Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal

by Educate the Children
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Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Better lives for 1,000 families in Ramdhuni, Nepal
Classroom at Shivnagar Secondary School
Classroom at Shivnagar Secondary School

The name "Educate the Children" clearly indicates our roots as an organization that strives to improve both access to and quality of educational opportunities for kids. Although we quite early on expanded our work to support the children's mothers and families through our women's empowerment and sustainable agricultural development programming, our children's education work is still of critical importance to our mission and to the well-being of families in rural Nepal.

All three of our program areas are integrated and mutually supportive. For example, helping mothers gain the skills to earn more money ensures that children won't have to be taken out of school because they need to work or because their families cannot pay for the necessary supplies and fees.

In March, before the New Year break*, I visited nine of the schools with which ETC and local partner organization Save the Earth are currently working. The children and teachers alike seemed very glad to be steadily back to school after having been in and out more than once during course of the pandemic. The headmasters also expressed sincere gratitude for ETC's very practical and useful support in the relatively short time we've been working with these particular schools. As you can see from the photos, the buildings themselves appear to be for the most part in fairly good structural condition - meaning for example that the walls are solid - but there is still plenty of work to be done. Headmasters/teachers and ETC staff work together to establish the top priorities for each school, including such things construction of toilet facilities, provision of furniture, and provision of educational supplies/materials.

As for non-tangibles, the most important thing ETC does is to provide training for the teachers, who will otherwise have no opportunities for continuing professional development. The overarching goal is to help them move away from traditional rote-based instructional practices to more interactive techniques that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving among the students.

We are honored to have earned the trust and respect of so many educational professionals, parents, and students over the course of more than three decades of work in Nepal's schools. And, as always, we are grateful to friends and supporters like you who make it all possible. Thank you!

* Spring is transition time for Nepal's school year, which typically ends in early March and starts anew after the Nepali New Year in mid-April. In 2022, because of pandemic-related delays, the previous school year ended a bit later and the new school year will start a bit later.

Classroom at Shankar Basic School
Classroom at Shankar Basic School
Providing school supplies at Sanischare Sec School
Providing school supplies at Sanischare Sec School
English practice, Chandra Kamal Higher Sec School
English practice, Chandra Kamal Higher Sec School
Classroom at Ram Janaki Basic School
Classroom at Ram Janaki Basic School
New toilet at Ram Janaki Basic School
New toilet at Ram Janaki Basic School

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Selling excess kitchen garden produce
Selling excess kitchen garden produce

Many of us don't tend to think of the winter months as a time for growing and harvesting crops, but in the villages where ETC works, agriculture is an important year-round activity!

According to the International Labour Organisation, agricultural work provides livelihoods for 66% of Nepal's population and accounts for more than one-third of the nation's GDP. The 66% figure is considerably higher if we consider rural areas only: Almost every family depends on agriculture to some extent as a source of both income and food.

So it's clear that agriculture is of vital importance to virtually every family in the villages where ETC works, and to the region's economy more broadly speaking. Yet there are significant challenges to ensuring that women and families can eat more nutritiously, enjoy a higher level of food security, and earn more money. The biggest challenges are lack of land - ANY amount of land - and lack of training and resources to get started in producing more food.

With all that in mind, we're proud to report that the agricultural activities we launched about a year ago are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people, directly and indirectly!

  • All of our 1,000+ women's group members cultivate kitchen gardens, using training and resources (seeds, tools) provided by ETC. Even the women whose families have no land to speak of can grow things like runner beans and other vertically-oriented vegetables - against walls, on roofs, or in containers - and/or can grow other crops on borrowed pieces of land.
  • More than four dozen women whose families have a little bit of land have been trained and have received resources for larger-scale market gardening. Crops grown and harvested during these cooler months include cauliflower (see photo), cucumbers, cabbage, garlic, onions, and chili peppers. More women will begin market gardening in the months and years to come!
  • Our three demonstration farms are all thriving beautifully. (See photo.) These venues allow us to provide useful hands-on training in a group setting. We're currently working on setting up compost pits at the farms.
  • Some women have already begun to sell produce at area markets! (See photo.) This includes our market gardening participants as well as women who are able to grow more in their kitchen gardens than their families eat, and thus they have something left over to sell. The latter can provide a few extra dollars of income here and there throughout the year, maybe $25 or so, which is a very meaningful amount of money in rural Nepal.

In non-agricultural news, schools have recently reopened (again!) and we are eager to begin working there more intensively. It's been difficult to get properly started thus far during the pandemic, due to the irregular openings and closures. But you can see from the photo that there is certainly a need for classroom furniture and supplies. What's invisible but equally important is the need to provide professional development and networking opportunities for the teachers and school principals. Education professionals in rural Nepal do not typically have opportunities for important training and development, yet the need for such support is now all the greater since the pandemic has forced intermittent school closures and delayed the progress of formal education for so many children. Our education staff is looking very much forward to getting up and running with this important work, which as always will be based on a foundation of regular and mutually respectful communication with school personnel, parents, and students so that we can be sure to address the real and most pressing needs.

As always, we thank you for your interest in and support of our work. None of this would be possible without you! 

Harvesting cauliflower to sell at market
Harvesting cauliflower to sell at market
ETC's demonstration farms allow hands-on training
ETC's demonstration farms allow hands-on training
Schools have reopened - we have some work to do!
Schools have reopened - we have some work to do!
Women's group secretary taking meeting notes
Women's group secretary taking meeting notes

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Flood-damaged rice must be washed and dried
Flood-damaged rice must be washed and dried

We are all well, WELL aware of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nonprofit activities worldwide. ETC is no exception: We had to start our new program cycle later than, and at a scale smaller than, originally planned and then ramp up from there - always with public health and safety squarely at the forefront of our minds. We're very proud of the progress to date, which you can read about in the previous reports (below) if you haven't already done so.

A new challenge arose in mid-October. Although the monsoon season is normally over by then, Nepal was battered by several consecutive days of rain. The river near some of our villages rose 20+ feet (6 or more meters). Some homes and schools ended up with several inches - or in some cases, more than two feet - of water inside, although the river is well below street level. Some crops were also damaged or destroyed, including much of what was expected to be a bumper crop of rice. Many local residents told our staff that they'd never seen flooding like that in their lives.

Some of our women's group members kitchen gardens were damaged, but fortunately it's not too late for them to grow a late fall/early winter crop, so we have recently redistributed seeds to members of the six affected women's groups. We'll also do what we can to support flood-damaged classrooms and schools with replacement supplies.  

In non-flood-related news, we've also started a pregnancy support program that currently serves sixteen women. They'll receive pre- and post-natal support for themselves and their infants, including information about best practices in well baby care, encouragement to make good use of their local health post, and some nutrtious meals.

Our women's groups remain both active and enthusiastic. One group, Radha Krishna, has already proactively taken on a community improvement/clean-up project. This is something we certainly encourage over time, but we normally don't see it happening quite this soon during a program cycle. They are providing an immediately useful service as well as setting a great example for other women's groups and for their neighbors and other community members alike!

Finally, we're delighted to say that ETC will be participating again this year in GlobalGiving's Giving Tuesday campaign. There will be $1 million - yes, you read that right - in incentive/matching funds. All day long on November 30th, from midnight to 11:59 p.m. Eastern (US) Standard Time, your online gift of any amount up to US$2,500 will help ETC gain a share of that $1 million. 

As always, we thank you very much for your continued interest and support. We hope that you enjoy these quarterly reports. If there is a particular topic that you'd like to see addressed in a future report, please do let us know! 

Working together to plant a vegetable garden
Working together to plant a vegetable garden
A flooded classroom at Ram Janaki School
A flooded classroom at Ram Janaki School
Cushions & papers drying outside Ram Janaki School
Cushions & papers drying outside Ram Janaki School
Pre-/post-partum women enjoying a nutritious meal
Pre-/post-partum women enjoying a nutritious meal
Radha Krishna women's group community clean-up
Radha Krishna women's group community clean-up
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Distributing fruit tree saplings
Distributing fruit tree saplings

When ETC began working in four wards of the Ramdhuni Municipality of Sunsari District in late 2020, we knew that it would be a huge challenge. Everything we had wanted and planned to do was just going to be that much more difficult, more expensive, and slower because of the pandemic.

With that in mind, we consciously chose to revise our original plan. We began by working with fewer women, families, and schools than would normally constitute a full constituency, in order to be sure that we could do the work well under the very difficult circumstances. And we began offering the most needful activities earliest: public health support (soap, masks, and other COVID supplies and accompanying informational resources) and quick-results agricultural activities for family nutrition and a bit of extra income (e.g., kitchen gardening and poultry farming support). Take a look at this recent Facebook post for a basic timeline of what we've already accomplished.

And now - thanks to the continued interest and support of good friends like you - we are going to be able to scale up our work as we had hoped and planned to do! This summer and fall, we'll be roughly doubling the number of our women's groups and group members. This means that we'll be working directly with from about 1,000 or more women, up from about 500 currently. New groups are already being formed. We'll get these new participants up to speed in kitchen gardening and other basic agricultural activities. For new and current members alike, we'll add some additional agricultural activities that are longer-term in their development, such as larger-scale market gardening training and fruit tree sapling provision and related training and support.

The schools are slowly working on reopening to students, although the teachers and administrators are already working on enrollment and related matters. Once the students are back, we'll be able to get our student sponsorship program fully operational once again, and we'll provide more supplies and other tangible support for the classrooms. In the meantime, we are looking into using Zoom to provide distance training and development opportunities for teachers - it'll be a first for most of them!

Again, NONE of this would have been or will be possible without such good friends as you. Thank you!

Microcredit loan from women's group
Microcredit loan from women's group
Using any available space for a kitchen garden!
Using any available space for a kitchen garden!

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Children in one of our partner schools
Children in one of our partner schools

...and already there's so much to tell you about!

ETC's work in four wards of Ramdhuni Municipality, Sunsari District is ramping up fast, after a delayed start due to the pandemic. We're delighted to report that, as of March 2021:

  • Women's empowerment: We've formed 22 women's groups with a total of 522 members. The groups are already well on their way to collecting their first 10,000 rupees (about US$86 at the current exchange rate) for their self-managed microsavings funds. This amount, when reached, will be matched by 10,000 rupees from ETC and 5,000 rupees from the local government - a really wonderful show of support from the latter! The ward authorities are very glad to have us working there and have expressed themselves ready and willing to be active partners, which is a huge help.
  • Sustainable agriculture: Each women's group has chosen its Leader Farmer, who will serve as a liaison and source of information for her peers. The kitchen garden training and planting is underway, and we are coming up with creative solutions to support kitchen gardens for any women's group members whose families own no land and have literally no available space outside their homes that they can use. We've also begun chicken and duck livestock training.
  • Children's education: We have begun distributing school supplies and classroom materials at each of our thirteen partner schools, which have a combined total enrollment of well over 2,000 students.

This is a great start, but stay tuned - there's plenty more to come! Considering the schools, for example: Although the actual buildings are on average in much better condition already than was the case when we started working in some of our past project areas (meaning that the walls and floors are generally solid, there are proper windows and doors, etc.), there is still plenty of room for improvement in other ways. For example, in some schools there are not as many teachers as there are grade levels, which means that we should offer the teachers who have students at more than one grade level a variety of types of support for their various duties. Many of the schools can also use infrastructural upgrades such as additional/better toilet facilities and access to clean drinking water.

We greatly appreciate your continued interest and support. We say it all the time, and it's really true - we could not do any of this without you! Thank you!

Hands-on kitchen garden training
Hands-on kitchen garden training
Chairwoman and treasurer, Ram Janaki women's group
Chairwoman and treasurer, Ram Janaki women's group

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Organization Information

Educate the Children

Location: Ithaca, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ETC_Nepal
Project Leader:
Lisa A. Lyons
Executive Director
Ithaca, NY United States
$26,410 raised of $35,000 goal
 
308 donations
$8,590 to go
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