will come back quickly for the second sack just after leaving the first. He adds slyly, “the question is whether you will also come back for the second sack…”
Once my sack is ready, Rojan and I take the sack and move. A minute later we have to change position… After ten minutes we have tried the 10 different ways to carry a sack, and we have proved that there is no good way to do it… Finally we arrive and empty the bag! It was hard, but we did it!
But suddenly… what???? We see two sacks with legs coming by themselves. It is dark and I don’t wear my glasses, but finally the sacks are close enough and I’m absolutely astonished. They are the two “didis”, each carrying a sack tight with a string loaded on the forehead (this road is called “namlo” in Nepali). They hadn’t come to encourage us…
Didis leave the sacks on the floor, look at me and smile. Rojan tells me: “They used to do this when they were kids… we would not be able to use “namlo” properly, you need practice for that”. I’m still shocked, Maya, a woman over 50 years, had transformed into super-woman and had loaded, apparently without effort, a sack of over 50 kg…
Now, we can plant potatoes! The next Saturday, a group of children help to plant potatoes. And after a few days with didis, volunteers and occasionally a boy or a girl who shows up to help, we have 1,000 square meters field of planted potatoes!
Across the center there are all kinds of trees: blue and red mimosas, mangos, lychees, lemon, pomegranate, a kind of apples / pears (“aru” and “naspati”), banana… The easiest way to know when a picture was takes is looking what fruit the kids are eating. Now it’s time for the grapefruit.
The third terrace where we are planting potatoes and burning the non-organic waste, there is still some space to use. In that land there are some small lemon and banana trees planted last summer that Ricardo, a super-volunteer from the Basque country who has been working to improve the kitchen-garden for the last three summers. We will protect them better because we have one of the walls of the center has to be rebuilt, so some goats use to come in to eat everything they find. But we will fix it!
With the kids we decided that we would put more trees to get more fruit in a few years. The surprise was that one day, when we came back from a trip to Hetauda, we found a dozen brick circles protecting the newly planted mango and “Aru” trees. Next to the cercles two kids with a proud smile from ear to ear: D: D
One of the jewels of the center is its magnificent kitchen-garden. In total is about 5,000 square meters, divided into four different terraces. In the two higher terraces (in the south) all kinds of vegetables grow. These vegetables we eat with the two daily plates of rice. Now, in these two areas of the kitchen-garden, we can find ginger, cabbage, parsley, spinach, pumkin, garlic…
Now is the time to grab the onion seedlings and plant them, but our seedlings have not grown enough yet, so we buy some in Hetauda and plant them. Every step very manual…
Once we have planted all the onions I’m exhausted, but the three “didis” of the center don’t think it’s enough… so next time we go to Hetauda we will have to buy many more seedlings of onions, three times more than last time, to finish filling the piece of land.
To be able to update this blog and have good communication with the office of Amics del Nepal Kathmandu and Barcelona, we decided to get a phone line and Internet in the Children’s Home. This sounds to me like a new adventure!
Ram (the super-cook), Papu, Edu and Daniel (myself) go to Hetauda with infinit determination. First minute in Nepal Telecom and we realize we have done a big mistake, on Sundays (not holiday in Nepal, only Saturdays) the Internet office close at two. We have to go fast! Let’s see…
First lead to the office number 10. We fill a form, give a photocopy of Nepali ID, passport photograph, fingerprints… and they tell us to go to the office number 9, then the office number 15, then 11, then to pay in the counter, and come back to the office number 10. Easy? Well, this was only the begining… After visiting 6 or 7 different offices 4 or 5 times, they tell us it’s enough for today. In five days they will call us and then we will have to go Hetauda again to buy telephone cable, a phone set, a router and pay the first month internet service. Then the technicians will come with us to Bhimphedi to make the installation. Sounds relatively simple… we will see…
Hetauda is about 20 km south of Bhimphedi. Bhimphedi is still in the mountains, but Hetauda is already at the entrance to the plains of southern Nepal. This area, which in some regions the forest, elephants and some tigers are still preserved, is known as Terai. We take the 8am bus, and just over an hour later we are already there. We’re very lucky because Bhimphedi is the first bus stop, so we can find a seat (although knees hit the seat in front, even though we are not very tall…). There are thirty people sitting in the bus, but in the corridor there are thirty more… the more people enter in the bus, the more comfortable our seats seem. The “kalasi” walks through the crowd collecting the money from all the passangers. Everyone just seems confortable! it’s a common day, “garné ke” (Nepali expression that means “what to do”).
After about fifteen minutes walk from the bus stop, we arrive to the hens “shop”. They show us some chicks, but they tell us the chicks are all booked… In any case we do not want chicks, because it would take months them to grow and give eggs, plus the risk to die in the cold nights. Then, they show us some chicken with the perfect size. But after a while they say they are just for meat. Why can’t we use them to get eggs?? They are all cocks… It seems today we will not succeed…
Finally, when we were about to lose all hope, they bring us to another house, and yesssss! They have some young hens, about three months, only a month to give eggs. They are big and strong, we will take ten of them! It’s two euros per kilo. We tie them from the legs and we go.
In the next house we buy some food for hens, we put it all in one electric tricycle, and we go to the bus stop! The poor hens will still suffer quite a lot before they reach their new home, but once there they will have a couple of years to be happy, well-cared and provide eggs for our children.
After leaving the chickens near the bus station we go to do some shopping. We have to use the days we go to the city. We buy three bags of rice husk in the mill so the hens can be very comfortable. We buy seedlings of onions and we go to the Hetauda office of Nepal Telecom to request for the installation of phone line and Internet, but that is another story…
Finally, we head to the bus stop, we load the hens and sacks on the roof of the bus and we sit at our reserved seats. After an hour of a bouncy road (poor hens… will they be alive?) we reach to Bhimphedi after a long day in the city, without having had time even to eat (neither we nor hens). In the Bhimphedi “bus stop” there are 7 eager children ready to help with all the load and bring it to the children’s home. At the door of the center, the younger children receive us shouting: “kukhura aayo!” the hens have come!
So fortunatelly the hens arrive home healthy and save. Kush brings them some water with sugar so they can slowly recover, and he leaves some feed so they can eat when they are strong enough. The Edu’s torch will be with the hen tonight. From tomorrow they will start the routine. Let’s hope that within a month the hens will start giving us eggs!
Everyone is very happy with the success of the mission. Kul, one of the most helpful kids in the center, ensures us that they will fix the henhouse with some more cement. And younger children of the center, who are very eager with the new “farm” are already thinking about the next project! But I do not spoil anything, you will have to wait for a while…
Noooo! We have a small attack of “Urush” (a type of bug) in the girls room. Immediately girls change of room and we disinfect the chamber. Good opportunity to paint the room! And we will also paint the small kids room, it has been already 3 years since we last painted it, so it’s time to do it again. Children say that the “painting party” begins! Fortunately, Arun, one of the kids who left the center a couple of years ago, currently studying class 12 in Hetauda, will come on Saturdays to help us paint (he worked last year painting walls, so he is an expert) .
It certainly end up being “painting party”. Some of the older boys, Sujan, Jay (now he claims his name is Anish… here in Nepal some kids change their name before class 10, it’s very confusing … ), Papu and Ashok join to the painting team with Arun. In two days both rooms are clean and well painted. They look so good now! The small boys room smells so good now that even Tomi, one of the dogs of the center, when noone is looking, sneaks in to the room to make a nap (but he gets scolded, so he may not repeat…).
Edu, a volunteer from Barcelona, has brought four top quality bed covers. Great! Some of the small kids some times pees in the bed. We tryed to put some plastic covers but the small kids didn’t like them, so in the middle of the night they used to take them out of the bed. And then, Beli didi had to clean everything every morning. The new covers absorb pee so everyone is very happy, children and didi.
Now all the kids want their room painted… “bistarai, bistarai” (slowly, slowly) we tell them.
The henhouse is ready, but we have to think about what they will eat as well. We need crushed corn. Fortunately we collected some few months ago from our kitchen-garden and we left it drying in the attic of the volunteers’ house.
Shelling the cobs, cleaning the grain, bringing it to the mill. It’s not as fast as it sounds…
Hens will also eat the organic foodwaste and a little bit of mixt-cereals that we will have to buy.
Everything is ready to welcome the hens. Everyone is eager and excited, tomorrow we will go to Hetauda to buy hens!
Before the hens come we have to have ready their home. We have a space that is very appropriate in the north part of our land. There are three houses where some time ago thre pigs lived. Two of thte houses are quite demolished, but one remains standing, just like the story of the three little pigs. Next these pigs houses there is another house, a little bit bigger, it just needs a door and a few minor improvements. We decided to use this 5m2 house to accommodate our future hens! So let’s work!
Edu, with the good help of Papu, begins to build a door out of nothing. An old bed frame, a hammer and a few rusty nails become miraculously a door frame. Then, with a plywood and a piece of metal net, they build a door foxproof and hopefully childproof as well… because none of the kids misses any of the project events, and some children are very curious and some times some things are broken.
The older kids, eager to work on the project, find in the store-room a bag of sand and another of cement (left over from old reparations), and start working to seal the frame of the door and put a patch to the henhouse.
Meanwhile, Edu has already learnt to love to work with rusty nails, wooden slats and rickety chairs, and he has already built two boxes where the chickens will feel very safe to lay their eggs.
Advantage that we Hetauda, the city closest to the people, to bring a child to become a medical test and buy all the materials we need to take a manger and buy a water dispenser. The chicken is now nearly ready!