Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Happy Christmas

We write this short blog entry from England after arriving over the weekend. We are looking forward to Christmas, time with family, and starting our 2 month home assignment in January where we will be visiting many of you and talking about our work in Nepal.

We wanted to wish you all a Happy Christmas and share this song, that we feel sums up the awesomeness of Christmas. We've copied the words below.

Happy Christmas.


Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Mary did you know

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Waiting for Gas

We are now in the third month of this blockade. We wrote at the end of September about how the Nepali border with India had been closed. Nepal is landlocked and so depends very heavily on India for pretty much all its imports.
Queuing for kerosene...

A lot of people have now run out of cooking gas and so are cooking on wood fires – the air is noticeably smoggier.

Petrol is being sold in very limited amounts. What petrol there is being prioritised to schools, hospitals, buses and government agencies.

Shop shelves are looking sparse as all imported goods start to run out.

Electricity is erratic as those who can afford it have bought electric induction plates and other similar things for cooking and are stretching the system. From tomorrow our regularly scheduled power cuts will increase to 8 and 9 hours a day due to the increased electric usage. Although the fuel shortage has meant a number of business have shut down, reducing some power usage, so it could be worse.

The black market is doing a roaring trade though. Roads are not as quiet as we thought they would be, so some petrol is getting through, but is reportedly costing 3 or 4 times the normal price and gas bottles are about 5 times the normal price.
... on our route to school.

The government has allowed gas distributors to sell half full bottles – but transporting them is the next challenge. Our local store apparently has half full gas bottles about 2 hours outside Kathmandu, but the distributors won’t deliver them due to petrol shortages and fears for their own safety.  

We heard of one local organisation that had a supply of partly used gas bottles ready for their heaters this winter, but decided to “raffle” them off to staff who had none for cooking. There was apparently much dancing and celebrating from those who won! KISC has made the decision to not use any gas to heat this year and just keep what we’ve got to keep cooking lunches for staff and students.

So as the weather turns cold here most people are preparing themselves for a cold and grim winter with no fuel, but the bigger danger now is that there is also a big shortage of medicines and vaccines putting many at risk if they have an accident or become ill. This does not count those who lost everything in the April and May earthquakes here and haven’t received the aid they need to get them through the winter – much of it is in country, but can’t be delivered to rural areas due to fuel shortages.

The Nepali people are tough and they are resilient, but they have had a tough year and they deserve a break. People are suffering, people who have already survived two massive earthquakes and hundreds of terrifying aftershocks, people who have buried their loved ones, who have lost homes and possessions.


It is so frustrating to be here in Nepal and feel completely helpless. Please join us in praying that a resolution will be found to this situation quickly.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Outward Bound

Going up hill through paddy fields.
Last week was KISC’s annual activity week. We have blogged about this before, here and here.
This year, I (Dan) got to complete my full set. I have now been involved in Primary Activity Week (last year), Year 8 (Chitwan jungle in 2008), Year 9 (House building in 2010), Year 10 (Outward Bound resort in 2011), Year 11 (Work Experience visits in 2012), Year 13 (International trip to Thailand in 2009) and now, the full set: Trekking with Year 7.

Despite the ongoing full crisis (see previous blogs here and here), we were able to carry on as normal and our students spread out around the country. I boarded the bus with nineteen Year 7 students, three Year 12 junior leaders and four other teachers at 6am last Monday and we journeyed for 8 hours west to beyond Pokhara. We actually stopped in Pokhara to pickup our trekking team and all the gear. Alongside the 27 of us from KISC we had a support team of 36! 20 Porters to carry our main bags, tents and other camp resources, 7 sherpas/guides plus one head guide and 7 kitchen assistants (who doubled as porters for all the kitchen stuff and most of the food for the week) and head cook.

Trying to be a porter, for 1 minute
Our initial reaction was this seemed like an awful lot of people, but we realised what a blessing this was. With the earthquakes earlier in the year and ongoing fuel situation both impacting tourism significantly we were providing an income to these guys. I got chatting to one of the porters one day and he was telling me his story. He was a cook at a hotel in Pokhara but due to the lack of gas to cook with he hadn’t had work and had to take this work as a porter, this was his first trek. His home had been significantly damaged in the earthquake and he has had to rebuild this year, no doubt taking loans to help, and now the lack of work. We shared photos of our children and wives on our phones and he took plenty of selfies with his new friend.

The ‘support team’ did a great job. Each morning we were woken from our tents with tea at 6am, then a bowl of warm water to wash with, followed by breakfast. As we ate breakfast the porters were loading up the bags and packing up the tents (each porter took 3-4 teachers and students bags). We then headed off each day for our trek. Usually after about 30 minutes or so the porters with the dinning tent and tables and the kitchen crew with all their gear stormed past us, usually in flip flops.
Camp

We walked
for between 4 and 7 hours each day. Stopping for a cooked lunch as we caught up with the kitchen crew around the middle of the day. Tuesday was a tough day due to overnight rain and an abundance of leeches and slippery steps. On Wednesday a smaller group of five year 7 students, one year 12, three teachers and two guides broke off to reach the summit of Panchese at 2,500 metres, while the rest took the flatter route to lunch.  The summit just about gave us good views as the clouds shifted around us, but we got fabulous views from our campsite on the last day.

Friday morning view from our campsite
Friday we returned to Kathmandu on another 8 hour bus ride. Tired, but with a great sense of achievement for both us teachers, but mostly for the young students who knew what they had achieved and overcome during a great week.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Holiday at Home

This past two weeks has been a break for the big Hindu festival of Dashain (think Christmas). School has been closed and we’ve enjoyed our break. We were supposed to go to Pokhara for a week, 200 kilometres west of Kathmandu, however due to the continuing fuel crisis we elected to stay home.
While we probably could have got there and back it wasn’t a guarantee and we didn’t really want to risk it with the uncertainty that continues to surround the situation. While there is some fuel and gas getting through the border now it is still a trickle compared to the normal amount that comes through and the concern is now for a humanitarian crisis in the areas affected by the earthquake.

The riding crew
But apart from our holiday we are still not significantly affected. We can afford the increased food costs, we’ve got enough gas to last us a while and we have been experimenting with all the things you can cook in a rice cooker (turns our quite a bit – this week we’ve had banana cake, biryani, pasta, soda bread amongst other things)

So instead of holiday away, this week we’ve holidayed at home. On Tuesday we went with 3 other families and our BMS Action team (a gap year program) to a forest resort about 10 miles south of us. Due to the fuel crisis finding vehicles to take us there was always going to prove difficult, so about 14 of us, including a number of upper primary aged children, cycled the 10 miles, mostly up hill, to the bottom of the resort before walking the 30 minutes up the steep hill. The 14 others squished into two taxis (plus drivers) which cost about 4 times the normal price, but allowed the young kids and those who didn’t fancy the ride to get out there. Once at the top of the resort we made a fire, had a picnic lunch and enjoyed toasted marshmallows, a wide game and a day outside the city. The return journey on the bikes mainly involved brakes and very little cycling and took less than half the time!
Enjoying Picnic with friends and Action Teamers

Thursday we visited the zoo. We’ve been there many times, but it’s always fun for the kids, especially when we go with friends, and the BMS Action team.

Then Friday we decided to hike out to Chobar, a small town on a hill about 3 miles south west of us. Both kids walked the whole way, with plenty of up and down hills, as we walked there and back with another family and of course the BMS action team! A third family cycled out there and we enjoyed a picnic, games and some cricket before the hike back.

So while we didn’t get to go away, we’ve enjoyed our holiday at home, kept active and managed to get out of the city a little bit. Next week it’s back to school.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Closed for Business

This past week the border between Nepal and India has been closed causing a lot of problems and concerns here in Nepal. As a landlocked country Nepal relies heavily on India for many essential supplies, especially as the land routes to China were damaged in the earthquake. Most notably cooking gas (which comes in cylinders, not piped to houses), petrol and diesel.

Prices for everyday essentials such as fruits and vegetables are rising rapidly, something that we personally can afford temporarily, but many here don’t have any extra cash. There are huge queues for petrol or diesel – people are queuing overnight and the government has introduced vehicle restrictions so people can only use their vehicles every other day depending on their number plate. A bonus is that the roads are pretty quiet! We are aware of restaurants closing temporarily and even schools that can’t run buses, so some have closed.

Not too many of these full at the minute
Kathmandu airport has stopped refuelling international flights as they only have a few days’ supply of aviation fuel left. So international carriers have to carry enough fuel to get back out again. We understand that most have made arrangements to land in airports close to Nepal and refuel there before continuing onto Nepal, although one airline has already cancelled all flights to Nepal.
I even heard today that all the Indian TV channels have been taken off air within Nepal.

So why is this happening? To be honest we are not 100% sure, although this New York Times article has a good summary. India has denied enforcing a blockade, but much of the coverage here in Nepal is blaming India. India says that it is protestors down on the Terai who are not happy with the constitution blocking the boarder.

The big Hindu festival of Dashain is in two weeks’ time (Nepal’s equivalent of Christmas) when half the country travel back to their villages to see their families. Obviously at this time of year there is a lot of extra expense to buy the special food needed, many often get new clothes and now there is worry that buses won’t even be running.

This is also a big trekking season, one of Nepal’s big incomes, and if tourists can’t get in or to the trekking routes then that is another huge blow for the Nepal economy which has already suffered enough this year.

With Dashain so close we hope it will get resolved quickly and the fears of not having gas to cook or food to eat will become a memory. Please pray with us for the Nepali people, that this gets sorted quickly and fairly, that they will not be forced to endure more hardships this year of all years, after already enduring an Earthquake.

STOP PRESS: We've just read that some trucks have been allowed over the border, at least according to this article. Still, keep praying as it's only a start.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Constitution Day

Today is a momentous day in the history of Nepal. After 7 years and 4 months (nearly our entire time in Nepal), a democratically elected body has written a new constitution for Nepal. At 5pm today Nepal time (12:15 BST) the President will declare the commencement of the new constitution. This whole week the parliament has been voting through the various articles of the constitution. Just over 500 of the 600 members of the parliament voted in favour, one party abstained from all voting and another, the party in favour of a return to the monarchy, voted against.

The BBC has a good article covering the complexities of how the nation is feeling. Of course there are many who are happy to have a new constitution and many who are disappointed with part or all of it. It is not really our place to dissect and comment on individual elements of it, but we are pleased that Nepal does now have a constitution after such a long time trying. We are praying that this will be the start of a new dawn for Nepal and that the focus can now move from constitution writing to strong governance which we hope will help improve the lot of the average Nepali.

We are hoping too for peace. The BBC article explains about some of the violence and protests t
hat have been ongoing during the last few weeks (and indeed for the last seven years) as people who are unhappy with elements of the constitution or their representation within it seek change. Now that it is finalised we hope that these elements will seek democratic solutions to these problems.


The government has declared today and tomorrow a Public holiday to celebrate and honour the new constitution. So we are enjoying a long weekend and will raise a glass and say a prayer for the nation that has been our home through this whole process.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

EQUIP Visit

with Khim and Simon outside the district hospital
This past week I (Dan) travelled with my colleague Simon, former ICT teacher and new ICT teacher trainer, out to a rural part of Nepal called Lamjung to visit one of the projects of KISC EQUIP, the teacher training branch of KISC. Lamjung is about 150km (and a 7 hour bus ride) to the West of Kathmandu and only 30km from the epicentre of April’s earthquake. However, as most of the force of the quake went East there was very little damage evident even compared to Kathmandu which was more than 100km from the epicentre.

EQUIP works with a number of schools in the Lamjung area, and the EQUIP team had already been there for 5 days by the time we showed up. This visit included following up on trainings given on their last visit, classroom observations of teachers, giving out scholarships, setting up classroom libraries and doing some trainings.

The hospital walls were painted with simple health advice such as on how and why to wash your hands 
and this one which says "Lets brush our teeth well"
KISC works in Lamjung because of its connection to the region through the district hospital. This is run by HDCS, the Nepali NGO which also owns KISC. So the first thing that happened was that Khim Kandel, the head of EQUIP and fellow Director of KISC, took us to the hospital where we were showed round by two doctors, one Nepali and one American. The American is a former KISC parent as he and his wife had spent 18 months in Kathmandu learning language before moving to Lamjung. Their eldest daughter had attended KISC during that time. It was great to see the impact of KISC again in this way, knowing that we’d been able to support this family while they prepared for their role in this important district hospital.

Walking to school
The Nepali doctor explained that this hospital was the only one in the district and served 40,000 outpatients a year. Many patients lived in the rural areas around and would walk for up to 2 days to get to this hospital. While many of these rural areas are now served by local health posts, these are obviously not enough for villagers that need significant care. They also proudly showed us their maternity unit. The Infant mortality rate in Nepal is still quite high and so the government is giving 4,000 Nepal rupees (about £25) to mothers who do 4 anti-natal visits and give birth in the hospital – a significant incentive. The hospital had about 1200 mothers give birth last year. The visit to the hospital concluded with the obligatory Masala Chiyaa (Nepali spiced tea) in the courtyard as we discussed the state of healthcare in Nepal.

Line up in the school yard.
Khim reading with a student, new classroom library
behind them
The next day it was time to visit one of the local Nepali schools. This school was about an hour’s walk from the town we were staying in and was situated in a small village nestled in a scenic valley. As we walked to the village we passed a number of young people in school uniform heading towards the town we were leaving. These were children who attended one of the private schools in the town rather than staying in the village to go to the government school we were visiting. Last year just under 50% of 16 year olds passed their School Leaving certificate, but that figure was significantly lower in government schools. Khim shared the story of one young girl he knew of from the village who walked the 2 hour round trip 3 times a day to visit market to sell milk in the morning and evening as well as attend school. It highlighted to us the urgency of EQUIP's work helping to improve the government schools so that parents feel they can send their children to the local school rather than spending money they don’t really have and requiring their children to travel long distances (many travel much further than a 2 hour round trip) to attend private schools which are barely better resourced than the government schools.

The school started with line-up in the courtyard and approximately 150 students who ranged from pre-Kindergarten up to Grade 10 (16 years old) spread out across the grass courtyard and were then lead through some simple drilled exercises before singing the national anthem. After this we met with the principal and then headed to grade 3 where we were giving the school a classroom library. These small libraries which are very light weight contain about 30 age-appropriate books for the students. Khim explained to the students how to care for the books and got one child to read to the class before helping them think about the benefits of reading. He encouraged them to keep a record of how much they read and promised a prize on his next visit to the child who had read the most.

The "ICT Lab"
After this we went to check out the school’s ICT lab. This consisted of 6 rather dusty computers that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a lab 15 years ago. None of them were working so Simon and I set about getting them working. For the most part this just consisted of connecting them up, but Simon also managed to fix one that wasn’t working at all. The next question was what to do with them now they were working, that is something the Nepal government are working on and will become Simon’s job in his new role as ICT teacher trainer.

Some of the EQUIP team with the Principal and grateful
mothers of  scholarship recepients
Our final task of the day was to give out scholarships. Even though this is a government school there are still costs involved, such as uniform, stationary, exam fees and a few other additional costs. These scholarships were only about £50 for the year, but this is a significant amount of money for many of these families who live hand to mouth. The families showed their appreciation by decking each of us with a Maalaa, a garland of flowers, a traditional symbol of appreciation in Nepal. The six of us who visited that school looked rather fetching as we posed for photos with the parents.


The next day we visited a second school and this one followed a similar pattern, and we also got to see a training on “Checking for Understanding”, given by one of the EQUIP Nepali teacher trainers. It was really great to see these guys who we know from around KISC in their natural environment, working with Nepali teachers to improve the quality of education across Nepal. It was a great trip and one I am very thankful to have been able to be part of.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

A New School Year

Walking to school in the Monsoon
We are now into the third week of our new school year.

We're yet to feel settled into a regular routine as a family yet (or maybe that's just me figuring out how my routine works around everyone else's!), but it has been a good start.

Dan is finally breathing easy again after a manic two weeks beforehand getting everything ready, with the added pressure of still having urgent staffing needs. KISC was able to recruit a primary class teacher the day before staff started back and she was already in country and ready to start the next day! An English teacher arrived this week from the UK and is able to teach the exam classes. Ideally they would love to have a second English teacher, but can manage with non specialists teaching the junior classes. The Secondary principal formally took over at the start of term and so Dan is feeling like he can get on with his own job rather then everyone else's (especially now he's not covering year 11 English!).

Sam is loving year 2 and his new schedule. They have shortened the school day from 8.10-3 to 8.10-2.10 with optional clubs from 2.10-3.10 Monday-Thursday. So Sam is enjoying Nepali, Art, Chess and Motor skills clubs each day after school. Mim is doing well too, enjoying being back with her friends at preschool - but with half an eye looking forward to being at KISC in one year!

I have carried on teaching year 7 geography, and have also taken on some ESL. I'm still finding my feet with the ESL, but looking forward to getting more into it. Life is also busy as I coordinate with fellow BMSer, Wendy Hall, for this year's BMS Action Team. We will be jointly responsible for 4 girls aged 18-21 for 6 months from October-March as they volunteer here in several local organisations as part of their gap years.

Wendy, and her husband, Simon, will be taking the bulk of this responsibility though as we take our home leave this Christmas. We will be back in the UK from 19 Dec - 2nd March. After 7 1/2 years in Nepal this will be our first "normal" home leave with no babies or masters degrees! We are available for speaking engagements from 9th January - 24th February. If you would like us to speak at your church or related activity while we are back then you need to get in touch with BMS church relations team by 14 September to book us in.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Site Maintenance

The back wall of the hall rebuilt
We have returned this week from a lovely holiday in Australia visiting Dan’s sister & husband and getting some rest and break from all things earthquake related.

While we have been gone work has been pressing ahead on the KISC site. The summer break is always the key time for maintenance work to be done on the site, whether it’s moving classrooms, painting, building extensions or repairing damage, the summer is the best time as it’s the longest break.

Boundary wall, this now looks better
than before 
Astroturf under the climbing frame
This year is no different, but with two added additions. 

Firstly, the earthquake did inflict some relatively minor, but significant damage on the school. One of the walls in the school hall came down, a staircase in a small building was rendered unsafe and a few other boundary walls fell down. You can watch a short video here to see a summary of the damage inflicted at KISC. Secondly, as KISC has been growing for some time we have been running short of space and about the time of the earthquake we were able to rent a new adjacent property. This has meant that our teacher training team, communications, finance and Kindergarten have moved into the new property, freeing up much needed space for classrooms on the main site, a busy summer of work for our maintenance staff.

The new building, which will house Kindergarten, complete
with Kindergarten friendly play equipment
As is usually the case with just under 2 weeks until the students come back there is a lot of mess around and the question, “Will it all be ready?” is close to our lips, but as always our great maintenance team will do a great job to get it ready on time and looking great for the return of our students.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Come to KISC

KISC has been uploading a whole load of videos as part of a recruitment push recently. You can view them by going to the KISC youtube channel or by following KISC on facebook.

But if you are going to watch one video, watch this one. Our new recruitment video that has just been published.


And spread the word. If you know someone who would likes the sound of KISC, for 6 months or 6 years we are interested. We still have a few key positions that need filling for August 2015, including the Year 1 Class teacher and a French teacher.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A New Normal

Magic Tricks at Sam's birthday party
It has now been nearly two weeks since we felt a significant aftershock (ok, I wrote that first line two nights ago and later that evening we had a significant aftershock, but it’s the only one in 2 weeks we’ve felt). School is now back into more of a rhythm as we build towards the end of the school year in less than 2 weeks. Many of the walls that fell down in our local area are being rebuilt, especially those around the wealthy houses. Houses that were badly damaged are coming down. Our local corner shop where all the shelves fell over and all the produce was scattered all over the shop floor has had a coat of paint and new shelves put in and now looks better than it did before. We even had a normal birthday party for Sam who turned 6 ten
days ago.

The Kathmandu schools have reopened and the streets are filled with school buses in the mornings pumping out their fumes and causing us to skirt between them as we ride our bikes to school. Close to a million people left Kathmandu in the immediate aftermath and it seems like many of these are back now as the streets are filled with more traffic and rush hour has returned.

Our landlord and his family who spent a couple of weeks sleeping outside have been back inside for a few weeks, the tent even came down this weekend, but the bamboo frame has been left, just in case. There are still a couple of families sleeping on the KISC basketball court because they cannot go back to their homes. However, it seems all those who can are now back indoors.

Travel further afield and the damage is still very evident as many houses remain as piles of rubble. Parks and recreation grounds remain lined with tents covered in Chinese writing. Our Nepali colleagues who lost homes are starting work on rebuilding, although with so many trying to do this getting materials and approvals through the local council offices is taking time.

KISC v Nepal
Our roles don’t directly relate to the aid work, but we hear stories of those who are involved and are trying to plan how to rebuild and support communities in the long term. One worry is that there isn’t enough money to do it well. From within Nepal it appears that this earthquake hasn’t struck the worlds heart in the way Haiti did and so aid may fall short of what’s needed, especially in the medium to long term.

The National Nepal Basketball team have even tried to get back to normal. This week they played a game against a KISC invitation team which was mostly students and a few adults. The KISC team really shone and showed their domination of the game at school/college level even extends to the national team and won 85-80. There is a new kind of normal.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Earthquake Trauma School

It is now less than a week until they hope to open Nepali schools for the first time after the earthquake on the 25 April. While KISC has been up and running to a degree for about 3 weeks now, for most Nepali children there has been no school and no education, during what was supposed to be the first few weeks of the Nepali school year.

At KISC many staff, students and parents have commented that KISC being open has been a great help in bringing students through this time, allowing healing by having people to talk it over with, to get back to normal with, to have some routine and fun. 

Around 6,000 government schools were significantly damaged (not counting private schools which make up around half of all schools in Nepal). The government therefore closed all government schools until the end of May with most private schools following suit. This has allowed staff to return to their homes and help in their communities, but for these children who have spent the last month at home fearing another big aftershock healing may have taken longer.

Which makes efforts like this one we saw over the weekend particularly special. The Lavender preschool is just over the road from KISC and we pass it each day on our way there. Together with a group we believe is connected to a local church they have set up and run an “Earthquake Trauma Management Program” in a open space nearby for children up to 12 over the last 5-6 days or so.

I was able to speak with one of the organisers a couple of days ago and he was sharing that while they’d started out the first day with just a couple of dozen children they’d quickly gone up to over 100 and they were putting on a whole load of different activities for the students. Some were specifically intended to give students an opportunity to talk, draw or write about their experiences, but many were just about having fun, providing structure to the day and some learning. All things that are essential for helping students to grow and develop, even more so during times like these.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Earthquake number 2!

Our last blog was written about trying to get back to normal in the second week after “The Earthquake!”
As you will all know just a few days later we had a second big earthquake on the 12th May, not as big as the first, but enough to terrify and send people back outside. This one was a 7.4. Sam and Dan were both at KISC, while Mim and I were at home this time round. I was glad to have Mim with me as I’d only picked her up from her first day back at preschool (since the first earthquake) less than an hour before. We got down on the floor and waited it out before running out as fast as we could once it was finished. I remembered to grab my mobile this time round – but totally forgot the grab bag we’d packed and left by the front door! After a quick “everyone ok” with the landlord’s family I got my bike from the garage and Mim and I raced down to KISC to find the whole school lined up on the basketball court pretty calmly. Sam smiled and waved as if it was a normal day and I went to find Dan to let him know we were there and okay.
Mim's preschool

We spent the afternoon and another night on the school basketball court before heading home the next morning. We weren’t sure whether to stay another night, but in the end decided we would move home again after just one night this time. The aftershocks have continued, but less frequent and less powerful this time around which has helped keep us calmer. We have moved Sam’s bed into Mim’s room and decided that they will sleep together for the time being. KISC closed for two days before reopening on Friday. Mim’s preschool started again today after a week, but they are staying in the garden under a tarp and only 9 of the 32 children came on the first day.

People are scared. There are a lot still sleeping outside. I think after the first quake we were scared with all the aftershocks, but as things calmed down everyone started to move back inside assuming it was now done, but now with a second one people are more scared and don’t trust that the worst is over – which of course no one can promise even if the chances of another big one are miniscule. This is not helped by rumours going round that “the big one” is still to come.

Before
So this week we have tried again to get back to some kind of normality, but we see fear and loss all around. Yesterday our local veg shop was demolished. It was a really old tumble down mud and straw house with gaping holes in the roof and cracks in the walls. The police came and told them to move everything out and then had it demolished. I don’t know where they have gone or what they will do now as their house was also destroyed in the Earthquake.

After
Relief efforts are continuing, still trying to get food and shelter to remote areas. Thoughts have moved on to how we can provide longer term for those living under tarps with the monsoon rains less than a month away. Homes cannot be rebuilt in that time, but tarpaulins are not enough to keep out monsoon rain. Short term homes know as Portal homes made out of corrugated iron are starting to be taken out to villages. These cost only $100 but even that is too much for some families.

The government is encouraging different organisations to set up children’s camps in open safe spaces to provide some activities for the children while schools remain closed. It is thought that at least a million children are going to be out of school with buildings damaged and destroyed or being used as shelter. These safe places or children’s camps are helping, but I think they are mainly concentrated within the Kathmandu valley at the moment.

Kids Camp
The education ministry held a meeting yesterday and is putting together a plan to try and help the nearly 7000 effected schools start again (and that’s only the government schools). They are looking at providing psychological training for staff so that they know how to support their students. They also need to get engineers out to assess all the school buildings and then try to repair and rebuild classrooms and the infrastructure needed for them to operate such as toilets and a water supply.


Nepal has an overwhelming task ahead of it. With monsoon coming the risk of sickness spreading with poor and contaminated water supplies will grow. The remote areas worst affected will be even harder to reach and while foreign aid has flooded in initially the UN estimate that only 14% of the $423 million needed to rebuild has been given.



Saturday, 9 May 2015

2 Weeks On

Walk to our local shop
This morning at 11.56 it will be 2 weeks since we had a 7.9 earthquake here in Kathmandu. Dan has written some about the first week and how school has managed, and so I wanted to write a little about what this second week has been like as we have returned to some kind of normality.

In the first few days after the earthquake our initial worries were about how we were going to get supplies. Were we going to be able to get food and water and how long would shortages last? However, within just a few days the power supply was starting to come back for short periods, and since the end of the last week we have been having power for 24 hours a day (compared to the normal 6-10 hours a day of power cuts at this time of year). Soon after some people started reporting that they were getting water coming in from the city line (which should come to most houses twice a week), as I write this 2 weeks later our house has still not had any city water. The landlord ordered one water tanker last weekend for our 3 flats, not sure how long one will last, but we may need to get another soon. Shops began opening in the days soon after and as the week has gone on even fresh milk became available and I managed to get yogurt yesterday. So the shortages have not happened as we feared, but water is a big issue for many, especially those who cannot afford a tanker. 

The skies are busy with the sound of relief flights coming in and out. Last week they were flying overhead day and night, they have now stopped in the middle of the night thankfully, but we often hear them coming in in the late evening and then taking off at about 5am having spent the night unloading. These planes are big and can't get altitude quickly so in the early morning, as you are waking up, the noise can lead to panic or confusion - is it another earthquake or is their a rocket taking off or landing on our roof?! We have learnt to distinguish the different sounds between windows rattling due to a plane overhead or the deeper rumbling of an aftershock!

People are very busy with relief work at the moment. My facebook news feed is full of requests for help and pictures of destroyed villages which local friends and organisations which I follow have been to see and help. There is now a shortage of tarpaulins in the whole country as so many are desperate for some kind of shelter. Most taking aid in seem to be taking tarps, rice and water with the hope they can take more longer term supplies later to help people get back on their feet.

We are still getting regular aftershocks, the most recent one I felt was a 4.9 at 6.17 am yesterday morning (Fri 8th May). Most of them just feel like a sudden jolt, so they give you a shock but then are finished. It's the occasional one like we had at 3.40 on Thursday morning (7th May) which was actually smaller at 3.3, but was presumably closer or shallower as it seemed bigger and lasted a few seconds and was more of a shaking, and so gives you time to react and think, but even this one was done before we got up. Thankfully the kids seem not to be noticing these.

Engineers are in huge demand at the moment as people worry about the safety of their homes. Many have fresh cracks and have no idea whether they are safe or not. Thankfully our home has no new cracks and so we have been able to move back in without fear about the safety of our home. Our primary principal at KISC and her family are currently house hunting after part of their house was deemed unsafe to live in.  Very unsettling for them, but worse for the landlord who will now has to find out if he can repair it or whether he needs to rebuild.

It is estimated that over half a million people have left Kathmandu valley after the earthquake as most people traveled back to their home villages to see the damage and help with the clean up. The government closed all schools for 3 weeks too and so it has been very quiet in Kathmandu. However, millions of children will not have schools to go to at the end of this 3 week period, let alone uniforms, books, pencils, teachers, etc.

This week has been quite surreal in many ways. We spend our time with others talking about the earthquake, aftershocks, the relief effort and we spend our free time reading all the stories online or just trying to switch of from it with some mindless TV. Sometimes it just breaks our hearts and other times it feels really quite distant as our lives are quickly returning to a relatively normal routine. We are tired, the kids are tired too, so the days seem long. It's hard to plan and think beyond the immediate at times, and yet we know we are not the victims in this, our experiences were scary and traumatic but we are able to pick ourselves up and get on very quickly, something so many here don't have the luxury of and so while I can tell you my story it is nothing compared to others who have lost everything.

This country and it's people are strong and beautiful and it has been a privileged to see them helping one another and leading the relief efforts for their own country. They are not victims and with the right support this country will rise up again and I pray that it will rise up stronger then it was before and move forward from this to a great future that it's people deserve, but it is going to take time and support.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Enabling

Today was the first normal (ish) day of school since the “Great Quake” as the media here are calling it. But how has the quake affected KISC? And what has been our role in it?

The damage in the hall
Within hours of the quake striking 9 days ago photos appeared on Facebook of the school hall. The back wall was down and the rubble had come nearly a third of the way down the hall. Apart from this, a cracked staircase in a small, lesser used building, and the ubiquitous fallen chimney stack, the school had survived pretty much intact, an appearance confirmed by a day spent with architects and engineers last Monday.

But what about the staff and the students? Last Thursday we called a staff meeting for those able to attend, and most staff did, although some weren’t able to because they were directly involved in the aid or relief work, or they were busy helping their families or dealing with homes that were destroyed or severely damaged. In fact, about a dozen members of staff, all Nepali staff, and their families either had their home destroyed or it is too damaged to live in. Those who were able to attend heard from a psychologist trained in dealing with family trauma and then we shared our stories together.

Then on Friday we had a short, special program, including a short assembly, time for students to spend with their class teachers in the primary, and their form teachers in the secondary, and time for games and activities, and just hanging out.  Today saw the restart of more normal classes, although Primary students are on a half day for this week, and for all students it’s optional, to allow them to integrate back gently and build up energy. Tomorrow (5 May) our Year 11-13 students start their IGCSE and A level examinations. Unsurprisingly they are finding studying hard at this time.

Special Assembly on Friday, on the basketball court
that days before had been a campsite for many
As we considered when to restart school there was the constant worry of, will it make a difference, is it too soon, too late, too normal, too different. Shouldn’t we be out there making a real difference? But then over the weekend one teacher shared this on Facebook “I keep telling [my husband], "we aren't helping enough... We need to do more." But this is a time to trust the body of believers and the many organizations and we can all work together. Tomorrow, I will have my students back in the classroom for a half day. I need to focus on teaching them and know that [my husband] along with many others will continue to work to reach the villagers.”

Another teacher said to Becky that they had been wanting to do more, and ended up at a meeting of several aid and development workers. They quickly realised that this was outside of their skill set, but that their skills were teaching. They looked round the room and realised that several of people there had children in her class. They knew the best thing they could do to help was to get back in the classroom and support their children through this time enabling the relief work to
continue.

This has always been our goal as a couple, to be at KISC to enable all the work that is going on to develop Nepal. Never has it been so important, never has it had the potential to impact this nation so much. 

A reminder, that if you would like to give to the relief effort, we recommend our organisation BMS World Mission's own disaster relief fund.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

When the Ground Moved

Many walls in our local area
are down
Saturday was a fairly quiet morning for us until midday. Then it struck. We were in our 2nd floor flat at the time and we quickly huddled together, and kept low in a safe location. As soon as the initial shaking was over we were out of the flat, leaving everything behind, including mobiles which did concern some people who then could not get hold of us in the first couple of hours.

We sheltered with the landlord and his family in our garden, as he listened to the news and informed us of the significance of the situation. We had known it was a big one, but couldn’t believe quite how big it was. Our initial surprise that the neighbours garden wall had fallen down turned to amazement that more hadn’t. In fact as I went round the local area later in the afternoon the only damage I could find was garden walls that had fallen over.

Open spaces became full of people very quickly, this was taken
about 2:30 on Saturday
Of course the news soon came in that not that far away in Kathmandu much more significant damage and destruction had occurred, although some of the rumours, including that the airport had been destroyed turned out to be false.

In the early evening we decided to make our way to KISC as we knew several of our friends were doing the same, to shelter on the basketball court for the night. We grabbed supplies from the flat and headed up.
Our temporary home

The basketball court then became home for four nights. This was in so many ways a blessing, but also a hard time. The kids enjoyed having so many of their friends there – it was described as being like a long party by Samuel. On Sunday the peak night, we had over 200 people sleeping on the court and many of the KISC community rallied round to support the new community. There were people from many nations there, plenty of Nepalis, Koreans, Brits of course, Australians, Americans, even a few Swiss and I’m sure some others.
Shopping this week has been
 a bit different

It soon became clear that the road to India was open, and some shops were open Sunday, with more opening as the days went on, allowing us to be able to get food and eat a fairly regular diet. Electricity appeared fleetingly, but then Tuesday evening it came and stayed for a good 12 hours. A big concern was water, but we were able to collect 200 litres of rain water during a storm which we iodised ensuring we would be ok for a while longer.

Story time at the camp
Then yesterday we came home. It was good in so many ways, to see how quickly the kids happily picked up their toys and started playing, in the exact spot they had been on Saturday. But in other ways it is so hard still. We aren’t being supplied with city water yet, so are having to be very careful in our use. Occasional tremors continue setting us on edge, although mercifully they are too small for the kids to really notice now. But these are minor concerns compared to many peoples worries.

Home Again
The kids have handled the whole thing amazingly. 4 nights of sleeping on the basketball court and 4 days of constant playing with friends certainly tired them out and there have been several times of questioning about the whole situation, but thankfully, they are mostly just carrying on as normal. We are delighted about this, and are pleased to be able to help them process all they have been through.

Of course, our story is not at all representative of so many others and there is a great need here. We will share stories of those who have been more seriously affected soon. BMS World Mission, our sending organisation, has set up a disaster relief fund. All the money from this fund will go direct to long term partners here in Nepal. Organisations that will be here long after the initial aid has disappeared. Organisations who we know well as many of their staff have children at KISC. If you would like to help, please do consider giving to the BMS World Mission Relief fund by following this link.



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Sisters

This weekend we were invited to the opening of a new café not far from us called “Sisters Café and Beauty”. We were invited to the opening as the managers are parents of KISC students working in Nepal with the Salvation Army.


Several KISC students and staff were at the opening, a few students were singing, others were giving tours, and one student’s artwork was included in the café.

The café has a nice garden setting and so we were able to sit out in the garden, sample some of the free food and drink, listen to the music and the kids even got their faces painted. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

/Artwork from a KISC student.
The crest says Udhar Sena which means Salvation Army
Their website gives some background to the purpose of the café: “Sisters began due to an awareness of the struggle for Nepalese women to gain meaningful employment. Because of this, many women are more vulnerable to poor working conditions. Sisters aims to be a successful business in order to provide a place for Nepalese women to be trained as waitresses, beauticians or chefs.”


This is another example of where KISC parents are playing a part in breaking the cycle of gender based mistreatment and violence. As we mentioned in our last blog BMS World Mission has many resources and ideas as part of its current campaign to raise awareness of gender based violence. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


This week the issue of gender based violence has hit the headlines again in Nepal. Two girls were studying at a tuition centre in Kathmandu when a gang broke in and threw acid on them. This sort of headline is sadly not uncommon here in Nepal.

No one knows for sure but it is estimated that between 5000-7000 Nepali women are trafficked into India alone each year. They are usually promised work or sometimes a place in a boarding school, often by someone they know, and then sold into brothels in Kathmandu or in Indian cities.


A number of the parents of students at KISC are involved in work which aims to empower and rehabilitate those who have been marginalized by society, abused or trafficked, and provide them with a way out and the chance to start again.

Two of these families have started a business together here to go into ethical garment manufacturing. They have named their business Purnaa which is a Nepali word meaning whole, complete or perfect. 
Unemployment in Nepal currently stands above 40%. As a result, 15%-20% of Nepalis currently work outside the country, often in situations that make them extremely vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and bonded labour. Purnaa’s goal is to create good jobs within Nepal, empowering survivors and preventing exploitation in the future. They “envision a Nepal with sufficient employment to reduce poverty and make possible the eradication of modern day slavery.”

Purnaa currently employs around 20 people, mostly women, from various different backgrounds and are training them to produce beautiful clothes, bags and other products to sell in the western markets. They have just released their first catalogue.


Modelling Purnaa Products
We feel proud to be able to support this work by enabling these and many other families to stay here in Nepal because they know there is a good school for their children and so they don’t have to leave for educational reasons.

If this is a topic you are interested in finding out more about then BMS World Mission are currently running the “Dignity” campaign to raise awareness about gender based violence in the UK and around the world. It is estimated that every one of us globally will have met at least one person who is affected by gender based violence even if we don’t know it.


This campaign provides materials for you to discuss these issues within your churches or small groups and looks at ways you can get involved in the UK and overseas to help bring about much needed change.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Lip Sync

This week we had one of the most fun assemblies I’ve seen in my time at KISC. One of the teachers had set the challenge that each class had to perform a lip-sync (i.e. mime to a song).

The gauntlet was laid down, and each class took up the challenge. This included several hours of practising, in fact on the evening before the assembly I had to kick 2 classes worth of students of campus when they were still practising at 5pm. And most students who were involved were back on site by the time I got into KISC at 7:40 the next morning (school starts at 8 here).

Well the competition was fierce, with a mixture of new songs (I didn’t know them) and some classics (Jackson 5 & Elvis!). The winners were year 12 with their sync of Journeys’ Don’t stop Believin’, as decided by audience applause. Click the link to see the video.

The videos of the other performances are due to be uploaded to our KISC youtube account in the next few days.

There was a moral to the story - it’s ok to be yourself, even if it is fun to be someone else sometimes.


And in case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a lip-sync someof the staff, including Dan, did at the Christmas social. The choice of song is a bit of an in-joke we will confess.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Day of Prayer

Monday 2 February is the first Global day of prayer for KISC. We are asking friends and supporters of KISC around the world and in Kathmandu to pray for KISC on that day. We'd like as many people as possible to sign up for a 15 minute slot. For more details and to sign up go to our website. If you'd like to pray in your churches for KISC then feel free to start the prayer on Sunday 1st!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Constitution

Nearly 7 years ago Nepal elected a Constitutional Assembly, in the first democratic elections for several years, the task of the assembly was to produce a constitution for Nepal, and they were given 2 years to do so. Nepal, newly democratic and no longer a Hindu kingdom but a secular state.

Picture from www.thehindu.com
After 4 years of trying the sticking points proved too sticky and no constitution was forthcoming so the assembly was disbanded. 18 months later in November 2013 fresh elections brought about the second Constitutional Assembly. The deadline for that assembly to produce a constitution is this week, Thursday 22nd January 2015.

Reading the papers and following the news there is not a lot of hope that this time will see success. There has been lots of talks of Bandhas (strikes) by various opposition parties, to push for particular demands, for a constitution, or against a constitution that is pushed through by vote (as opposed to the desired consensus). So far though we have only seen one nationwide bandh last week, but there is likely to be disruption this week. This is a lot more peaceful and with much less disruptionthan previous years. Although, one group has already announced that they will strike on Friday to burn the constitution if one emerges on Thursday.

As we have said before the strikes and protests and political to and fro’s hit the poorest worst as they are forced to shut up shop or have vehicles vandalised. Please remember Nepal this week and if you pray, pray for a peace filled week and for politicians to come together for the good of this nation.