THE GAYATRI FUND (NEPAL: COMPASSION IN ACTION) has been operating since April 2015. Throughout this time, it has been a continuous outpouring of love and daily proof that compassion born in one’s heart can and does create a ripple that has no borders, no limitation of time and space, and can indeed change the world of individuals and communities and even plant the seeds for the development of a country, one child at a time.
THE BEGINNING: 2015
The Gayatri Fund was officially founded after Nepal’s devasting earthquake in April 2015. Deva, Miten and Manose (who was born and raised in Nepal) were seeing the pictures, hearing the news directly from Manose’s relatives in Kathmandu and feeling the urge to help. The severity of the situation sprang them straight into action. They contacted Eva Tedert, who had been working with the street children of Nepal for many years (The Society of Street Children of Nepal), and also Kurt Amert, who had experience working in a NGO (Kriegskindernothilfe) with projects in Romania, Syria, Albania, in Kosovo and Pakistan.
Deva, Miten and Manose donated over 120,000 Euros to Nepal. The money was used to buy food, medicines, tents and tarps in hard struck villages where aid from governmental organisations or bigger NGOs was not arriving for logistical reasons. The invitation to help was extended to the sangha during their tours and, in Miten’s words, “It was like people hearing the call. Every concert we did raised at least 2,000 euros. In Moscow people donated 11,000 euros in only one concert.”
During the first weeks after the earthquakes, we could go on giving medicines and some equipment to health posts in villages in the region of Sindhupalchowk. After the most vital needs of the earthquake victims were met, efforts have turned to rebuilding basic infrastructure in the villages and providing support and education for the children, many of them orphans.
SUMMARY OF THE GAYATRI FUND PROJECTS 2015 – 2019
We are very happy to tell you about our cooperation with ”Chhori” anti-trafficking organization. Because of your support we can co-finance a shelter for young girls.
Chhori means daughter in Nepali and the organization works mainly with young girls who are at risk of being sold to brothels in foreign countries or end up at the dance bars in Kathmandu.
Chhori has an ambitious programme; they work in villages to raise awareness both among young people and also among their parents so they understand that a job as housemaid in Delhi, or something else that sounds very attractive for a poor family, is far from cleaning and babysitting. Chhori also gives training programmes to young girls who have been working at dance bars or ‘cabin-restaurants’ in Kathmandu; secretive brothels disguised as restaurants.
In Autumn 2019 the Gayatri Fund was able to help co-finance a shelter for girls who had just left dance bars. Some of them were as young as 13 years old and some with no education at all, as many were taken out of school after grade 4 or 5. Some of them even have children, even though they are just children themselves.
The purpose of the shelter is to create a space where the women and girls can feel safe physically, mentally and emotionally. Here they get psychosocial counselling, non-formal education, take part in a reintegration programme and group activities. The main goal is re-integration into society and to become independent and self-supportive.
ANIRA 2017 – 2019
One of the women who got help from Chhori is Sarita. She was already in her mid-twenties when she, willingly, started to work at a dance bar. Here is what she tells us:
I already had two sons when our daughter Anira was born. We soon understood that there was something wrong with the baby and at the hospital we were told that the child had spina bifida and dislocated hips. They said she would never be able to walk properly and she would have to wear diapers her whole life.
I was at home with the children, in our small room. My husband was working at the time. We had no bathroom and no running water. Diapers are very expensive and as the girl grew up my husband became angry because of the smell and told me that the girl could not stay with us. I refused to abandon my daughter and throw her out to the street to a certain death. Then my husband left me and I did not know how to support my children and myself. I went to a dance bar to dance and meet men who came there. This was horrible and disgraceful but did I have a choice? My sons moved with their father to the village, Anira stayed with me and I had to send money also for my sons’ education. Anira had to be alone many hours in our little dark room while I was earning money at the dance bar.
It was a relief when I met the team from Chhori and got a chance to move to their shelter together with my daughter. From Chhori I received my driver’s license and now I can work and support myself, pay for food and house rent myself.
When we met Sarita and Anira they were just about to move out from Chhori. The staff members at Chhori and Sarita herself were worried about what to do with Anira, then 7 years old. The child had to be alone while Sarita was working and could not go to the toilet by herself or move from the room. We decided to take Anira to the HRDC rehabilitation hospital in Banepa outside Kathmandu.
It was too late to do anything about the spina bifida but two operations, months in plaster and long-term physiotherapy has shown positive results. Anira, now 9, started grade one at school in summer 2019. She still needs physiotherapy; she will always need diapers but she is a happy child and learns everything very fast.
Thanks to your support Anira could get surgery for both hips, physiotherapy, all transports to and from hospital (complicated when in half body plaster), diapers, special shoes and leg braces to enable her to walk. During the 7 months that she spent in a cast we sent her a teacher 3 hours a day to help with her reading, drawings and also simply talking with her in order to make the child’s day more bearable. At school special furniture has been provided. Anira is a happy child. She attends a special school. The fees are expensive but her attendance is possible thanks your generous donations.
FOOD TO CHILDREN IN A SLUM AREA
The Swedish Society for Street Children in Nepal has long worked on a programme that provides schooling to children from Shantinagar, a large slum area in Kathmandu. The programme also distributes food among many children in this area.
The Gayatri Fund has been able to top up the programme, by providing more food to children who suffer from severe malnutrition. The idea is that those children regain enough strength to go to school. It is hard to learn on an empty stomach so this extra relief will play a huge role in bettering the childhood for these boys and girls in the slum.
KHARI VILLAGE IN DHADING, BEEKEEPING 2019
After the devastating earth quakes in spring 2015 a poor family in Khari received six goats from the Gayatri Funds Swedish sister organization Gatubarn Nepal. This family is very industrious and as soon as the first goat kids were sold, they bought tomato seeds and plastic. Bamboo could be fetched in the forest, and they built up simple green houses and started growing tomatoes. The tomatoes and more goat kids were carried away in baskets to town and sold and soon they also could buy a hundred chickens. Selling chickens and eggs, tomatoes and goats they could later buy three pigs and when the first piglets were sold, they also could buy a buffalo for the village. Now the whole village is involved and they have started an ”amma samuha” or a mother’s organization where all women are members.
In 2019 Gayatri Fund took the final step to help the villagers to be completely self-supportive; we sent Deepak Lama to provide training in bee keeping, and now the villagers have set up bee hives, received protection gear from Germany and finally, November 15, the bees of the species apis cerana could be transported to the village on bumpy roads and installed in their hives.
The villagers have already built the little honey production house and are now ready for a first honey harvest in 2020.
MEDICAL COLLEGE STUDENTS 2013 – 2019 (Gayatri fund co-finance since 2017)
When it comes to long term impact, funding and supporting medical college students in Nepal is at the very heart of The Gayatri Fund. Currently the fund is financing the studies for three of twenty girls who are being sponsored at Medical College in Kathmandu. All of the girls come from very remote villages, with no access by conventional roads, where there is no medical care at all and they are chosen for their excellent academic records, determined attitude and deep commitment to helping others. After their training, they will return to their villages to work for their communities for a minimum of five years. It is beautiful to see how finance for this project comes from all over the world: Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, UK and USA, including individuals, companies and other organisations such as the Swedish Society for Street Children in Nepal, Soroptimist International and Rotary.
We already see a great impact in the villages where our first 10 already qualified nurses and Health Assistants are working, some of them already have further education as skilled birth attendants and our first fully educated midwife will be qualified in 2020.
MAGHI GAUN 2016-2018
Maghi Gaun literally means ‘Fishermen village’. It is a little village surrounded by a lush landscape and a powerful river that makes the area very fertile. The only problem with the river is that is located 147 meters below the village. In order to bring water to households, livestock and crops, children had to walk down to the river and climb all the way back up to the village, which prevented them from attending school regularly or altogether.
Thanks to The Gayatri Fund (2016) the village now has 650 meter water pipes, a pump and seven taps. The children are at school now instead of carrying water. Later, the Society for Street Children in Nepal (2017) donated 28 goats to help the women in the village earn a living. Helping villages to become self-sufficient is one of the priorities of The Gayatri Fund.
Our final project for Maghi Gaun was the bee project in 2018. Thanks to donations from Germany, all protection gear and equipment for harvesting and extracting the honey were delivered to the village. We started with the bee apis milifera but they were vulnerable to the local hornet, and despite usually giving more honey the harvest did not meet our expectations. So the next, and final step, will be to replace some of the bee colonies with the apis cerana bees which are more resistant to the hornets. With this project extension, the hives will give a better harvest because more bees will survive and be productive.
A SCHOOL IN RATHANKOT 2015-2017
Before the devastating earthquakes Rathankot, a remote Himalayan village had around 200 households, farmland terraces on the hillsides, water in the river below the village, a school for more than 130 students from grade 1 to 8. It was not a rich village but people survived thanks to their abundant natural resources and fertile soil. In April 2015 everything changed. The village was destroyed by the earthquakes. The school walls still stood but entering the building was too dangerous.
One of the first emergency actions was to provide the children of Rathankot with school tents so they could get back to their education as soon as possible, although unfortunately, with only three teachers for all eight grades. The temporary school was the best that could be done at the time, but it was far from ideal for long-term education (imagine the noise with the monsoon rains, for example).
The Gayatri Fund rebuilt the school and secured the ground in 2016 and 2017. The most interesting thing is how this rebuilding was carried out. Easiest and cheapest for us would have been to hire a company from Kathmandu just to rebuild the school.
However, we wanted to provide long-lasting help for the village and give the people not only a school but also skills. We bought a brick press and tools. Then twenty villagers, ten men and ten women, were trained in how to make earth bricks out of 90% soil and 10% cement, using their natural, local resources. Further training was then provided in construction techniques and procedures, and then work began.
The villagers built their own school, and not only did they developed new skills but a sense of ownership, pride and confidence in their ability to provide for their own children. Rathankot village now has a school for 130 students. The villagers also have started to construct a new community hall at their own cost thanks to the skills and the tools we gave them. They are also able to earn money as they can offer their skills to other villages.
A TEACHER TO RATHANKOT 2019
When the school was finished, our concern was the lack of teachers. For eight grades, they had only three teachers. The local school board managed to get three more teachers, however, unfortunately none of them very experienced in teaching maths or English. It took us a year to find a teacher well educated in maths and English who was willing to stay in Rathankot. Renuka Chaudhury is very popular among the children. Her English is very good and she is experienced in teaching maths. The kids are finally learning what they should and now there are very few hours without teachers as they are seven teachers altogether for the eighth grades. Thanks to this extra teacher salaried by the Gayatri Fund the children from the Rathankot school are able to progress to grade 9 and 10 in the larger village an hours walk away.
SANKHU 2015 – 2016
The ancient town Sankhu, just north of the world heritage city of Bhaktapur, was badly hit by the earthquakes, mainly after the second one, which occurred on the 12th of May. The Gayatri Fund built a new water well, finished 2017. The construction was done following traditional Newari building techniques, materials and style. In Nepal, wells do not only provide clean water, but are also spaces traditionally used for ceremonial and social purposes. The well that The Gayatri Fund rebuilt in Sankhu has become an important space where culture and tradition is celebrated.
It is beautiful to see how finance for this project comes from all over the world: Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the USA, including individuals, companies and other organisations such as the Swedish Society for Street Children in Nepal and
As Eva notes: “Having even one nurse, health assistant, or midwife will better the health quality for a whole region. Mothers won’t die from lack of medical care, leaving alone starving children who end up on the streets or in the jungle, or as victims of trafficking.”
A THANK YOU NOTE
It has been a fruitful and wonderful journey that keeps growing and growing with the never-ending support of Deva Premal, Miten and Manose and the whole of the sangha. Isn’t it wonderful that chanting mantra can produce such an outpouring of love? In Deva’s words, “Chanting mantra is always about being part of a community. Just by chanting a mantra we become part of the sangha of all the millions of people who have chanted that mantra down the ages.”
And when a group of people get together from a heart space, the result cannot be anything other than compassion and oneness. The Gayatri Fund has given the opportunity to put this sangha’s compassion into action and help implement these seemingly small projects in Nepal that contain the seed of long term, deep and continuous impact on the lives of so many children and communities for present and future generations. Let the love keep growing. Thank you for your heartfelt support.
With love and blessings,
The Gayatri Fund Team