I was purusing the pages of the Orchid Garden on facebook and the wordpress site today and was struck by how much we owe a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers who come and work at Orchid Garden. Orchid Garden is a huge undertaking and gets no government funding and has no institutional sources of funds either. Orchid Garden takes care of ovr 130 children each day from the token user fees the parents pay, from donations at Global Giving and from supplies and materials that volunteers bring. It's a shoe-string budget and yet miraculously, it works and in fact will expand next year and add third grade classes to the existing nursery, kindergarten, first and second grade classes.
But, back to the impact of volunteers. I was looking at how many posts our various pages and sites have where the topic involves gifts from volunteers. Sometimes is books or school materials, sometimes it's rice and other food products which we really need to feed all the children daily. Sometimes it is the gift of education such as the recent workshops conducted on health and nutrition which was given for the parents of the children to help them stretch their meager weekly wages into a better, more balance diet for the children. We had 52 parents attend this workshop which is a great turnout for these hardworking families.
Some volunteer activities are perhaps more whimsical, such as the recent performance of Cinderella that the children practiced for and then performed. Art is an important teaching tool at Orchid Garden though, and few things build confidence as much as performing arts.
I'm adding some photos to this update of the nutrition class, donated books and Cinderella too. Your financial support is critical in keeping Orchid Garden in operation, but you may also want to consider coming yourself to Orchid Garden and contributing whatever your passions are, music, art, math, you name it. Hope to one day see you here.
An astonishing thing happened recently at our little school. Five teachers, including the principal came by and asked if we might send our volunteer English teachers over to the community school once a day, during the teachers lunch hour, to teach them all English. This was a landmark moment. We've kept a bit of distance between ourselves and local school the past two years due to bitter political infighting on the school management committee that we wanted to stay totally out of. It's crazy, I know, that such infighting over politics takes place at a grade school, but this is Nepal and all things are political here. At the same time we kept distance, we let it be known that whenever the management of the school was ready to put a stop to the fighting, we were ready to cooperate and help. Things seem to be cooling off and moving in a better direction now so all the teachers are keen to have us teach them English. One or two can speak a small amount of very broken English. It's critical these teachers learn though as the statistics for their students are horrid. Out of every 100 children enrolled in a rural school like this, 50 will leave school at the end of the 5th grade, which is the highest class in this village. For the 50 who do leave, we have to get them all the education and skills we possibly can while they are still in school as it may well represent the extent of thier life's education. If we can improve the school, we can hope to retain more students as well. Out of 100 who enroll, only 3 will make it all the way to the 10th grade. At the end of the 10th grade there's a huge, final exam required to get a School Leaving Certificate, which is the same as high school graduation. Without that certificate, which is sometimes called the "Iron Gate", there's no future for jobs. Rural schools like this typically pass just 28% of the students in the SLC exams.
The same teachers, just one week after starting English classes showed up in our brand new electronic classroom asking to learn how to use computers too. So now we have two sessions with them each day, one for English and one for computers. This could be a huge turning point for the village and the school.
Meet Kanchan. She and her mother are residents of Her Farm. Her mother came to Her Farm after her husband brought home a second wife because Kanchan's mother gave him a daughter, not a son. Kanchan has just started school in the village this year and attends morning English classes in the classroom at Her Farm each day before regular school. She's an addorable, sweet child, but she's also very much at-risk. The rural education system in Nepal is not good at all. The results of this year's SLC, or school leaving certificate as it is called were just released. Only 43% of all students in the 10th grade passed. Of the total graduates, only 28% were from rural schools such as the one Kanchan attends. It's critical that girls like Kanchan get all the education support possible as the odds are very much stacked against them. In government schools, for every 100 students, only 3 will pass the SLC. Knowing that the odds are so much against them, 50% of children in government schools drop out after grade 5. A significant number of them are girls. Of the same 100 students who begin school, only 13 will still be in school by grade 10.
Passing the SLC is akin to graduating high school and it's critical for future employment. It's fair to say that if a girl doesn't pass the SLC about the best she can hope for is to work as a house cleaner. Every year the news reports that several young girls who didn't pass commit suicide upon hearing the results. You see not passing means their families will very likely marry them off to some boy they have never met, and very soon too as the stigma of not passing will be too great for the family to bear. Because a girl who doesn't pass has limited options in getting a good husband, the liklihood that she'll end up in poor surroundings and a victim of future domestic abuse increases as well.