Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Festive Gifts for school children

New stationery, festive gifts, and checking on the progress of sponsored children have been the most recent focal points for the team at the My Small Help office in Nepal. Two youngsters living near the tourist hotspot Thamel were bought new winter clothes, sponsored pupils at Sanjiwani Boarding (English medium school) School were given toys and stationery by their UK sponsor, and around 150 pupils at Shree Balprakash Secondary School were issued with new school jotters, pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners.


Watching the faces of the children at Shree Balprakash Secondary School (Kalanti Buumidanda VDC - 1, Kavre), aged between 5 and 12, when they received their new stationery was a privilege. Who would have guessed that six school jotters and some pencils could create such joy? As Pramila (My Small Help Accountant) and I (Jo Young, MSH volunteer) toured from class to class any onlooker would be forgiven for believing that we were celebrities. We were pursued by youngsters eager to maximise the time that they could see or hear us. As we visited each classroom a small entourage peeped through the bars (to allow ventilation, not imprisonment) on the windows, popped their heads round doors and a couple of the more mischievous ones managed to assume a position in the class before being spotted by the teacher.


The classrooms at this remote village school (45 kilometres outside Kathmandu valley) are a far cry from what we would like to imagine as an educational hub; spartan is too generous a description, whilst bare, empty, basic, and soul-less only go a tiny way towards painting a vivid picture. For many of the rooms the concrete walls are the blackboards, the stone floor becomes a table and a chair. The only thing giving these rooms any warmth or feeling at all is the teacher, the smiling faces of the children, and the donations that enable My Small Help to make a difference. The playground is ground, not a toy or goalpost in sight.


In the colder months, such as now, many classes are taught outside because the winter sun is the main source of heat. Stationery, it would seem, is also a source of heat because it planted a little seed of warmth and delight in the hearts of these children, and that heat radiates far more than any state of the art heating system. Thank you to all of the My Small Help sponsors who have made this contribution possible. Anyone who wishes to donate can click onto www.justgiving.com/childreninnepal or access the sponsorship page on the My Small Help website by clicking here; your compassion and kindness cross more than rugged terrain. Is there something you’d like to know more about in the lives of the children that My Small Help supports? If so please write a comment below and we’ll do our best to grant your festive wish…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Children in Nepal gain superhuman powers!


If a place existed where new jackets and trousers made children believe that they had superhuman powers then that place would be Marybert School and Orphanage, Nepal. With winter temperatures setting in the hours of darkness are currently around four degrees Celsius. If we’re nesting at home with central heating, double glazing and a wealth of cashmere then this temperature is not harsh, it’s a lot colder when you’re without basics such as heating and hot water. My Small Help has been shopping for wind and waterproof outerwear to ensure that the children at Marybert are warm and comfortable. The 18 children obediently queued up to receive their new clothing; each one beamed as they found the perfect fit, whilst some of the younger ones tested out the flexibility of the clothing with wildly entertaining arm and leg movements. For a moment I had a flashback of the many clothing stores I’ve visited around the world where we see youngsters pulling faces, wriggling in the outfit they’re trying on, and protesting to a harassed parent that it doesn’t fit, before asking for (occasionally demanding) a designer label. At Marybert these children beamed because the clothing, regardless of colour or style, fitted them and made them warm. Afterwards some of the younger ones (notably Prince and Kamal) spent a great deal of time folding their jackets and trousers neatly back into the original packaging and patting it down, as if to say ‘thank you for being mine and I’ll wear you tomorrow.’


Some of the young people supported by My Small Help are at secondary school and live at home (or with another support family) so we visited them to ensure that they were progressing well, and to check that MSH funds are being used in the best way possible. These visits also allow us to send updates to their sponsors, and enable more personal communication. Two of the young girls we met, Anjali and Alisha, had just returned from school to a dark stone built home (the
power outages strike again). Their mum was sitting astride a large wooden bench weaving a rug by hand. She told Raju (MSH President) that the rug will take her approximately eight weeks to complete at which point she will be paid around 6,000 Rupees (approximately £53 or $83). If she is late in finishing the rug she will be paid around 5,000 Rupees. I’m struggling to imagine anyone in the world (as I know it) carrying out such detailed, intricate and creative work for eight weeks for the sum of £53 or $83. Think back to the last time you spent £50-60 on an item (a sweater, pair of jeans, DVD box set, aftershave gift set) and then consider if you would still have bought it if you’d had to work eight weeks to fund it. For Anjali and Alisha’s mum this payment is their food and rent money. There are a lot of stark contrasts to consider here. For me it’s not about feeling guilty or curbing my spending habits, it’s about understanding and helping to make small but significant steps to a better future for the underprivileged families in Nepal (and work is on-going in Peru).


My Small Help sponsors are making this difference through their dedicated pledges; whilst I’m on the ground in Nepal I am their eyes and ears. The money is making a difference, and I can see that it is very much appreciated. The work that MSH carries out helps to empower these families by alleviating the financial pressure so that the children can be educated and create a better future for themselves. It’s about academic learning, and learning from the harsh experiences of their parents and elder siblings.
If you would like to help by donating a few pounds please click here http://www.justgiving.com/childreninnepal

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Volunteer Jo Young meets children of My Small Help...


It’s with a high degree of trepidation that I begin the bumpy and hazardous 40 minute tuk tuk journey to the My Small Help Office in Gwarko in Lalitpur, Nepal; the practical aspects of what I will do when I am here don’t concern me, but I can’t help but wonder how much of a difference I can actually make, and how I will feel when I burst the bubble of the Western world.


It’s one thing giving money to charity or tithing 10% of your income as those working towards ‘greater good’ so readily suggest, but time and vis a vis efforts might prove to be a bigger challenge for me. I expect smiles and tears, but it’s the unexpected smiles and tears that really meet your heart.

The smiles came quickly as I met the dedicated My Small Help team to discuss how best we could maintain and build on their current success. The small but functional office is just a few minutes walk from the Marybert School and Orphanage, where almost half of the pupils are financially supported by the charity.

As we approach the school I can already hear peals of laughter and giggling which, although I didn’t have any real expectations of how it would be, aren’t what I expected to hear at an orphanage (if that makes any sense!). The youngsters are cavorting around on the chute and climbing frame, lined up like chattering sparrows on a telephone wire, or gently tugging each other’s pigtails in good humour. It’s a beautiful sight. At least three of them rush towards me to say ‘namaste’ whilst earnestly pressing their palms together. ‘What is your name’ and for some reason the name ‘Joanna’ is suddenly the funniest name they’ve ever heard and they clutch their tummies whilst giggling. From this point onwards I decide to use my spiritually given name of ‘Jyoti’, which has more meaning to them, and this part of the world.

There are no tears here, only happiness from the children and I’m already forced to reconsider my self-built images fuelled by Oliver Twist. The children are thrilled to see Raju (My Small Help President) and gather around our feet like ants to a jam pot. As we ask the children questions so that I can write up colourful profiles for the website I’m struck by the beauty of each of these children. They have little or nothing of material consequence but they each have spirit, hope and love and rapidly pull out letters and photographs of people who have helped sponsor them. They gleefully report ambition to be doctors and vets and teachers; listing a desire to help as the reason for their choice.

Help is the keyword for the next few months that I will spend in Nepal. I am fortunate to be able to dedicate time and attention by physically being here, which I know isn’t possible for many. So, if you would like to help by writing to the children, donating a few pounds or taking up a more regular sponsorship of a child please click here: Christmas is coming and your donation would enable the My Small Help volunteers to create a memorable day for the children by buying them necessities and treats.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stunt Show makes wheely good donation to charity


The 1st International Bike Stunt Show to be held in Nepal stepped up a gear by raising more than £200 for My Small Help.


Approximately 10 stunt bikers performed to an enthusiastic crowd of around 300 the last weekend in November (2010). The event, held at the International Summing Club, Satdobato, was organised by Pako Youth Club and Planet Nepal. The bikers showed bravery and skill as they wowed the audience with their daredevil antics. The crowd also enjoyed a variety of live music.


Pramila, My Small Help’s accountant, was thrilled to receive the cheque. The charity, on behalf of the young children and orphans who will benefit from the cash boost, thank the organisers of the stunt show for their generosity, and for daring to care.

Pramila receving cheque

The donation will be put towards a number of different projects run by My Small Help to ensure that the children they sponsor are given the opportunity to benefit from school education, and that their overall wellbeing is considered a priority.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Iron Beds provided for Marybert Orphanage




6 out of 11 new iron beds were provided to Marybert Orphanage. Marybert Orphanage used to have 11 wooden beds for the boys and girls room altogether. The beds were really old and had bed bugs, due to which the children could not sleep soundly and would wake up in the middle of the night. The beds were treated with medicine but still it was of no use. The only option left was to burn down the beds.

Marybert School and Orphanage is situated in Kathmandu and is MSH’s pioneer project. At present there are approximately 100 children studying at the school and 23 of these children are living at the orphanage. MSH sponsors 17 children living at the Marybert orphanage. The sponsorship pays for their education, food, accommodation and sanitary living conditions.

In addition, MSH has built a library for the school and has donated many books. The library has a peaceful atmosphere and the books are clearly displayed. MSH has funded a bio-gas system that is complete and running very well. MSH has also funded for iron beds for the orphanage.
Marybert Orphanage Management and MySmallHelp decided to dosomething, so Marybert Orphanage Management and MySmallHelp sat down together to discuss on the matter. With much discussion, MySmallHelp decided to fund for 6 new iron beds with the Funds Provided by KnightBridge School, UK and for the other 5 beds, were to be funded by Marybert Orphanage Management. The beds were not ready-made and were to be made from the start and painted. Meanwhile, as the bed was being made in process, the children were sleeping on the floor with their matress and as winter was approaching, the children were starting to feel cold, so the building of the beds had to be faster. Finally on 20th Sep 2010, the beds were ready and brought to MaryBert Orphanage, with new bed carts. The children were very happy to see their new bed and arrage it in their respective rooms.


Nowadays, the children have not complaint about being bitten by any bed bugs and they said they can sleep soundly at night. They are very thankful to Knightbridge School for funding this project and for all their support.

Include other projects in brief and write something like this "we will be doing this projects soon and will write the update and progress.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The cuys have landed!



Wednesday 26th October

The cuys have arrived at Cuylandia!

The first guinea pigs have been distributed to the people that have built the homes for their guinea pigs and have grown their food donated by Paskay and have followed all of the training sessions.


According to the “socios” members of the Cuylandia project they are very happy with their guinea pigs and are now more excited than ever about their guinea pig rearing businesses.

The balanced guinea pig food has also been distributed to the “socios” members that have their guinea pigs. They need to make sure that they pick up their 1.3kg of guina pig food from the president each day.

The last guinea pig training session took place today at Cuylandia and the guinea pigs are going to receive their tags on Thursday.


SUPERVISION OF THE PRODUCERS

. Each family including in the Cuylandia contract with Paskay are visited on Friday each week to check how they are progressing.

· The growth of their alfafa

· Construcion of the homes for the guinea pigs

· Interest in rearing guinea pigs

· Evaluation on how they have understood the guinea pig rearing training course provided by Paskay

On 1st October 2010 our agronomist reported that 50% of the members have built the homes for their guinea pigs, , 70% had planted the alfafa to ensure that the guinea pigs will have enough food) and 95% are interested in learning more about their new guinea pig rearing business.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Helen Osborn and her experience



I arrived in Ollanytatambo last Friday (1st October) this is my second visit to the town, my last visit was two years ago when my friends and I were on the tourist trail to Machu Picchu. This trip to Ollanta has been a lot rawer than my previous experience. When I say rawer what I mean that working with Leander and Casa Hogar del sol has meant that there is no way of escaping the problems of this town as I have been able to expereince really being part of the community. The work that Leander and CHDS are doing is truly having a great impact on lives of the communities and individuals here.



On my first night we went to visit Lurdes, an 18 year old girl that Leander is working with who has osteogenosis imperfecta (brittle bones disease). Lurdes family are extremely poor, both her mother and step father are alcoholics and on days when Leander or none of the other volunteers are able to take her out she i resigned to the house as she does not have a working wheel chair. What Leander and CHDS are aiming to do for Lurdes is to get her an electronic wheel chair through a recycling campaign in which they need to collect 50,000 bottle tops in exchange for purchase of the chair. This week we printed and gave out posters in hostels in Cusco, one of which being Loki the biggest chain of hostel in south America, so you can imagine their support is greatly appreciated. Lurdes also attends a private jewellery work shop run by Leanders friend Cristian Davila, who is an extremely talented artisan and the owner of the jewellery business Pez de Plata. Lurdes Hands have developed perfectly normally so Cristian is able to teach her his skills in the hope that she may be able to sell her work in the future. Cristian has donated tools and silver for Lurdes to make the first bracelet for herself and 2 additional bracelets which she will be able to sell and invest back in to more silver for her small business. Lurdes really enjoys the workshops and Cristian can see that she is already very talented. Lurdes is very dedicated and concentrates hard as she works with her hands. She showed us a chain that she had made for her brother woven from bronze in hoops a truly beautiful traditional style. I think with the continuation Cristians help this could be a real

opportunity for her. Another aspect of Leander’s work with Lurdes that I was able to see is the research into finding Lurdes a more stable place to live. As I explained earlier both her parents are alcoholics and Lurdes is extremely unhappy living at home due to fear from her step father’s behaviour when he is drunk and lack of care from her mother when she is in the same state. Leander is looking into homes in Cuzco mainly; however on the way back from Tastayoc on Monday Lurdes also had her own idea. We went to visit her biological father’s sister who Lurdes had not seen in nearly 8 years! The aunt agreed that it was not acceptable for Lurdes to be living in such circumstance and offered that Lurdes could live with her family. Her aunt seemed very nice, the house was lovely and her children all go to school and seemed perfectly well cared for. However a decision has not been made as caution is needed to ensure that the family situation we saw on Monday is a reality and consideration is needed into the fact that her aunt house is a bit remote and could mean Lurdes is even more isolated. Yesterday (Tuesday 5th) Leander received a phone call from a tv station who want to interview Lurdes about her situation and the recycling campaign.



We visited the community of Tastayoc on Monday 4th; I was utterly impressed by the work that had gone on in the community, with their new schools, green houses, soup kitchen, childrens playground, and toilet shower block. These investments in the community have majorly improved the community’s life style; all the children now regularly attend school and have a fantastic teacher. Many of the children only speak quechua so they are being taught Spanish in class but they all also seemed very eager to be taught some English. We ate with the community at lunch time, the meal was a mixture of vegetables and tuna, all the vegetables had been grown by the community in their green houses. Therefore thanks to the investment from CHDS we can be confident that all the children are receiving health regular meals.




On Tuesday 5th we went to Cusco with 21 members of the main community CHDS is working with (Paucarbamba) to a government run guinea pig farm where the members of the community could learn how to successfully rear guinea pigs to sell. CHDS is working very closely with this community because they were so extensively effected by the flooding last winter, many of them are still unfortunately living in tents. The trip to the guinea pig farm had a great turn out, and the communities members seemed extremely interested and determined to make this business venture work ( I caught a couple of the men from the group exchanging how many notes they had!). The engineer giving the training told us that she hopes the first lot of guinea pigs (around 100) to ready to by 5th November for the community. World Vision was also working with this government run guinea pig farm so it is clearly a well established project.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vicky Armstrong: Last Update


Well, my time here in Ollantaytambo has come to an end, I taught my last lessons yesterday at Rumira school. Last week was a bit of a strange one because of the strike. The schools were closed Tuesday to Thursday because of the roads being closed, which meant no teaching. Last Saturday a group of Canadian tourists arrived in Cusco with one of the project´s founders, Mama Sharon for a tour of the Cusco area. Carlos, the president of the organisation, runs a tour company called and was running their tour. Our role was to take a group of ten children down to the airport to greet the tourists. When the tourists arrived we held up a banner greeting them saying, ´Welcome Mama Sharon´, they were each presented with a flower by one of the children and we all got on a coach to go into Cusco for lunch.

Children wait with flowers; Mama Sharon arrives; Lunch in Cusco

On Sunday, it was a day off from working and I went for a walk up in the hills behind Ollantaytambo with Henry, the cook who is living with us at the moment. The views were stunning but we couldn´t find a path up the mountain so ended up scrabbling up what felt like an almost vertical slope (if it had been a ski slope, it would have been a black run!). I felt quite nauseous at the top, not sure if it was altitude sickness or fear at the steep inclines on either side of us at the top!


I have taught lessons in schools in Tastayoc, Paucarbamba and Rumira this week. All of them seemed to have learnt some English since I´ve been here..running up to me when I arrive at the school and asking ´What´s your name?´.
The class at Paucarbamba school

I have tried to teach them ´How are you?´this week but this seems to be a bit more challenging! I ate soup with the children in Tastayoc this week as we arrived just as they were eating. This food is provided by the project and gives the children one good hot meal a day.


In Rumira this week we managed to get Libertad, a seven year old neighbour into school. She has not been going to school since her last school kicked her out for some reason (from what I can gather it has something to do with her dad not being around to sign some papers…). She usually hangs around the streets or knocks on the volunteer house, looking for something to do all day. Although all children in Peru are intitled to education, the schools in Ollantaytambo said there was no room for her and she would have to wait until the beginning of the school year (April 2011) it was really great that we were able to get her into school in Rumira. However, it is not a solution in itself as Libertad now has to either catch a bus to school which will cost 2 soles a day, or walk for 30 minutes to get there, along a dusty road. She´ll have to go on her own because her mum won´t take her. Libertad´s mum struggles with alcohol and doesn´t seem that interested in Libertad´s education. She had initially agreed to go with us on Monday to Rumira school however, when we went round at 8am we were told she had gone out and left the 3 children, (one is only 2 years old). Libertad had become reluctant to go to school and had to be persuaded. Having spent 3 days in school now this week, Libertad is loving it and we´re hoping that her mum will be able to find the 2 soles she needs everyday to get to school, but already this week Libertad has come knocking on our door in the morning asking for her bus fare.


Children lining up for school; Class 1 sing a song (Libertad is the girl in the green t.shirt)

Leander went up to Tastayoc on Tuesday with the Canadian tourists to take part in a baptism ceremony. Godparents baptise children here and it is an important role to be a godparent in a child´s life. It was a lovely occasion and the people in Tastayoc prepared lamb for the tourists, cooked especially underground!

Pictures of the Baptisms at Tastayoc

Last night I cooked a traditional roast chicken dinner as a farewell meal in the house, so all that´s left to say is good luck to Leander with her work on the project and thank you to everyone in Ollantaytambo for being so welcoming!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vicky Armstrong: Update

It seems like ages since my last blog update - I think it’s only been about a week but a lot has happened.



I’ve taught more lessons, in a school in Rumira and in Tastayoc. Last week I felt like I wasn’t really getting anywhere with teaching English. The children in Tastayoc seemed reluctant to join in and in Rumira too they struggled with interactive methods, like partner work and question and answers and with the pronunciation of English words. So I approached this week’s classes expecting to need to do a lot of repetition. In Tastayoc they surprised me and they seemed to have got a better grasp of ‘What’s your name? My name is...’ and we were able to play a game in a circle with a football using the language.

I’d also bought some finger puppets at the weekend in Cusco to help with questions and answers in English. Henry, the cook who is staying with us at the moment, helped me name them, Tommy the tiger and Zuzu the Zebra.

The children in my classes yesterday loved them and they helped them to answer questions rather than repeat them (which is the problem I was having last week!).

School starts at 8.30am here and continues until about 1pm. I’m not sure how long breaktimes last for, but the structure doesn’t seem to be as rigid as in the UK, with our bell system! There seems to be a more relaxed attitude to school.

Although there are public schools that are available for children to go to there don´t seem to be Education Welfare officers here to ensure children are in school. We have a little girl who lives next door to us, Libertad, who has still not been in school for a few months, something to do with her father being an alcoholic. Leander is trying to find a school which will take her.

Almost more shocking was being introduced today to a little girl of 9 years old in Rumira who is from Tastayoc. She goes to school in Rumira with her little sister because her mother doesn’t want them to go to the school in Tastayoc, which is a tiny school with only one class. Instead her mother prefers to send them to live alone in Rumira during the week and to visit Tastoyoc at the weekends. To give you an idea of the distance, Rumira is at 2640m and Tastayoc 3953m, it takes about 45minutes by car. When I asked who does the cooking for them both, I was told that the 9 year old sister does.

On a more positive note, Lurdes, the girl who can’t walk due to brittle bone disease, is now being home schooled by one of the teachers from Rumira. The teacher goes up to see her about 3 times a week and spends an hour or two teaching her to read, write etc. She seems to be doing well so far.

We also went to see another project on based in Ollantaytambo called Living Heart on Thursday. They take food up to schools in more remote areas to help provide a balanced nutritious diet for the children. We went with Rita who works on the project to two schools, both were very impressive.


The food market at Urubamba where we helped to buy the food for the schools; Sillacancha school with children working in the field at breaktime – they are hoping to be able to grow guinea pig food and sell it.

This is the other school, Ccotataqui which was high up in the mountains, along a stony path that I really didn´t think the car could drive up!! It was a really clean, beautifully painted school. Here´s the headteacher playing some music for the children and the cook in the kitchen.

On Friday I went to Cusco and had a lovely weekend going to see the ruins. They have a system here where you can buy a tourist ticket which includes entrance to 16 separate sites and museums in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. They are good value if you can see everything but the ticket it only valid for 10 days. I went on a city tour on Friday which allowed me to see 4 different sites. They were incredible, especially Saqsayhuaman, where you can see close up these incredibly big stones and how they have been fitted together by the Incans.

On Sunday I had an amazing walk up to Pisac to see the ruins there. The walk was really hard work because of the altitude, the heat and the fact I was carrying a backpack with all my clothes in from the weekend! I learnt how to say, ‘it was worth it’ in Spanish – ‘valio la pena’ which literally translates as it was worth the difficulty or pain which I think explains it better than in English because I was in pain!!


I forgot to mention going out dancing in Cusco on Friday night with some of Leander´s friends. Cusco is a party town and I had my first experience of Latin dancing, with Vincente and Cesar, two of Leander´s friends or snake hips as I now think of them! This was the band we saw singing about the ´selva´or jungle!


Today, the plan was for me to start teaching in another school, Paucarbamba down by the river, where the floods happened but yesterday, a ‘paro’ was announced - which is a strike on the roads. Not only does this mean that I can‘t get down to the school but the guinea pig training that was scheduled for today has had to be cancelled, luckily Leander has managed to re-schedule a meeting for the community involved in the knitting project and Nelly managed to get here from Cusco yesterday to do the training today. Things can change rapidly here so it’s important to be flexible!

Vicky Armstrong

Paskay (Mysmallhelp Peru)