For a European, a stay in Kathmandu while awaiting the overdue monsoon proves quite straining. The incredibly sultry heat forces you to slow down your activities while the Nepalese, who are by nature passive, now seem to be totally paralysed, which doesn't exactly alleviate our project work. Nevertheless, together we managed once again to make the best of the time we got and to progress in our work. Though the army and the Maoists are daily still fighting, the political situation has calmed down a bit. Fearing to lose his throne, the King called back the Prime Minister, who held this position in the fall of 2002, when the Parliament was dispersed.
Bahadur Deuba tries to rule the country with a cabinet consisting of several parties, and every now and then you hear about the possibility of peace talks with the rebels, but they tell, they would agree only, if the negotiations take place under the supervision of the UN. The King does not like this idea, because in his opinion India and the USA are his main allies. As short living as such an armistice probably would be, the country, wasted by civil war, could have a sigh of relief. The rebels have a practice of abducting the entire population of villages in the areas controlled by them and release them only after several days of indoctrination. Educated youths are being recruited forcibly, and therefore no young man dares to go to the occupied regions anymore.
Torture and cruelty on both sides resulted in remarkable protests of human rights organisations and Amnesty International. One third of all imprisoned persons don't even know, why they have been arrested. The Maoists are putting pressure on money grubbing private schools and colleges, which are springing up like mushrooms, and in July they forced a nationwide three weeks close down upon them, in order to make them decrease their fees. Including the general strikes and curfews, thus children remain at home most of the year. The education level, which isn't very high in Nepal anyway, is dropping further all the time and hardly anybody knows, what is happening with all the millions of hard currency that are being poured constantly as donations from foreign counties into the education system of Nepal. Just recently the world bank donated 50 million US$ especially for this purpose, but no improvement is seen in this field: Instead school are increasing their fees all the time, and schooling becomes far too expensive for the poor and the teachers' salaries are so ridiculously low, that they aren't even able to raise a family.
People in Nepal just have one desire: They want to go abroad to study and to earn money. For huge amounts agencies are sending students from wealthy families to England, Singapore or the USA. There are daily flights to the Arab Emirates or Malaysia, countries that are already overstuffed with people willing to work for extremely low wages. Currently Iraq and Israel are especially popular, since wages there are higher than in the Gulf States. Since Palestinians, because of the wall, are prevented now from working in Israel, Nepalese youngsters, who are overjoyed at the prospect of earning 500 US$ a month in old peoples homes or fruit plantations, are more than welcome. Instead, the wages in Arab countries are 200 US$ only. Those, who can obtain a job as security guard for an American enterprise in Iraq, are landing the "big hit". They are being paid 1,500 US$ a month, and for these jobs former military personnel or policemen are preferred.
The Nepalese government had prohibited this kind of emigration before, but with 15.000 Nepalese already channelled via Kuwait to Iraq it is being legalized by now. Moreover there is hardly any tourism in Nepal anymore, and these workers in foreign countries are the only source for foreign currency available to the government.
In order to pay the 6,000 Euro commissions, which these impudent agencies are charging, many Nepalese sell the bit of land they own and borrow money from "friends" who later on will with pleasure cash the amount plus interest. Only after two to three years abroad those men are able to save some money.
Also at Children's World some are dreaming about the "wonderful life" abroad, but we cannot afford these agency fees along with the high university costs. So they are studying in their own country and are making good progress as well. Those who took an unsuitable course of studies, though we had counselled them otherwise, and subsequently fail in college, have to repay the money spent for them to Children's World. Three of our people stubbornly wanted to pursue a scientific career and they failed. From their example others learn to be more cautious, and all of them understand by now, that it is better to choose one's field of study according to one's talents instead of dreaming unrealistic dreams. It took Bikram, who was the first to make this mistake, three years to repay his debts. From October 1 onwards he will work for one year as a trainee in a 5-star hotel in France.
Our main concern during the past few months has been water. The hospitals in Kathmandu still are overcrowded with people suffering from typhoid and other dangerous diseases. The valley's groundwater is contaminated by arsenic and coli germs: After 13 of our children had seriously fallen ill with typhoid, we had a small "chemical facility" installed, that produces decent water for washing and bathing purposes, while a modern device in the kitchen supplies us with 80 litres of drinking water per hour. The decision for the proper system proved difficult, but "the situation makes the chemist", and we hope that the amount of 5,000 Euro spent on it purpose will solve this problem for good.
People in the slums are less prone to these illnesses, for they have been subsisting on this contaminated water since they were born and those not strong enough simply will not survive. Sija, Maya and Samjhana are doing a wonderful job at the slum school. Together with the slum youths we painted the school building and isolated the tin roof against heat and cold. This community work served as an important medium for the slum youths and our "big ones", who told them about their own, miserable origin. They all worked together with great enthusiasm, laughed and sang Nepalese pop songs! We finished the sewerage system, but people in the slum did not keep their promise to cover the whole area with soil. In a meeting they told, they did not have the money right now and would do it later… Yet we told them very clearly, that this is their duty, and that they should not only receive help, but also do something themselves for their community of 3,000 people. For the time being we left the site as it is and continued our children's aid project by building toilets and a shower for the school.
Our baby Nelson is fine and doing well in the arms of his sixty mothers and fathers, his natural mother living at home again. Her family took her in, as if she had returned from her studies in India. Since an adoption would raise unforeseeable problems for us, we decided that Nelson should stay at the children's house. As in other countries, adoptions in Nepal are very often an immensely profitable business and connected with corruption. To fight openly against this is very risky and we don't want to endanger the future of our project by any illegal action.
Blind Goma has finally returned from India and is going to continue her college studies together with Shree Krishna. We may say that all inhabitants at children's world are really doing well and we are especially happy, that our "big ones" have begun to show commitment for the poorest in their country.
Due to your support about 150 young Nepalese are living now in dignity - I mean our children, but also the children of the slums. We would like to thank you on their behalf and send you all our best wishes and our love. Our next newsletter will be issued in December.
With kind regards