Working in different remote outpost locations, my journey this time scheduled for the remotest of the remote part of Nepal for the need assessments of the locals. Inhabited by the majority of indigenous Chepang tribe, the four villages (Chauding, Kanda, Sarling, Symrang) of Chitwan District I visited are the major ambitious project sites of ECCA.
As December was getting chiller every day & night, me along with my colleagues were emptying our rucksacks and adding up the layers of clothes on our body! Lying on mat with sleeping bag was not helping our tired cold body for a warm nap.
While we were adjusting with the bone-chilling winter, a seven months old baby covered with just a thin blanket seemed sleeping well next to us without proper bedding. Most of the locals, including children and old aged people, were still on their severely ripped summer wear, bare foot with winter cracks all over the body. And there was a person like me, regretting for not bringing gloves!
While sharing my scariest field work memory, I had previously shared my experience of barely escaping two major road accidents while making the journey to remote villages in Dolakha district. This time, I have a different experience!
While traveling from one village to another, the narrow foot paths we made through were extremely dangerous. I crawled my baby steps with weight and balance calculation, taking the help of tree branches and grasses. At one point of time, I could neither move forward nor turn back. A miss of balance and I could fall down the steep hill. But our team cooperation worked well and paid out with the locals sharing the difficulties faced in their livelihood, especially during sickness and accidental medical needs. Their indigenous knowledge about herbal medicine is the only way working out there!
Schools are running classes up to grade 3 and there is no option in the village to continue the classes forward from grade 3. Students are compelled to repeat grade 3 for 2-3 years continuously in thirst of education; after which, they quit school, do household work, get married, or leave village in search of work.
All the students from ECD to grade 3 assemble inside the same class room and learn the same subject matter. We can hardly see the students with their own book, copy, and pencil. There are so many students who even don’t know how to write their name despite of being in grade 3.
So many children face malnutrition. The flattened rice offered as day meal by the local government at school is the first meal of the day for majority of the students. Despite of all these things, it cracked out my heart when I saw them singing national anthem so proudly with their little hands on their chest.
Barely 1% of total households have toilets. Waking up in the dark for open defecation in nearby forest is the first ritual of every individual before starting the day. During our stay in one village, a young girl slipped on stool and hurt her cheek so badly. I wonder how hard it will be for the new moms, menstruating and pregnant women, and elderly people. Each household comprises of teenage mothers and foreign employee.
Neglecting the irony of these villages being constituted inside the municipality, each village is luminous in the dark (without electricity supply) with beautiful human hearts! No complains to any one, just give and take of happiness. I remember a quote by John Lennon, “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘ HAPPY’.” Yeah, they seemed happy! But I also do remember another quote I heard, “those who have never embraced the feeling of being happy, they can never realize that they are living in sadness”.
But it’s really a time for defending dignity & challenging marginalization. A great initiative of ECCA ….. doing what’s crucial …. not just doing what is easy!