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

A step towards improving nutrition of Chepang Community

Aruna Khulal

My journey as an ECCA Counselor started in 2017, when I got a chance to work in remote areas of Nepal with a motto of improving living standards (such as health, hygiene, nutrition, and education status) of local villagers. Working in a community level is in itself challenging, but among all, working in Chepang community is found to be the most challenging. There are an indigenous isolated community; deprived of even basic facilities like electricity, mobile phone network, education, health and roads. Children have to walk miles to reach school, while, in case of health facilities, people still prefer traditional healing methods till date.

Few months ago, I got a chance to visit Chepang community located at Rapti-13, Chitwan to conduct training on nutrition and home kitchen gardening. I was so excited. I prepared myself mentally and physically because I was aware that it was not going to be an easy cakewalk (we have to walk miles carrying own stuff, as there is no road facility). After arriving there, I realized that the place is far more isolated than I had imagined. At first, it was difficult to conduct the training, as most of the people were scared of speaking and sharing their thoughts. But, as they became familiar with me, they started sharing their stories related to food and life style, which was inspiring and heart-touching at the same time.

I still remember, how clearly Laxman Praja (the only male participant in the training) described the community nutritional status to me. “Few years back our living condition was even worse than now. There used to be scarcity of food. Now, most of us get enough to eat twice a day (mainly dhido and lentils/sisnu), while rice and meat during festivals. Previously, our grandparents completely depended on the forest for food (collecting githa, vyakur, hunting) but now we have started cultivating crops / vegetables. I don’t know much about nutrients but I heard that we get vitamin from spinach.”

The training program turned more into an interaction where the participants shared their stories and queries associated with food. An old lady, Jhupimaya Praja shared her heart touching sad story by pointing to a picture of a malnourished child; and said that her two children used to look like the one from the picture, so she took them to a traditional healer, but only one child survived. She added that, she thought her child passed away due to evil power but now she realized that the child died due to lack of proper nutrients.

It still brings a big smile on my face when I remember the last day of training, when a group of ladies told me that now they are aware about different essential nutrients, now onward they will grow more vegetables and try to consume proper food, more than in the normal times during menstruation, pregnancy and lactation period. It’s not a huge change, but I believe that small changes can make a big difference.

ECCA, with the financial support from “BMZ and action medeor”, has already sown seeds of change, which will hopefully give good crops in the near future. Moreover, I am so grateful to be a part of change maker.

Facilitating session on nutrition 1Facilitator facilitating a session regarding balance dietPrepare vegitables in nutrition session 1

Eyewitness of improvement in Menstrual Hygiene Practices among Chepang Women

Merina Rana Magar

I am one of the Counsellors of ECCA engaged since 2015 and also one of the eyewitnesses of the improvement in menstruation hygiene management (MHM) of Chepang women in different communities of Chitwan, Rapti Municipality-13, while being involved as a facilitator during several time periods in the project site. The local Chepang women did hesitate to share about their menstrual practices on the first day of the orientation. Later on, they themselves shared that they are very happy to receive such kind of training. They even shared that they used to hesitate to talk about menstruation in the past even within their family. But now, they are confident enough to increase awareness and the right knowledge to other females and even to the male members of their community. Also, after the orientation, women’s group even organized door to door visits to spread information on improving menstruation management practices. I got surprised that they developed plans for different awareness raising activities related to menstruation hygiene within a short period.

Menuka Praja, who is a local counselor of Symrang said, “I hesitated at first to demonstrate how to use sanitary pad but after involvement in the orientation on MHM and WASH, those hesitations turned into confidence and got success to teach the proper way of using sanitary pads to other menstruating females of my community”. This is really an immense pleasure for me to see such an effective and meaningful changes. Samjhana Praja, President of Jagriti Women group also shared that previously, she had been neglecting proper menstruation hygiene practices but after the orientation, she realized its importance and promised to maintain the good practice.

There is still a lot to change. But, I am now more confident after observing their awareness activities that the Chepang women will definitely bring changes in their menstrual hygiene practices. I am so pleased to see that their commitment (made during the orientation program) to practice, improve, and maintain their personal and menstrual hygiene practices is being implemented. Due to getting regular request, a set of sanitary pads and underwear were distributed to each women of ward number 13, Rapti Municipality through women groups. Underwear was required since most of Chepang women did not have the habit of wearing underwear even during the normal days.

While returning back from the village, I met Sabina Chepang who shared her story, “Though I had requested my mother several times to buy sanitary pads for me, she always forced me to use old torn cloths. After participating in the orientation on MHM and waste management conducted by ECCA, she provided me reusable sanitary pads and she also started using them. I am always thankful to ECCA for the change”. Most of the menstruating females have now stopped using old torn unhygienic cloth and have started using sanitary pad.

Kamala Praja, local counsellor of Santhali shared that she is glad to be part of this project, to be a part of the change, and see the improvement in women’s attitude towards menstrual and personal hygiene practices in her community. She is also thankful towards ECCA and the supporting organizations.

I am really grateful and pleased that ECCA chose to work for those communities. I got an opportunity to see their life and the hardships they go through, with my own eyes. I am also very grateful to our supporting organizations BMZ and action medeor for this project, where dreams are turning into the reality for those Chepang women!

Merina Rana Magar

IMG_20200208_123611 (2)

Taking a session

Member of womens group explaining the use of reuseale sanitary pad

Women group members making home visits

Usha Chepang 1 - distribution among women groups

Chepang women after receiving reusable sanitary napkins

Improving the living standard through better bee keeping practices

Nitin Maharjan, Counselor, ECCA

Working as a counselor from 2015, I got the opportunity to be involved in various project sites. However, I never thought I would see such a situation where most of the people don’t even have enough food to eat. Few months back, I was involved for conducting bee-keeping training in the Chepang community in Rapti Municipality, Chitwan.

From the preparation period I heard a lot about Kanda, the Chepang village. No proper road access, no phone and internet communication, bumpy jeep ride up to Cheuding, and thereafter hike for about 6 to 8 hours, carry all your stuffs and the training materials, scattered households and threat from a “Jungle man”. Though the hike was through a jungle path, which was challenging, I was enjoying the view, walking with all my stuffs, and training materials. We started our walk (from the nearest road head) at 1 pm and reached the village at 9:30 pm. I still feel scared when I remember how we walked through the night and reached the destination – Kanda.

From early morning, I was busy gathering the participants with the help of local teachers and local counselor youths. During the training, all the participants listened carefully about the bee keeping process, methods, tools, bee life cycle, pollination and floral calendar.  One of the participants shared that they felt lucky to get practical knowledge on modern bee keeping technique. They are hopeful to increase their income through honey production and marketing. Such income generation activity will further help to support their children’s education and improve their life quality.

Mr. Jaber Singh Chepang, one of the participants, remarked “Our village have lots of possibility on bee keeping, which we are presently practicing in a traditional way. This training made us realize that we can improve our traditional way of bee keeping and improve our living standard by selling honey. Additionally, I request to provide us bee hive making training, which will be helpful to sustain the bee keeping.”

The participants committed to share their knowledge to other villagers too. At the end of the day, we had very fruitful discussion with the participants on how to contribute towards improving school facilities and education. While returning from Kanda, on the way, I met one local youth counselor from Waswang. After interaction with her, I came to know that her family had received bee-keeping materials support from the project. She was now going to the market in Bhandara (in the south plains next to the national highway) for selling honey. She informed that her family will earn around NPR 3,000 during the harvesting season. She also shared that her family also eat honey to improve their nutrition and health.

I never thought that such small support can create an impact to improve livelihood in the Chepang community. I am sure that through modern bee keeping practices, Chepang community will improve their living standard, nutrition, health and children education. I always wanted to work in such a community based activity, which has been fulfilled through being involved in the bee keeping training. I am thankful to the supporting organizations BMZ and action medeor for helping the Chepang people to improve their living standard by themselves.

On the way to Kanda

On the way to Kanda

Practical session

Practical session

demonstration of bee hive by the participant

Demonstration of bee hive

facilatator facilating about arifical feeding

About artificial feeding

Group photo

Group photo