Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families

by Educate the Children
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Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Finish Strong/Jump-Start! Support Nepal's Families
Niko Utthan women's group, Dolakha
Niko Utthan women's group, Dolakha

As of Giving Tuesday (December 1, 2020), thanks to so many good friends like you, we exceeded our fundraising target for "Finish Strong/Jump-Start!"

The overarching goal of this project was to wrap up our work in the villages of Dolakha District where we'd been working since 2014 and then transition to a new set of villages in Sunsari District, to begin a new multi-year program cycle. The pandemic obviously threw a wrench into the works, timing-wise. But although the transition process has been stretched out, we can report success.

What has this meant in practical terms?

It has meant that we were able to support thousands of women, children, and families in Dolakha with life-changing resources and training, in the time leading up to the pandemic. The 973 women's group members, 4,000-plus students, and all of their family members have benefited enormously. The skills they've gained will not wear out; they'll continue to help people make better lives for themselves for years to come. Women farmers will continue to be able to grow more and better food. They'll be able to earn more money, often by selling their excess agricultural produce. The schools will continue to be more welcoming places to learn for thousands of children each year. Teachers will use their training and networks every year, resulting in greater student engagement and improved job satisfaction for themselves.

In the COVID era, it has meant that we provided masks and soap for 1,500 families (7,500 people) in Sunsari. It has also meant that we are able to make plans to begin working in Sunsari more intensively, come January. We must and will take due precautions to ensure the safety of our staff and the village residents alike, but there are activities we can do - and they are so badly needed. The marginalized families of Ramdhuni Municipality in Sunsari are eager to learn the new skills and gain the initial resources that will help them break the cycle of poverty, end their food insecurity problems, and improve the quality of their children's educational experiences. And ETC is ready, willing, and able to work with them to achieve those goals.

We've started a new GlobalGiving project to reflect our upcoming work in Sunsari: click here for information.

And, once again, thank you from all of us at ETC. This life-changing work is only possible because of friends like you.

Gujarpa Basic School teacher and students
Gujarpa Basic School teacher and students
Practical, hands-on horticultural training
Practical, hands-on horticultural training

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Children in Ramdhuni sporting their new masks
Children in Ramdhuni sporting their new masks

ETC's new project area in Ramdhuni Municipality, Sunsari District is located not so very far from Nepal's border with India. People regularly go back and forth between the two countries for personal reasons as well as to work or shop. Because of the open nature of that border and the high COVID rates in India, we became very concerned about the well-being of the people living in Ramdhuni - particularly those who can't afford basic health and safety supplies.

With that in mind, ETC recently partnered with local organization Save the Earth to purchase and distribute washable, reusable masks and three months' worth of soap to 1,500 marginalized families in Ramdhuni. We also provided some practical health training, focusing on helping children learn to wash their hands very thoroughly and providing information about how often to wash the masks. We were able to do this outdoors, over the course of about ten days, and therefore without undue crowding or exposure risk.

The project was a huge success on more than one level:

  • First and foremost, it provided many hundreds of people with important resources to help them protect themselves from this insidious virus. Fortunately, these villages have not yet been hard-hit by COVID, and we very much want to keep it that way.
  • Second, it served as a good introduction of ETC into these villages where we ought to have been working beginning in July, if not for the pandemic.
  • Third, it was an excellent way to test-drive a partnership with Save the Earth. They have a long track record and a strong positive reputation in Ramdhuni already, and now that we have worked with them on this special project, we feel very good about the prospects of future collaboration.

You can see more photos of this project, as well as of our previous work in Dolakha, on our website. And we are working to determine what our next steps will be while COVID is still with us, based on what the most pressing needs are and what is possible to do while keeping our staff and the village residents safe. Exact activities are yet to be determined, but are likely to be centered on public health and agricultural development - because we do know that food security is a big problem in these villages.

There's so much of our usual work that we cannot do right now. Anything that has to happen in big groups or indoors, or that involves difficult transportation logistics, is pretty much off the menu. But we are choosing to focus on what we can do to help the people of Ramdhuni Municipality, even during these times of global pandemic, and we look forward to sharing it with you as we move forward together!

Ramdhuni Municipality location within Nepal
Ramdhuni Municipality location within Nepal
Distribution of masks and soap
Distribution of masks and soap
Instructing children in proper hand-washing
Instructing children in proper hand-washing
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Family time in Sunsari
Family time in Sunsari

It is a massive understatement to say that nothing has been normal in recent months. That's been true worldwide, and Nepal is no exception.

The strict pandemic-related lockdown and mobility restrictions in Nepal were instituted in March and were eased up slightly beginning on June 14th, but are by no means fully lifted even now in mid-July. This has meant that none of ETC's usual springtime program activities, such as agricultural or teacher trainings, were able to be done on schedule. Nor were the schools with which we work able to re-open for their new school year in April.

Given that it is now summertime, the challenges of daily life in rural Nepal have become greater. Summer is monsoon season, and heavy rains mean washed-out roads and trails as well as mudslides. This can be especially problematic in a hilly area such as Dolakha.

You may also have read in the news about the swarms of locusts (some 8 million of them, by one estimate) that are destroying crops. These are concentrated in south-central Nepal and are not harming our Dolakha families' gardens at present, but of course they must know that this is happening elsewhere in the country, and they must be concerned.

Having said all that, there is still positive news to report. Because as they so often do, the Nepali people are demonstrating their remarkable resilience in the face of adversity!

In Dolakha, because ETC had almost completed our full program cycle of work, many of the skills and systems had had the chance to become deeply rooted. This groundwork has proved to be immensely important during the pandemic.

For example:

  • Women's kitchen gardens and other farming activities are well established and thriving, providing a much-needed source of food security for their families while it has been impossible to go buy food elsewhere. The goverrnment has provided some staples, such as rice and lentils, but the amounts provided have not been sufficient to meet most families' needs. The fact that women are able to grow more food since becoming involved with ETC has been absolutely crucial for their families' well-being.
  • The women's cooperatives' leaders are able to meet, which helps ensure that some of the good work being done by these cooperatives to support their nearly 1,000 members can go on. As you know, the cooperatives are the legally recognized, enduring structures formed from combining ETC's women's groups.
  • Teachers and school staff feel motivated and empowered to help the children continue to learn, despite the major obstacles - because obviously families in rural Nepal don't have high-speed internet to do online lessons via Google Classrooms! One of the 30 schools in our current project area has now re-opened, with three shifts to ensure that the class sizes are small. The others, however, have not been able to do that. Instead, schools are broadcasting lessons over FM radio - most families either have a radio or at least have a near neighbor whose radio they can hear - and some teachers are visiting students' homes to do small-group, in-person lessons where that can be done while respecting the need for distancing.

We have never had to furlough or let go any staff members throughout all of this, very thankfully. And now that things are starting to open up a bit, they will be able to do what needs to be done in order to finish up properly in Dolakha District and then begin phasing into Sunsari District, once it is safe to do so. Yes, we are still intending to go work in Sunsari - it's just going to have to wait a bit longer than had been hoped and planned! The attached photo is of a family in one of the villages we will be serving there. It was taken by a staff member of Save the Earth, which will be our local project partner in Sunsari.

As always, we have you to thank for having made all of this possible. Thank you very, very much. So many people's lives are sustainably better because of your support.

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Manita at her thriving poultry farm
Manita at her thriving poultry farm

We're very pleased and grateful to have a lot of new friends joining us recently, via the Girl Fund campaign. Thank you again, and welcome! We hope you'll take a moment to go back through some of the previous reports (with photos!) for this GlobalGiving project. If anyone is interested, I can also point you to our past/funded GlobalGiving projects. And of course we hope you'll visit our website and social media (links below) for lots more information and many more photos! Always, photos. We like photos.

This is going to be a longer report than usual, partly because we want to let you know how ETC is coping with the pandemic situation.

To date, there has been only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nepal, but of course people there are concerned about taking preventive measures and "flattening the curve" to the extent possible, as are we all. Schools have closed, travel is restricted, and public gatherings have been canceled or postponed. If you are interested, you can read more about this at the U.S. Embassy's website.

As for ETC specifically:

  • Our Kathmandu office staff is going to be working from home for the time being (and our Ithaca staff has worked from home since 2012!); the field staff, as residents of the villages we serve, will remain there.
  • We are postponing or, perhaps eventually, canceling group-based activities for the rest of March and into April. This includes such things as agricultural trainings as well as, unfortunately, our usual International Women's Day celebrations, which would have happened on March 8th.
  • There are program activities that can still be done safely, such as field staff providing guidance on gardening/farming issues on an individual basis (and from a safe distance!).

*****

In these quarterly reports, we typically share with you some details about the specific activities we’ve been doing lately – number of agricultural trainings offered, number of teachers trained, etc. Today, we’d like to talk more generally about the issue of children’s education in Nepal.*

Improving access to and quality of children's education in Nepal was ETC's original purpose, and it remains one of our three mutually supportive program areas. ETC is therefore very pleased to be a member of the Global Campaign for Education-US Chapter. This coalition of program-oriented and advocacy-oriented organizations is committed to improving both access to and quality of education for children around the world. 

As a GCE member, ETC has often contributed blog posts about our work in the context of national and international conditions. They are all quick reads and include illustrative photos, and we hope you will enjoy them. (We all need lots of reading material while we are practicing social distancing!)

From September 2014: Early Childhood Education in Rural Nepal

From December 2014: Pre-Primary and Early Childhood Education in Nepal

From April 2015 (less than two weeks before the massive earthquake): Taking a Holistic Approach to Ensure MDG Success

From November 2015: Helping to Rebuild a Community Through Education

From May 2016: One Year Later: Why It's Especially Important to #FundEducation After a Disaster

From April 2017: Two Years Later: Model Classrooms in Rural Nepal

From October 2018: Beyond Rote Learning and Teaching in Rural Areas

From November 2019: Extracurriculars Aren't Just "Extra"

*****

As always, we thank you very much for making all of our important work possible – we could not do it without you!

* For those of you who really like our activity-related stats, here are some from the past few months:

  • As of December 2019, 370 women had increased their household incomes significantly by raising and selling goats and poultry. On average, the women had earned $98 from selling goats and $206 from selling poultry. This was in addition to the nutritional benefits to their own families.
  • Hundreds of women have increased their household incomes by cultivating and selling produce, including specialty and high-value crops such as mushrooms (see photo) and cardamom (for an average of $66 per woman).
  • Twenty-three math teachers recently received refresher training in best practices, including how to use inexpensive or free resources to enhance their students' learning experiences.
Shanti and her goats
Shanti and her goats
Durga in her garden
Durga in her garden
ETC women's group member taking mushrooms to sell
ETC women's group member taking mushrooms to sell

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Celebrating International Literacy Day in Lapilang
Celebrating International Literacy Day in Lapilang

First things first: ETC wants to offer another huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported this Finish Strong/Jump-Start project back on Giving Tuesday. We raised more than $13,000 including incentive funds for this project alone, on that one day alone - representing a top 1% finish among all eligible projects!

There's still time to make a year-end gift! Your generosity makes such an important difference in the lives of rural Nepal's women and their families. Below are just a couple of examples:

1) Earlier in the program cycle, we offered literacy and numeracy training for more than 800 women. Since then, we've been offering many opportunities for them to keep up their newly gained skills - including the creation of several Community Learning Centers (combination libraries + meeting spaces) and numerous trainings/workshops on a variety of topics related to entrepreneurship and agriculture. One particularly fun way in which we celebrate the importance of literacy is through our annual International Literacy Day activities. International Literacy Day is also National Education Day in Nepal. ETC's women's group members come together to sing and dance, read poems and tell stories, and play games. They are justifiably proud of all they have accomplished, and pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate it with their family, friends, and neighbors!

2) Poultry farming is very popular among our women's group members. Chickens and ducks are relatively easy to care for and provide protein in the form of eggs and meat, and also enable the women to improve their families' financial situations significantly. Forty-five women who participated in one of ETC's poultry management training opportunities earlier in 2019 have been able to sell their poultry for an average of more than $150 each, which in many cases represents an increase of 25%, 30%, or more in annual household income. Earning more money means that they can get out of cyclical debt (or not get into it in the first place), can pay for their children's tuition and for family medical expenses, and can live better and healthier lives overall. 

All of this and much more is possible because of you, our friends and supporters. We thank you once again and wish you all the best for the new year.

Krishna Maya and her poultry
Krishna Maya and her poultry

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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

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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