Nepal

Posted by Helen 
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If you are also in the habit of checking out Helping Elsewhere’s Facebook page (facebook.com/HelpingElsewhere) you will know that as well as goods from around India, we also import things for our shops (in Cobblestone Walk, Steyning and the newly opened one in The Needlemakers in Lewes) from Nepal – and have good trading relationships with three Nepalese families.

So you can image our utter shock and dismay to see news of the recent terrible earthquake near Kathmandu. It took us a week to hear that our guys, their families and their craftsmen had all escaped with their health intact, but the same could not be said for their homes and businesses.

We had friends coincidentally in Nepal and, true to form, they just pitched in to help. Helen and Terry are a nurse and a paramedic and they just set to work in a hospital, turned aid workers in the surrounding villages and set about raising funds as well. We raised funds in our shops and Helen and Terry’s Birmingham friends poured money into one of our nominated bank accounts. We sent well over £1500 for ’emergency’ aid.

But now our thoughts turn to rebuilding lives. One of the Nepalese guys we import from, Kushal Gurung, has been raising funds to rebuild his home village (Dharadhuri, Semjong, Dhading if you want to find it on Google Maps). Of the 165 homes there, 80% were destroyed and the other 20% were severely damaged. They are going to rebuild after the monsoon rains have finished and until then they will sleep under ‘zinc, bamboo and plastics’. The health centre and village school were also severely damaged – made of mud and stone they didn’t stand a chance.

Dharadhuri with its school marked

Dharadhuri with its school marked

So we have agreed to help reconstruct and reequip the school as part of their efforts to rebuild their lives.

The school before and after

The school before and after

As a start, we’ve introduced a voluntary surcharge of two or three pounds on all our shops’ Nepalese goods, and already people are leaving £5 or £10 instead! We’re actively planning more fundraising events too.

And the most pleasant surprise? We have actually just received a shipment of yak wool blankets and shawls from Nepal! In all their troubles, they still wanted to honour their contracts!

 

Dustin!

Posted by Helen 
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Long time readers of our blog will recall that three years ago we set out to create a scholarship to train a teacher or an engineer. The scholarship was in memory of my dad, Peter John Rowe, who was a fantastic engineer who worked his way up from the shop floor to become an accomplished and respected mechanic accompanying the Royal Tours around the world to becoming General Manager of Rolls Royce Motors. He was also extremely supportive of Helping Elsewhere and what we were trying to do.

We had lots fun raising the money, culminating with a fabulous event at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

The recipient of the Goan scholarship was a young man called Dustin Cardoza who lives in Mandrem (we met him very early on at Our Lady of Rosary School in Mandrem, where we started our journey). Dustin also lost his dad at a very similar time so I think our paths and lives were just meant to cross. I have known Dustin for nearly ten years now and have watched him grow not only in stature but as a person.

Well, in March this year Dustin actually qualified as a teacher and is now in the process of looking for a permanent teaching job. He is at the moment working in an admin role in a school and going through the interview process for actual teaching positions. And I hope to hear very soon he has been successful!

Dustin

Thank you to everyone who supported this effort! Of all our projects so far this is, from a very personal point of view, the one closest to my heart!

 

Freddie the Fish swims to Pune

Posted by Helen 
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A few days ago, Freddie the Fish finished the first stage of his journey which is ultimately to finish in Aarohi (so small it isn’t on my map, way up in the northern Indian State of Uttarakhand, thousands of metres above sea level) where we support the school. So where did I meet Freddie? Well it was in Pune (inland from Mumbai, up in the Western Ghats) and it was in the Mercedes Benz International School where I had spoken to students before. Freddie was very tired, having swum all the way from England, but very happy to meet all the young kids that have been following his progress, and collecting Rupees themselves for Aarohi.

Helen and Freddie in class

I spoke to two groups of kids (pre-school and primary) and took loads of questions on Freddie and his travels. They had been well primed by Ms Helen (Helen Sharrock, Principal of Primary Teaching at MBIS). She had explained to them that Freddie was raising money for children less fortunate than themselves up in the Himalayas, so their imagination had been well and truly fired, pictures had been drawn, and the magic had begun.

Impressions of Freddie the Fish

They showed me ‘Freddie’s Fishbowl’ that he will travel in on his overland stints between rivers and is currently being used to collect the Rupees that will buy the books that Ms Gina (Gina Ali Khan, who those of you remember Helping Elsewhere’s early steps will recognise) will take up to Aarohi in June. I will follow shortly after to give you all firsthand knowledge of what is happening and how you have helped.

Freddie collecting Rupees in Pune

A bit of info I gleaned from Gina – Uttarakhand is one of the fastest growing States in India and carries the alternative name of Dev Bhoomi – or ‘The Land of the Gods’ which sounds much nicer than the literal translation of Uttarakhand which simply means ‘North Land’ in Sanskrit (which is still a National language in that State, and in no other State). The climate is temperate and sub-tropical – this seems to mean I will get wet!

So I have bought my waterproof rucksack and proper footware and am busy collecting together all the drab blacks, browns and greens that will not show the mud too much and can be easily washed and wrung out. Those of you that know me too well will know my love of colour and fabrics, so this is going to be strange for me!

STOP PRESS!!!

MBIS have just released the figure that the young kids I spoke to have raised so far from their pocket money…

… a whopping Rs.3356.75!

Feeding Freddies Fishbowl

Wow, thank you kids!!!

And apparently another school in Goa (I know not which… Freddie’s getting famous!) have also slipped another Rs.1000 into Freddie’s fishbowl! So thank you that great school too!

 

Bookworm – Taleigao and Cacra

Posted by Helen 
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In the Panjim suburb of Taleigao, sitting on the steps of a little house, I experienced my first sighting of ‘Junior MOP’. Bookworm is now teaching the learning habit to pre-school children, by means of storytelling. Today’s story was our previous favourite Bindi Su – the story of a little red car that never stops as she travels through Goa , noticing everything about her. For these young kids, as well as the story and the pictures, Bookworm also set up a small puppet theatre with all the characters in the book. Afterwards the children draw all the characters as well.
My role? Well, I found out I was a dab hand at puppetry!

Bindi Su and the puppet theatre - Junior MOP

Then we moved on to Cacra, situated by the sea down below Goa University. Both Junior and Senior MOP sessions run side by side here for a wider range of kids. The mats, boxes of books and drawing crayons tumble out of the van again. Being out and about like this makes you realise that classrooms don’t necessarily need walls at all – just good teachers.

Singing at Cacra

Singing of The Watermelon Song with all the actions start the session followed by ‘Sitting in the Mango Tree’. The young ones enjoy the harum-scarum antics of Bindi Su travelling around Goa with yours truly steering the puppets. Everyone enjoys the interaction and the kids once again pick a character to draw. The older ones have meanwhile split off and go sit inside the little shrine for their more advanced reading activities.

Reading practice in the shrine at Cacra

Then outside aagain, everyone then borrows a new book to take home and read or make up their own story from the pictures. The sun is setting as we drive away with a final ‘yeta’ – Konkani for ‘bye-bye’ or ‘I’ll be back’. In Konkani, apparently there is no true word for ‘good bye’ – and it’s true that I will indeed be back soon!

yeta!
 

Bookworm – Chimbel

Posted by Helen 
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Looking back in our Blog, you’ll have seen that we are currently concentrating our Bookworm efforts on their MOP programmes and so I was raring to go see one of their primary sites around Panjim in an area called Chimbel.

It was the first time I had seen their new HQ in the heart of Chimbel, which is an interesting but challenging area which most Goans don’t know much about and even fewer have been to visit. It is made up of seventeen or so ‘gullies’ divided cleanly into Muslim, Hindu and Christian ‘lines’, each not much wider than the reach of your outstretched arms.

Chimbel gully

The vibrantly-decorated Bookworm library and teaching space is in the heart of the Muslim gullies, and is big enough to hold about 25 people, but somehow everyone moves and squeezes up and quite a few more children fit themselves in.

Chimbel librry space

Bookworm’s space is actually the ground floor of a standard Chimbel house, so I find it hard to imagine how hot and sticky they must be pre-monsoon. As I walked there in the narrow gullies, I shared the limited space near the mosque with goats and cows, surrounded by the fluttering flags celebrating the Shia festival of Milad un Nabi – the Prophets Birthday (the Sunnis had celebrated it five days earlier). The ladies are washing clothes on the steps and gutting the fish – I step in something, and a gentleman washing down the street rushes to clean my shoes. All life is here for the living, cheek by jowl.

Chimbel decorated for Milad un Nabi

I then complete my stroll by walking past the Hindu temple and then the Christian meeting house in this diverse but tiny area.It has been a privilege to wander about here – perhaps not the prettiest area, but very real and very well organised by its inhabitants.

 

Freddie the Fish

Posted by Helen 
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Freddie the Fish happened by accident.

I got this rather cute bag the other day, thinking I might just find a use for it.

Freddie

I called him Freddie and he just started to go viral. We had just got a batch of Helping Elsewhere wristbands (“take one and leave a pound in the pot”) and suddenly Freddie was hungry!

So now Freddie the Fish is our rather fun fundraising machine to get the funds to buy the set of Oxford Reading Tree books for our little school up in the hills.

We only need £500 (but more would be good!) to get started buying a set of Floppy Phonics and in a matter of days we are already well into three figures!

Much of that is due to our glorious friend Toni from Get Waisted in Steyning, just round the corner from us. She very generously filled Freddie up with a hundred pounds!!! What a gal! Please pay a visit to her shop to say thank you from us if you want/need made to measure dresses, corsets or bridal wear – it’s marvellous stuff.

Get Waisted

If any of you want a wristband or ten, let us know and I’ll drop them in the post to you!

HE wristbands

And watch out for Fenella – Freddie’s girlfriend who’s purple! Coming Soon!

Isn’t life great!

 

Jeeva. London.

Posted by Helen 
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You never know who you are going to meet on this great journey through life…

In January this year we met Gig and Tom at Casa Susegad in Goa. Gig is a lover of yoga and all things spiritual. We had several long chats over their stay, and at the end of it Gig had decided to follow her dream of developing her own brand of Indian products – beautiful Nepalese blankets, Chakra jewellery and yoga clothing and accessories.

Jeeva

Over the next months we stayed in touch and saw Jeeva – London develop and become real. Her dreams are now items you can touch, feel and buy! Sunday 3rd August was their official launch and it was a resounding success.

And on Monday 4th August we got an unexpected and wonderful message on Facebook… Gig wanted to make a donation to Bookworm Goa (now the Bookworm Trust – more on that soon!) from the profits of her launch day. So I know that all at Bookworm send their heartfelt thanks, Gig!!!

So if you are passing near to Witham, Essex get in touch with Gig and pay her a visit!

 

Up in the Mountains…

Posted by Helen 
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Helping Elsewhere is always on the lookout for anything different and new, something special and ‘indefinable’, something, well, Helping Elsewhere.

So, in July I was very intrigued to see some wonderful photos of a rural school in somewhere ‘so small it is not even on a map’. Posted on Facebook by our dear teacher friend Gina, she was volunteering at this school in Satoli, set high in the hills of Uttarakhand – the Himalayas!

Himalayan Collage

It transpired that it was a project run by a small NGO called Aarohi – they work across twelve neighbouring villages and currently touch the lives of 168 children. They work to improve both the health and education (so often interlinked of course) of the community – but obviously our interest was piqued by the school. This has 15 full-time teachers, educates both boys and girls and caters from nursery to Grade 9 (approx ages 3-14). Admission is granted whatever the background of the kids.

Aarohi - Satoli School

Gina was telling everybody what we had achieved in Mandrem, Goa and so it was inevitable that I recently went up to London to meet Sheeba Sen who lives half her life in England and half in Uttarakhand. A lovely lady and a project that just fitted into Helping Elsewhere’s portfolio…

We immediately made a grant to augment the teacher’s salaries (so, like Mandrem, there was no need for them to get ‘proper’ teaching jobs on marriage etc) and to add to their ‘Corpus Fund’ (this fund will ultimately provide a self-sustaining income to run the school).

We are obviously in this for the long haul, to run alongside things that need doing in Goa, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

So… the next target: to provide books for Satoli. We are estimating that we need to start with £500 to get another series of Oxford Reading Tree books – how about some of you lovely supporters running, say, a coffee morning? Maybe we can supply some of our lovely sparkly things to spice things up?

We’ve proved the value of these books at Mandrem. And not only with the kids – we caught our favourite Tandoor chef borrowing our reference set to teach himself English as well. We gave him an English-Hindi dictionary to help and he just got on with it!

Great to be back at the beginning of something so new again!

 

So much to say…

Posted by Helen 
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Well since we last updated the blog (how time flies!), a lot has been happening…

In April, our friend Diana at DBA Speakers and Stargazer Events held a fantastic ‘Dinner for Wonderful Women’ and Helping Elsewhere was chosen to be the recipient of takings in order to support girls through education in Goa. Nearly 2000 pounds was raised! Well done you Wonderful Women! I got to wear my dress sari and I had a good chat to the guest-of-honour Christine Hamilton (wife of Neil – if you are as old as me you’ll recall his woes as an MP) who was wonderfully warm and witty and offered to help Helping Elsewhere when and where she could.

Diana, Christine and myself at WW Dinner

Diana, Christine and myself at the Dinner

These funds will go directly towards an education ‘space’ in one of the pocket slums near the capital, Panjim. Of course it will teach reading and writing, but it focuses on cultural learning too and a carefully chosen permanent set of rooms will encourage parents to let their daughters attend. At the moment, spreading a blanket on the ground or taking whatever room is offered means that it is mainly the boys that benefit.

Onto July, and we recreated the Mad Hatters Tea Party at Wiston House near our shop in Steyning. Our guests all wore their maddest hats in the glorious Sussex surroundings and tucked into a traditional afternoon tea whilst being royally entertained by the Iron Boot Scrapers with their unique style of Busking-Jazz. And this slightly bonkers Sunday afternoon raised nearly 600 pounds.

Mad Hatters at Wiston House

Mad Hatters at Wiston House

And an update on our little shop in Steyning. Well, it’s got rather bigger as we moved into bigger premises, still in Cobblestone Walk. A little more rent, but a large increase in trade! Thank you to all our customers as it is you that makes this whole edifice work. We are now importing from Nepal as well as India and it looks as if the next project we support will be in the Himalayas – but more on that as the details get ironed out!

 

Six Days in Jaipur

Posted by Carole - Guest Blogger 
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A note to the reader…

Either put the kettle on, make a drink and then sit and enjoy, or plan to come back later and read one section at a time!

Barefoot Gifts

Today’s Guest Blogger

I first met Helen when she and Colin were among the first strangers to stay with as in our guest house (Casa Susegad, Goa). Helen said, “You should be on Tripadvisor”. As our response was a blank “What?”, she said, “Leave it to me”… Before we knew what had happened we were listed with our first review in place. The rest, as they say, is history!

My advice to all who meet her is: if Helen begins a sentence with “You should/could…”, pay very careful attention to it as your life is likely to change imminently and, possibly, radically. Ours did, and we have since come to count her and Colin among our dearest friends. We love being part of the loosely synchronized support system for this superstar, vicariously enjoying her triumphs and challenges, acting as a sounding board for ever more ambitious plans, putting the kettle on or pouring a good old G&T (or two if it’s all going a bit Pete Tong!). Helen, I have watched as you see connections emerge between projects, people, products and possibilities and I salute the way in which you weave them all into magic! Of course, behind every successful woman is… and we sit in awe of the back-room technical support, research, guidance and encouragement from the inestimable Colin.

When Helen asked if I fancied a week in Jaipur I wasn’t about to refuse was I? I could be a fashion consultant… Couldn’t I?

~ Carole ~

A Parvez Special

No? Oh – OK!

(more…)

 

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