On some bright winter days, when the wind carries the dirty veil of exhaust fumes away from the Kathmandu Valley, the surrounding Himalayas appear in all their splendour and remind us what a peaceful and happy life the Nepalese could have, if the political situation was not so terribly bad. In the aftermath of Mr Bush's re-election Nepal is being increasingly militarized to fight the Maoist terrorists, who are by now ruling more than 40% of the country. The Prime Minister appointed by the King set the terrorists a term until 13th January 2005 to start with peace negotiations. For them however, negotiating with rulers they call terrorists is completely out of question, and therefore they demand the mediation by the United Nations for any such talks. So far the King and his government are refusing to concede to these conditions and, in November, they set a brutal example of what will happen, if the rebels refuse to negotiate: With the support of American military equipment one of the rebels' training camps has been completely destroyed and nearly 300 of them were killed.
The Maoists have got nothing to set against the American weapons and therefore answer with bombs made from pressure cookers which they target to kill senior military and police officers. An increasing number of mountain-people flee from the cruelness of the civil war and move to the already overcrowded city of Kathmandu, where many Maoists are now in hiding and pursue their aims from underground. Student organisations and political parties are constantly demonstrating to demand a return to democracy, whereas army and police rather serve as a "decoration" of the capital instead of protecting it. The inhabitants of Kathmandu bow to this messy chaos, where corruption continues thriving, with an incredible passivity and indifference. If there are not enough vegetables, they just eat their rice without them. That's all.
This type of nutrition is normal for the slums anyway. The children may look plump, but indeed most of them are suffering from malnutrition. The paediatrician Dr Poudel, whom we asked to examine 100 schoolchildren, has confirmed this fact. Almost all of them required "worming treatment" and many suffered from chronic infections. The boy Sujit, who also suffers from the Down Syndrome, is in a bad state of health. He is sure to die, if he does not have heart surgery very soon. Convincing the boy's father of the necessity of this operation was a hard piece of work, because he intended to spend the sum of 2.200 Euros - an enormous amount for him - on himself. After all, it is the parents who have to sign the required forms before any surgery can be undertaken. Such a major operation means a great risk for our project and our girls, who are so deeply committed to their work in the slums, for in case anything goes wrong and the boy dies, it might happen, that three thousand slum inhabitants will turn their wrath against the girls and even kill them. After many hours of discussion, in the course of which we were supported by the slum committee, the usually drunk and violent father in a sober hour seems to have grasped that although this operation carries a risk, without it the boy would die within a few weeks.
His mother will stay in hospital with him and our big ones will take turns at his bedside day and night, for in Nepal - even in the newly built heart centre - the patients' families has to pay for every injection, all dressing material and medication and so on. They even have to bring the food from home, for in no hospital whatsoever there is a kitchen for the patients.
Sija is very committed to her work in the slums. Early in the morning she undergoes a training, which finally will give her the rights of a Nepalese nurse, which are: giving injections, sewing wounds, providing first aid and so on. The misery in the slums is so immense, that we keep a metal closet at our school with the most important medicines like Paracetamol, antibiotic ointments, cough syrups, dressing material and so forth. Women who are suffering from health problems come by their own to Sija's counselling room, because they don't want to see a doctor. If need be, they are sent to a cheap hospital.
Once there came a woman, whose finger was so badly infected that the bone could be seen. One could understand from the swelling of her hand, that soon the finger would have to be amputated, but after the wound had been cleansed and treated with an antibiotic ointment for a fortnight, her finger could be saved.
Since many parents do not care properly for their children, we help the mothers wherever we can and pay for the necessary healthcare of their children. The slum-women's life is hard: It is they who have to keep their children's head above water, while their husbands daily drink or gamble away the little money they earn. We told Dr Poudel that we wished to do more for these children and, as advised by him, we installed a small kitchen, where we cook food six days per week. We prepare a kind of milk porridge with various vitamins and minerals, the cost for which adds up to 200 Euro a month. In his opinion the fifty smaller children are benefited most by this, since the daily food-bowl would stimulate their growth considerably. It took us a whole week until we were able to produce from the rich powder from India a tasty crème with no lumps in it. To feed one hundred children in this way is no easy play, but meanwhile two volunteers from the slums have all under their control.
In our by comparison "luxurious" home we are still struggling for water. The government allows the precious fluid to flow only for one hour a day, and now in the dry season the wells we drilled do not yield a single drop of water. Together with the landlord we try to find a solution. If it is not found, we will have to move out - and that is a thing he really fears. Most of the wealthier people in Kathmandu, who own a house, have to rent it out in order to live from the money they get and move into a more modest apartment. The landlord usually promises that he is going to talk to the waterworks about it. He really does so, and afterwards the situation normalizes, but only for a few days.
To move away from this home would be a great loss for our handicapped Raj Kumar, for it would be difficult to find another house with such a beautiful garden, which gives him a slight ease in his life. Sharmila has still to wait for some time, until her right foot can support her, before her left foot can be operated.
Sabin, the son of one of our employees, also has to wear orthopaedic supports for a few months in order to straighten his bow-legs. We are very happy, that Subash, who had fallen ill with a serious case of typhoid this summer, is now completely cured and has overcome the depression he suffered from for three months. Our baby Nelson is well and kicking. He is lucky to have found German "foster parents", who although they cannot adopt him, want to secure his future and finance his further life.Our small and our big children have trouble in studying because of the difficult political situation, but still they are busy and making progress. Ram Pukhar has started a career as a freelance computer teacher and comes to see us quite often. Of course it will take some more years until the children will have reached their goal. Some of our donators may feel that the photographs enclosed with our letters present a far too bright picture of our children's lives. In our opinion the misery of Nepal and other countries can be watched on TV every day. We prefer to show you by our photos, what we were able to do with your money: To provide a dignified life to 150 children. And we are proud to state that our big ones, who are now almost grown-up people, are more and more committed; they earnestly bear responsibility for our project and help much with the work in the slums.
All people in Nepal, who benefit from your support, want to thank you very much and wish you, just as we do, a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year 2005
With our heartfelt greetings