05.16.2012 43 °C
We start off Day 8 at the Lumbini Eye Hospital to help Dr. Peter set up for his talk and take some pictures and videos of the surgeons doing cataract surgery. Dr. Peter is confused with the custom of Nepalese people shaking their heads while they say yes.
"Should I make the incision here doctor?"
"Yes Dr. Peter."
Luckily no patients were harmed.
After a few surgeries, the hospital's driver takes us to another school that has been organized by one of the teachers of Amar Jyoti Secondary High School. As much as it saddens us that we can no longer buy school supplies like originally planned, we are compensating by gathering lists of what schools want and allocating money accordingly. Although students are not in school due to the strike, those that are staying at orphanages, hostels, or boarding schools are at the schools to greet us.
Bahira Bal Higher Secondary School:
We drive to a remote part of town where civilization becomes scarcer and vegetation is more prevalent. The atmosphere here is rather pleasant and inviting. When we get to the first school today, a strange hush falls as we exit the van. I can only imagine that this is because we have arrived at Bahira Bal Higher Seconday School for the deaf. We meet with their friendly principal and are given a tour. The school is unbelievable. It's been designed so that the students are very self-sustainable and do most things themselves (including cleaning their own school bathrooms!) They have a print room where they make their own notebooks, a small library, and a computer room. Classrooms from kindergarten to grade 12 have loose floorboards that the teacher stamps to get attention as the students feel the vibration from it.
Since there are only 6 schools for the deaf in Nepal, many students must travel far distances, and therefore must live at the school. There are 2 rooms for girls and 1 for boys, complete with a kitchen/ study area and bathrooms. These are the students who stand outside to greet us by bowing and saying "Namaste."
Despite the obvious success that Bahira Bal Higher Secondary School has had from various donors, every place that we've been to has definitely needed some help. The principal has requested help with funding for a solar panel to alleviate the inconvenience of 12 or 13 hour power outages (even I'm getting a bit tired of showering in the dark). Their fundraising has brought them almost halfway to the price of the solar panel and we decide to give them enough of our funds to almost bring them to their goal. Even though we haven't brought anything of material to the school, our efforts all seem worth it when the principal kisses me on both cheeks and thanks us continuously. This gesture is by far one of my favourite and most rewarding parts of our trip thus far.
We leave the school as the students wave goodbye and the principal tells us that they will remember us forever.
The strike has proven to be more difficult than we had anticipated, and increasingly so as time progresses. We have received news that all schools are being shut down for the duration of the month. It seems that all Nepalese schools are on vacation for the month of June, but has been moved to this month. Fortunately, we have help from some amazing people, including Dr. Selma and a teacher from Amar Jyoti Secondary who has organized several more places for us to visit despite this major setback. We've agreed that we'd like to spread out our funds to as many places as we can while in Bhairahawa, so Stephen and I sort out donations between visits. We've also had a lot of help from Dr. Hari: optometrist, organizer, translator... What can't this man do?
Terai Development Forum (TDF):
We've decided to extend a bit out of our vision and donate to a local NGO whose goal is enhancing health, societal, and economical status of the needy in Nepal. Successful past and current projects include two eye camps (supported by Lumbini Eye Hospital), a potable water project, a nutrition program, and a vegetable production project. The founder of TDF is the husband of the teacher who has been helping us, so we are more than happy to support them. They're currently starting a new project called Child Help Line which is very similar to the Kid's Help Phone in Canada. After meeting with a few of their chairpeople, we are informed that nearly everyone in Nepal has a cell phone... farmers, beggars, you name it. TDF has already trained about 150 people to pick up phones and is hoping to decrease rates of children who run away from home or turn to drugs. Our donation is the first for the Child Help Line and will help them launch it.
Sister Jaya and the principal, Sister Josephine, take us for a tour of Amar Jyoti Secondary High school which is located across the street from the disabled center, both loacted in the heart of Bhairahawa. Although there are no students, the teachers have made and effort to come and show us around. In the ever-present heat, I can't image trying to attend class in the open and unconditioned classrooms, let alone pay attention. Perhaps it's a good thing I go to school in Canada. The sisters have come up with a large list of things that the school needs, including benches and chairs, a xerox machine, and sports equipment. We pick some items from the list and sort our donations so that the school will have enough one of the larger items and all of the small pieces of equipment they need.
Amar Jyoti's Center for the Differently-Abled is in need of a TV, a water boiler, a backup generator (like I said, power outtages are no fun and very frequent) and a CD player. Their current source of music is a tape player and, to be honest, I'm sure everyone at the center could use a break from 70's Nepalese music. The sisters invite us to their crib for dinner, which is impeccably clean and welcoming. We sit down with a couple of doctors from LEI and their children. Sister Jaya is the owner of their school and Sister Josephine their principal, so naturally they are scared beyond belief for this dinner. Digging into our first bites, we decide that this meal is probably tied with Dr. Selma's in terms of exquisiteness. Rice puff 'things' for an appetizer, rice and rice cakes for the main course, and I wouldn't be surprised if the yogurt for dessert somehow had rice in it. The sisters have prepared about 6 dishes for us and are incredibly warm and motherly.
"Here, take take momo"
"You want more momo? Take take."
(Momo is like a Nepalese dumpling..rather satisfactory)
After dinner, we present Sister Jaya with two envelopes; one with our donation for the Center for the Differently-Abled and the other for the High School. The sisters all accept gratefully and shake our hands one by one. I can't say enough how thankful we are to our donors of Nepal Vision because the money in the envelopes comes from them. It seems almost unfair that we are the ones getting all the thanks and kindess and I hope that these words and pictures can suffice to give my thanks for everyone's help.