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.

Warm Clothes and School Bags Support in Chitwan, Nepal

Upama Tamla (Rai)

Winter is harsh. For people living in higher altitude based hilly areas of Chitwan, it means less food on the table and more struggle to feed the livestock. Most parents need to spend hours in search for fodder and children also often help them in the matter. Handful of people go to markets far away from their villages to buy household necessities and warm clothes. But for the rest, they cannot afford to do so, let alone send their children to school with warm clothes and footwear.

Realizing this issue, ECCA conducted Warm Clothes and School Bags Support Program in coordination with Son of Light and Rotary Club of Himalaya Patan on December 9, 2020. Total of 566 tracksuits and 699 school bags were distributed to 8 schools of Rapti Municipality, Chitwan. Benefitted students were from:

  1. Haatisude Basic School, Gundi
  2. Santhali Basic School, Sarling
  3. Tikashwori Basic School, Cheuding
  4. Dhungbang Basic School, Syamrang
  5. Rastriya Basic School, Waswang
  6. Rastriya Basic School, Kalitar
  7. Kandeswori Basic School, Kanda
  8. Rastriya Basic School, Harrabisauna

The distribution program brought smiles among both students and teachers.

“We are very thankful for the support”, expressed one of the school principals during the distribution program. “Most of our students have been wearing just school shirt and skirt / pant even in this cold weather. So, this is a meaningful support and a form of encouragement for them to attend school regularly.”

Students were eager to put on their new tracksuits and their enthusiasm was worth to watch. When asked if they liked the tracksuits and school bags, most nodded shyly with a “yes”. It was wonderful to watch students come to school the next day, with their warm tracksuits on and without having to carry their books in their hand. ECCA expresses sincere thanks to the supporting organizations. We sincerely hope this support program encourage students to attend school regularly.

Women Groups in Chepang community rise together against COVID-19

Bipin Kumar Shrestha, Program Officer, ECCA

“Hello sir! We have oriented women groups of our community on COVID-19 prevention and also provided them with masks, gloves, chlorine solution as well as banners and pamphlets related to COVID-19 prevention… Hello, hello, am I audible?” Through the phone was the enthusiastic voice of Resham Chepang, our field coordinator. He was adding that women groups of Chepang community had, thereafter, made plans to conduct orientation programs on COVID-19 prevention and to distribute masks, gloves, chlorine solutions and pamphlets in their community.

“Sir, you are hearing me, right?” His reassuring question made me think that perhaps he finally reached a place with a good network connection. Resham and I had been talking for an hour about the program and additional plans. I wondered silently when he would reach another place with a good network to provide me with further updates of the program.

ECCA Nepal has been actively engaged in increasing general awareness for prevention of COVID-19, ever since it began spreading worldwide as a pandemic. In this course, ECCA has been organizing various orientation programs on preventive ideas for COVID-19 in the local communities of Chitwan. ECCA has also additionally provided the locals with masks, gloves, chlorine solution, banners and pamphlets related to COVID-19 prevention. On a personal level, my daily routine has been a series of receiving updates on COVID-19 situation of my work area, developing COVID-19 related materials for awareness, coordinating with field coordinators for project activities, providing feedbacks, record-keeping, financial reporting and coordinating with stakeholders on various issues.

Since a while ago, women groups of Chepang community had been requesting essential materials to conduct orientation programs on COVID-19 prevention in their community. But the lockdown announced by Nepal government halted our attempt to provide the support. As soon as the lockdown eased a bit, we were able to send these materials to the women groups.

After a week, Resham called up again and sent program updates, photos and videos. All 13 women groups had conducted the orientation program as well as distributed masks, gloves and sanitizer in their locality. Despite the challenges of remote geographical area, small roads and lack of electricity and communication network, awareness program activities on prevention of COVID-19 are being conducted with active participation of field coordinator, local youths and women groups. Additionally, these actions are being supported by the behavioral change brought by ECCA program in the sector of water, sanitation and hygiene. Resham expressed his eternal gratitude towards the supporting organizations (ECCA and action medeor e.V.) for supporting his community to fight COVID-19. His words now make me feel that women groups of Chepang community are really putting their best efforts in increasing awareness about prevention of COVID-19. Resham is happy to play his part in this positive initiation and so am I, for being able to help the women empower themselves for the betterment of their community.

Local Counselor crossing river during materials supply
Giving orientation using banner on COVID-19 prevention
Giving orientation using banner on Chlorine solution usage
Visiting each household in the village
Using spray bottle filled with chlorine solution
Women group members during orientation program