Our partner, United Mission to Nepal (UMN), is a Christian agency working in marginalised communities in Nepal. They value all people are created equal by God and seek to address the root causes of poverty, giving special priority to vulnerable and oppressed people.
Dhading district, a mountainous area with isolated rural communities in central Nepal. They also have a second child centred comunity development project in Sunsari district, in south-east Nepal.
How child sponsorship works here
The community has formed parents groups, and children's clubs, where most of the action happens! Each group identifies the problems in their community, and then develops and implements solutions. The groups are for everyone – not just for families with sponsored children.
The Child Clubs
Children's Clubs are an important part of the program, as they allow children to participate, contributing their ideas, implementing activities and reporting back on the impact of the program.
Thechildren love being part of these groups and being able to contribute to the program. “When they did the assessment, we thought that it was the same process that many NGOs had done in the past, " said one of theChildren's Club members. "But when they came back and shared all the information they had collected during the assessment, and got our people involved in planning for the most pressing needs in the community, we realised that now the time has come for change.”
An advisor, usually a teacher or parent, supports each of the Children's Clubs. The clubs are learning a lot about the rights of children, as well as health, hygiene and nutrition. In communities where children are used to ‘being seen, but not heard’, they are now becoming more confident in school and in the community and are enjoying building friendships and talking and playing together.
This new confidence is already having a positive effect. A number of the Children's Clubs ran a campaign against physical punishment in schools called ‘Learn without Fear’. Part of this includes UMN staff facilitating training in local schools on alternative methods of discipline.
The project also works through women's groups and school managment committees. Many women are learning basic literacy skills, as many can’t read or write, as well as how to grow vegetables for food and for market, and about health and sanitation.
Working with Authorities
UMN also has a strong relationships with the local authorities. One of the ways they are working together is to help local primary schools provide some classes in the mother-tongue of the children. UMN and the District Education Office are seeking Tamang-speaking teachers to teach the curriculum already developed by the government in Tamang language and are also contributing to the development of a curriculum in Chepang language.
Hira is a poet and the joint secretary of her Children's Club
Fifteen-year-old Hira is a poet, and she’s convinced that she can use her writing to make a difference in her community. In fact, one of her poems has just been published – in the Wall Magazine produced by the Children's Club at her school in Dhading district, Nepal.
It’s difficult for Hira to find as much time to write as she’d like. Up at 5:00am, she has household chores to do before setting off for school. She’s responsible for fetching water, collecting fodder for the animals, helping with the cooking, and making sure her brother and three sisters get to school on time.
At school, she enjoys reading (she is working especially hard on her English) and playing volleyball. But Hira is also the Joint Secretary of the Srijansil Child Club. That means helping to make sure the club’s activities are carried out well. These include keeping the school clean and tidy, conducting school assemblies, preparing a Code of Conduct for the school, helping with enrollment campaigns, and editing the school Wall Magazine.
All of the children at the school are keen to read the Wall Magazine, and love seeing their work published in this way. Health messages and other important information can be shared, not just with the children but with parents as well. Already, the Child Club members have been encouraged by changes they have seen in their school and the community. Rubbish is put in bins instead of left blowing around the yard. Children are cleaner and tidier, and take more care of their appearance. And teachers are becoming more accountable, as children learn to use their voices (and their poems!) to exercise their rights.
At weekends, Hira helps her father in his small shop, or her mother at home, caring for the smaller children. And every now and then, she finds time to write another poem.
Thanks to United Mission to Nepal for this story and photographs. Hira’s name has been changed