I've mentioned in prior reports how Her Farm needs to replace an entire family support structure. For a woman to leave even a bad relationship means cutting all family ties and the support that comes from those ties. Take our newest addition to the Her Farm family, Kalpana. Kalpana is 23 years old and has a three, almost four year old daughter. She married a man who happens to be in the army when she was quite young. She gave birth to a daughter, which is a problem for a Nepali woman, so much so that in fact her husband arrived home one day with a "second wife." While technically not legal in Nepal, the second wife business still takes place quite often. As Kalpana had not produced a male heir, the man asserted his "right" to take another wife in the expecation that she would produce a boy-child. That relagates Kalpana to being more-or-less a servant to the new wife, a domestic employee in her own home. She had the good sense to reject that arrangement and move to Her Farm. To do so however meant giving up family ties and support. To that end, our community center is an integral part of creating a new family for her. When complete, which it will be in the next month, it will have a large kitchen on the first floor (right side of photo) that will serve up hot meals to the many chldren who come daily for English classes and tutoring at Her Farm plus additional classrooms and including a large meeting hall for community events.
When we started Her Farm we had a vision of women coming from abusive family situations and living at the farm where they could support themselves and their children. That's still our mission and vision at the farm, however something else is taking place at the farm, something unexpected and wonderful. For the past two years as we've been working to get all the infrastructure in place to house and feed women and educate their children the farm has been managed by young women. Most of these young women also work for us at Mountain Volunteer, our program for volunteering in Nepal.
These young women have proven to themselves and to everyone else just how capable they are. They are taking care of the livestock, farming the fields, caring for volunteers at the farm and helping build the infrastructure every single day. As one of them recently reported to me, "I grew up in the city, I really didn't know what I was capable of doing, but now, I see this farm, I see all we've done here and I feel I am capable of doing anything." That's a WOW event in my book. That's really growing hope in the Himalaya.
I hope you'll click on the link included with this update to understand why it's so important that young women have options like this. I've related a true, heartbreaking story of what can, and has happened, when young women are not given options.
Greetings from Nepal where I've just spent the past two months working at Her Farm. Wow, it's been an exhaustng and exciting two months and the end of construction is in sight. This infrastructure phase is, however, the real key to the success of the program. Let me illustrate that with a true story that happened just last month. We brought a young woman out to visit the farm. She's all of 18 and was forced into an arranged marriage at only 15. She has a 3 year old daughter and her husband left her and took another wife. She lives with her daughter in a small, dingy room in Kathmandu where she cleans houses to survive. You'd think a young woman in this position would jump at the chance to live and work at the farm, but there are other considerations for her. Primary among her concerns is who will care for her daughter while she is working? Right now she can take her daughter with her when she cleans houses but holding a child in one hand and a hoe in the other while trying to work fields is a much harder matter. While at the farm we showed her where the daycare and preschool program would be located in the future, where her housing is now, but housing without a kitchen at the moment so we showed here where we were planning to build the kitchen in the future. The problem facing this young woman was this "in the future" part. You see, people in Nepal have been promised so many things that never come to pass that promises of what will be "in the future" hold no force or effect, they want to see it NOW.
The young woman returned to her dingy room and to cleaning houses and perhaps when the future arrives will take another look. That's why we are working fast and furiously to create that daycare center, build that kitchen and finish our irrigation system as well, so that next time she visits, there's nothing to be done in the future, it's all here and ready to use now.
We have finished the daycare center and the preschool program is up and running as well. See the video link for more on that. The construction is fully underway for the kitchen at this time too. Once all the infrastructure is in, we will be able to bring young women like the one in the story above and they can see that we aren't offering future promises but have a new life for them and their children NOW.
To be honest, we need your help more than ever to make this final push and finish this phase of work.
We've created a master plan for the farm in terms of housing and services. The plan calls for several buildings to provide housing for women and children, for the farm staff, for volunteers who want to come and help at the farm and for a community center. I've added the architects rendering of the complex.
To date, the large, long building called "future residence" is nearly complete. A majority of the work was done by a high school group of 30 from Canada who visited for three weeks. The building called "future small house" which is staff housing is nearly complete as well. The building called "existing kitchen/toilets" is actually a two story house for volunteers. On the ground floor there's a large kitchen and dining room and adjacent to the house are two toilets and two shower rooms.
The community building will be the next undertaking. This building will be used for two primary purposes. First, it will be the home of a before and after school program for the children in the village and living at the farm and the second use will be as a day care center.
For the older children, they will be able to come in the morning before school, get a good breakfast, shower, brush teeth and change into their school uniforms. We'll keep the uniforms here as we are able to wash them and keep them clean for the kids. After school we'll have staff on hand to help with homeword.
For the small children, not yet attending school, this will be an early childhood education center. At present, these smaller children spend their days in the fields with their mothers as the mother works. In some cases, older daughters are kept home from school to watch younger siblings. Having a safe place to leave the kids frees mom up to be more productive in her agricultural pursuits and helps ensure that older daughters aren't kept home from school.
Finally, there's a youth group in the village consisting of about 30 people. These youth want to learn English and computers. They are aware that their peers in Kathmandu are learning these things and worried about being left behind for employment opportunties if they can't compete.
This past month 34 high school students volunteered to build a house for women at Her Farm. Previously, one volunteer from Colorado had spent two weeks putting in the foundation for the first "earth bag" house to be built in this part of Nepal. The students then spent one week and were able to finish 50% + of the house. Consisting of 4 rooms, each one 18ft by 18ft, it's a large structure that involved hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Earth bag housing is built using rice bags which are filled with dirt, stacked as you would bricks or cement blocks with barbed wire acting as mortar, then compacted with a heavy tamper. A steel and concrete ring beam around the top of the entire structure ties all the walls together for strength. It's an environmentally great way to build and provides a home that is also free from chemicals. We finished our earth bag house off with mud plaster and a metal roof. We've just to finish the floors inside the rooms and it will be ready for occupancy.
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