Global Peace Exchange Nepal Development Project 2017
Report Prepared by the members of GPE Nepal team: Jen Concepcion (Project Director), Bryan Acuna, Sophia Alfaro, Chelsea Gow, and Andrew McMahon.
Welcome back to Global Peace Exchange’s website for Project Nepal ’17 updates. For the 6th year now, we are enthusiastic about our return to the village of Meghauli, Chitwan. This year, we are a team of six students, two students from Birmingham-Southern College along with four others from Florida State University, who are all dedicated to carrying out sustainable initiatives in this rural town. Throughout the following two months, we will be consistently working with the members of this community to engage them in environmental awareness, English education, Youth Empowerment and Health & Sanitation. GPE Project Director Jen Concepcion will be leading a group of five GPE volunteers to implement the various sustainable projects in Meghauli, Nepal.
In order to do so, we are continuing our partnership with the amazing non-governmental organization known as Clinic Nepal, founded by Hari Bhandary approximately 20 years ago. This organization actively works to improve the conditions in Meghauli by providing access to clean water, proper waste disposal, affordable health care and education. Hand in hand, we hope to combine our visions in the interest of the kind folks within the village, as well as providing a means for cultural exchange between the members of our team and those of the community.
In a meanwhile, Meena Barakam, GPE volunteer from Birmingham-Southern College, has started working on a different project in Ashako Kiran Kindergarten in Daldale, Nepal. Report from Daldale Project: GPE Project Nepal has hit the ground running here in Daldale since last Thursday. We have continued the project that six other volunteers from France started three weeks ago. The goal is to create educational art on the walls of the primary school in the nursery room, LKG room, and UKG room. The volunteers from France have already made beautiful paintings of the alphabet accompanied by a picture for each letter, fruits, vegetables, numbers, and some jungle animals as well. It is such a pleasure to see the children come and try to learn from the paintings! In addition, they have repainted the walls in blue and white and washed the paint off of the doors and window frames and applied new paint in vibrant colors. We have begun to draw and paint the seasons in the LKG room as well as the parts of the body and the Nepali alphabets in the nursery room. Accommodating the requests of the teacher of the school, we will start to draw and then paint different types of animals and insects in the LKG room as well as the multiplication tables in the UKG room. We hope to get the older students involved in the painting process and the teachers have also agreed to help to get the job done in good time! We are very excited to see the finished product, and we hope the paintings will help the children to learn for many many years to come!
Week One: Health & Sanitation Program
For the past couple of years, GPE has worked with the Wolfgang-Linke Kindergarten to creatively foster cultural exchange between children of ages 3-5 and the volunteers. Using songs, dances and other activities, the main goal was to expose the children of Meghauli to a culture different from their own, while simultaneously doing the same with the volunteers. As of last year, a new component to the initiative was added to address the Health and Sanitation standards of the kindergarten. While still allowing cultural exchange between GPE volunteers and the children, we have incorporated messages within fun activities that teach them basic health skills. Such skills included washing hands and face, brushing their teeth, blowing their noses and proper wound care.
Following the first two days of acclimation with the kindergarten, our lessons began. Using skits and songs, we demonstrated to the children why it is important to practice proper personal hygiene. Throughout the project, we allocated one day for each skit, followed by another day for the application of the practice. For example, to teach them about brushing their teeth we acted out a child eating a chocolate bar (played by Sophie, a fellow volunteer) and then getting attacked by a cavity (played by Bryan). Then, the child would take out a toothbrush and use it as a sword, ultimately winning the battle against the cavity. With the help of the teachers, we were able to inform the munchkins about the meaning of each character and what their purpose in the skit was. On the next immediate day, we would have assembly lines of children whom we taught, one by one, how to brush their teeth. During the assembly lines, we would also sing nursery rhymes to them that would later remind them of the steps.
With this initiative, our goal is to expose the children to these skills, even minimally, given their young age and ability to form new habits. Ultimately, with proper maintenance and reiteration, we hope that they pass them on to their future children and friends, in order to prevent communicable diseases that are found in Nepal. Instead of attempting to change the health practices of an established community, we aim to take a preventative stance with the children: the future of their communities and the world. Most notably, some children who were educated last year were seen blowing their own noses- as well as some of the older kids taking initiative and brushing their teeth and washing their hands, without our assistance.
Week Two: Health Presentation
Along with the Health and Sanitation Program that we engaged the youngsters in, we finished off with a huge presentation to inform their parents about the dangers of not maintaining personal hygiene. The idea behind this was to encourage the practices in the household, which would ensure the sustainability of our teachings. After doing copious amounts of research, we prepared five posters to demonstrate the importance of washing your hands & face, brushing your teeth, using heat powder, proper wound care and blowing/covering your nose after sneezing/coughing.
Our posters all consisted of the general “how’s, when’s and why’s” relating to the topic in question. We presented information about common diseases that result from improper hygiene and spreading of bacteria such as Tuberculosis, Strep Throat, Pink Eye, Periodontitis, Heat Rashes, Tetanus and many more. Also, many pictures were included in order to enhance the effectiveness of our presentation through visual imagery. Using the help of the Friendship Scout Troop, we were able to translate the posters into Nepali, and then invited a local community member to assist in translating our words during the presentation; it is safe to assume that the message was clear and received by the parents.
In addition to the posters, we prepared health kits for each and every child in order to facilitate and encourage the healthful practices we were preaching. This year, we were thankfully able to provide toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand soaps, Band-Aids, handkerchiefs and heat powder. The heat powder was a new item included this year, which we felt was highly needed upon observing the children. Due to the intense heat in the village of Meghauli, many of the kids had skin rashes on their arms and faces; a local physician informed us that it was heat induced and very uncomfortable. Consequently, when a heat rash forms, the body’s sweat glands become clogged and are unable to release sweat—hindering the cooling mechanism that prevents overheating. Additionally, we switched over to handkerchiefs instead of tissues (what was used last year) because we felt that they could be washed and re-used, in turn emphasizing our environmental initiative of recycling and re-using. We also felt that if the parents had one item they could re-use, it would be one less thing they would need to buy in the future in order to maintain the practices.
All in all, we believe that our presentation was a success. More than half of the parents listened intently and were happy after eating the samosas (a Nepalese favorite) we provided for them! The children were also pleased with their health kits (mostly due to their aesthetic ha-ha), but we hope that the idea of it appearing as a present allows them to treasure it and practice what we’ve taught them in due time.
One of GPE’s long lasting initiatives is the distribution and painting of hundreds of “dustbins” around Meghauli. Meghauli, like many other rural areas of Nepal, lacks a proper garbage disposal system. Until GPE started placing dustbins around the town six years ago, people had no option but to burn their garbage sporadically around the village or to simply leave it on the ground where it will await decomposition for hundreds of years, at best. In cases of non-biodegradable material, harm to the ecosystems around Meghauli, particularly the famous Chitwan National Forest, is at risk.
The dustbins provide a compact, consistent, and consolidated place for the residents to dispose of their garbage. Once their dustbins are full, the residents are encouraged to transport their trash to a recycling center located near the Clinic. Currently, their purpose is to collect garbage but the long-term vision is pollution reduction with consistent self-transportation to the recycling center. Through educational efforts with the Friendship Scout Troop, GPE hopes to attain this vision in the coming years. Coming from another city in Nepal such as Kathmandu, one immediately recognizes the impact the dustbins have due to the lack of trash piles strewn about the streets. The team’s extensive efforts to make the dustbins aesthetically pleasing is driven by the idea that people will be more inclined to use something that they find appealing. The team also hopes that the attractive nature of the dustbins will also encourage others in surrounding areas to adopt a similar practice.
The two improvements the team has implemented this year are the use of primer before painting and the use of stencils to create the logos on each dustbin. The primer is necessary to ensure that the paint looks as professional as possible and to prevent chipping and flaking. The stencils have been useful in increasing the team’s efficiency, as well as perfecting the appearance of each logo. These two changes have resulted in a significant change in the overall appearance of each dustbin, which will cause people to be more inclined to use them and hopefully foster a sense of pride in their surroundings within the community.
Week 3: Community English Begins!
As Chayya attempts to answer a question about her family tree using full sentences, the purpose of her pursuit of the english language becomes evident: She desires to advance in her family and her community by learning an extra form of communication. Specifically, to advance in a career that requires her to speak English fluently. The community English class she is attending at seven in the morning not very close to her home is a way for her and many other students to progress socially and economically in a country where knowledge of the English language is a valuable commodity. The purpose of the community English class is therefore reflected on the eager faces that seldom arrive late to a session. Its goal is to provide the community members with a way of progressing socially and economically through linguistic means. Nowhere is this purpose more evident than with Junga, a forty three year old army veteran who seeks to learn English in order to successfully interview and secure a job overseas. His willingness to listen and learn is refreshing since second language classes in the United States are often viewed as mere stepping stones to reach the next grade. The tangible goal of the class is to have deeper learning through challenging yet understandable lessons that maximize retention given our short time frame with the community.
The impact this class has on the students is certainly helpful. It converts their teetering knowledge of poor secondary school english into a solid foundation on which to build upon. Through a different class scheme than ones used in years prior, we challenge students while maintaining an intimate class setting that caters to the individual. The layout of the class is as follows: 6 days of class for 5 consecutive weeks. The sessions are from 7-8:30 in the morning and consist of an initial lecture followed by small groups. Each Friday the students perform an examination to test their knowledge of the week’s lessons. After a short recess on Saturday, the students return on Sunday to review their examinations and discuss strengths and weaknesses in detail. This process is vital to their retention of the english language by drilling repetition and constant improvement in the areas they are weakest.
There are five major differences between this year’s community english class and those of previous years.
1. Class size and demographics
This year, the class size is considerably larger at 40 members and consists mainly of young students wanting to improve their limited knowledge of English. In previous years, the class size was smaller and consisted primarily of farmers and shopkeepers in need of learning basic English to communicate with foreigners that visit the village.
In years prior, the teachers created their lessons and materials based on their unique understanding of how an english class should be structured. As one can Imagine, this style of teaching is only beneficial when there are trained teachers to create a curriculum. How did this work? The simple answer is that it was effective for a population that needed a vocabulary boost to merely get by in foreign interactions. This year, our population has very different needs so the team is using material from Cambridge that consists of 5 different levels. Only the first level is in effect this year. Our goal is to use the five levels provided by the Cambridge program to create fluency over the course of five years. Given that our short time with the community does not create a sustainable environment, we hope to permanently implement the 5 year fluency program in the near future. This program can be implemented through a paid teacher salary or through the public school system curriculum. The former is a community initiative that hires a free lance English teacher who is able to teach for seven months. On the other hand, an extensive english course in the public school system would be most beneficial to the students but equally difficult to implement.
3. Layout: the introduction of the small group
Our class has a two-part structure that is used in each session. First is the lecture. This is a broad lesson taught to all students and is presented by one or two teachers, depending on its length. A new element added to the classroom is the small group. With 40 students in each lesson, it is difficult to cater to each students strengths and weaknesses in such a large setting. By dividing the class into four smaller groups at the end of lecture, a teacher is able to manage each student on an individual bases. The small group includes activities, dialogue, and worksheets all based on the Cambridge method. This style of teaching is welcomed by the students who are usually shy and desire a closed setting in order to practice their English.
4. More teachers
Last year the class had 2 teachers. Although the class size was smaller, 2 teachers planning large lessons is not a simple task. Our class has a total of 4 teachers, each with his/her personal small group. This allows the students to receive instruction in lecture from different teaching styles and adds variance to the classroom. The benefit of an increased teacher corp is that each small group is given a very manageable 10 students. These same students remain in their groups for the entire course in hopes of optimizing the comfort between students and their teacher.
At the request of the students, class has been extended by 30 minutes this year. A class that is normally one hour is extended into an hour and a half. The increase in length has a profound effect on the amount of material the team is able to cover. Adding 30 minutes to the class is the equivalent of adding 1/3 of an english course to the project. It allows for longer lessons and group time.
Kindergarten Teacher English: Renovations
One of GPE’s major initiatives in its five-year relationship with Clinic Nepal is to improve the quality of the English language taught to the children of Wolfgang-Linke Kindergarten. Providing education to approximately sixty-seven students under the age of five, Wolfgang-Linke Kindergarten functions well in the hands of four very capable teachers. These four teachers, Sobita, Lalita, Vidhya, and Rina, display a large amount of care and passion towards the education of the young students. The youngest of the bunch, around 3 years of age need more of a day-care environment, catering to their needs of social interactions and a large amount of playtime. However, the more advanced 5 year-olds are ready to gain a basic understanding of the English language. This young stage is crucial in the development of a proper English language foundation. Therefore, this initiative aims to assist the teachers with their English so that they may properly educate the children. The challenge of this project is that the teachers are non-native English speakers, which in turn results in poor pronunciation. Our purpose, then, is to improve their pronunciation in order for them to correctly teach English words and phrases to the young linguistic sponges.
Different from last year, the focus of our material has shifted from sentence structure and grammar to a more applicable skill for the Kindergarteners- pronunciation. For what use is the knowledge of the English language if you cannot apply it to the real world and communicate it effectively with those around you? The structure of the class is quite simple given that our goal is very straightforward – achieving proper pronunciation. Moreover, we tailor the class to practice words and commands that are commonly used in the classroom or found in the English readers given to the children. This way, the words that we help them perfect are the words that the children are hearing or learning everyday.
The remarkable improvements the teachers have made encourages us, knowing that their improvement is in turn increasing the quality of the English education given to the kindergarteners. Thus, putting them on the right track to ultimately achieve fluency in the English language.