Lots happening in Kathmandu the last few weeks. The children are now on holidays after completing their yearly exams. The year 10 Umbrella children have now finished their final exams and school which means they are leaving the Kathmandu childcare homes with some going on to college and various training which will prepare them to live independently. They all receive support from the Umbrella Next Step Youth Program.
I have been working like a crazy woman but in the last week have seen the results of this work come to fruition. The Gatlang women's community project has been occupying much of my time (and life) since last year when I had the opportunity to visit this amazing place. The village of Gatlang is located in the district of Rasuwa in Langtang National park and is approximately 16km from the Tibetan border with a population of 2000 people.
Umbrella have been supporting the community for a number of years as a some of our children have been relocated back with their families in the village. With Umbrella community support through our Rural Volunteer Program and constant monitoring and sponsorship of the children the chance of re trafficking is reduced. This trip also gave me the opportunity to deliver the Nepali school books that were donated by Maitland Grossmann High. Being school holidays we got a group of the children together to show off the many boxes of books for their school Library.
Visiting the village in October last year Eadaoin (volunteer & communications for Umbrella) and myself met with the women's group to ask if they would Umbrella Australia to supply them with www.daysforgirls.org hygiene packs (washable sanitary pads). They were very excited as currently most of the women suffer shocking infections due to lack of hygiene and traditions. The ladies requested the opportunity to produce their own sanitary as to assist other women in local villages. This was the start of the Gatlang Women's Community Project.
Fast forward to this week, with a fully packed jeep, a seamstress named Lali, a very special lady called Beni who owns a business in Kathmandu which recycles rubbish to make extraordinary items we are on our way. Lali & Beni both come from the region and speak fluent Tamang. Beni has also been a midwife and wanted the opportunity to speak with the women about health, hygiene and how to use the kits they were going to produce. Should I also mention the driver (Raj Kumar) who got us there in record time whilst Beni & Lali suffered extreme car sickness.
The first day was spent travelling to the village which is only 110km's from Kathmandu but due to the many landslides, mountain passes and traffic is 8 hours in the jeep (10 hours by bus). Our accommodation was in one of the many home stays in the village operated by Rajesh and his wife Channye who have two small entertaining children. Rajesh is a strong community member and it was decided to offer Rajesh the role of coordinator for the program which he gladly accepted.
Start up day was beyond description as a tiny room (which is normally used for wakes) became a busy, noisy centre for all the women & children in the village. Old ladies watched through the windows, children were chattering and babies sleeping in their baskets. The sat and listened to Beni speak about health, many of them talking about their husbands and opening up about the many issues they face. I had to leave at one point as it was rather overwhelming to hear first hand situations that would never be tolerated in Australia, yet these ladies accept it, work the fields, cook the meals and love their families.
It was then sewing time! Lali taught the women about pattern cutting (and teaching them how to use scissors!) and then sewing machine time. It was then we discovered they had no experience with operating a sewing machine which last year they confidently spoke as experts. The enthusiasm was high and everyone keen to learn so their basic skills have now been achieved although we have made the decision to give further training. Every woman cut a holder and liner, some were hand sewing and all now have a set of pads to sew for their personal use.
Gatlang is also the start to the Tamang Heritage Trail and one gets used to seeing trekkers walk through the village. We were lucky to have two trekkers from Australia call in and watch the happenings. Pete Naoum & Nick Truloff from Brisbane took many photos and were excited to see the progress in the room. They kindly donated NPR2000 to the project which will go a long way, thanks Pete & Nick!
We have further to go with constant monitoring from Umbrella Nepal and Rajesh coordinating from Gatlang we are very confident. Next step is to raise some more funds for sewing machine lessons! See our Facebook page for more amazing photos