Valentine’s Day is becoming popular in Nepal. Young people, especially in Kathmandu, exchange cards and tokens. Somewhat ironic in a country where arranged marriages are still the norm. In a certain part of Birtamod, however, Valentine’s Day will take on a special significance.
A while back (for various reasons that need to be kept a little bit secret because we don’t want to spoil a surprise for the ladies!) Wendy was emailing Ron Lehocky, a very special man who makes beautiful polymer hearts which he sells to raise money for the KIDS project in Kentucky. Ron had heard of us at Samunnat and had lots of questions about us. Wendy talked about many things (she’s like that) and, because we’d discussed it recently, she mentioned our problems with finding a suitable office – a suitable home really- and our plans to build…at some point.
We’ve moved at least 5 times in the past 6 years. We’ve almost lost count! Our first home was a rented garage, the first photo, on the side of the East West Highway-open to dust, dogs and the occasional drunk. Then we moved to another room which was OK until the demolition of the building opposite which meant that once again, we were dusted down too often for comfort and had to move on.
A small pokey room near the centre of town but in a dark alley ultimately posed both security and privacy issues and then a nicer building that we rented became prohibitively expensive to rent and had no running water. Currently we are renting the bottom floor of a family home. This has been our best premises so far but we are very crowded and unable to install storage we need. There is still really nowhere for women to speak privately with Kopila about their issues and we have to drag our very heavy generator in and out of the building every day as we can’t really lock it. (The last office photo shows Cynthia Tinapple with Kopila, Wendy and some of the Board after she’d been our guest presenter at a graduation Ceremony. You can just see the door!)
For some time, we have dreamt of our OWN small building.. We aren’t looking for a lot – just somewhere we can work without falling over each other; a small kitchen with a tap where women can make pickles and incense to sell; a room where women can discuss their cases with Kopila in private; a room where our micro-finance ladies can meet and where we can run our training without having to pay huge rents; a toilet with access to water and a place where we can store our generator securely without having to move it every day. Not so much but it seemed like an impossible dream. Last year, a local landowner who was impressed with the work we were doing, offered to donate a small parcel of land for us to build on in his fields. While we were delighted, our priority was (and still is) to provide training and legal assistance to women who are victims of violence, not to build a building and we couldn’t do both. We simply worked out how many necklaces we’d have to sell and hoped that in a few years, a home would become a reality.
Ron wondered how much it would cost to build a place for Samunnat and Wendy’s response that it could probably be done for under $10,000 got him thinking. Well, more than thinking. Within days, he and Cynthia Tinapple had come up with something that has stunned and amazed us. On Friday, Cynthia asked readers of PCD to donate to our building and Ron pledged to match their donations up to $2000. Over the weekend, scores of readers have donated and we are well placed to reach our target! Readers we have never met; old friends who have supported us so many times in the past; new friends who sent us donations and messages of encouragement and love; people who not only donated but shopped as well! (Yes, we will update the shop soon!!!) In a skype call, Kopila was nearly in tears when she heard about what has happened. She is going to take a photo of the land so that these dear people can see where the home they are helping to build will go. We simply can’t express how grateful we are. There are times when the work we do gets really hard. Sometimes daunting, sometimes scary and sometimes overwhelming. There is so much we can’t change, so much more to do. Every day we see things we want to do and can’t; women we want to help but for whom it is too late. Every day we wonder if we are up to the task. And then, something like this happens, we realise that we are not doing this on our own; we are connected to people who love and care and encourage and support us, and we have new reserves of energy and courage to keep going. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS TO US. Please, please know how incredibly grateful we are. Ron, Cynthia and all those who have helped now and over the years…DHERAI DHANYABAD…Thank you so much.