The wild and wonderful kids at EBT's Hetauda refuge. After only 3 1/2 days at the refuge, I was completely in love with the entire bunch and sooooo wanted to stay and teach them English and play, play, play with them. Unfortunately, duties call from Bhairahawa.
Regina, a favorite of all of the volunteers, came to the refuge because her grandmother is dying of cancer, her mother remarried and abandoned her, and her father is dead. Despite all tragedy in her short life, she is an absolute charmer!
The kids in Hetauda chowing down on dahl baat (rice, lentil soup and veggies) just after all had their hair washed and put on clean outfits.
This week was busy and interesting. Three of us (Hazel Fullerton, UK volunteer extraordinaire that I volunteered with last year; Daphne, first-time Irish volunteer; and I, US artist, volunteer and traveler) made the five-hour (bumpy, bouncy) drive from Bhairahawa to Hetauda, Nepal, to set up some programs for Daphne to teach and check the place out as Hazel and Sue Thornton (another wonderful UK volunteer that I worked with last year) are going to be working there for a month or so starting at the end of February.
Hetauda is a town similar (a bit larger and more manufacturing based maybe??) in size to Bhairahawa (a town about the size of Ravenna, Ohio, which will mean something to a few of you but nothing to most).
We arrived in early afternoon and were delighted by the refuge, workshop and people in Hetauda. The facility is funded by the Esther Benjamins Trust (EBT) out of the UK (a wonderful organization dedicated to helping all sorts of maginalized, abused, and neglected children in Nepal! check it out!) The refuge had taken in 10 kids aged from maybe 4 to 12 recently that are orphans or from families that are unable to care for them properly. I expected them to be sad about leaving their friends, family and/or village, but they were a happy, rambunctious bunch of kids playing ball and running around chasing one another.
There are also 6-8 former circus girls (girls rescued from abusive Indian circuses ... many had been sold by their parents... or they let their young daughters go to work in the circuses because the owner’s promised to educate and employ the girls but then disappeared into India never to be heard of again until EBT rescued them.... the circus girl trade has been virtually stopped thanks to EBT) at the Hetauda facility. They had been doing sewing and producing products (I think handbags?? maybe other clothing??) for a woman with a shop in the UK, but that closed down a year or so again and the girls can’t compete with the MANY local tailors around Nepal).
Hazel thought producing jewelry using paper beads would be an ideal product for the workshop to produce. It’s all the better because Sue has been training the circus girls in Bhairahawa to make iris folded greeting cards (beautiful things! Check them out! SUE-- give us a link to the site where your cards are shown!) that also use manipulated papers. The two things go PERFECT together.
Hazel taught the 6 girls and Daphne to make the beads in about an hour and they had created a beautiful necklace by the end of the day. They were thrilled! During the next two days, their skill improved, more circus girls showed up (word must have gone out that something cool was happening in the workshop!), the staff women participated enthusiastically (which will ensure continuity if they continue to help out) and some very nice necklaces were produced.
In conjunction with the workshop, we started teaching the girls basic English that will come in handy in the workshop and we started learning some Nepalese. Again, very enthusiastic! Everyone participated and we were all superstar volunteers! Love iT! Daphne. although a little nervous, was ready and willing to take charge of the jewelry making and English lessons for the older girls.
Meanwhile, I started planning an English program for the younger kids. Daphne and I observed an English lesson presented by Rita, on the EBT staff. She made it clear that she’d HAPPILY turn over English lessons to us. I had brought the large cardboard instructional sheets I had used to teach the deaf kids last year in Bhairahawa and Daphne and I mapped out a teaching strategy she could use until Hazel and Sue (both EXCELLENT and FUN English teachers) arrive.
Daphne and I taught one class together and the kids LOVED it! Having fun while they learn English is always my strategy and they did! The next day I was leaving for Bhairahawa and Daphne was on her own. The kids showed up EARLY (usually half an hour late) and Daphne took charge. She texted that her first solo lesson went wonderfully.
The kids were terrific and the program set-up went smoothly. Meanwhile, we were treated like absolute royalty. The food in Hetauda is fantastic! We told them that dahl baat is tough for us to take in the morning and the next day we were treated to eggy toast (aka, French toast) with our morning tea. We are usually protein deprived in our diet, but the Hetauda cooks served up CHICKEN (which I think was their pet before we hungry volunteers arrived) along with our lunch of rice and two kinds of vegetables spiced to perfection. Dinner consisted of rotis (like pita bread), rice, daal, and a couple nice vegetable creations. They use vegetables that they grow in the gardens that surround the buildings.
The guest room had an attached bathroom with flush toilet (that didn’t really flush without dumping a bucket down it... but provided a comfortable perch, at least) and sink (that worked) and shower (that didn’t work... but there’s a bucket to use.) The only bad thing about the place is that the water is absolutely FREEZING until the water tank on the roof warms up in the afternoon. So any cleaning up in the morning is done with FRIGIDLY COLD water (I washed my hair one morning and my head ACHED from the cold... they must get their water straight from the snow peaks of the surrounding mountains.)
After classes were over for the day, Daphne and I explored the surrounding neighborhood and within a couple days were playing badminton with the local kids, chatting with the shopkeepers (our attempts at speaking Nepali were met with great hilarity!) and had discovered an excellent momo restaurant a short distance away. Life is good!
Everyone was soooo nice, I really wanted to stay and teach English for the next 3 months, but duty calls.... need to draw up a blueprint for the Mosaic Garden in Bhairahawa and then I head off to India Feb 8th to participate in Art Karavan International, a two-month traveling art event that will stop in 9 towns in 8 weeks and we’ll all to art and interact with the people of northern India.
So, I said my good-byes after promising to come back if at all possible sometime in the future!