Category Archives: nepal

Walking a Marathon to raise funds ? What was I thinking ! 

Trying to design a web site and call out for people to fund me to walk a marathon has been quite a challenge. Again for those of you who know me you will know that I tend to write my sentences back to front and never say something simply if I can say it in a waffly, long winded way – hence the joy of writing a blog ! The trend today in web design is simple clean and clear. So for my foundation site I took this advice and used lots of relevant images (tick), kept text to a minimum (tick) and made my aims clear (hmmm can I tick this one off?).

So I am going to use this blog post for those who want a bit more information on what I will be using the funds for ! If you are reading this then you are part of my audience that prefers a little bit more detail and reflection. If all you want to do is donate to me then go back to this link and hit donate http://www.inspiredescapes.com/fair-connections-foundation

So why walk a marathon to raise funds you may ask why not just ask people to donate ? Well I met Nick Kershaw, the brains behind the Impact Marathon Series (IMS) and think his model is simple and inspiring. I also know many of the organisations the IMS will be supporting such as Global Action Nepal, Shakti Shamuha, Maiti Nepal and many others all of whom are doing some great work in Nepal-more details see here http://www.nepalmarathon.co.uk/impact. Also look at the location ….

 Who wouldn’t want to go here? 

So given the focus of IMS on education, gender and sanitation it’s a bit of a no brainier that I’d want to be involved. Also as this is the first one, its in Nepal and like Jaqcs, founder of Unite For Nepal UK, I can’t run it but can challenge myself to walk it. The idea was it would make me take some time out to walk to work, to exercise and challenge myself physically – well that was the plan ! Trying to work full time, research and develop my business means the walking to work hasn’t happened as much as I’d like to and now with 4 weeks to go I really need to get some training in ! 

I’m actually going to Nepal in November for 4 weeks to start to evaluate sanitary pad / menstrual hygiene projects and to continue my research into the impact of educational NGOs in Nepal. So as always my flights are covered and I have covered my teaching duties at LJMU and thought whilst I’m there it would be great to also participate in the Impact Marathon.
Also as the company, Fair Connections, is developing slowly but the demand for the puppets and story sack is growing in Nepal so I need to raise funds so I can continue my work in Nepal. Feedback from the 20 schools I donated to last year is that there is a demand for mor puppets, stories and training as the book and puppets are having a positive impact in the classroom.  Walking the marathon and raising funds will enable me to work with these original school as well as new schools this year.  Raju from KERE received one set and wants to use them in his cluster of 5 schools, Ramesh is also keen to use them in the schools he works with who have a number of deaf children and Kiran feels they will be well used in schools linked to the Asian Resource Foundation.  So funds I raise this year will focus on these schools and I look forward to hearing from others who may be interested in this project. 

So what is the money I raise being used for ? 


Well 20% of what I raise is going to the IMS fund to support the work that the runners, both international and national, will be doing in and around Kakani supporting locally identified development projects and working with people in the local community.  I will blog  on this when I’m in Nepal in November.

The rest will be used to provide more teacher training and puppet based story sacks to schools in Nepal. Based on the feedback from the 20 schools that I worked with last December I will be providing more puppets and will be supplying a new book that has been written by Sue Green from Pahar Trust Nepal, about a baby monkey in Chitwan, which focuses on early years. The new characters and story are aimed at smaller children with a key message on being kind and polite. These puppets work well with mine and also have the potential to be used with other books in Nepal and really help teachers to make school lessons interactive and fun. In addition to this I will be talking to the schools and seeing what other resources they need to help them in their work to make schools more child friendly and will use some of the funds raised to meet this need. I know some schools want some sports equipment, others more library books and others maybe some science equipment – so I will listen to what teachers are asking for and support them where I can.

Handing over sacks to teachers in Laspe Phedi 2015 with the support of Global Action Nepal

Schools will also get a follow up visit to gain feedback on the use and impact of the resources they have and ideas for future work can be shared.


The basic message is for every £200 raised a school will receive all of these puppets (see picture below) and the books that support them, which are written in both English and Nepali, as well as a day’s training and support visit as well so I can get feedback from the schools. Plus schools will get some extra resources to support their libraries, science labs or sports activities ! 

As always I will provide feedback on this work via my web sites, Twitter and Instagram as well on the Fair Connections you tube channel – so if you want to know more please follow me or drop me an email.

🙏🏼 Namaste and wish me luck !  🐸🙈


If I wear my lungi for the walk will you double your donation ?

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Supporting autonomous development  …. Learning from Nepal 

Again for those of you who know me you will know of my passion and support for working with people in Nepal to improve the quality of education.  I based my PhD on Actionaids literacy programme REFLECT in the Sikles sector of the ACAP and the impact that this had on the women and men there who attended evening classes.  The classes unlike traditional literacy classes were based on discussions and learning together rather than being taught to read and write from a set text.  The centres provided a space whereby the participants, mainly women, could talk about whatever issues they wanted.  This led to their confidence growing in public speaking, problems being discussed and solutions identified and implemented. I was inspired by the impact that this had and the changes took place at the local level.  I learnt so much from the experiences that these women shared with me. This then led on to the Sikles photography project and publication of the coffee tables book ‘Our Village Our Life’ – again the funds raised by this were put to good use at the local level by local people – reaffirming my commitment to autonomous development.

Whilst I edited the booked all of the images in the book we taken by local people.

The book and exhibitions that resulted from this project have helped celebrate life in Sikles and show what life in a rural village in Nepal is like through the eyes of local people.
What more than amazes me though is that this project started in 2008 with a workshop in Pokhara and  a matrix of needs and dreams being drawn up (see image below). This included wanting a new school to be built, a new health post to be built and a youth group to be established as well as increasing tourism and improving the day care cantre.  Now only 8 years on all of these projects have been implemented – with the support of Government, Non Goverment and local people dashing funds and donating their labour.

I have a full prezi talk on this project available here  http://prezi.com/zjkphhxhol-w

All of these projects which have been completed are down to the hard work of local people.  I am in awe of all that has been achieved.  The health post has been funded by Government funds, the secondary school rebuilt with the support of the Pahar Trust and youth club is almost complete with funds for the Sikles diaspora and contributions from local people of both land and labour. ACAP, Sikles Development Group, the Women’s Group and Youth Group have all worked together to help implement development projects initiated and developed by and with local people – the very essence of autonomous development.

So when people say to me I have done so much for Sikles I really have to disagree as Sikles, Parche and the surrounding villages have done so much for themselves.  We can all learn from their example. Recently friendship links have been developed by schools in Nepal and the UK, supported by the Pahar Trust http://www.pahar-trust.org/ptn-school-friendship-scheme Again through these links so much can be learnt from one another, gifts shared across the continents and a deeper understanding of the wealth in Nepal as well as some of the challenges remote villages face.

You will always recieve a warm welcome when visiting friendship linked schools in Nepal.

Sharing stories between Nepal and England helps children here learn about Nepal – here teachers from Sikles are visiting St Michaels in the Hamlet in Liverpool.

If you want to know more about how to develop a friendship link with a Nepal that please get in touch via sara@fairconnections.org

Nepal is here to change you not for you to change it !

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Starting a Foundation….. 

Some of you may already know that I am starting a Foundation to work alongside my new company Fair Connections.
Many people have asked me why as I already have enough on my plate with working full time and developing a small community interest company.

And my answer …

In order to help me do more work with educational NGOs in Nepal who I have been working with and to help Fair Connections have the most impact in Nepal.
It has been exciting developing the web site for the Foundation and is making me now relook at my company web site with fresh eyes …. how many people read lots of text, what photos should I use and how, how can I explain all the things that I have done so that I don’t seem like a headless chicken !

It’s taken quite a while to go from this ….

To this

 

thanks in the main to Matt from Inspired and advice from family and friends.
Starting the Foundation has also helped me to have a clear vision about how the company needs to operate as a small business and how the impact of the work I do in Nepal needs to be shared more widely.

Designing the new web, using all my own photos, reminded me of my passion for photography and mdantsane wait to get back to Nepal to take even more photos to add to my ever growing collection !

It has also made me even more aware of the fact that I do tend to waffle and try to say too many things so I have decided to use this blog space to share my more reflective ramblings.

So if you want to find out more come back soon !  If you just want to donate to the Fair Connections Foundation then click here …

 

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Fair Connections update 

In December last year rather that wait for the company to take off I decided to provide story sacks and the book I have written to schools in Nepal.  It was really important that training was also provided so that teachers understood what the book was about and also the potential for the puppets to be used not only with the book but in other areas as well.  This video clip shows teachers from 5 schools in Kaski being trained in how to use the puppets and story sack. It is really important that I get feedback from teachers about what they like and don’t like about the resources and also what other resources they need to help them make their teaching methods  more child friendly and their schools more fun places to be. From the training provided I realised that for the story sack to maximise it potential it needs to link into the local curriculum and be used as a fun way to engage children.

 

The story sacks were also provided to 14 schools in Lapse Phedi and training was provided by myself, Kiran Bohara and GAN staff – we are currently getting feedback from teachers in Nepal about the puppets and also finding out what resources they also want in their schools to help them improve the quality of education for children in Nepal.  Updates will be shared here but also in the Fair Connections Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so please follow us there

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Liverpool Unites for Nepal 

May and June had been set aside for me to work on my new business venture Fair Connections http://www.fairconnections.org

The idea for Fair Connections developed from a fair trade puppet and the need for more child friendly teaching resources in Nepal as well as a need for a deeper understanding of both fair trade and Nepal here in the UK. From the seed of an idea to two years later with a book written and story sack developed all that was needed was the final touches.

But then the earthquake struck and everything changed.

Hearing the news on Facebook and following all the news seems so long ago now.  Never before had I been so thankful to social media for communicating with people and nothing can express the relief on hearing that those I know and love were all ok. And at the same time the sadness and pain for all those who were not ok.

It was impossible not to follow all the posts and updates and be totally moved by the local level response to the disaster.  I began to screen shot stories of all the was appeasing on my news feed – ordinary people showing extra ordinary strength.

In Liverpool the only way we could respond was to come together as a Nepali community to support each other and begin to work together to raise funds to help with the relief efforts and support what was going to be long term relief work in Nepal.  Whilst not Nepali by birth those who know me know of my connections and love for the country and being part of the group Liverpool Unites for Nepal was the most natural thing in the world for me to do.

PowerPoints were made to share with schools to help show people here the work being done by local people and the impact that funds raised could have. People contacted me to ask how they could help and each one had different ways that they related to that they went on to support.  New connections were made between individuals, NGOS, schools and networks all working to support Nepali people in their time of need.  Events were organised to raise funds and keep Nepal in the hearts and minds of the general public.  We were amazed at the local generosity shown by people in the city and the disaster brought a stronger  sense of togetherness amongst those of us here in Liverpool who are from or in some way connected to Nepal.

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I’ll post more later on the fund raising we have done and our future plans – and if you are in or near Liverpool on Monday Oct 19th – come along to find out more about the work that we have been and will be doing.

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Padma Kanya, Pashupathinath, Patan Dhokami and … Paint !

Traveling to Padma Kanya Campus the next morning by rickshaw meant that we all arrived in time for our interaction session where staff and students from both PK and LJMU shared presentations on their research interests and took the opportunity to meet new people.

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Talks ranged from the topics being studied on gender education as women’s right to child maternal mortality and uterine prolapse. It was excellent to see everyone present their ideas so clearly and thanks is due to all the staff and students at PK who,attending making the morning a great success.

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Whilst visiting the Hindu temple and cremation site at Pashnupathi Nath some of the students took the opportunity to visit the Bidra Ashram – Old People’s Home close by. Whilst a peaceful location the home is in need of having the rooms and facilities upgraded but the activity and energy of the residents the gave the students food for thought as they compared them to those back at home.

The peace museum at Patan dhoka, established by Kundan Dixit, was a sobering reminder of the conflict and its impact Nepal and serves as a reminder as one of the books by Kunda is aplenty named .. Never again. http://www.apeoplewar.com.np

Following in from this an impromptu visit to Sattaya Arts collective and the amazing graffiti gave us the opportunity to experience the Kolor Kathmandu project in action details of which are found here and on facebook http://kolorkathmandu.sattya.org/

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In keeping with a peaceful end to our hectic day a sunset visit to Swayambu was squeezed in before once again heading back to Thamel.

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Krazy Kathmandu

Starting the day off meeting Indira from Prisoners Assistance Nepal was an excellent induction to the challenges faced by women in prison in Nepal. Indira shared her stories of fighting for women’s rights and her work in supporting their families to reduce the impact that prison sentences in Nepal have on society here in Kathmandu. Walking to PAN with her gave everyone an opportunity to see Nepal through the eyes of a truly inspirational activist.

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Following on from this we were taken to the Organic Farm and new location of Bike Zone which provides an excellent community centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu as well as being a social enterprise with all profits going back to support PAN. Students returned later in the week to go on a bike tour and can recommend it as an experience not to be missed if you have them on your hands whilst in Kathmandu and want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. The ridiculous size of our bus meant we had to walk to get there which showed yet another side of Nepal to the tourist centre that is Thamel.

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Lunch was provided for us at the Women’s Foundation and an excellent, though somewhat depressing talk, on the challenges facing many women in Nepal today. The work being done by staff at the women’s foundation though gave us all some hope that a new Nepal is possible, where women’s rights are upheld, where gender based violence is challenged and eradicated and where the world as envisaged by the women’s foundation is achievable.

The day ended with a much needed rest stop at Boudnath Stupa before heading back to the Kathmandu Guest House and the charms of Thamel awaited!

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Geography Sociology … same same but different

Geography sociology what is the difference ? Something I have pondered over the past year and the one thing that stands out is the tradition and value placed on field trips within Geography as an essential benchmarked skill. With the redeployment of myself and my colleagues into Sociology and Criminology we have taken with us our passion for Geography into our new positions. My colleague Dr Giles Barrett won an award for innovative teaching based on his development of a field work module for criminology students paving the way for further work in this area.

Whilst I have brought students to Nepal over the years who have been studying Geography this is my first time leading a trip of sociology and criminology students. All of them have developed research proposals and conducted background research into topics which interest them, which in this group of 13 range from women in prisons, education and disabilities, community police and gender and policing to the role of cooperatives in routing development and the aspirations of women in higher education.

From the minute the students landed it was full steam ahead. For many of them it was their first time traveling to Asia and the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu was a surprise. After settling into the Kathmandu Guest House they all went out into Thamel on an orientation task to familiarise themselves with the environment. This included taking photos, seeking recommendations for places to eat and noting down their observations in their diaries. It was to the the start of an intense journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara to Chitwan and back …. one that I hoped would have a lasting impact …. I’ll post my blogs on my journey and look forward to reading their reports to read about theirs! Maybe they will even comment here ?

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Was glad I met the students at the airport !

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Leuven or Sikles !!!

What an amazing day I had in Leuven – started off by meeting lotte who works from UNDP and having a really good chat about development, governance and lots of interesting things especially good to catch up with her and exchange ideas about the aleevee8 concept (www.aleevee8.com) and talk about the importance of business ideas to help development in Nepal.

And then on to the most wonderful Sikles Parche welcoming part for me and my two students who are here with me in Belgium. It was quite emotional in many ways as I have been meaning to come here and visit them for so long but with work, research, family and nepal commitments it has been hard to find the time and funds to do this – so I make the most of my opportunity of being in Belgium and came to see the sikeshi community here in Leuven. As oh my life Leuven is a beautiful place to be – though not as nice as Sikles maybe…

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So many familiar faces and people who I had taught all the way back in 1992 now living and working here and all wanting to share ideas and think about how best to support their family and friends who still live in Sikles and surrounding villages. It’s probably worth saying here when I talk about Sikles I am also talking about Parche as well as I said yesterday – Sikles Parche ustei ustei same same not different ! And in many ways it also includes other villages that are the same in so many ways like Khilang, Taprang, Thak, Sonda, Tanting – the thing that makes these places special is the heart of the people that live their and their love of their own homes communities and cultures even when they are living overseas they remain a tight community and celebrate their background and heritage. Lauren and Selina really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people and appreciated everyone sharing their thoughts and ideas with them – and especially they loved the beautiful children who were so playful and cute they were made to feel very welcome !

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I had taken with me some old photos and the book of course – that goes without saying – but I also found a survey I had done in the school with every child from class 6 to 10 on their family structures icon during who was in their family where they lived what they did what they liked and didn’t like at school and even how many animals they had as well as what they wanted to do and where they wanted to live in the future. Sharing this information with the people who had come to the event and hearing all their amazing lives connections and stories made me relative I need to come back and do some properly reach on this and link it to how best to suport the people who live in your birth place !

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I was welcomed by everyone, and was happy to meet Yuba Rajs elder brother and sad to not see Yuba who I haven’t seen since 1998 😦 Seeing so many faces made me miss Sikles , remember all the time I have spent there and especially made me miss and say a prayer for grandma and Bir Kumari – I’m sure they were with us in spirit yesterday.

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Sharing ideas and being welcomed by so many people was lovely – and I have a new name – Dr Sara Gurung – thank you Om Raj ha ha – hope my husband doesn’t mind too much ! Anyway that’s all I’ve got time for now and a big thank you to the owner of the restaurant for the snacks and drinks and the food was amazing – Dheri Dheri dhanyabad mero Siklesko saathlai – Sikles mero maiti Ho !! And now Leuven can be my third home maybe – pheri betaunla are ramro sangha bonus – Sara didi (nani)

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Interaction session and a thank you … Nepal School of Social Work

It’s always a pleasure visiting Kadambari College and this visit was no exception. Myself and Lucy Woods gave a presentation and workshop on qualitative research and used the inspirational women interviews we have been collecting to show how qualitative data can be analysed.

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I also took the opportunity to thank staff and students for the work that they had done the previous year on a British Academy Small Grant project mapping the needs of the elderly in Nepal – certificates of thanks were presented and I hope we can continue to work together in the very near future. An interaction session is planned between students from Liverpool John Moos University and students studying social work for March 2013 … look forward to seeing you all then !

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