[ePrayer – Pray for Shanti Nepal’s community health and empowerment project]
According to a recent UN report, Nepal has to overcome a number of development challenges including large concentration of poverty and hunger, rising inequality and wide infrastructure gaps… etc. Also, the rising inflation rate was 10.2 % in the first eight months of the fiscal year which has pushed more people towards poverty. Our partner Shanti Nepal is targeting about 105,000 people from 19,200 households in Dhading. Project activities include consolidation of mother groups, strengthening of local health facilities such as outreach clinics and birthing centres, promote health activities and building of toilets.
Pray for Shanti Nepal’s community health and empowerment project:
Praise the Lord that Shanti Nepal’s community health and empowerment project in Dhading has made good progress and it is one of the official demonstration sites for promoting and mobilising community health development in the country.
Pray that the work of Shanti Nepal will bring with good health, better living and good neighbourhood to impoverished communities.
 CEDAR is an approved charitable institutions and trusts of a public character under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Please click Inland Revenue Department website to check for details.  Donations over $100 are tax deductible in Hong Kong with our receipts.  Please DO NOT fax any donation information.
[ “SHARE” Sept-Oct 2012 – An Eye-Opening Experience of Poverty ] FOCUS: An EXPOSURE TRIP
Author> POON Man Yan, Education and Promotion Officer
I took the exposure trip in April, seven years since my last one. To make the most of the trip, I decided to forget about the camera and use my eyes to study each scene and face, and use my ears to listen to every life transforming story.
Namaste! Greetings, Nepal!
It was already dark when we landed in Kathmandu so the view was not very clear. The streets reeked of petrol and filled with the hoots of car horns, like China’s rural roads of over a decade ago. Nepal ranks second-last amongst Asian countries on the human development index. Compared with neighbouring China and India, its development road ahead is still very long.
They meet any situation with a smile.
As the home of Mt. Everest, Nepal is indeed a mountainous nation with hills and highlands all over the country. The best route to the mountain villages during the dry season would be to drive across dried-up riverbeds. The twelve of us transformed into contestants of some adventure game show, flying across bumpy riverbeds in jeeps heading towards our destination in the mountains.
During our eight-day trip we went to the central districts of Lalitpur, Makawanpur and Dhading, and visited the Dalit (the oppressed) community and the indigenous groups of Chepang and Tamang. Amidst harsh condition of village life, the people there were cheery and appeared to be happier than those of us who were visiting.
Silent cries of the girls
The day after arrival we visited eight girls around 15 or 16 in Lalitpur. They are members of adolescent groups in the Women Empowerment Programme organized by CEDAR’s partner Share and Care Nepal.
When asked about their dreams for the future, the girls shyly told us that they would love to become teachers or social workers. Yet they knew that soon they would have to obey their parents be married off and then play the traditional female role in their husband’s household. Their own future is no longer theirs to hold and their dreams are thus unreachable. Two illiterate girls among them even remained silent. As I watched and listened, I felt cut to the hearts: do Nepalese girls have no right to pursue their dreams? After all, God sees everyone as unique and precious!
Smart and sweet girls
On hearing that two girls had stopped schooling, trippers already guessed the reason – it is either to give way to a son, the future head of the family, to go to school, or give the family an extra pair of hands for chores and farming. When a society fails to examine the rationale for customs and traditions, and regard belittlement or neglect of women as a natural practice, gender inequality thus becomes one of the causes of Nepal’s poverty, especially amongst women.
What is poverty? The Nepalese women made us see that poverty is not merely about a lack in material necessities but also the injustice behind a social system and traditional culture, turning the poor into those in society who are oppressed and ‘sinned against.’ Exploitation and discrimination not only hurt people, but abuse God’s righteous nature also.
The ‘untouchables’ are never cheap and lowly
Hinduism was once Nepal’s state religion and the country remains heavily influenced by the caste system. The low-castes are restricted in many ways, both in the workplace and daily life. However, the Dalit in Dhading are living with self-confidence, self-respect and self-love despite all kinds of discrimination and oppression.
During a visit to the project run by our partner Shanti Nepal in Dhading’s Gajuri district, we went to a small community hall where a dozen children were singing and playing. It is also where the office of the residents’ self-help group is located. The group’s treasurer related the changes the community had gone through in the past years.
Low-castes form self-help groups to assist each other
In the past, a derogatory name was given to this place because local residents were mainly of the low-caste. Even the government paid little attention to the needs of these inhabitants. After the self-help group was set up, villagers slowly warmed to the importance of unity. They got together and successfully had the place name changed and the insulting words deleted; they began to encourage savings and pooled funds to give small loans to villagers in need. Further, group members actively help care for sick or elderly neighbours, including those who had hurled insults at them before.
What is development? Some suggest ‘growing towards urbanisation’, others ‘building of infrastructure’ or ‘developing the economy’. Yet, from the experience of the oppressed in Gajuri, we realise that what the exploited and discriminated Nepalese marginalised communities want most is to be free from discrimination, to be self-reliant, to build a society with equality where they may appreciate the value and dignity of one’s own life.
What we as visitors found most admirable was the way local Christian organisations facilitated the community’s empowerment and development. Frontline workers transcend the boundaries of the caste system and promote trust among different castes. They also encourage villagers to actively participate in expressing their needs and concerns. Self-help groups are set up to build a close-knit support network. All these stem from the conviction that all humans are born equal and the affirmation of the personal value of even the poorest.
A concrete interpretation of the Gospel
Some may ask how our efforts are linked to the Gospel if we only work on development programmes without evangelism.
One trip member spoke for all of us, ‘If the Gospel is only to redeem my soul, then I should have been taken to heaven immediately upon conversion. I am still here, so I believe there is still work to do.’ The Good News or Gospel is not only about getting people to believe in Jesus now for the hope of eternal life later. It also points to transformation of our life right now whilst we practise the Word of God in both private and public lives.
As vessels of the Gospel, Christians are themselves interpretation of the Gospel. One trip member, a minister who was once a frontline worker, said, ‘The ministry of local organisations is what Jesus talked about in Luke 4:18 – proclaim to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.’ I say ‘Amen’ to that as I think of the villagers we met, their positive attitude, courage and self-confidence.
In remote mountains, villagers experience the truth of God’s love
Dhanyabaad! Thank you, Nepal!
After returning to Hong Kong, a young trip member told us, ‘One day, while enjoying the comfort of an air-conditioned room and eating my favourite salmon sushi, guilt of extravagance suddenly came upon me.’ Many others have experienced similar struggles which challenge our ingrained way of living. Her father who also went on the trip encouraged her to live conscientiously, not be restricted by an established lifestyle but bravely open our heart to explore and broaden our horizon.
Thank you, Nepal! You expanded our horizon to see the richness in God’s Word and works.
Are you ready for a breakthrough and to open your heart to see God’s manifold and wonderful works? Visit http://bit.ly/cedar_nepal2012 for more photos of the Nepal trip. We also invite you to join our exposure trip to Ethiopia scheduled for January 2013, where we expect to witness God’s boundless work among the poor.
FOCUS explores different topics, integrates theory with practice, and broadens our horizon and thinking.
Dhading is one of the most impoverished districts in the central region of Nepal. Most of the population is ethnic groups. Nearly 40% of its population lives in very poor and marginalized situation. They are mainly subsistence farmers, surviving by scanty means. There is poor sanitation with over 60% of the population in the district has no access to clean drinking water and very few villagers have toilets. Due to lack of basic health and hygiene knowledge and availability of medical services, child mortality rate is more than 10%. Villagers do not receive suitable medication when they suffered from commonly found diseases as diarrhea, gastritis and typhoid.
Our partner Shanti Nepal provides training and technical support to local clinics through implementing a Community Health and Empowerment programme. In order to improve medical services, trainings are given to local government health workers. Meanwhile, indigenous organisations and local churches are taught how to respond to local needs on primary health care and basic livelihood. Partner also supports small scale drinking water initiatives, antenatal and postnatal checking to pregnant women and teaches villagers about children nutrition and health. For the economic improvement, trainings are given to community development groups on techniques of planting, chicken and goat / sheep raising and handicraft. For improving the health of villagers, the programme actively promotes the importance of sanitation as well as building of toilets. Many villages experienced community transformation because of this programme.
The Kumal community is a good example. Several years ago, only 6 households out of 154 had pit latrines in the village. The level of hygiene and sanitation of the community was low. People practiced open-field defecation therefore wastes laid around and gave off offensive smell in the air. In 2009 partner setup an Environmental Sanitation Coordination Committee to address the environmental health issues of the community. The committee raised villagers’ sanitation awareness through cultural events and audio-visual media. Before long, villagers started to commit in building toilets. Shanti Nepal supported the community by providing materials and technical skill training on toilet building. Villagers then started to dig pits, make walls and collect materials for the toilets. Within 3 months, all 154 households in the community built toilets successfully. Community members have transformed from the poor habit of open-field defecation. Local rules are also developed to keep the village clean. Now the Kumal community can enjoy an improvement in sanitation and a clean environment.
With your support:
HK$250 will subsidise a household to build a toilet;
HK$500 will provide two basic health sessions for mothers’ groups;
HK$1,000 will provide four training sessions on livelihood skills to community groups