The first camp of my life

  • Alina Dangol

This was officially the first camp I’ve ever been a part of !!!

Before the camp started, I didn’t have a clear insight into what it looked like and how it was conducted. Now, I’ve gotten a clear view of what camps are, why, and how they are conducted. I’ve had a chance to learn about many things from my colleagues, the people out there, and even the participants themselves. I’m optimistic that I was able to share my knowledge with other people as well. Our team was assigned to conduct 5-days ECCA camp at three different schools of Ward 12, Rapti Municipality, Chitwan district in May – June 2022.   

The first thing that stunned me was the contrasting lifestyles people pursue there. I knew life is pretty easy here in Kathmandu but very little did I know; life was that difficult out there in the hills and other regions of the country.

Children didn’t even have a basic concept of hygiene and sanitation. Lives out there were shy, and isolated that they didn’t care much about hygiene and sanitation. They didn’t know how to wash their hands properly, the importance of brushing teeth, and other hygiene-related things. The camp’s motto was to educate the school students  about the needs and importance of hygiene and methods to maintain it.

The five days camp brought me closer to the villagers, children, and even my colleagues themselves. It taught me how we Homo Sapiens, with similar brains, conceive things differently. It helped me understand the different human psychology of different age groups to some extent. It sharpened my skills of adaptability. It equipped me with the skill of analyzing the behavior of the second person and acting accordingly. More than anything, the five days camp brought our team even closer and created an environment where we could grow as a team, as a family. It taught us how to include our differing opinions in the decision-making and implement them in such a way that everyone is triumphant. It enlightened us with the essentiality of coordination and cooperation. It sighted us with a method to efficiently coordinate and cooperate with any person.

Another key feature it enlightened us with was the essentiality of proper planning and the efficient ways to execute them. We planned for 5 days and successfully executed them. The five-days camp consisted of WASH sessions, life skills sessions, nature club establishment, school gardening, and many more.

Through the camp, we successfully educated them on the essentiality of personal hygiene and sanitation. We provided them hygiene kit consisting a toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, comb, handkerchief, and nail cutter and taught them the appropriate ways to use them. Besides, we also taught them school gardening, paper recycling, clay work art, and craft work. We also established a Nature club to carry out different activities, which will help in the overall development of students.

We could see the differences our camp was making in their day-to-day lives. I feel extremely proud to have been a part of this camp. I feel honored to be one of the key members of my group. I’m enthralled to be a small part of the big step to change a particular society. I’m optimistic that we’ve been able to change their perceptions to some extent. I’m assured that our little effort will make a big difference in developing the society, one day. I will be forever indebted to ECCA Nepal, action medeor, and BMZ Germany for providing me an opportunity to sharpen my skills and for making me a part of this camp.

Teaching students how to brush teeth
After hygiene kit distribution
Helping each other for hand washing

The Joy in Recycling!

  • Upama Tamla Rai, ECCA Counselor

“Come on! Please do not tilt the frame that way!”  “Woah!”   “Can I try it first?!”

Loud voices of the participants filled the silent playground of the training premises. One could see the excitement in the participants as they hovered around in circle, hoping to get the next chance of using the paper recycling frame. Despite the hot weather and endless perspiration, our session on recycling paper got interesting by the minute.

“The process of paper recycling seems so simple and cost-effective!” shared a participant while dipping the frame into the wide bucket filled with paper pulp made from waste papers. Recycling frames are used to shape fine papers as it collects the pulp and drips excess water. “Children in our area have lots of waste paper at home and also at school. We can make these types of frames locally and orient them on paper recycling”, exclaimed a youth participant as she took the frame to dry in the sun.

This interest and excitement in fact is a regular feedback from participants in almost every training. As part of our capacity building activities for local youth (Counselor Training Camp), WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) is an unexpendable subject matter of which sanitation takes a major part. The session aims to link sanitation with healthy behavior and moreover, as an initiation to ‘take care of the planet sustainably’. In this regard, youth and children are motivated to start recycling of the waste papers in their schools and community.

The whole process of paper recycling takes about 3-4 days depending on the type of paper used. After the papers are made, one can use them for a variety of purpose such as “Thank You” and greeting card. Especially, ECCA suggests nature clubs in schools to carry paper recycling as part of fundraising activity and also supports the clubs with recycling frames from time to time. This has created a reason for nature clubs to conduct other environment conservation related programs and hopefully, that will also encourage them to be environmental conservationists in the future.

My first ECCA field trip: A teaching-learning experience

Sawana Rai, Counsellor Training, January 2022

A long-anticipated trip to the beautiful East.

Capacity Building Training of Child Clubs (CBTC) for project schools of Jhapa, Morang and Dhankuta districts not only gave me an opportunity to mediate the knowledge I’d learned through Counsellor Training and various workshops in ECCA, it also widened my horizon of understanding children and their school environment. As me and my team conducted the training in Dharan (for schools of Dhankuta district), Morang and Jhapa districts one after another, I couldn’t help but feel the potential glimmering in those hopeful eyes of the participant students. To have had an opportunity to aid those students in some ways to boost their all-round development has filled me up with gratitude towards ECCA Nepal, Taksvärkki ry Finland and all the other contributing actors.

The participants were:

  • Child Clubs representatives of 4 schools of Dhankuta district with hints of rural lifestyles but equally, if not more, active than the rest and full of potential,
  • Child Clubs representatives of 4 schools of Morang district with relatively more access to amenities of urbanization, and
  • Child Clubs representatives of 7 schools of Jhapa district with fair advantage of urbanity.

My first ECCA field trip, first ever session facilitation, first trip to Eastern Nepal, first trip to hot humid Terai region of Nepal; so many firsts. I was excited, curious and nervous all at the same time. I went a facilitator, a trainer, with all my session materials packed to be shown, discussed upon and returned learning from the participants too. To be so eager to know more, to be so present in the moment and to see beauty in little things, the innocent curious child in me that was somewhere submerged amidst the transition into adulthood has been resurfaced.

Story based Nature Club Management Handouts: A new approach of the team to educate the students about Nature Club Management and evaluate the outcome of the support ECCA has been giving to the child clubs in the schools of project areas in the East. The participants were engaged in reading-writing interactive sessions throughout the training where they read short stories about various aspects of Nature Club and answered questions at the end of each story. This approach was openly appreciated by the representative teachers in the trainings as a more effective way of indulging students in learning about Nature Club Management.

The training also included sessions on subjects of Child Protection, Menstrual Hygiene Management, WASH and Children and Environment. The learning environment was fun with emphasis on group works and public speaking. Life skills through games, talent show and titles distribution to the participants based on an appreciative quality of each on the last day of training made the 5 days of training fly by in a blink of an eye.

As I put together these words to express my CBTC experience, I remember getting updates on the sharing programs conducted by the participating students in their respective schools after returning from the training. And it makes me smile every time. It makes me realize how I am a part of change.  A change for the better tomorrow.

Child Club Representatives of Shree Ram Secondary School, Dhankuta solving Hygiene puzzle

Local counsellor Shila Guragai helping me demonstrate the using procedure of reusable sanitary pad during my session on Menstrual Hygiene Management

Child Club representatives of Jhapa performing drama on child abuse during talent show

Samana Rai, Child Club representative of Shree Sagma Secondary School, Morang sharing learnings from CBTC in her school

Susmita Bhandari, Child Club representative of Shree Deurali Secondary School, Dhankuta during program on Child Abuse in her school post CBTC

Counselor Training Camp (9-12 January 2022)

Ajay Tamla Rai

When the term “Training” is discussed, either academically or professionally, it basically implies a teaching and learning process on a particular subject. But, as one who became a trainee in a recent ECCA’s 4-day Counselor Training Camp (CTC), I have come to realize it is more than just “teaching and learning”, it is an open interaction among and between peers who share genuine interest on the subject of past, present and future of environment conservation.

The Camp kicked off on January 9, 2022 with voluntary participation of over two dozen participants from diverse fields; from management, humanities to environment science. On the first day, we learned about ECCA, its three decades of history, numerous contributions and steady evolution from environment conservation to education, health and sustainable future in different parts of remote Nepal. More importantly, we learned and practiced team building, work division, time management and interpersonal communication, which are the bedrock of cooperation, coordination and interdependence for effective and efficient planning organization and implementation of social and environmental projects. On the second day, we learned the practical aspects of WASH, focused mainly on its two dynamics: water and sanitation. From simple refreshing of memory on the importance or need for clean water to the in-depth technical aspects of water purification, or hands-on experience on preparation of recycle paper, we found ourselves actively sharing knowledge and practices. With division of groups into two: one on water and another on sanitation, one group presented what they understood to another and vice versa. This learning and teaching process reinforced our knowledge and understanding on the aforementioned subjects and more importantly developed our ability to co-operate with each other. Likewise, we got to know about Nature club through which, our brothers and sisters from rural schools could spontaneously contribute to betterment of not only their respective schools but also their community at large, even after ECCA moves on to other environmental projects.

Next day, in early morning, everyone met at the “Patan Durbar Square” for a heritage walk. Therein, we witnessed beautiful water reservoirs at different locations while simultaneously learning their importance in urban settings, gleaning cultural perspective on environmental narrative with highlights on the historical relationship in-between heritage and environment. Later, in the training session itself, we got updated about innovative teaching-learning pedagogy in primary schools that encourage self-learning practices from pupils, and likewise, we had another session focused on present scenario on learning concerned with disable or differently abled in Nepal. Other than that, we familiarized with technology on bird identification around our commune, measured humidity and differentiated clouds and formulated various planning and strategy to self-motivate children to take environment initiatives. Besides, we engaged in activities such as wall newspaper, wall comics, and such which could be practiced by children even in remote communities where the available resources are limited but the relationship between students, teachers, parents and community members is closer.

On January 12, the inclusive training came to an end, as we, the participants, gifted a secret friend of ours with handmade presents who had kindly aided us during the training period. And, as we parted our ways, we took solemn promise to support each other on the conservation awareness and impact initiatives along with continuing our personal efforts to prevent environmental degradation around us. CTC concluded with recognition of the active interaction and participation of volunteers, community members and organization internally and externally to create synergic social impact that is sustainable and can contribute positively to the environmental and community wellbeing.

Heritage site visit
Game related with life skill
Group work
Observing cloud chart

Magical Music @ Rapti Municipality Ward 13, Chitwan

Sajan Maharjan / Photo Credit: Upama Tamla Rai

It is obvious every one of us wishes to have a luxurious life to some extent. People have been influenced by the modern transformation in the socio-cultural, economic, technological aspect. However, we might not know there are some groups of individuals or communities to whom luxury is just a fantasy. They have created their own status of luxury. Wearing slippers is a luxury for the kids living there, having a gas stove is a luxury for them, having a single bulb to light their house is luxury for them, having the ability to have tea every day is luxury.

Yes, they do exist, far from the truth of modern transformation, far from modern medical innovation and, of course, far from technological exploration. Rapti Municipality Ward No.13 is one of the representative communities where luxury is near to myth.

Journey to Rapti Municipality ward 13, Chitwan was my first experience of traveling outside the Kathmandu valley, and it was with the ECCA team.  After the trip, I realized that happiness is not just related with luxury because there is almost negligible luxury in the villages I visited. Still I could see the gloss in the people everywhere in that community.

The students were really amazing and the Nepali songs “Galbandi Chatiyo…….”, “Hawa Chiso Chiso…….” sung with the maadal and baasure (flute) by the students of Kandeshwori Basic School with their own lyric were nostalgic. “Hajur Haru Kaa Dekhe Aunu Bho, Hamro Lage Kya Dukha Paunu Bho, Hawa Chiso Chiso…….” (“you came from far away, you suffered so much for us, …”) was one of the lines they sang, which was really touching and emotional. Also, the way the students count numbers in mathematics with rhythm sounds really good. The children who rarely see television, who are unaware of any kind of digital platform (like Youtube, Netflix, etc.) are so good at singing. We can just imagine what magic they might create if they get the opportunity to learn music!!! Music is just a single wonder that we got an opportunity to feel, who knows there might be more hidden magicians behind those innocent faces. I really wish, they would get more platform to explore their interest, which will help them and their community to grow.

Students practicing 1, 2, 3, 4,…………100 at Kandeshwori Basic School, Kanda

Honey from the Mountains: Success Story of a Bee-keeper

Upama Tamla (Rai)

“Beekeeping is not as easy task, it requires a lot of care before you actually receive the honey”. Somilal Praja, Jyarbang, Kanda, Chitwan

“Namaste!”

Somilal, a local resident and active farmer of Jyarbang welcomes us one sunny morning of April 2021. His home lies in a beautiful mountainous village in the north part of Chitwan district. The place has no access to vehicles and electricity. It takes three to four hours for locals to walk up to the village and more for occasional travelers.  As soon as we take few minutes of rest on his self-carved bench offering a breathtaking view of lower plains of Chitwan, Somilal is eager to show us the two apiaries (bee keeping boxes) that he received from ECCA as livelihood support. With his house being comparatively farther away than most villagers, it takes Somilal double the effort to get access to any facility or need. Despite the difficulty, he is one of the first ones from Kanda to successfully keep bees and harvest honey.

The explanation Somilal provides as he walks us up to one of his apiaries gets interesting by minute. “I have been able to harvest four kg of honey this year- out of the two boxes! I took most of it for my children studying in schools away from home and they enjoyed it very much”, happily shares Somilal. Regarding the frequency of harvest, he reveals his harvesting time; twice a year during Kartik (October/November) and Falgun/Chaitra (February – April).

Somilal further shares about the transition of beekeeping practice in his village. According to him, before introduction of modern apiaries, the villagers previously used traditional muda (log) for the purpose of beekeeping. The advantages of using a modern apiary are many – from easier inspection and higher harvest to possible rearing of queen bee and easier control of swarming. But, persuading the bees to stay is still a huge challenge especially during winter.  “Three months ago, queen bee from one of these boxes left or died, so rest of the bees were in the verge of leaving. So, I transferred a frame from the other box and thankfully saved them. I have then harvested one kg from the box within the three months period”.

As Somilal talks about his experience, he undoubtedly strikes us as a persistently hardworking person. “I am planning to transfer bee hives into the new apiaries as well. It can be a little tricky but I am sure I can do it – as I have been following the steps we were taught during our Beekeeping Training conducted last time, which has worked well so far.”

In between our conversation, Somilal offers us little honey he has stored in his house. The honey tastes fresh, creamy and floral; almost striking as the heavenly fluid from flowers of Chiuri (butter tree) itself.

After the brief tasting and appraisal for his hard work, Somilal further talks about the challenges, especially emphasizing the level of care required for beekeeping. “It may look easy but this is a rigorous job. One has to keep looking after it every week or so. If proper care is not provided, the bees will not stay. Additionally, we have to look out for its predators.”

As we begin to wrap up our conversation and move to another village, we ask him about his further plans for beekeeping. To which he readily answers, “Well, currently I am very thankful to ECCA and supporting organizations for the support and training. I am planning to expand current beekeeping, probably in a commercial scale if this goes well!”

(ECCA is thankful to BMZ and action medeor e.V. for their support in this initiative!)

When Art speaks louder than words

Upama Tamla (Rai)

December 10, 2020. It was a colder winter morning in Gundi, Chitwan. Our art team was already at Hattisunde Basic School, a local school providing education up to class 5.  We had the objective to paint 2 class rooms (ECD and class 1) and toilets which ECCA had previously constructed with the support from BMZ and action medeor e.V. Despite the soul-freezing cold breeze in the early morning, we started painting the portions we had left the day before.

 “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…..”

A loud voice suddenly startled me, who was focused deeply in painting the right shade of green for the grass below the alphabet train. I looked above my shoulder and saw a child reciting the alphabets of the wall on the top of his voice. I looked at my watch and it was already 10 a.m. The child’s continued sharp and loud recitation made me smile and I asked him if he knew numbers from 1 to 100 too. He stopped his recitation and his excited pair of eyes turned to me and at once were clouded with shyness. He shook his head with a no and ran away as fast as he could. I then chuckled with myself and continued painting the grass.

It was not long before other students came in and began pointing out at the pictures we were making, curiously making their own speculations. Their “ooo”s and “wow”s were a boost for our painting. But most of all, it was their buzzing discussion on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and school environment content of the walls that made us share eye contacts with a feeling that our work had ignited those issues in them. Some students sat to watch for an hour even after the school hours were over.  Shy conversations with them now and then brought a sense of warmth in the cold afternoon. After few hours, we walked back from the school discussing as usual about the happenings from the afternoon and the next day’s work.

The whole painting program in fact aimed to enhance the learning approach among the village children. Children often have difficulty in regularly attending school due to household chores, climatic causes (increased waterflow in rivers, landslides, etc.). So, for the time they are in the school premises, the paintings will impart knowledge to them even outside the class hours. So, with every stroke of painting, we hoped the paintings will motivate children to come to school as well. Within the next few days, the plain walls of the classrooms and toilets were soon vibrant with messages related to class curriculum, WASH and school environment. Seeing the small students watch the finished walls with awe on the final day was one of the memorable moments as we prepared to return back home. The boy who recited the alphabets earlier came to bid us goodbye along with his friends. Overall, the journey was worthwhile; an opportunity for sharpening content development and art skills, and most of all, a mixture of new learning and self-reflection in a world so different than mine.