Before any building is started in Nepal, a silanayash ceremony is conducted. It is a little like asking the land for permission to build and is a very significant and important part of the building process. The day (a Monday) was determined by a priest as is the time. The ceremony was attended by those involved-the landowners (us!), the builders, a priest, neighbours, neighbours’ children, the people who helped us to be able to obtain the land, random cows, assorted Australians…the list goes on.
The ceremony began with the preparation of the items that were to be buried. These had been purchased the day before as the ceremony started early in the morning. Flowers, curd, colours, small pieces of silver, gold, brass, copper and tin were prepared by the ladies ready for the ceremony.
This was followed by the digging of a hole in the position where the pillar of the building will be. All of us participated in this which felt very special. We spoke to Ron by skype almost as soon as the ceremony was finished and it felt very much like he was with us!
We were absolutely thrilled that Ganesh and Sangita Basnet of Jhapa, who made the land available to us, were able to join us. This made this a very special day and we were able to tell them again how very, very grateful we are.
Once the items had been prepared and the hole dug, the priest led the ceremony, telling us when to put certain items into the hole. We hope that in the next month or so we can work out how to put some short videos of what happened into the blog. Until then, enjoy the photos!
Well, we have moved. We think this may be our 6th move in seven years but we are flexible and pretty good at moving. We would like to lose these skills after our next move! We hope that when we move to our new home on Hanuman Tol, we can stay there for a long time!
Having said that, we are very very lucky that we only had to move next door. Not only because it was much easier to move such a short distance, but because we are well known now and people come to our building for help. Being so close, they can see our sign and know where to come. Also, our new land is a short walk away and we can tell people where we will be moving and when.
The other reason we are lucky is that this new home is a lovely one. The rooms are downstairs at the back of the building giving us some privacy. There are four rooms altogether-a kitchen, a large sunny workroom, a light office room where the Cooperative also runs from and a room where visitors can wait and we can do training. We also have a toilet and bathroom with water that is inside the building. Out the back we have a small verandah and can see corn growing and a lovely vegetable garden.
The neighbours are surprised at the noise of the generator so we will be talking about this and can assure them it will only be used for a couple of hours each day. And maybe we can keep it quite while they watch the Hindi soap operas as this seemed to be the main issue!
Today we had a wonderful day making our amber beads and working on some pendants. We loved being able to fit around our table better and the day seemed to pass very quickly. More photos and stories soon. Please send us comments. We love to hear from you!
I came to Samunnat Nepal when I was in trouble. My son (7 years) and I were left alone in a rented room by my husband and his family during the Festival time. I had no money to pay the rent or buy food. We had nowhere to live.
For a short time, we lived with my aunty’s family but they are also very poor and could not afford for us to stay with them. I did not have any skills to get a job to earn any money but in 2069 it was a new beginning for my life. I came to Samunnat Nepal where I got to know they were helping women like me in a different way. They were giving them skills in their office or sending them to Kathmandu to get advanced skills. Samunnat sent me and my son to Casa Nepal (the hostel for Project Apeiron) and I started basic to advanced computer skills training. As well, I learnt accounting and graphic design training for 6 months. Project Apeiron paid for my son’s enrolment in a very nice English medium Primary School.
As well as learning the computer skills I also did some short courses learning knitting, weaving and candle making. I received advocacy training, health training, information about human rights, legal rights and lots of other information. These things were so helpful for me. I got this training and went to the Bar Association and learnt about the legal court processes. Now I feel confident to fight for my rights and while I was in Kathmandu was able to assist one of my friends when she had to deal with police about her case. Her husband was a policeman who had left her and their children. As a result of our efforts, the Police awarded that she would receive some of his salary to provide for herself and her children. I felt like this was also my victory.
These are the things that make me feel so proud of myself and now I feel I can live independently. Now I have returned to Birtamod and want to be able to help other women who are in my situation. I would like to thank Samunnat Nepal and Project Apeiron for helping me. I hope Samunnat and Casa Nepal can help other women who are in trouble. Happy New Year (2070) to all the people who read this.
Well, you could almost have scripted it I guess. News of the developments for a place of our own spread and when I (Wendy) arrived in Birtamod a few days ago, something was obviously afoot. One of our rooms was filled with someone else’s junk and boxes were piled up everywhere. We had been asked to move. Again.
There’s a lot to be done, learnt, finalised, organised and consolidated and moving officed wasn’t meant to be on the agenda but there you go. Some judicious scouting around, and a sympathetic gentleman next door means that we can move into his back rooms as soon as he moves upstairs. No pressure. We try to only ask once each day how things are going. Our current landlord wanted us out days ago and we hope to move on Sunday and Monday. Yesterday was an auspicious day for people moving. That’s us for sure! So we put a red plastic chair in the hallway of the new place to make the most of it.
That new place just can’t be built soon enough really!
Not content with kick-starting our new home, Ron Lehocky sent me a box of delights to bring over and in this photo you can see Sita and Pramila working with his amalgam filler. We can see whay he adores this tool. what a winner! Thank you Ron-and for the glitter, the tiny glass beads (knew they’d love them!), the books and magazines, the barettes and all the other wonderful goodies. Lee Ann Armstrong also sent over two of her Simple Slicers and we had a quick look at them as well. We love all our slicers! Because of the variety of the work we do, we are very grateful for both of the types of slicers that have been donated to us.
As soon as we’ve moved, it’s back to business. We’ve had visits from one of the ladies who spent a year in Kathmandu with Project Apeiron and she has written her story for us. She looks like a different woman and is so happy with how things have gone. I am sure we will hear more about Lalita. Until then, back to the boxes!
Kumari, along with Gita, Ambika and Sharmila, was one of the first ladies to become involved with Samunnat and consequently, the polymer jewellery. She is very busy as she also manages the Cooperative which is run independently of Samunnat (but is, somewhat confusingly we know, called the Samunnat cooperative!) Kumari remembersearly on when Kopila, Wendy and the others talked about a dream of one day having a Samunnat home. Kumari says she is grateful to the people that even had that dream way back in the beginning. She says: We always have had this dream of a permanent office but now your love, support and your connection-especially Dr. Ron dai-makes this more than a dream. Thank you for all the love, all the support. (We hope Kumari doesn’t mind that in her photo she is eating! It is appropriate because Kumari is a great cook!
Kopila has so much she wants to say to Dr. Ron dai, to Cynthia didi, to all the people who have donated. She hopes to maybe be able to talk with some of them in a skype call soon. She says: Even if I do not remember each of the names of all the people who have donated, there have been so many, my thanks is still deep and I still think of you as friends. I can hardly thank you enough because the dream is come true. Without this love and support we would never have this chance, this opportunity to build. When we do start the building, when we have our building, I wish each of our supporters and friends would come to see us and to see our joy and happiness that we have this connection.
I (Wendy) can’t really add too much to this. I have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity, every message that people wrote has been passed onto the ladies and Board and translated. The Board members are so energised by what has happened and we hope that photos and posts will convey this over time. I underestimated the impact that actually having a physical building would have on the standing of the organisation in the town and what this has meant to the women. It has been beyond our dreams and, as we have said again and again, we are unable to say how grateful we are.
We have a busy time ahead-apart from starting the building process. I will be in Birtamod in a few weeks and, in possibly the trickiest time of the year to do much (the monsoon), we are hoping to be ready to launch our new designs that we are working on with Paulette of Kazuri and Helen Breil. We will remain enigmatically silent about these but stay tuned for news and photos!
Over the last couple of weeks, the ladies and the board members have been meeting with people to talk about the building. Because of the support we have had, we are able to consider the possibility of installing a solar panel and are currently investigating this. We have met with builders and are starting to accumulate the supplies we will need. Things are done a little differently to how they are done in other places and the process is not always smooth (may be that is not so different to other places!). We hope that in a few weeks, we will be able to start posting some photos of the progress.
Yesterday, we posted some of things that the ladies want to say and here are some more of their thoughts: Ambika says that she is very happy about the land but that now she is MORE happy that now on this land we are going to build our office and that this is all because people have been so generous. She wants to say Dherai, dherai dhanyabad!
Rita says: I would like to say that we always were wondering when we would next be told to move and that this was sometimes making us feel vulnerable. After building our house we will not have this feeling of being so vulnerable and this is why I want to thank you from my heart so deeply. All you people who have supported us and to the people who even got us to where you heard that we needed the money, thank you.
Sita says: We are vulnerable and we do not have a safe place to say what we feel or to come when we are in trouble or to empower ourlseves. This building will be our safe haven to come to.
And Sharmila says: I would like to say to all the people who have donated to us-all the support and love-thank you. When Samunnat started, it was just a small group of people and we sometimes felt alone. But now we do not feel alone. We feel like we are united with other people. And this makes us feel supported even from people who have never met us or known us. The new building will be the symbol of this, that there are no boundaries to the connection between us.
Even more thank you messages tomorrow so we hope you are all feeling very appreciated!
The ladies at Samunnat want to say so many things to the people who help us. Thinking about the latest developments with the building, Kopila sat with them and recorded and then translated their messages. We will post them all over the next couple of days and where possible, we will put each message next to a photo of the messenger! We hope that to a small extent at least, it conveys what we would say if we could personally thank all of you who make our journey so much easier. Those of you who have met the ladies will be able to hear their voices I know.
Manisha says: First, I want to thank Ron dai (big brother) and Cynthia didi (big sister) very very much. We are a very small organisation where we can’t even think about using our donated land as building is too expensive. It was just a dream but now it is like magic has happened and now we are going to build a house for Samunnat. We have no limitation to our happiness. No words can express our happiness and you all who have helped us will all always be in our dream.
Sita says: For a long time, we have been moving and moving to different houses and we don’t feel comfortable or settled. But now, this will change and I want to thank all the people who donated to us so we could stop moving after we build.
Pramila says: I am very happy. I would like to say to all the friends of Samunnat that even though they have never seen us, they have given us the gift of permanence to stay and to grow. They are like a family.
And finally, for today, Gita says: Even though we got the land, still we can’t think about building a house for our office. But now our dream has come true because of your love and what you have done for us. In English, Gita wrote three times Thank you, thank you, thank you so much!
Don’t forget that we have been adding goodies to the etsy shop and that there are some new designs available. Have a browse and see what the ladies have been making while all the excitement has been happening! We will publish more of the ladies’ messages tomorrow.
There is so much happening right now so keep coming back to see what’s happening. There will be BIG news soon on how we are going with our fundraising for the building. Grateful tears have been shed. We’ll say no more. About that anyway. Yet. But give us a couple of days. And no one is mentioning a proper cement roof instead of a potentially leaky tin one.
While you are writhing in suspense, check out the Etsy shop. A box of goodies arrived (after an unscheduled sojourn in Singapore) and every day for the next five or so, we’ll be adding a new item to our store. Some magnificent stuff. Wonderful rich colours for the Southern Winter coming up and fabulous Summery colours for the Northern shoppers. Amazing that single items can cross seasons and cultures so marvellously isn’t it?
Take a peek and drop in again soon. Spend while the post mistress is in the country.
As I type this, Kopila, the members of the Board, the ladies and their children and families are heading off for a picnic! The weather is getting warmer and it is a good time to celebrate! Yesterday, Gopal and Kulprasad from the Board went shopping for rice, vegetables, juice, fruit and favourite picnic fare. Everyone is very excited and looking forward to a time of sharing and relaxing at Sanischare, a small village where two of the ladies live. There is a community run forest nearby that is very popular for picnics. The picture shows a photo of a monument in the park to local martyrs who died in the Civil War.
In Nepal, the weekend is one day long. (Took some getting used to! Ed.) Some offices close on Friday afternoon, and all have the Saturday off but then it’s back to business as usual on Sunday. Because they were working to complete the loose bead orders, the ladies decided (totally their own decision) to work a number of Saturdays to make sure they could deliver their orders on time. The Board members really appreciated their hard work and determination and decided a while ago to have a picnic as soon as the pressure was off. And today is the day…there will be much eating, laughter, singing, dancing and we hope LOTS OF PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THE BLOG!!!
Ultimately, the ladies will manage the polymer business independently. At the moment, this is not possible but everything is run in a very cooperative way. Everything is decided by the 8 ladies consulting with the Board members and Kopila. Together they decide on all the issues that come up like pricing, ordering materials, wages, work priorities, health and safety issues etc. They are become more confident in setting prices, making decisions about when to order more stock and how long something may take to make. It is exciting to see their confidence grow. And they have LOTS of ideas about the new rooms and we will be sharing these in the blog very soon.
We finally have photos of the land where our new office will be. At the moment, you can see it is being used for crops, but we hope to begin building in the next few months and will have progress shots for you all! Until then, this is the land!!! To Ron, Cynthia and all the wonderful people who have donated for the building, picture it here!
Over the years we’ve had wonderful support and encouragement from many people. People who in our tentative, early days gave us a generous and confidence-building kick start; a donation that meant we could broaden our vision, target our programs more specifically and dream of getting on our own feet; people who providegracious, regular, vital support that enables Kopila to do what she does; people who have donated time, energy, chutzpah and humour at times when our time, energy, chutzpah and humour levels were low! There are people who help us with the stuff some of us aren’t too great at, like IT and maths (big thanks to Cynthia, Dad and Jen who manages our Facebook presence ). There are people who share their own stories and encourage us to dream. People like Deb, Alice and Arcadia who are such a force for getting back out there and carrying on!) We could be dropping pictorial hints and naming names for pages. We do not for one second ever take any of this for granted.
Over the past fortnight, we are seeing it again…incredibly timely support. Ron Lehocky and Cynthia Tinapple’s call to arms has yielded over $6000 so far from people all over the world-over 100 people from over 10 different countries have donated towards our building fund and have sent us such encouraging and warm messages. We are aiming for $10,000 which will enable us to build a home that will meet the needs of the women who come to us. And give us room to make the beads and necklaces that mean women can earn their own income and Samunnat can keep providing the legal, practical and training support that it want to provide.
As Kopila says: Since a very long time we have been working in Samunnat and thinking of a building but before it was always a dream. But when a local man said he was interested to give us land for our building, even then we thought it was impossible because it was too long for us to collect money for the building. But what we have learned now is that even when we thought it was impossible, EVERYTHING is possible because we are connected to you all. Now we understand that Samunnat is not just in Birtamod but it is all over the world. It is in every people’s hearts. I’d love to thank everybody who has given us so much directly and indirectly to make Samunnat’s power grow and double. Cynthia and Ron are pillars of Samunnat and when the building is ready, and as long we live, they will be in our hearts. We will always feel them in our building.
and will be reinforced by the connection we have with such a loving community. Dherai dhanyabad.