Read about the types of initiatives we like to support
Most of the initiatives to date have involved Paudwar village in Myagdi District, where the project originated. The initiatives described below include those we have supported and others undertaken by the village either alone or with other supporters. They all contribute to the goals of our Association.
As explained elsewhere, our aim is to support such initiatives not only in Paudwar but wherever they may be found in rural Nepal.
Gyan Bahadur Pun, Chair of a committee of former Paudwar residents living in Pokhara, is leading a concerted effort to make a documentary film of traditional life in the village. Envisaged as an eighteen month project, it will encompass many aspects including work and play activities, dress and ornaments, pujas and festivals. The latter will, of course, include dancing. When visitors are entertained with dancing, some of the dances are modern, but others are traditional. These videos gives a glimpse of the latter as they may be included in the documentary:
Assistance for the production of the documentary, both funding and technical, is currently being sought. If this could interest you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the following links to read about particular initiatives:
This project is directly sponsored by the Rotary Club of Woodend, with our support and assistance
As noted in the History of the Association, our support began with donations by the Annapurna Allstars to Paudwar School, starting at Khopra Ridge in 1993 and maintained annually thereafter. It was left to the school to decide how best to use the money.When we first visited the village in 1998 we were struck by the beauty of the village with its close packed slate-roofed stone buildings. We were surprised, on our return in 2001, to see the glaring intrusion of a blue corrugated iron roof on the school library in the centre of the village. When we enquired we found that slate was becoming more difficult and more costly to obtain. The roof of the library had fallen into such disrepair that it had to be replaced, and our contribution of funds was put to this purpose. But it covered only the cost of corrugated iron, not slate. We were dismayed that we had thus contributed to this visual intrusion! Back to top
We have at various times contributed books to the school libraries of Paudwar and nearby villages. We have found that it is necessary to review carefully what books are sent, as books written for Australian children, especially those addressing Australian cultural issues, may not be appropriate in Nepal. One has to think how Nepali children may respond to a book. A simple example is the children’s book “Whistle up the Chimney” by Nan Hunt and Craig Smith. Telling a fairy tale of trains coming down the chimney, through the hall and into the night. Easy enough for Australian children to appreciate. But Nepali children have never seen a train, nor do their houses have chimneys – they just have open cooking fires, typically in the corner of a room with a fair degree of open ventilation. Back to top
The contributions of computers were inspired by the initiatives of Mahabir Pun, whom we first met in his native village of Nangi in 1998. Mahabir had the ambition of delivering internet access to his village, hampered only by a lack of electricity, telephone lines, computers or technical knowledge on the part of the villagers. Mahabir was undaunted. Studying at the University of Nebraska in the USA, he received gifts of old 486 computers. Lacking the funds to freight them to Nepal, he learnt to strip them down to their components. Leaving the steel cases behind he took the components back to his village of Nangi where he taught the students to assemble them in wooden boxes. The story is told at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/1606580.stm.
Mahabir introduced the teaching of computer science at Himanchal High School at Nangi, and Gyan wished to do the same at Paudwar. In delivering computers to them in those days we were concerned that we were introducing unnecessary technology to a subsistence farming community that would gain little real benefit, but aspirations for more and unnecessary material possessions. It was only when we saw the use to which the computers were put that we saw they really could deliver benefits. Such as the yak herder at Khopra Ridge, a day’s climb above the village, maintaining contact with his family in the village over the internet!
The days of 486 computers are now well gone. The minimum standard is now Pentium 4s.
They can be laptops or desktops. The
former have the advantage of lighter
weight for carriage into the country and up to the village, without the
for external monitors and keyboards.
Desktops, on the other hand are more maintainable.
Paudwar is fortunate to have the services of
Gam Pun, who happily swaps chips and motherboards to achieve working
combinations from whatever is at hand.
The delivered computers have all been donated and have come from a variety of sources including corporations (Hydro Electric Commission, Tasmania; ANZ Bank; National Australia Bank), Rotary District 9800 DIK (Donations in Kind) Store and private donations. Back to top
Our first foray into building construction was funding the construction of a Computer Science block in 2002. When we sat down with Gyan to plan it, we specified a slate roof to avoid the intrusion of another blue corrugated iron roof into the picturesque village. We ensured that the funds provided would cover the extra expense.
Later, in 2008 when we contributed to the completion of a new classroom that had been funded by the British Ex-Ghurka association we were unable to make the same provision, as the building was on less stable land and there were doubts that the foundations (which had already failed and had been repaired at our expense) would support the weight of a slate roof. Back to top
To supplement the books we have been able to provide,
Ronda has assembled three picture story books that can have special
meaning for the Paudwar children. Printed as A4 booklets of 8 to 12
pages, they are:
"Paudwar - Village in the Mountains" - pictures from around the village and people they know, with captions that they can learn to read.
"Ronda and Peter in Australia" - again people they have come to know, but in the totally different setting of our beef cattle farm in Australia.
"Farmer Bill" - telling of our friend Bill Hickey and his Australian dairy farm.
English medium teaching
The teaching of languages in Nepal is a challenge. 103 ethnic (caste) languages have been identified, in 93 language groups. Over-riding these is the official, universal language of Nepali. Neither of these help in the wider world of international commerce, including the tourism that is so important to the economy of the country.
Nepali is now taught in all schools, generally at the expense of the local ethnic language. Many schools also offer English as a subject, though the quality of teaching is often poor as a consequence of the teachers themselves having learnt it as a second language with little direct exposure to native English speakers.
Many private schools in the country (generally known as Boarding Schools, as they mostly offer board) have addressed this situation by introducing English medium teaching – that is, the teaching of general subjects in English rather than Nepali. The goal is not to replace Nepali but to develop good bi-lingual capabilities (though generally at the expense of local caste languages, which is unfortunate but hard to avoid).
Krishna, having experienced the benefits of English
teaching for his own children in Kathmandu,
was anxious to introduce it at Paudwar.
This would put Paudwar at the forefront of government schools in
country, despite its being a remote country school. After
much debate by the teachers, the school
committee and parents, the decision was taken to take this major step. With funding provided by our project, two
English medium teachers have been employed at the school since July
2008. A third was engaged in June 2009 to
English medium teaching at Gibung
Primary school, a feeder
school to Paudwar. Back to top
Replacement of original school building
The goal of our project is to support initiatives of the villagers themselves. During our absence between 2001 and 2008, they proved what they could achieve without such external support. During this time the main school building was pulled down and rebuilt. This was entirely a project of the local community, and a tremendous demonstration of what they could achieve. Not only has it done away with the blue iron roof of the library, but classrooms now actually have glass in their windows! Back to top
School Fund-raising Projects
One of the peculiarities of the government school system in Nepal is that, while a school may be approved to teach to a particular level, the government may not provide the funding for this to happen. This has been the case at Paudwar. When we first visited the village in 1998, the school was teaching to Year 8, but with the government only providing funding up to Year 6. Thus the school itself had to find the funds for the more senior – and better paid – teachers.
A logical source of funding would be tuition fees, but in a village of subsistence farmers having no real monitory incomes, this is hardly practical. (In fact, in the Myagdi district of Nepal where Paudwar is located, as many as 80% of households depend on remittances from family members working overseas to make ends meet.)
The school and the village have therefore had to resort to other means of raising money. They have done so by initiating a variety of fund-raising projects as described below. Back to top
Facilities for Trekkers
Tourism is a major potential source of income in Nepal, and in rural areas this generally means trekkers or mountaineers. Villages located on popular trekking routes derive significant income from lodges and tea-houses providing meals and accommodation. Paudwar village, while located in the popular Annapurna area, is not located on such a route. This has not however deterred them from seeking income from tourists. Khopra Ridge, located some 2,000m higher than Paudwar leading up to Annapurna South, offers spectacular views of Mt Dhaulagiri, the Kali Gandaki valley and surrounding mountains. It is the high point of many treks, both literally and emotionally.
Historically Paudwar has serviced pilgrims staying at Khopra Ridge enroute to the Barahi shrine at Khayer Lake (Pautarko Kaire) higher up the mountain. Over the past ten years they have turned their attention to trekkers. In conjunction with Himanchal High School of Nangi village they established camp ground facilities ans services. More recently, in conjunction with Himanchal High School and Peregrine Adventures they have established an hotel providing comfortable accommodation (see photo gallery).
Plans are now being developed for new trekking routes which will draw trekkers to the village. One of these routes descends the ridge westwards towards the Kali Gandaki river, affording spectacular views, especially in spring when rhododendrons colour the hillsides. It leads to a beautiful rest area at Bhal Kharka. The one drawback of this rest area is its lack of water supply. A current initiative is addressing this by the purchase and installation of a 2,685m polyethylene water supply line. Back to top
Yak breeding is another potential source of income - not so much as pack animals in this area but as a source of blood and ultimately meat. The drinking of yak blood is believed to have originated in Mustang on the other side of the Annapurnas. Yak blood-drinking festivals now see local yak herders selling the
blood of live yaks to people who queue up in hundreds to drink it, in
the belief their illnesses will be cured. Each yak is bled to collect between 20 to 40 cups of blood.
Until recently there were no yaks in the Paudwar area, but in a joint project with Himanchal High School yaks were brought from the Mustang area down the Kali Gandaki valley then up the ridge to Khopra. Unfortunately a number died as a consequence of the low altitude en route, to which they were not accustomed, but the survivors have successfully bred. In just a few years the herd has built up to nearly 200, and yak festivals have become an annual event. Back to top
Yet another initiative to generate income for the school was the establishment of a cheese factory to service the needs of tourist lodges and restaurants in the vicinity - another way of tapping into the trekking business. While very good cheese has been produced, quantities have always been limited by the milk supply. The initial dairy cattle were brought up to the village only with the utmost difficulty. In fact, two cows that refused to clime the steep stairways had to be carried by eight men at a time bearing poles from which the cows hung suspended by their legs.
Cheese produced by the factory is now supplied to tourist lodges and restaurants in surrounding villages including Ghorepani, Tatopani, Dana, Ulleri, Jomson and the Mustang area. The demand for milk has led to the latest major initiative - the establishment of the Milk Production Co-operative. Back to top
Village Development Coordinator
The above initiatives for the benefit of the school had been led by a triumvirate of former headmaster Gyan Bahadur Pun, Krishna Bahadur Pun who succeeded him, and Om Bahadur Pun (often working in conjunction with Mahabir Pun of Nangi village).
By 2008, all three had left the village – Gyan to retire to Pokhara where he and his wife would be closer to needed health services; Krishna with his family to Kathmandu to avoid the persecution of Maoist terrorists; and Om to Kathmandu to set up business there.
Krishna was in the unfortunate situation, having lost his income as headmaster, of facing much higher living costs in Kathmandu. After much heartache, he and his wife Sita decided in 2007 that Sita should take a job as a nanny in Israel. This entailed a five year contract, leaving Krishna to look after daughter Krishita (then 11) and son Sharad (then 8).
Krishna retained an urge to return to Paudwar and to assist the development of the school and of economic opportunities for the local community. It was only when we were able to offer funding through our project that this became a practical proposition. Much discussion took place between Krishna and the village community, leading to Krishna taking up the paid role of Village Development Coordinator from April 2009. Back to top
Khayer Barahi Milk Production Co-operative Society Limited
Our visit in 2009 coincided with celebrations for the school’s Golden Jubilee. Past residents of the village had gathered from afar, and the opportunity was taken to audit and review all community projects and to plan new ones.
Most significant among these was a proposal to establish a multi-purpose cooperative. Households in the village (of which there are only about 250) would be asked to contribute funds which would go towards projects of economic benefit to the village.
The co-operative was intended:
- To create job opportunities for local people so that at least some people may stop going elsewhere in search of jobs.
- To fulfill the demand for cheese and other products from tourist lodges and restaurants in the district.
- To bring external money into the village.
- To expand village activities to include organic
farming and other farming techniques
(The vocational subject 'Education' in Years IX and X of Paudwar Secondary School is being replaced by 'Agriculture' to support these changes).
- To develop "agro-tourism" to see these agricultural developments, to attract tourists from within Nepal and further afield.
- To provide a model of "social-business" that will open the eyes of the people to business concepts.
- To enhance sanitation and cleanness activities in the village.
- To establish a day centre for "old people" in the village in the future.
As steps were taken in this direction regulations changed, rendering it necessary to register only a single purpose cooperative. This has now been achieved, with the registration of the Khayer Barahi Milk Production Co-operative Society Limited. The primary goal of the co-operative is to establish a dairy herd that will provide a much increased milk supply to the cheese factory. This in turn will generate more income for the school and the village. The whole enterprise will be an additional source of employment in the village.By February 2010 a bank account had been established, and Rs 625,000 (AU$ 10,000) has since been raised by contributions from just 86 household. This may not seem a huge amount, but it equates to six times the annual salary of a primary school teacher. Commenced as a purely village initiative under Krishna Pun's direction, we are now supporting it by matching further contributions $ for $ (sorry, Rp for Rp). Back to top
Village Health Centres
No village in Myagdi District can boast sophisticated medical facilities. If medical attention is required it can mean an arduous trip to hospital in Pokhara. For example, while we were staying in the village in 2008 the daughter-in-law of our hostess suffered a miscarriage. The local health worker was able to administer an intravenous drip, but after two days it was decided that medical attention was necessary. This meant a trip down the mountain in a basket on the back of a porter, followed by a very rough 4-hour bus or taxi ride to Pokhara. Fortunately with the attention she received she recovered well, and has since borne a lovely son.
The Health Centre in Paudwar is a small room in the home of the health worker, devoted not only to health needs but also to selling trinkets, cigarettes and the like. A mat in the limited floor space is the only provision for ailing patients.
One of Mahabir Pun's aims in the establishment of the Nepal Wireless Network was the introduction of tele-medicine whereby a health worker in a village could seek advice via a video phone link from a doctor in Pokhara. We supplied computers to Health Centres in Paudwar and Khibang with a view to connecting to the network, though the communication links have not yet proven as reliable as hoped. Back to top
Nepal Wireless Network
Mahabir Pun's introduction of computers to Himanchal High School and subsequently to other schools in the district (described under "Computers" above) was only the beginning. Since then he has gone on to establish the "Nepal Wireless Network" which is described fully at his website Nepal Wireless Networking Project. Suffice here to say that uses to which the network has been put include:
- email communications (including the ability of yak herders at Khopra Ridge being able to communicate with their families in the village)
- internet access
- video-conferencing, allowing students in one village access to teachers in another
- tele-medicine, as described above
- glacial lake monitoring to provide flood warnings in the event of dam failure, seen as a risk of global warming
- monitoring of the air route from Pokhara to Jomsom to widen the window of flying opportunities, currently often restricted by weather to early mornings. The station at Khopra Ridge is probably the only air route monitoring station in the world that looks down on its air traffic flying past through the Ghar Khola valley.
We are pleased to have been able to contribute some computers and routers to the network development. Back to top