On The Road

SAD NEWS FROM MATT’S TRAVELS IN NEPAL

“This baby was left in a box outside the orphanage a day before I got there on the sidewalk.” – Matt Haley

Hi Matt,

We didn’t get the chance to make an appointment yet. Last night our small mentally handicapped girl, Priya, has died. She was the girl with micro-sephaly who you were holding that was sleeping on one of the couches in the room where Laxmi was sitting. That same evening her breathing became very difficult and the next morning we took her to hospital again and again they changed her medication. They told us that they did all investigations they could do and that we just had to continue giving her medication and that there was nothing more we could do. This morning we found her in her bed and she must have died during the night. We called the police and they came and a police report has been made and submitted in teaching hospital, where they will do a post mortum. Only next week will we get the results. We have spent the rest of today writing letters of notification to the different government offices that we work together with and submitting them everywhere.

We knew she wasn’t going to live for a very long time, but still it is shocking and unexpected when it happens.

We’ll try to arrange for Thursday, and I will definitely let you know. I know you wanted to help.

Thanks a lot,

See you soon,
Wim

NOV12

VOICES IN THE HILLS

It was a cloudy crisp morning at Pranjal Children’s Academy when I awoke on the floor of a small room in the school. We had hiked into the valley the previous night and hadn’t arrived until after dark, so I had no clue what to expect as I moved to the window. Towering hills surrounded me as I looked out from the tiny white building nestled between a slowly churning river and the brilliant green rice paddies that blanket the rolling terrain. The air was clean and quiet. I stood there for a few minutes, overcome by a feeling of content. I had only just arrived and I already I felt a deep love for the place.

After a traditional breakfast of dal bhat, I watched the children arrive one by one. Some walk as far as two miles every day, ambling down steep rocky hill faces and along narrow winding paths in their humble blue uniforms. They are curious, yet very shy. Many couldn’t even look me in the eye without turning away, red faced and giggling. There are few foreigners that travel this far into the Nuwakot district so it took a day or two for them to even speak to me.

Many children’s parents were born and raised in the village. Working the land is what they know and for many years education has fallen to the wayside in the name of maintaining the home. Narayan, the founder and principle of Pranjal, is a village native who was lucky enough to receive good schooling. Unlike many of his educated peers who move away from their homes to find work, he came back and with him, brought hydropower. For the first time, just five years ago, the village received electricity. But Narayan knew he couldn’t stop there. He knew it would take more than a few dimly flickering light bulbs to bring people out of the darkness.

And so Narayan, with the help of the village and Matt Haley’s Global Delaware Fund, built Pranjal, a privately run school serving children as young as three and as old as twelve. They are taught math, science, health, music, Nepali and English. They are given homework, quizzes and weekly tests. They have access to a small library and a volleyball net sits in the side yard where recess is held. Narayan’s home is perched just across from the school and offers running clean running water to the thirsty and an organic vegetable garden to the hungry. It is a humble paradise, situated along the lone dirt road intersecting the land.

When Narayan learned of my degree in English, he asked me to help teach a class. I accepted rather excitedly and sat quietly as the children flipped through their textbooks to find their favorite poems. We sat and recited some together at first, then I asked each child to read them aloud by themselves. Their words were soft and unsure, as if the sounds tasted strange in their mouths. A teacher sounded the bell downstairs, signifying a period change. I assured them all that they spoke beautifully and that they only needed to speak louder. Each smiled and looked down, scurrying out and down the stairs to their next class. It wasn’t until music class that I truly heard their voices.

The music program is in its infancy, a new endeavor by Narayan and Matt that has been made possible by generous donations to the Global Delaware Fund. The children practice scales daily and learn classic Nepali and English songs. Many are nursery rhymes or traditional religious pieces that they perform accompanied by a guitar. However, the school just purchased a harmonium, a compact Indian instrument that is a cross between an accordion and a keyboard. That day, as I sat down with the children for music class, it hummed loudly and the children began to sing “We Shall Overcome.” Their voices suddenly grew and I saw a confidence and vitality that was hidden before. The words boomed from their throats and they transformed from small, quiet beings into warriors with a fire in their bellies. It was there, sitting in that classroom, shivering with goosebumps and fighting back tears, that I truly understood the power of education, especially music education, and the outstanding potential that every human being possesses within them if the flame is only stoked.

Sitting down to write about my trip has been a struggle. The compassion I feel for the people I met and my gratitude for the way in which they embraced me is hard to express in writing because I feel that there simply aren’t enough words. What they taught me I carry with me wherever I go and not a day goes by where I don’t find them in my thoughts. Despite their traditions, despite their economic status, despite their latitude on this extremely diverse and stratified earth, these children deserve the same rights and privileges as any other child. I greatly admire Narayan, Matt and everyone else involved with Global Delaware Fund and their efforts to better the lives of the students of Pranjal Children’s Academy and I only hope that I can continue to help in any way that I can. Nepal is a terribly beautiful place and I cannot wait for the chance to return.

– Anna Short

JAN04

A NOTE FROM 2010

Tonight we will take the 10 & ups to the cinema. Most have never been. It is an Indie movie called ” Never Say No” I am not sure that is a good title for the girls since it’s a love story. They convince me otherwise. Great film! I didn’t understand a word but cried and laughed.

I just left the girls at the airport. Leela and Laxmi bought me to the airport along with Kiel, it was emotional for all. Leela cried but looked me right in the eyes and let me know that she knows I love her and will be back and she will count the days. Laxmi is older and always more professional when I leave but I have heard she cries after. Kiel gives me a Nepali goodbye and blesses me then gives me the American bear hug and sheds a tear.

I sit in the airport and fall apart after realizing how much I will miss them and all the children. Leela, Laxmi and Kabita always hurt the most.

I am heading to Bombay then Goa before NW India where I am presently producing a film on the Pakistan boarder which should be exciting.

– Matt Haley

JAN04

FOOD BANK VOLUNTEERING

Lisa, Maurice and I volunteered at the Food Bank this morning.  It was a really cool experience, we helped pack lunches and then we sorted through donations, putting items into categories and boxing and labeling. I think the most interesting part is how much coordination needs to happen to accept the donations & organize the volunteers- it is really amazing.  Everyone there is so friendly and cheerful at the food bank.  We donated another 90 pounds of food today from Fish On and we put our bin back out in the lobby.

– Molly King

DEC30

THE BEGINNING

We are on the road a lot doing various activities to help those who need it most.  As these events unfold we will be posting entries here describing what we experienced. Please check back often!