Reflection on Dhading Event
When I left the States for Nepal this summer, I had many things on my mind. Amongst all the things I desired to accomplish while I am in Nepal, I wanted to visit ‘Ganga Ghar kids’ and work with them at some level. After brainstorming ideas with Ganga Ghar team in the USA, we decided to organize some sort of an event that would help stimulate kids’ critical thinking. We decided to pick a Saturday to organize an art event followed by a game and a movie. We wanted kids to start think in a different level than what they have been accustomed to, which is mostly to know what are in the textbooks. Above all, we wanted kids to have a fun-filled day. Finally the weekend arrived and Ganga Ghar team in Nepal and I was ready to execute the event.
We left Kathmandu on Friday the 13th amidst synchronized heavy rain and drizzle; the sound of rain is always fascinating to me. It is monsoon but we could not wait for rain to stop. We entered into a highway that twists and turns along Trishuli River and beautiful hills. The towns and villages alongside the road may lack modern infrastructures and physical comfort but it seemed though people in there were living their lives with content. We saw children playing on the sidewalks, dogs, cows, and buffaloes wandering around along the highway, women washing clothes, people taking shower: all visible to anyone who passes. After about couple of hours driving down the Prithvi Highway, we exited to another road that goes through forests and villages. The road was slim, more meandering than the highway we left behind but were smooth AND there were hardly any traffic. It was a fun ride to the town of Dhading Besi.
We checked-in at a local guesthouse. We had some Nepali tea, freshened up and went for a short walk in town. Dhading Besi is a gorgeous little city. I think it represents a typical Nepali town that is gearing towards progress in respect to modern infrastructures. However, I was mostly fascinated by how organic the lives are. For example, people still use oxen to cultivate their lands, most family still use fire woods to cook their food; supposedly taste better that way. After enjoying beautiful landscapes in Dhading Besi, We performed a final logistics management to be ready for the following day. It was a bright Saturday morning. After a cup of tea at the guesthouse, we headed over to the local school, Bal Mandir where the event took place. We had asked kids to arrive at 8 am. Most of the kids arrived before 8am and were running on the school’s playground. They were playing a Nepali game very popular among kids. In this game, a kid is randomly chosen as a ‘Dum’ (the one that chases after other kids) is supposed to chase after his/her playmates. When a chaser touches others, the ones that are touched are ‘dead’ (out of the play) and have to stand on the sidelines. We played this game a lot when we were growing up. The kids were having so much fun. I loved watching them, it took me to my childhood~~nostalgia it was.
After “a little warm up”, the kids sat down for breakfast. We served chickpeas, hard boiled eggs, milk, cookies, and fruit punch. They seemed thankful for some fruit punch as soon as they sat down from intense running around. Everyone has woken up and seemed ready to participate in the event.
Each student was provided with a set of drawing pencils, a drawing sheet, and a topic. Twenty-Nine kids were divided into two groups;Fifth graders and up were given “Success” as a topic to draw on, and kids below 5th grade were given rather straightforward topic, “city”. Younger kids started drawing “city” right after they were told they could start. Kids on the other group though looked lost, that is exactly what I was expecting. Thankfully, I was able to explain them why it requires critical thinking and imagination to put down the thoughts on a drawing paper. When they were given a slight hint, everyone lightened up. You could hear them say “Gotcha” within themselves.
The kids were given up to an hour to draw on their topics. When they were done with drawing, we had them switch their work with their peer’s. The students interacted among themselves on their works as per what was the thought process they were going through while drawing? After a short discussion, everyone came up front of the class and talked about their works and also talked how their works were different from their peers’. When kids started explaining their works to us, I was very impressed. To talk about a few, a student drew a society free of discrimination as “success”. In a country where discrimination on the basis of unequal and unkind caste system is still deeply ingrained in many people’s minds, a kid showed a better intelligence and challenged not so openly spoken but very much existed element in our society. Other kid drew a clean (sanitized) school as “success”. As a student and a raw professional of public health, I appreciated kids coming up with such powerful messages. The catastrophic toll on health of Nepali people because of the discrimination hasn’t been calculated in numbers however the health disparities in the communities speak it clearly. On the other hand, because of lack of sanitation, fatal cases of easily preventable infectious diseases aren’t being contained. These kids were thinking at higher level than what I was expecting, I had underestimated them indeed. Other thing I was impressed about was that these kids wanted to say “THANKS” to their sponsors and the Ganga Ghar. Most of the Ganga Ghar scholarships recipients come from ethnic groups who have been discriminated for way too long because of their caste. I commend Ganga Ghar for being a hope for many of these kids.
The second half of the program consisted a game called ‘Pictionary’ and a screening of the movie “Happy Feet”. Both of these things were new to them. The kids enjoyed the game thoroughly. While we were playing ‘Pictionary’, it started raining. It started dripping in the classroom. The kids had to run to a dryer place in the room to prevent them from getting wet. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun. We started screening the movie, ‘Happy Feet’ followed by the game. We distributed supplies and a bag of goodies to kids on their way out. Everyone was Happy and the event I would say was a “success”.
I would like to the team in the USA; Khem, Grishma, Rajib, and Binod and Ojash for their support in crafting the event. I appreciated all the discussions and suggestions. I am very thankful to Bikram Parajuli and Yubesh Shrestha in Nepal for their support as well. They gave me everything I needed to carry out the event in Nepal. I appreciate all the volunteers in Dhading for helping us at the event. Finally, I want to thank and congratulate all the sponsors. Thank you very much for sending these kids to school. I am glad and you should be too that your money is being well spent; you are changing lives of so many for better.