The Mountain Fund

The mission of The Mountain Fund is to eliminate poverty, its causes and symptoms, in developing mountain communities around the world.
Oct 7, 2014

Teaching goes on but as winter nears, clothing needed too

Everyday we see nearly 40 children at the little school. They come early, some as early as 6am having walked an hour or two to reach the farm. Some need help with homework, all want to learn English and how to use computers, many come because the hot breakfast we serve them after class is the best meal they will get for the entire day. 

This time of year, as winter approaches one of our biggest concerns is warm clothing for the children. Many do not have much more than their school uniforms to wear. We got a group of our volunteers together with some of the children and handed out jackets, sweat pants and socks a few days ago. 

I'm including photos of the children getting breakfast, clothing and working on the computers so  you can see for yourself how they are all doing. The photos were taken by various volunteers at the farm/school but as I don't know for sure who took which ones, forgive the lack of photo credits. 

We are still getting more warm clothing for the children before winter and could really use a hand to make sure they all have at least one warm outfit this winter. 

Thanks

Oct 7, 2014

Report from a volunteer

Sagun
Sagun

A recent volunteer posted the contents of this report and the photographs on her blog. I was moved and inspired by what this young woman had to say and hope you will be as well. 

“Look! Look!” Sagun called out as she was pulling me by the wrists. Sagun, one of the little girls on the farm wanted me to watch her as she swayed and twirled to the Nepali pop music that was blasting from the speakers. She giggled as I tried to mimic her moves. Under a blanket of inky blackness stars flirted with us, winking and twinkling light years away while our bodies feverishly moved to catchy local beats…the nightly power outage took effect but priorities are priorities on the farm, and the girls have their iPhones hooked up to large speakers which are then hooked up to a back-up generator. Everyday there are intermittent power outages as a way to conserve energy. Between 7:00pm-8:00pm in the evening the electricity goes out and the generator kicks in. That’s when the music gets turned up to 11 and we dance as though our lives depend on it.

I remember looking up at the night sky, music pumping while everyone on the farm was dancing, feeling like I was on top of the world. I told myself to always remember this moment.

The music eventually slowed down and I felt Kanchan, *Samita’s 4 year old daughter, hug my thighs. She reached her arms up signaling she wanted to be lifted. As she nestled her head against my shoulder, her soft hair brushed against my cheek. I felt myself melt. Her mother was married to a Nepalese police officer that would beat her frequently. I imagine his being an officer gave him a level of power and immunity, though it seems abusers are seldom brought to justice in Nepal anyway. When the good people of the Mountain Fund heard about *Samita’s story they took her and Kanchan in. Since they’ve arrived on the farm I’ve been told they’ve been thriving. When *Samita first arrived on the farm, she was rail thin, shy, and hardly made eye contact. But you would never know that now as she walks tall, yelling in jest, and joyfully dancing. Her body is strong and compact, muscular from having worked on the farm. Put a sickle in her hand and you would not want to mess with this Nepali woman. She embodies strength to me. It’s amazing to hear her story and see how far she’s come in such a short period of time…

There aren’t many possessions these women of the farm have but one of the many things they’re abundant in is love- love for one another, for us clueless volunteers, for their fellow neighbors. The way they play, laugh, and delight in each other’s presence is heartwarming. And we, the lucky volunteers get to soak in and participate in this beautiful exchange. The way they affectionately screech “Didiiiiiiii!!!!”- sister in Nepali, the way they sing in the kitchen together bopping in unison, the way they quietly look at you and give a knowing smile. Their generosity, their kindness, their warmth. It’s impossible not to be touched by it and be ultimately changed somehow.

I woke up early on the 28th, my last day on the farm. I was up on the rooftop taking in the view one last time when I heard the pitter-patter of small feet. It was Sagun with her book bag and homework in hand. She saddled up beside me and I put my arms around her. It’s hard for me to explain but this particular little girl has a direct line to my heart. At 11 she’s the oldest child on the farm. Her father died when she was a baby and her mother is currently working somewhere in the middle east. In essence she is an orphan that has been adopted by The Mountain Fund- her education, food, all of her needs taken care of by the organization. I can only imagine what it feels like to be separated by your mother at such a young age, and then be witness to daily mother-daughter interactions among the other girls and women of the farm…She is well taken care of by the workers of the organization- she is loved, cared for, included in every way. But your mother’s love is something that can never be replicated or substituted…

I felt like in the short time I was at the farm I developed a connection with Sagun that I can’t quite explain. Later I would whisper in her ear that she was my favorite little girl on the farm. She would giggle sheepishly.
That morning on the roof I was feeling particularly emotional considering it was my last day. As I had my arms around Sagun I was trying to find the words to let her know how much I’d miss her…but I felt my throat close up and my eyes well. And I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t say it- for her sake. I couldn’t say goodbye or tell her it was my last day. Last thing she needed is a grown up losing it on her. So I looked at her and proceeded to tell her that she was so incredibly intelligent and that she could do anything she wanted to when she got older. I told her to keep up with her studies, to finish school, and keep going. I told her that no matter what people tell her that she had to believe in herself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough or that you’re not smart enough- not even yourself. I asked her to promise me this. I know it sounds cheesy, but I meant every word…She nodded her head solemnly. She knew I was leaving…sometimes I felt she was too smart for her own good.

It’s difficult to sum up my experience on the Farm. I finished my volunteering on the 28th, riding a local bus back to Kathmandu with, literally, a chicken on it. I’ve been sitting here in a coffee shop in Thamel trying to find the words…typing and deleting, typing and deleting…sitting in a Nepali version of Starbucks I feel worlds away from the farm- missing my new friends…but I tuck the memories in my heart and know all these connections we make along the journey, no matter how short or long, is what makes life so sweet.

I’ve been trying to allow experiences to come and go and appreciate them for what they are. And when it’s time to let them go understand that it was never for me to own anyway…people, experiences, opportunities they’re all gifts that are part of a greater whole that I’m blessed to experience. It’s like desperately reaching for a feather- in our attempt to seize the feather, in our grasping, we create wind that can push it further away from us. The more grasping done in fear of losing that moment, experience, person, whatever- the further we push that which was never ours to own anyway.
Oh, non-attachment, you are a tricky one…

Life is but a practice, I suppose. I find dress rehearsals far more interesting than the actual play, anyway…

Forever grateful for The Mountain Fund and the beautiful people I met along the way. Love you sisters (and brother! Prem-bi!).

(*name has been changed to protect the identity and anonymity of the individual)

photos by the volunteer 

2 girls at Her Farm
2 girls at Her Farm
author and children
author and children
Jun 23, 2014

Reaching out to teach the teachers

Teachers taking class
Teachers taking class

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. 

 
   

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