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Reflections on field work proposals

When I was reading the research proposals for my IFW International Fieldwork module in Sociology that we offer here at LJMU it made me think about past field trips to London and to think about the connection between tourism, regeneration and the debates which are taking place in Soho. One question that came to mind was if the legalisation and gentrification of Amsterdam was leading it to become sanitised and ‘twee’ as suggest by Mullin in this article in 2015
We saw the impact of this on an urban trail with Magali from Middlesex University well worth checking out her research! The urban tour gave students and staff a real insight into key issues in Soho

Urban tour soho 2017

It also made me think about the role that blogging has in this module as in the past we have used reflective diaries in assessing field work modules given the rise of social media it was a logical step to move towards blogging. Maybe we now also need to think about vlogging and other forms of social media such as Instagram? Its always good to hear about the impact our course from past students and we now share this on our Departmental Sociology blog page and in LJMU news items – note to self – need to get more feedback like this! It has also made me reflect on how more needs to be written on methods and field work and how I need to at some point reflect on this and do some more research into the value of this assessment within the sociology programme and maybe do another small research project with students like we did in 2017 at the LJMU Teaching and Learning conference – I must write this up as an article!

Reading the proposals also made me think about the role of covert and overt observation and brought to mind this article about the night time economy in Manchester – this would be a good example to use in class next year as the ones I used this year were too much focused on young people and educational settings.

There are also some useful ethical guidelines out there which go beyond the BSA and are worth looking at to see how ethical advice is then used in practice. This is one example but there are many more would love to see people post there ideas below.

One of the benefits of blogging is you can record organisations you want to see and also explore those you would like to see but maybe cant for some reason – the information on their sites can still provide good insights into the issues you are exploring – coming across this blog from a visit I made to London in 2013 has reminded me to follow up on some research ideas linked to rehabilitation work that is going in and around Brixton and Brixton Pop – and reminds me I must share these contacts with second years who may wish to do their dissertations in this area.

Another useful source of information could be from lecturers in Universities and searching the news items is one way of finding out who does what within a University and could lead to some useful key informants – if someone contacted me after reading a news item about me I know I would be more likely to respond to a request for an interview than a basic email asking me to meet them – just ideas I think my students will benefit from so am sharing here. It’s also good to keep your eye on the general news with sites such as this which can help you identify potentially hot topics that people will one happy to talk about.

I also need to spend some time finding out who is working in the same field as me and researching issues of sustainable development, gender and education – the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies could be a good place to start !

So this blog is really to empty my head and share my wider generic feedback to my students on this module and to say you don’t need to write perfect blogs but the more you write the better you will get and the more you will have to reflect back on when you are writing your final report for this module – so happy blogging !

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Fair Connections Foundation 

Finding time to blog is something I really need to do as it’s one of the best ways to keep people updated on the work that I’m doing with both Fair Connections the company and Fair Connections Foundation.  This post will focus on telling those who supported me last year on what was done with the money raised and what my next plans are.  Over the summer, as well as having a much needed holiday, I have been working with three LJMU funded interns. Josh, who is entering his final year of Media Production, has worked on some of my film clips from Nepal and has produced some excellent short films to show case the work that I have been doing.  Meeca, recently graduated from Education Studies, has been helping develop and brand the lesson plans that support both the story sack, Fairis book and Baby Monkey puppet set. Finally Karla, who is competing her Sociology degree, is helping me develop the business side of the company and will be helping me promote the educational products to schools in the next few months.

Fair Connections Foundation

Some of you may know about, or may have donated to, my Foundation. This Foundation was set up to enable me to work with organisations like the Pahar Trust  Nepal and Global Action Nepal so that we can provide more puppet story sacks, books and training in Nepal.  Schools in Nepal who had received the GIFTS sack and training in 2015 gave great feedback and asked for more resources and training.

For more information on the Fair Connections Foundation please visit the web site

Fair Connections Foundation

So last year I raised more than two thousand pounds and this was used in February to pay for the Baby Monkey puppet sets, Baby Monkey and Adventures of Fairis a Nepali Frog books to be made in Nepal.  More than 30 schools received the Baby Monkey book and puppets and training was provided in both Pokahara, with the support of Chrissy from the Pahar Trust, and in Sikles with support from Kiran Bohara.

It’s so important to provide training to teachers and not just give them the puppet sets as this space provides the opportunity for teachers to build their confidence, develop their own ideas and suggest new ways to use these and other resources, in a fun and engaging way. Training sessions provide a good opportunity for teachers to gain news skills but also to connect to other teachers working towards improving the quality of education in their schools. When I return to Nepal on a LJMU British Academy funded research trip later this month I plan to visit some of these schools to see how the resources are being used and to help share their ideas within the wider network. I will feedback here as a blog in November.

This video shows how fun and interactive the training is and captures the impact that it has on the teachers.

Training with puppets in Pokhara

Click here to see the video play – and thanks to Josh Blewitt for great editing

Story Sack training in Pokhara

In the Sikles sector teachers came from surrounding  schools in their own free time to have further training and to see how the puppets could be use in both the primary and secondary schools.  It also provided me with an opportunity to talk about my current research with Kay Standing into menstrual  health and the teachers have asked me to go back and share more information on this when I’m next in Nepal. Again watch this space for blogs on this and follow me on Facebook, Instagram or twitter for updates and please comment and give me feedback !

We had two small book launch events in February to celebrate the publication of the two books with supporting puppets sets – one written by myself and one by Susan Green from the Pahar Trust.  At the launch in Pokhara Ramesh Karki and the headmistress Anita Sigdel brought children from Srijana Residential Higher Secondary School for the Deaf. These young students acted out the story of Fairis as a drama using the puppets, sign language and art work that they had made which really brought the story to life.  This school would really benefit from a friendship link to a UK school with experience of teaching and supporting young deaf people – if you have any ideas or contacts please get in contact with me.

Pictures do not do justice to the play that these talented young people performed – a massive Namaste to all of you who did such a good job 🙏🏼


If you would like to buy the Baby Monkey 🐵 book and puppet set or the Adventures of Fairis a Nepali Frog 🐸 please visit the Fair Connections company web site.  



If you would like to donate to more schools receiving the puppet story sacks and training then please visit the Fair Connections Foundation Web site and don’t forget to add gift aid to make your money go even further !



Also please comment when you donate if you have particular schools you would like to support so we can help you develop your connections with places that are special to you ! 

One of the things I love about my work in Nepal is when organisations come together to work together and share good practice. Working at Liverpool John Moores University has enabled me to travel to Nepal on a regular basis and I work hard to marry my academic work with activist work.

More blogging posts coming soon 




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Intonation, Nepali and story telling 

I have loved sharing the Baby Monkey book and talking about Nepal over the past few days in primary schools in the Isle of Man who have links with the Pahar Trust Nepal. There really is a special relationship between the Isle of Man and Nepal with some of the towns being twinned.  The Pahar Trust Nepal has built over 130 schools in Nepal over the past 24 years and has created new and exciting links between these schools in Nepal and schools in the UK and Isle of Man.

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Going into primary schools and showing young people the impact that better schools and better classrooms have on children in Nepal is always rewarding and I’m filled with admiration for teachers who work so hard to support young children in their learning – it really is a very tiring but massively rewarding job. So to all teachers out there a very happy #WorldTeachersDay 🙏🏼


One thing which children are always amazed to learn is how children in Nepal from a very young age not only learn how to read and write in Nepali but also learn to read and write in English as well – imagine having to learn two alphabets ! One of the things that I love is that the Nepali alphabet is phonetic so once you learn the shape and sound you can start to build up worlds very quickly though half letters can be a bit more challenging. Children love to learn how to say their names in Nepalese and pick it up very quickly.

Nepali alphabet from book

It’s also very easy to teach children in primary school how to say their name in Nepalese. Learning to say my name is …. and my name isn’t …… takes no time at all.


Another factor when learning how to speak any language is the impact of voice, tone and emotion.  The key message in the Baby Monkey book is the importance of being politie when asking for help. Baby Monkey wants his mummy. Before reading the story or using the puppets it’s always good to get young people to practice all the ways you can say – I want my mummy – get them to use happy, sad, upset, angry and even furious voices before you read the story.


For the Baby Monkey story to work the voice used needs to be one of rudeness and anger.

The concept of politeness translates very easily into Nepali as different conjugations of the verb are used to indicate if you are saying please or not. By adding NUS onto the base of the very you are actually saying please !
Let’s take the example of asking people to stand up or sit down and the use of – nus- in Nepali

This can be a fun game for children to do and I am always amazed at how quickly children pick this up and how quickly they can use it with other verbs – examples of which are found in the back of the Baby Monkey book.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and feedback and comments dinus 🙏🏼

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Taking students to Nepal 

I’ve been to Nepal 30 times over the past 30 years and really want to make time this year to reflect on my experiences and maybe even write a book – but my focus at the minute has to be on finishing the small research project on Mensutral Health and developing the Fair Connections company and Foundation. I’ll blog on this soon to update you all but before I do that I just wanted to reflect on how amazing it is that my job has allowed me to take so many people to Nepal. This year for the second time I led a field work module to Nepal for final year students studying Sociology or Criminology and Sociology

Whilst taking a large group of people to Nepal has many challenges the fact that the students had all developed their own research proposals and went with a positive attitude to learn from local people and to build on the research skills they had developed in their second year meant that once again I too learnt many new things about the country I love so much. Sometimes blogging and pictures just can’t do justice to the impact of visiting Nepal. 


In June I presented a paper at LJMU Teaching and Learning Conference on the impact of international field work on students and contacted students from past years to gain more insight into this. It was so rewarding to hear from ex-students how life changing this experience had been for them and how it had impacted on their future careers.

Whilst developing the presentation I utilised the skills of my intern who was working for Fair Connections, Josh Blewitt in Media Production at LJMU and he produced this excellent short video which to me captures the impact perfectly.

Click here for link to video

 Also reading the blogs and coursework produced by my students further reinforced my commitment to international field work wether it be to Nepal, Brussels or in 2018 to Amsterdam. Field work is so much more than a holiday – it’s an opportunity to connect to local people and to put your sociological imagination and skills into practice in a real world setting. 

It’s one of the reasons I love my job so much  !

Here is one of the students blogs from this years visits

Click her to read more of this blog 

If my students who went are reading this want to share their blog posts please let me know and I can add them here or add the links to this post in the comments below as you should all be proud of the work that you did and I know others will enjoy reading them as much as I did ! If you want your work to be shared as a PDF again let me know and we can get this back to the people in Nepal who so kindly shared their time and passion with you all

Namaste 

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Fair Connections – ready to launch 

Fair Connections has been developing as a small company over the last two years. It has taken a lot of time and effort to write the story of Fairis and his fair trade adventure and to develop the business model so that now – Fair Connections is ready to launch in March this year !

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I have also spent time testing out the story and puppets in Nepal with local schools, supported by Kiran Bohara and Global Action Nepal.  Some of the schools who have been given the packs are Pahar Trust Schools and other were connected to the work of GAN. Getting feedback from local teachers ha been vital and a lot has been learnt. I now know I need to find a business partner to help this Community Interest Company (CiC) realise its potential. Setting up the foundation in October 2016 to work along side the company has given me the focus and clarity that I think was needed for the company and its aims to make sense.  So when a story sack is bought in the UK for use in primary schools a £50 donation will be made to Fair Connections Foundation.

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Working together supporting local teachers and villages improve education in Nepal

The foundation also allows people contribute towards resources and training being provided in Nepal with the benefit of gift aid being able to be added on making your donation go even further. If you want to donate just click here and if anyone wants the packs and training to go to specific clusters of schools that they are connected to in Nepal then this can be arranged.  The training and resources work best when there is a network of schools using the resource and is important that the schools is already on a journey towards becoming more child friendly. One thing I have learnt in the past year is that the puppets and books are not an entry point product.  Schools first need a safe environment, basic resources such as books and a library and be starting to look at ways they can make teaching more fun and engaging.  Post earthquake Nepal, some schools just need to focus on getting up and running again and make sure that the children are supported in their education. One thing that the puppets do however is bring some joy into the classroom and in some schools are being used as a treat at the end of the day to motivate children!

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Fairis in Nepal

As well as getting feedback from Nepal I have been testing out the market in the UK and gaining invaluable feedback from schools here on the different ways that the story can be used.  All of this information has been added to the educational resources which support the story sack and are available when the story sack is purchased.  I have also been supporting the production of a new book and story sack written by Susan Green from the Pahar Trust. Like me, Sue has a passion for quality education and we both know and work with B K Shreshta from Global Action Nepal. A few years ago we had all noticed a lack of and need for more child friendly story books in Nepal based on Nepalese characters. Thankfully a few years later a whole range of new books have been launched written by and for Nepali people. Sue had written a book which focused more on early years based on a Baby Monkey character from Chitwan National park.  Together with the support of staff at Suryamukhi Handicrafts we have developed a super cute set of animal hand puppets that are featured in the book.  These are currently being made ready for a launch event on Valentines day this year in Pokhara – come back to find out more !

When I was in Nepal in December I shared this new book and puppets in a number of schools, some who had my puppet story sack and others who didn’t and the feedback was amazing. One teacher on seeing both books and puppets sets said that it was beyond the imagination ! Sharing these puppets has given us more of an idea of what to add to the back of the book to help explain how to use them and made me realise that this puppet set, with its much simpler story aimed at the younger years, made a much better training set.  So the two sets really do compliment each other and once again by working with Sue from PTN and the producers in Nepal another win win fair connection has materialised.

Developing ideas for the new Baby Monkey puppet set – being launched soon !

So where are we at now ? 

Both books and puppet story sacks will be launched this February whilst I am in Nepal on field work visit with my students from Liverpool John Moores University. I am going to use funds that I have raised from the Impact Marathon fund raising call through my foundation web site to provide the Baby Monkey book and story sack sets to schools in Nepal with further training provided by Global Action Nepal. The books are being printed in Nepal by Himalayan Map House and we will have a launch event in both Pokhara and Kathamandu. It’s so exciting to have them both ready to share as they work so well when put together as the people and animal puppets can then be used in so many other ways.

In the back of Baby Monkey book there is some Nepali, including how to ask for things and how to count, and in the back of my book there are other Nepali words and the alphabet meaning children here in the UK can also learn a little bit of Nepali as well.  When I get back from Nepal I will be contacting primary schools to share these two resources and helping to build further links between schools here in the UK and Nepal whilst at the same time deepening people’s knowledge about both Nepal and fair trade ! Win win all round.

 

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Both books and story sacks ready to be launched !

If you are interested in your school buying these books and puppet sets then please get in touch (sara@fairconnections.org) and please pass on details to any interested parties. If you know any schools in the UK looking to develop a friendship link then again drop me an email and I will point you in the right directions. At the moment the puppets are only available as a full set but we are hoping to have the main characters available in the near future to be sold along with the books. When the story sacks are bought from Fair Connections funds raised will be used to provide these resources in Nepal.  If you are in Nepal puppets can be bought directly from Suryamukhi Handicrafts or from WSDO’s shop Woven in Lakeside or at Fair Circle in Thamel. Both of these organisations are registered with WFTO which like the Fairtrade Foundation work hard to promote trade justice within the world.

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What do you see in these logos ? Can you see the connection ?

People often ask me what changes I have seen in the last 30 years and one of the thing which is great to see is the rise of fair trade products and other social businesses developing that are all working to promote women’s empowerment through developing high quality products and paying the producers a fair salary for their work. Not all organisations are registered with WFTO and FTGN as this takes time and funds. It would be great to see the network grow and new businesses supported to further strengthen the solidarity economy. There has also been a rise on fair trade retail outlets in Nepal to meet a local and international market, such as ACP’s Dhukhuti, Sana Hastakalaand other WFTO registered outlets in Kathmandu. These shops sell a wide range of fair trade products handmade in Nepal by a range of organisations.  I have co-authored a paper on the rise of fair trade consumption in the ‘Global South’ and hope to do more work in this area in the future as we have a lot to learn from these innovative organisations, many of whom were practicing ‘fair trade’ long before the word became popular! If you know of more just comment below and I will add in a link!

If you want to know more about Fair Connections Foundation then click on the link – if yo already know about the work that we are doing and just want to donate to resources and training being provided in Nepal please click here to DONATE

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Fair Connections and all of its partners are committed to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals but are especially committed to those above

news of the book launches coming soon – watch this space – thanks for reading

 

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The impact of running Impact Marathon Series (IMS), Nepal Marathon 

I have been meaning to write about the impact of the Nepal Marathon, which took place in November last year, for a while now but just haven’t had the time.  Now as you all know I’m not a runner and I didn’t run it – and I didn’t walk the route in the end but I did manage to get there on the Friday night and helped to capture the experience of the day by helping out with taking photos.  I can’t really talk about the impact that it had in the runners, they do this well themselves in their own blog posts. Also, the impact of the funds raised on the local NGOs will, no doubt, on social media and on the Impact Marathon Series site.

What I do feel able to comment on is the impact of the event on the Nepali participants that I spoke to and on the potential future impact.

Firstly Global Action Nepal was one of the 8 NGOs in Nepal that was connected to IMS – and is one that I know well. Inspired by the idea of running to have an impact, Katherine in the UK who works on GAN’s school links (EASEL) initiated  a fun run ‘Run for My School’ where schools in the UK and Nepal ran together at the same time to raise funds for their own communities.
I was lucky enough to to go and see the pure joy and excitement that this created in two schools I managed to visit. It was the first time that these schools had asked parents to sponsor their children doing a fun run, and in each school this had raised  over 4,000 rupees (this is about £35 but compared to the average salary of a teacher of £150 it is quite an amount). Money aside, however, the biggest impact was the fun that the kids had all running together for their own school and the sense of togetherness it created.  Kids in Nepal and the UK were running at the same time. Katharine, the organiser, summed up the impact by saying  that it is definitely something worth repeating and that for her “it felt so powerful, everyone running together – really felt like it brought us closer together. X”

Schools that took part in Nepal are Chuni Devi (linked to Zelda School),  Jana Uddhar (linked to Sithney), Chandi Devi (linked to St Peters School, Cowfold), Bal Kumari (linked to Seamab School, Scotland) and Tri Ratna (linked to Bacchus Marsh Grammar, Australia). I managed to visit both bal Kumari and Chuni Devi both of which I hope to go back to in the near future.

Great turn out at Chuni Devi school for their first fun run


On Impact Marathon Day itself it was amazing to see so many local participants turn up to take part in all three runs.  The numbers  speak for themselves with 355 out of the total 433 runner being Nepali. As bus loads of participants turned up I was struck by how many groups of young girls and women there were and by how far many of the people had travelled. I took the opportunity to take photos of as many people as I could and ask people why they had come to take part. One family’s story that stood out was that of a father and daughter team who were running, he ran in the 21 k and she in the 10k. As we waited for the races to start I spoke to them both and also the younger daughter who had not yet started running but told me with a big smile on her face that she soon would be. The father had run many races in the past and was proud that his daughter also ran. Little did I know when I spoke to them but his daughter was the female winner of the 10k race making him even prouder. Videos of people sharing their views will be posted here when edited.

Two generations of runners

Beni and her team from STEPS foundation had also entered the race at the last minute as she had previously organised a run herself to promote ‘End Violence Aainst Women’. Next year she hopes that more women she works with can take part as she sees running as a force for empowerment and change by showing women that they can do anything if they put their mind and feet into to it !

Inspired by Mira and inspiring others !

When asking many of the participants, especially the young girls who their inspiration was it was no great suprise to hear the name ‘Mira didi’ as the answer.  What made the day even more special for all, local and non local, was that Mira Rai came to Kakani to support the event. Whilst she didn’t run due to resting from an injury, she not only spoke to most of the runners but also led a warm up session and handed out prizes at the end.  She didn’t just pay a flying visit to the event, she gave advice, cheered and supported the whole day. Her enthusiasm for running was clear to see!

Warming up with Mira  Rai

Mira is on the list of women that I want to interview as being an Inspirational Woman in Nepal. I know all who ran on that day and many many more will wish to congratulate her on recently winning the National Geographic  ‘Adventurer of the Year’ award. Couldn’t have gone to a better amabassdor for sport or women !

Appreciated by all the amazing Mira Rai the IMS inaugural race, Nepal Marathon.

More photos can be found here

Here’s to next year !

Sara

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Trekking to Tanting – will definately be back ! 

After visiting Chachowk and Taprang schools I set of to walk to Tanting down paths that are used a lot less today than when I lived in Nepal in 1992 since the building of the roads both along the top of the hills and along the Mhadi Khola river in the valley below.  In the main, the path down was clear to follow but now and again it was hard to work out which way to go – luckily for me I was walking with Guman Gurung who is a youth group leader and very active in the ACAPs Conservation Area Management Committee.  It was well worth the walk for both the views, excercise and also the conversation with Guman. Who would have thought I would have been wandering down a mountain side in Nepal trying to explain the madness of Brexit and Donald Trump and how it links to the need for unity and understanding and compassion.  The need for unity and compassion was something Guman totally agreed with and could relate to from living in Nepal and from his experiences of working in local villages supporting parents to encourage them to not only send their kids to school, but also to support their children to study at home, do their homework and realise their potential. It was a  real pleasure to meet him and he quite happily carried my bag which was very much appreciated ! I also learnt all about Tanting’s youth group and the very successful basketball teams that they have – two of which are champions of the Kaski district. 

I last walked along the Mhadi Khola in 2011, 5 years ago, with a small group of Geography students, Hom and Jit Gurung as well as my ex student Alyn. At that time a new macro hydro project was being discussed.  Today, 5 years later, it is almost complete and a second one is planned a little further upstream.  It’s being built at Chasu which is on the old path that I used to walk along to Sikles which used to have a small cluster of houses that always felt a little odd – a crossing of paths of people that when you entered always felt a little like entering a saloon bar in a western movie as people would just stare at me and whoever I was travelling with with a mixture of curiosity and hostility that is unusual for Nepal – Rose and I used to refer to it as dodge city and it always felt good to have passed through it ! 

The new hydro plant which now stands in that place is massive compared to the one that was built in the early 1990’s much further up the river and I’d never seen it up close.  I had mixed feelings as the new plant will obviously bring much needed power to people in Nepal – but the paths I walked so many times back in 1992 have now gone forever – still I have the memories of them and seem to be able to walk all over Nepal now saying I used to come here when it was all fields – literally !

Water power flowing from the mountains down to the almost complete macro hydro project

 Hard to capture the size of the plant that’s being constructed 

From here the walk up to Tanging was a mixture of road walking and taking short cuts along the old paths and stopping for noodle lunch –  about half an hour before reaching Tanting we hitched a ride in a passing jeep meaning we got to Tanting a little earlier to the most amazing welcome by Prakash Gurung, who is the the local headmaster, and a group of students from school who had come to meet us. I had met Prakash a few years earlier at a conservation day event in Sikles and have heard very good things about his school which I had wanted to visit for along time.  Walking there made the visit even more special as it brought so many memories back of walking to Sikles and made me realise whenever I can I must make the time to walk from village to village and has even given me some new ideas for potential education environmental tours. 

A warm welcome and lovely light in Tanting 

Tanting, for those of you that don’t know is on the opposite hillside to Sikles and is now only a two hour jeep drive away from Pokhara. So I have spent many a night looking over and wondering what it’s like compared to Sikles.  Many of the people I know, especially women, in Sikles were born in Tanting and I know quite a few people based in the UK from Tanting so I had heard a lot about it over the years.  

Sikles by day and by night – no words 🙏🏼


Tanting in many ways is similar to Sikles, though smaller, it has a vibrant community, strong leaders and an active youth and an excellent school with dedicated teachers and students.  Tanting though has more home stays than Sikles which it has opted for instead of hotels which are run by a committee to ensure that guests who arrive rotate between the various homes – I need to check but I think there are 13.  I stayed with a local teacher Manju whilst I was there as a big group of Austrailan and New Zealand guests were arriving the next day in an Engineers Without Borders study tour, facilitated by the Three Sisters, which quite luckily coincided with ACAPs Conservation Day Celebrations the next day on Saturday 10th Dec.

Waking up in Manju’s home felt so like waking up in Sikles with the sound of tea being made, cockerels crowing and the gentle hustle and bustle of people starting to wake up.  I was gutted that my camera battery had run out and due to a damaged micro hydro there was temporarily no electricity in Tanting and my spare batteries had been left in Pokhara.  The previous evening sitting round the fire light with no electricity again took me right back to Sikles in 1992 when none on the villages in this area had electricity. I took up the offer of a hot shower at the local Gomba which meant I washed my hair, but it had no door di I just washed my hair  – the local monk assured me there would be one there next time I visited! He was busy preparing for a puja that was being held later that day and the following day for a local man who had passed away and many people were traveling up from Pokhara and the surrounding villages to attend this ceremony. Back at Manju’s Prakash turned up and took me off to a local hair cutting ceremony that takes place when a boy has his first hair cut.  The young child seemed most displeased to be having his head shaved and it seemed as though half of the village had turned up for the most delicious breakfast and sit around chatting. Again it’s hard to explain how and why but just being here on my own, joining in with the rhythm of everyday life, really did feel like being back in Sikles all those years ago. 

It made me realise I need to look back through all my diaries and letters from that time and work on a paper that reflects my changing experiences of Nepal.  To do this I’d need to get a sabbatical and have an aim such as a book to write or bid to develop and at the moment I have too much new research and work to be done but I’ll add it to my to do list. We then set off to spend the rest of the morning in the school which as you can see is on the edge of the village in a stunning location.

Tanting school and grounds constructed with support from the Pahar Trust Nepal 

Both primary and secondary schools are based here and the school has a good play ground, a computer lab with wifi, a well stocked library, separate toilets for boys and girls and a hostel for children in class ten so they can concentrate on studying for their school leaving certificate exams in their final year. It’s not just the building and locality that make this school special though you could feel the enthusiasm of the teachers for their school. Tanting is twinned with Debden and Wimbish in Essex and has benefitted from training, friendship visits and Prakash the headmaster has visited the UK and Isle of Man as part of this school link.  In addition to this Prakash has recently completed his masters in South Korea and is full of good ideas on how he and his team can work together to continue to improve the school for the local children.   They are also working towards a British Council International Schools Award and teachers get the opportunity to attend training sessions in Kathmandu on a variety of topics such as internationalising the curriculum. Some of the children had conducted a clean up campaign the day before and the rubbish collected  was ready to be sorted and disposed off appropriately. One dilemma they face though, like most rural villages, is what to do with all the plastic that ends up there  as rubbish.  Often it is thrown into the water ways or burnt, neither of which are actual solutions. One teacher suggested there was a ban on plastic in the village and another suggested it was sent back to where it came from for disposal.

Rubbish ready for sorting  but what to do with the plastic ? 

The rest of the morning, being mindful not to disturb the school day, I visited each class asked them what they were learning and then linked what I said to that class to the subject they were studying. With the younger children I took the opportunity to show them the Baby Monkey puppet story and then Manju took the set to use in her class next door.  As Friday is a half day it was good to see that they school had organised extra curriculum activites and a debate taking place on the importance of education.  Boy and girls took it in turns to share their opinions  as to why school was important in front of their peers giving them a great opportunity to develop their public speaking skills.  This young girl was very passionate about education and was someone I would meet again later that day ! 

Public speaking practice after school 

Following on from this I was invited to explain my puppet story sacks as well as share my thoughts about what I thought was needed to improve the school in a staff student interaction session.  Both teachers and the students enjoyed the story of Fairis and his adventures with teachers and students taking on the roles of key characters in the story.  Teachers thought it was an excellent resource and one said that it was ‘beyong the imagination!” Then I turned the next session into a ‘what do you think needs doing to your school to make it better session’ using the if your dream is to have a better school what needs to be done for you to plan and achieve it question –  everyone had to write down one one idea on a post it note before sharing them and seeing what key ideas emerged. There were some great suggestions and things like unity amongst staff, commitment amongst students and more training and interactive teaching methods being used featured high on the list of things that would help develop the school even further.  There was an obvious respect between students and teachers and vice averse which was refreshing to see and both the student body and their teachersare all really committed to making Tanting the school the best that it can be.  

Handing over Adventures of Fairis a Nepali Frog and the puppet story sack 

After leaving the school and wandering into the village I was so happy to meet up with Mana from the Three Sisters who had arrived with a large group of students who were there on a study tour with Engineers Without Borders to learn from the local people over the next 5 days.  I was especially pleased as Mana had brought up my spare batteries which meant I could use my bigger camera. As they were heading to the school that I had just left I headed off into the village to try to capture the ambience and sunset.  I had hoped that my good friend and social activist from Sikles, Ganga Maya, who was from Tanting , could have been in the village with me but due to family commitments she had had to remain in Pokhara.  As I was clicking away towards the mountains that were turning pink in the evening light a couple of children came along and joined in my photo shoot. Their mother looked on as they played with my hand puppets and I couldn’t have have wished for a better location or better light to capture the atmosphere. 

One older girl was watching me inquisitively and welcomed the opportunity to have her photograph taken. I starred to explain to her in Nepali that I had lived in Sikles 24 years ago and that one of my good friends Ganaga Maya who lived in Simles, had run the day care centre, ran my very first literacy discussion group and was one Ithe the ohitograohers in the Our Village Our Life project came from Tanting – the young girl looked at me and said that she was “Ganga Mayako  bahinniko chorizo” I’m Ganga Maya’s younger sisters’ daughter. 

Ganga Maya’s bahiniko chorri 

 Supirsed I asked her where Ganga Maya’s Amaa lived and she pointed to the nearest house.  I was so excited to not only find Ganga Maya’s maternal home but also to meet her mother that when she wandered into her courtyard I instinctively bent down to touch her feet as a sign of respect.  This is normal amongst Gurungs but isn’t something that I tend to do but Ganga Maya is such an amazingly active social worker in Sikles, who I have known since 1992 when she was a traditional birthing attendant and she also ran the first ever REFLECT centre in Sikles and after much discussion about caste and exclusion with her group they decided to build the first community hall in her ward to enable women from Gurung and Non Gurung castes to come together to learn to read and write. Anyone who has met Ganga Maya will understand why I was so emotional at meeting her mum, who to be honest was a little taken back by this random stranger telling her how amazing her daughter was! I was invited in for tea and transported back in time to when I spent so many hours round the fire with Bir Kumari and Grandma, both who have now passed away.  Talking to the family about Ganga Maya’s work and showing them her pictures in the ‘Our Village Our Life’ coffee table book really was one of the highlights of my visit to Tanting and next time I’m there I must make sure Ganga Maya is with me. I have presented papers in Kathmandu  with Ganga Maya and co-written a paper with her and others about literacy and empowerment in Sikles about gender and education in Sikles and her experiences of running a literacy centre. 

Ganga Mayako Amaa

 The next day was conservation day which ACAP hold in an annual basis, usually in Sikles, but this year in Tanting.  This was perfect as that coupled with the puja meant so many of the people that I knew had come to Tanting so I git to see lots of old friends as well as meet new ones whilst at the same time visit a place that was on my to go to list.  Being able to meet and see how the EWB group organised their meetings and interviews was also useful Mae me raise when I bring my students here in February it will be useful to have the suppor tot translations guides from the a three a sisters as they provided much more than just trekking support.  Catching up with Dicky as well was great as she and her two sisters feature on our Inspirational Women  resource kit which will be launched soon.  Plus she makes a mean pancake and had a real affinity with the local cat which was very cute. I would have liked to have spent more time talking to people and attending the whole conservation day but I was due back in Pokhara that night due to interviews I needed to do before heading back to Katmandu.  To that end I hitched a ride on the local bus which was jam packed gpfulk and meant I stood up all the way back down what can only be described as a road along a massive cliff edge which I would have rather walked down.  Next time I will definately arrange a jeep 😁

Just a selection of images more can be found on my Flickr site

Overall I had such a god time in Tanting and much prefer the road to it which is wider and quicker than the one to Sikles that from now on, whenever I can,  I will come to Sikles via Tanting. In  February next year I plan to bring my students here to test out the home stay, interact with local people  and the those who are keen can then walk to Sikles with me the next day, those that don’t want to can return to a Pokhara to continue their research – one thing a that is fir sure those …. as with Nepal – once is never enough 

Dhanyabad and pheri betaunla 🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼

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Walking old paths making new friends 

One of the main reasons for me visiting Nepal this December has been to follow up on how schools have been using the story sacks that I gave them a year ago to see if they are being used, having an impact and to get ideas on how they can be used in Nepal to help schools in their journey to becoming more child friendly, interactive fun places to be.  One thing which is clear to me is that my story sack isn’t an entry point product.  It’s definately a resource that has been designed for schools who are already on a journey working towards improving the quality of the education.  Too often in the past I, along with so many others, have donated books or toys to schools without much thought as to how and if they will be used.  Going all the way back to the mid 1990’s when myself and a friend donated some money to one school for books only to return the year after to find that a large metal cabinet had been bought and the schools library books had had been locked away in it to keep them neat and tidy.  This wasn’t what we had intended but it was what the teachers had wanted so what could we do? At this time books were scarce and keeping them in good condition was seen to be important so it’s nice to see in so many of the schools that I visit today that they have well stocked, well used libraries supported by local Government, local people and a whole host of International and local NGO’s. 

These book wall sets from USAID are an excellent idea making books accessible to all as they are in each classroom 

I also wanted to visit Chachowk school too help explain and plan a visit that is happening in Februrary 2017 by a teacher from their friendship school in Liverpool.  I, and 15 students from LJMU, will also be joining a Pahar Trust Nepal group who are visiting in February. It was so nice to go alone and spend time just hanging out at the school, without any fuss or welcome, just blending in and observing and chatting to the teachers. Schools in the Sikles Kaski area have benefitted from schools being built by the Pahar Trust Nepal and libraries being developed by the Cairn Trust as well as from training and support by Global Action Nepal. Local people have supported these projects and it never ceases to amaze and inspire me how the local communities work together to help collect the rocks and material needed for the building work to be completed and the commitment they have to improving their schools.  This commitment goes way back as communities have always had to work together to build local schools in the mountains of rural Nepal. All of this support has had a visible impact not only physically but also on the atmosphere within the schools. I wasn’t there to evaluate them in any way just to get feedback on the puppet story sack I had given them last year to see how they were using it and what suggestions they had. The teachers and children had really embraced the story and characters and used them in different ways in different classes.

It was so nice to just be there on my own quietly joining in.  The visit in February will be more of a big group visit when we we will be welcomed and treated as guests so I made the most of being just ‘Sara didi’.  I already knew that the teachers were using the puppets and story creatively and that they has asked Kiran if there were any more stories that could be used.  So it was great to share with them the forthcoming Baby Monkey story written by Susan Green from PTN with its set of new animal based characters.  Again all are made by women working at Suriyamukhi handicrafts in Pokhara, associated with Children Nepal.


This new book is aimed at the early childhood age and has a simple message of the importance of being polite. Sharing the puppets gave me some good feedback and ideas on how we can develop the ‘how to use the puppets’ section at the back of the book as well as well to adapt the way we store the puppets – more detail on this will follow in the new year. The response I got was great though and I can not wait to share it with these schools in February  when we plan to launch both Sue’s and my book. I also handed over some great work done by children in Liverpool comparing things like weather in Nepal and the U.K. in terms of temperature and rainfall in both a table and bar chart and also ven diagrams of what is the same and different in terms of things like clothing and food between the Uk and Nepal – all ideas the teachers loved and one of the great benefits of having a friendship link like this – the children in both link schools get so involved and learn so much from these connections.  I left with a whole pile of letters being sent back to their school in Liverpool which helps to keep the link alive.

Doing a quick needs analysis activity with a local primary school.

Sharing the puppets – very exited children 

I then left the primary school and walked up to the secondary school to spend some time with teachers I had met there in the past. Currently only the primary school has a friendship link and the teachers at this, as well as many other schools, are keen to develop links with schools overseas so that their children can also write letters, learn about global issues and make global contacts – so if anyone out there is a teacher in either a primary or secondary school interested in setting up a friendship link the please do get in touch and I can point you in the right direction of connecting you to an organisation who can help you create a link that will benefit both schools in Nepal and also your own children. I am always amazed and touched by the letters that are sent between friendship schools and the way that young children can learn about the similarities as well as the differences between their own environment and that in Nepal.  

As the two schools have sepearate  buildings they hadn’t heard about my story sack and book so I took some time to explain what is was and how it could be also be used for secondary as well as younger children. It was quite useful to  have the time to demonstrate it and the teachers seemed to be interested in using it. In many villages in Nepal all classes from day care to class ten (ie from infants all the way through to school leavers when they are 16 or 17) are in one building but in others they have separate buildings, as they do in Chachwock, and when schools are in two separate buildings it can be hard to coordinate and share good ideas. Creating a link between a secondary school in Liverpool and the secondary school in a Chachowk could also then help to develop links between primary and secondary schools within both Liverpool and Chachwock as well which would help with the transition between primary and secondary for young people as well. Another benefit of school friendship links is that it can help developed links between schools within the UK who share a common interest in Nepal. In the UK St Michaels in the Hamlet in Liverpool have developed links with Grange Overs Sands primary school due to their connections in Nepal. Children and teachers in Nepal have so much to learn from and with each other – all that’s needed is some fair connections! 

In the Kaski area both GAN and Cairn Trust are working together to help support and train teachers in Early Childhood teaching methods. This programme covers 5 of the schools in the Sikles side of the Valley.  Workshops and training events are provided as well as resources which help to make the schools more child friendly but also this programme always helps develop a network of support between the schools involved in this programme.

I then walked from Chachowk to Taprang, past the small hidden away school in Melbot which is due to be upgraded soon, with the support of Malcom Peck and his contacts from Australia and then hiked up the hill to Thak to avoid the dusty road which is used by the Jeep.  I was rather excited when we reached Thak, much to the confusion of my two guides, as this is the village that Alan MacFarlane had lived and studied back in the late 1960’s, in fact he lived there the year I was born, and I’d never had reason to go there.  His book The Gurungs of Nepal is a must read for anyone traveling in this area as its full of information and just to walk through Thak was amazing – the views were stunning and I can easily see why this is a place that Alan and his wife Sarah continue to visit and support today – home stay is available and I’d love to go there for longer next time as it was great to avoid the dusty jeep roads which makes life so much easier for local people but less romantic and remote for tourists! 

To truly get off the beaten track I would book with Dil Maya Treks  who is from Thak or the Three Sisters who are based in Pokhara.

View from Thak just breathtaking 

Arrived rather later in Taprang to be met by the ex headmaster from the local school,  Nanda Raj Gurung, who despite being retired still helps out in school. Quite a quiet night in the local hotel and next day visited the secondary school and took the opportunity to join  in an extra English class and use the puppets to help teach the idea of is, is not and isn’t – my name is Fairis my names is not Fred my name isn’t Ram …. Good to see the children using their imaginations to come up with new names.

I didn’t have long in Taprang but I did manage to observe a class where the local teacher used the puppet story sack and had written his own story about Fairis and Chalak visiting the zoo – I will blog about this separately but it was great to see both the teacher and students really enjoying and responding to the puppets. Again the extra story and puppets which are coming will ally help develop the value it the story sack that I have developed. 

Using Chalakh and Fairis in the classroom 

Amazing views from Taprang and good to see teachers doing such a good job 

I then set off to walk to Tanting, the village opposite to Sikles that I had never been to, as back then after an 8 hour hike to Sikles there was little motivation to go down the hill and up the other side – this year however Conservation Day was in Tanting plus I had always wanted to go so that’s what I did! See next blog post …. 

Sara 

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My own impact walk …… 

This post is to thank all the people that have sponsored me for the Impact Marathon walk – which I wasn’t able to do as I had to delay my flight to make sure my mum didn’t need an operation on her shoulder – which thankfully she didn’t. Since I’ve been here I have probably well more than walked a marathon running round in my usual manner working, researching and developing new contacts.  I’m well known for saying in speeches in Nepal “Ma aaune jaane aaune jaane dheri paltak kukra justai laag cha” which when said in my very village based Nepali accent (a little like Peter Kay) I come and I go come and go many times – just like a chicken! Though I have been told the saying in Nepal is that I rush about so much I’m like a goats tail ! 🙏🏼😂🐐😂🙏🏼  I discovered I have a health app on my phone which shows how much more active I am where I’m here so I’m going to challenge myself to run around as much when I’m back in the UK ! 
So what have I been doing ? Well my flights are paid for by a British Academy grant so my main reason for being here is to start this  research project on the impact of reuseable sanitary pad kits on women and girls lives here in a Nepal.  A number of NGOs Kay and I know asked if we could help evaluate the work they were doing to see what impact they kits are actually having here in Nepal – we have a short prezi on this that we will update as well go along and learn more which can be viewed here – and already I have learnt so much from the NGO’s I’ve talked to – can’t wait to get the actual research done and then bring all the amazing people together that I have met, and am sure will meet, to share good practice and see how we can influence policy and eduction on the a of reproductive and sexual health.  Genuinely inspired by all amazing people who I have met, who need to stay anonymous for research purposes but includes international and local contacts and one person who, inspired by this Ted talk, on world menstration day last year got most, not all, of the men in his office to wear a sanitary pad for the day – and I’ve been challenged to see how many men in my work I can get to do this next May 28th – so watch this space and wish me luck ! 

Sanitray pads  – reusable washable hygiene kits 

Also on Friday the 25th I supported Global Action Nepals first ever school international fun run ‘Run for my School’ involving schools in the UK and Nepal running in the same day to raise money from their local communities.  This event was inspired by the Impact Marathon Series and some of the runners visited GANs projects to learn more abou their work on the Tuesday before this run.  I have taken photos and video of the event to share back in the UK once I have stronger  wifi but the day involved sharing a short video message from schools connected to each other by GAN EASEL project and it was such a joy to see students here in Nepal not only running but raising funds for their own schools from their own family and friends.  The main organiser Katherine in the UK said that from her end that it was a great success and definitely thinks it is something worth repeating and that for her it felt so powerful, everyone running together. Really felt like it brought us closer together. 

At the start line of the Run For my School event Nov 2016 

I then managed to get up to Kakani to join the Impact Marathon Series runners and catch up with the amazing Trek Nepal team who had set up the most magical campsite it truly felt like you had arrived in never never land it was so pretty.  I won’t post any photos if you want to experience it sign up for next year ! The event brought international and local runners together who ran either a 10k, half or full marathon which most people said was the hardest thing they have ever done. My job that day was a little less tiring as I was roped into capturing the event with my camera.  What made the event special for me was the large numbers of Nepalis who took part in the event – including a team led by Beni from the STEPS Foundation, a team from Global Action Nepal and so so many girls ! I will write a full blog on this later to share some of these stories but having the one and only Mira Rai there provided such a buzz for the local participants and I was genuinely moved by the amount of time she gave to talk to the young runners, share her advice and basically just inspire all that net her with her smile determination and presence #powerofrunning #girlpower #icanrun 

Mira’s presence was a great source of inspiration for this group of young runners 

My Heath app tells me the day after race day I didn’t move about as much as normal but I think this will be offset by the energy it took us all to pack up the whole camp site which wasn’t helped by the wrong size truck turning up the next day.  I spent the next day with one of the runners who had come from the UK, Misha, and we went to the most powerful and emotional street play on gender based violence organised by Durga Ghimire and her team at ABC which moved me to tears  and highlighted how much more there is to do in Nepal for gender equality.

The drama was so well acted it made me cry – will post video on my you tube later 

In addition to the above I have also been getting feedback on my story sacks that I distributed last year as well as helping develop a new puppet based story and story sack written by Susan Green from the Pahar Trust Nepal, which compliments mine, and is based on animals found in Chitwan and featurs a very rude baby monkey.  I will do a separate blog on this later as My Health app also tells me that since arriving in Nepal on 23rd Nov until Dec 1st I had indeed walked a marathon doing all of the above – thankfully interspersed with some lovely nights at Sams bar and the Maya cocktail pub catching up with old friends and some visits to some temples along the way.

Meeting up with some of the runners over the next few days also highlighted to me that the impact of the run was not really in the run that they had done, nor the pipeline they had built with the local community nor even in  the funds that the race had raised (over £75,000 and counting) but the whole being in Nepal and interacting with so many local people had left everyone changed – and I hope that they, as well as you,  will be back in a Nepal very soon as Nepal really needs tourism now more than ever and as we all know……

Once is never enough ! 

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Mero aama … Mero Inspiration – my Mum my inspiration 

People often wonder where I get all of my energy,  creativity and passion from and in many ways it’s my mum. My lack of timekeeping untidiness and patience maybe from my dad!  I know many people know that two weeks ago, Saturday 12th Nov, the week before I was due to fly to Nepal, my mum had a really bad fall and I mean really bad fall in her home. She basically missed the bottom step and somehow managed to break her left arm and wrist, cut her head above her right eye and badly break and shatter her right shoulder.  She certainly doesn’t do things by halves!
It took four hours for the ambulance to come and get her to A&E and she was discharged back home with no overnight stay in hospital.  Two weeks later we still haven’t met anyone who can not believe that she wasn’t kept in for at least one night. Obvioulsy my mum would much prefer to be at home and has no desire to take up a bed but looking back we are all shocked she wasn’t kept in given the extent of her injuries even if just for s few days to have saved her the pain and tress of having to get to hopistal and back twice for X-rays and fracture clinic appointments.  Without being able to use either of her arms really has left her in a lot of pain and luckily she has my dad, brother,me and a great network of friends who have all been helping out.  That said  I have learnt a lot about the NHS and have come to understand the pressure that the system is under. Trying to find the right support and advice has meant a lot of phoning round and unnecessary stress which may have been avoided if the system worked better.  At least we have a NHS system in place though and the doctors and nurses have all been excellent it’s just that they and the care system are under so much pressure.  

My mother has now had a CT scan, seen the fracture specialist and knows that she’s got a long journey to recovery. The doctors are recommending that she lets the shoulder heal and then they will reassess the situation in six months to see if she needs an operation. Seeing my mum in so much pain has been really hard and a week later a care plan is staring to fall into place. I almost cancelled my flight to Nepal but my mum being my mum insisted that I go so here I am reflecting back on how great my mum is – I half wrote this post before I left for Nepal where I now am and am updating it now and posting it.

So – Given all of this I  delayed my flight to Nepal from the Saturday until the Tuesday and realised I wouldnt be able to complete the whole marathon walk by the time I expected to but it does mean that I can still support the global action nepal fun run and help out with international marathon next Saturday (See next post for details !).  I promised my mum that I’d keep them updated with what I’m doing.  Thankfully with Facebook, Skype and blogging I can do this.

The next blog post will keep people updated on what I will be doing so you can see the impact of the work I am doing with Fair Connections  Foundation – I will still be fund raising for the foundation to enable me to work with schools in Nepal whilst I’m there but I will organise a bigger fund raising event when I am back in the new year. I will focus on developing more connections and getting feedback from the schools already using the story sacks and will spend time finding out what it is that schools in Nepal need most and how they can be supported in making their schools more child friendly, engaging safe spaces for young Nepalis to be.

So how come my mum is so inspirational? 

Some of you will know my mum though many of you won’t.  Not being able to use both her arms and sit still is gong to be a challenge – she has always worked with and for other people from when I was little as a nurse, teacher, youth worker, running her own nursery when when brother was born and opening up her own shop selling new and second hand clothes before we moved to Singapore in 1984 and then teaching again both there and when she came back to the UK.  Through all of this she has also thrown herself into projects using her amazing sewing skills making costumes for plays and making the most amazing pictures with embroidery techniques that just have to be seen to be believed. Even when she had to retire due to her bad back she started her own business again running workshops teaching people to sew in ways they didn’t think we’re possible.

Just some of the amazing work my mum has done ! 

And some of the workshops she runs – though not for  a while I am sure she will be back doing this sooner than we all think ! 

There will be an exhibition of her work and her embroidery group in March next year details will be posted here Creative stitch studio

Even though she won’t be able to finish some of the pieces she was working on when she fell I know she will still work with the group of women in Diversity to get this exhibition up.  Even after she had been told that her right shoulder had been shattered she was trying to work out ways she could do some sewing ! 

There’s so much more I could say about my mum and how she has such strength – for as long as I have known she has suffered from bad back and neck pain but she had never let it stop her doing anything.  

So this blog is just to put it out there and say ‘I love you mum’ and will keep you posted with what I’m up to so that you can be as proud of me as I am of you LYUTTSABTT xxxx

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