We’ve been thinking about connection as we write our Malta presentation.  Again and again we are reminded that while we are geographically a bit isolated, we are connected with a community of people who have given us so much generous support.  This week we were reminded again.

photoI (Wendy) bought a Modahaus Steady Stand Kit last month in Australia and as soon as it arrived I realised it would be fantastic for the ladies so bought it over here and ordered another one.  It was wonderful and really helped the ladies take some lovely shots (as you can see!) so I emailed the people at Modahaus, not expecting a response, just to let them know how far their SSK had travelled and what a boon it was.  Lex and Pearl both responded and Pearl in particular, being a beader (see her beading blog here) wasphoto really interested in our work and what we do.  To cut a long story short, Modahaus are donating one of their Table Top Studios to us!  I know how great these are from my own experience and the ladies are looking forward to its arrival.  Not only that, they featured us in their blog!!!

Late last year I reconnected with an old school friend and as I burbled on about Samunnat, as I do, she and her husband suggested that Barefoot Firefly lights might help with some of our lighting issues and promptly gave me some to bring over.  And they do!  We charged them up the day I arrived, leaving them up on our roof for two days (you need 12 hours for the initial charging) in the poor light we have here in the pre monsoon.  And then we put them in a cupboard having ascertained that the lights would hold the photocharge.  Which they did! Yesterday afternoon, as we made up some earrings and struggled to see, we got our lights, turned them on and talk about an AHA response.  The ladies loved them and they were perfect for this activity. We also used one with some of our photographs.  We are continuing to talk with Steve from Barefoot as they have generously offered to help us with other options.

Carolyn and Dave Good have been encouraging supporters for a long time and we have just bought two of Carolyn’s tutorials.  Her tips for making consistent shaped Rondelles are perfect for us as professional rondelle makers! (The rondelles pictured are in the latest colour and will be available from Paulette here very soon!) Anyway, Carolynphoto emailed to say that she would have happily donated the tutorials, which we knew, but never want to take people’s generosity for granted.  Her response though, has been to arrange a fund raising venture where they will donate a percentage of all their buffing/ polishing wheel sales to us! Anyone who has been involved in an owner builder venture will know how expenditures always exceed original budgets so all this will really help!!

There are more generous acts that we will be writing about but we wanted to say thank you to these three whose immediate openness and encouragement help so much and remind us again that we are not alone.  We never take this kindness for granted.

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A day in the life

March 23, 2014 · 1 comment

Life’s messy.  Things don’t always go to plan. Some things you worry about go wonderfully. Other things you thought you were on top of blow up in your face.

Recently, a lady from our cooperative came in distressed and angry as the manpower agency that she paid many thousands of rupees to for her husband working in Malaysia were cheating them.  Two other ladies talked about their struggles with ill health and wondered when they’d feel better. Another lady is unsure about a big decision she needs to make and the implications of it. We are frustrated by  equipment issues (this is so common) and angry with salespeople who don’t care.  (The one hour motorbike trip to get a new oven was fun but not worth it!!)  Our outside water pump was broken by over-energetic pumping by neighbourhood kids and the wind blew our water tank lid off.  We are nervous about taking on some new trainees even though we know we don’t need to be. It is always scary phototaking the next big step.

On the other hand we found a wonderful carpenter who did a great job with our table. The drawers open easily and doesn’t wobble. Not to be taken for granted!  He even bought the table over on rickshaw while was still being built to make sure it was exactly the height we needed and that it sat solidly on the floor. What a man. We have found lots of other things he is trying to fix for us and he will build us two more storage shelves.

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Friends have donated some little luxuries to celebrate our move.  We have a rice cooker and fresh towels and as you know we bought sweets from the expensive sweet shop!

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As we worked on Saturday (it’s a chutti-the Nepali equivalent of the weekend-but we worked a half day to fill a big order) we talked  about what helps us to be resilient-what helps us to pick ourselves up and keep going when we fall or are knocked over.  The ladies talked about acknowledging that things would go wrong and that they say to themselves something like This won’t last. It won’t always be this bad.  They talked about remembering times when they have done something they felt  proud of, and good about to give them courage to do what needed to be done to solve a problem.

One commented that having her work here at Samunnat was part of feeling capable, as well as being a retreat from a tough time.  Another said that in the past, things were so bad that she had wondered if it was worth living.  We asked if she sometimes still felt like that and she emphatically said no, saying that now she had people she could ask for advice but also felt that she had more skills to deal with things that used to get her down.  Some said that having more times when they laughed and were happy helped them when they were sad.  And we all agreed that it was so important to try not to worry about things in the future that we have no control over but just to concentrate on the stuff in front of us that we can do something about. Like fixing the pump and sharing our sweets with the carpenter.

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The Sweet Spot

March 22, 2014 · 1 comment

There’s a longer post coming but this is a quickie!

photoPaulette Walther, our bead distributing fairy godmother, sent us some money for a some housewarming sweets. Sweets are a real luxury here and sweets from Sangam Sweets are an even greater luxury!

In Nepal, at the misthan bhandar (sweet shop) sweets are generallyphoto milk, sugar and ghee based.  Some have pistachios, cashews, peanuts or carrot! Sangam is a well known company in Nepal and they have just set up a shop and restaurant in town.  The shop is beautifully set up with a huge choice.  Thanks to Paulette, we purchased enough for the ladies to have some at work and take home to children.

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We think a lot about health and safety and have just started doing some high intensity exercise training as part of our week (Yes, Michael Mosley  and his fast fitness reach eastern Nepal!) and given the quantity of sweets we all ate, this was well timed!!!

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And we LOVE it!!!  We will post many photos here but Wendy has made a FlickR set on her account here where there will be many more and she will add to them over the month. (Click on these photos for larger versions.)

We just love that our Samunnat board hangs high and proud in the place it can stay now for a long while we hope!!!

We adore our new workroom which is light and airy. We have beautiful purplecurtains and pale peach walls and the light just floods in. When it is Winter and the days are short and the electricity is off, this will be a boon.

We have sliding aluminium windows and scary looking safety grills and plenty of room to put our storage cupboards and a new table in.

We have space to create our beads and jewellery and separate room to do our packaging and orders.

For the time being, the micro-finance cooperative ladies are using the space at thefoot of our stairs for the banking. When another safety grill has been put on our verandah, this will be their space and we will have a small community library with books about human rights and health and legal issues in this lovely stair space.

Our kitchen is so beautiful. Again, it is full of light with a tap from which water flows! We have a gas burner and have cooked celebratory meals and kaja (snacks)

Some of our family just banged on relentlessly about windows and natural light but it really makes us happy now to see the sunshine in in a way that is not always the way in dark Nepali homes. (BTW, thanks to Steve and Christine for our solar desk lamps. We know these will be fantastic!)

We have a friendly and welcoming office which allowsladies privacy when they talk about their problems. We bought ourselves a new table and cupboards and love that we can look outside onto grass and fields. We don’t know how long this will be the case as there is a lot of building going on but we will enjoy it while it lasts.

Shots of a toilet may be inappropriate for a family blog but we have one and it is inside! Vibrantly coloured tiles, splatters of grout everywhere and a wild blue door.  It is a traditional Nepali toilet and clean with water attached.

You can see from the shots of the roof that we are ready for phase two. The scary spiky looking things are in fact the skeletons of the columns which will support the second storey.  

In the photo with Kopila, our new rooms will be to the right of her. The whole area will have a roof over it and the area with no rooms will provide a lovely sunny place to have lunch in Winter.

We are excited and happy. I think you can tell!!! Stay tuned for more photos and check out the set on FlickR.

We know that those of you who subscribe to the blog may have got some odd viral messages in your inbox version. We do apologise and thanks to Cynthia, think we have the problem fixed. The message did not appear on the actual blog but in your versions. Let us know if you are still getting the message! 

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new sign
moving pile
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puja for moving

From Kopila

Namaskar

Today was the very important day for all of us. We did the puja and we enter in the house.

The photos show the moving process and Sharmila and Kumari with our sign outside the building.  Thanks to so much support, we can put this sign up and LEAVE IT THERE!!!

People can know where they need to come to find help.

We are glad Kopila took photos amidst all the excitement of the puja and moving.

You can see that we hired a truck to move everything. Our new building is within walking distance of the old but we have some very heavy book shelves and awkward shaped bits and pieces.

More photos to follow! I am on the way to Nepal now, via WOMAD in Adelaide, and will update the blog as I can. We are all very excited.

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Amnesty Afghan imageAs we prepare for our talk at the Eurosynergy conference in Malta, we have been thinking a lot about the sisterhood, the connections between women all around the world.  In our talk preparation, we have been thinking about the mind-blowingly positive impact that has had for us (and we are obviously using sister in a very inclusive way as we have wonderful brothers but it spoils the segue to say that! We just think of you all as one of the girls!)

We also feel connected to our sisters in other countries who are still fighting to have their voices heard; who face similar difficulties to us; who are scared and oppressed and frightened.  Thank goodness for organisations like Amnesty International for their tireless work in fighting for human rights over the world.  So today, we encourage ANY of you who read our blog and who have not already signed this petition to do so now and read more about the campaign here.

Afghanistan is beginning a new chapter, with the withdrawal of foreign troops and the election of a new President. With international support, brave local activists have spurred some real progress on women’s rights over the past decade — but there are still ultra-conservative factions determined to see this progress undone.

It’s essential that the incoming President knows the world will not tolerate a return to Taliban-era repression of women and girls.  Help Ming Yu and her team reach the target of 100,000 signatures to present to Afghan’s decision makers in a couple of months.

Dhanyabad!

 

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Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI guess we should have known….

It is nothing serious by Nepali standards and we will still put our feet in the door on Saraswati Puja, but the aluminium window frames have been delayed so we can’t move in tomorrow!

We are assured it will be very soon though. Sooner than 15 days*! But maybe longer than 2-3 days.
In the meantime we are busily making beads and training new ladies and helping theExif_JPEG_PICTURE many women who come to us asking for help. We are excited that soon we will be much easier to find from year to year!

We will keep you posted!  While you are waiting, here are some photos of around the area! Nice eh?

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE*15 days is the traditional response to questions by impatient (often non Nepali) people about how long something will take.  2-3 days is not technically 2-3 days but shorter than 15 days. Which is not literally 15 days but a time period longer than 2-3 days if you get my drift.

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Rangi Changi ghar!

January 26, 2014 · 1 comment

photo 1The regular readers of this blog will know that here in Nepal we do like our bright colours!  So it will come as no surprise that our new home is going to reflect our tastes!!!  Exterior painting is slower as we wait for the cement to really dry and in many cases the exterior painting is not completed until after 12 months or so.

Inside? Well, that is another story!!!  With our moving in date getting ever closer there is frenzied activity (using the Nepali sense of the word frenzied) and light fittings are being adjusted, windows and doors fitted and painting internal walls.  Our need for light means that we have notphoto 2 gone for the really strong dark, bright colours we may initially have chosen but are using bright, light colours.  This is particularly the case in our workroom (with its two fabulously well located big windows) where we are using a very light bright yellow colour.  (Or so I am told. The photos would indicate otherwise? Ed. Smilingly) And then in the corridors there is a pink, beloved of many Nepali interiors.  The ultramarine blue door leads to our internal toilet.  Woo hoo!!!!

Very rangi changi indeed!

photo 4You will notice in these very latest photos that the work on the second storey has started. The stair well has been rendered and a small verandah for safety purposes has been built. Always a good thing.  It will be rather noisy working downstairs with all the building activity going on upstairs but we will be happy to know that all the noise is for a good cause!

 

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Saraswati and Samunnat

January 13, 2014 · 2 comments

SaraswatiFebruary 4th is Saraswati Puja in Nepal. A special day.
It is an auspicious day for starting any new activities, particularly relating to education.
School children sharpen their pencils. Offerings are made to Saraswati in schools and colleges.
Why are we telling you this?
BECAUSE IT IS A SPECIAL DAY FOR US TOO!!
Given that a huge part of our vision and work is educational, we thought it would be a very appropriate day to move to our new building.  Here at Samunnat we learn about our rights, about how to advocate for those rights, about our legal system, and how to use that legal system.  We learn how to help and encourage one another and how to be the change in our society that we want to see.  We learn ways to earn an income and usually our greatest dream is that we can educate our children.  In many ways, education is at the core of what we do!!

If you take into account the fact that the bottom floor of our building will be (nearly) finished by then, and that our current landlord needs us to move on, the signs are clear for all to see.
We will put our feet in our wonderful building on Saraswati’s special day.
Soon after that, above our heads as we work and learn, the second storey will begin.
Another chapter in our story!
Stay tuned for photos of a building rather than a goddess.
( Great photo though eh?)

 

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Through the Roof

December 16, 2013 · 6 comments

To everybody who has supported us in such encouraging ways and with such generosity…

NAMASKAR

We can not really express how grateful we are for your generous and loving support. Your support has so much meaning for us. Yes, your financial support makes a BIG difference but we are also overwhelmed by the many messages people have sent to encourage us in our work and in our journey together – a journey we make here in Nepal with you all over the world.

Thanks to you we will have a large sunny room to work in. We will have somewhere to store our supplies and products. We will have a light airy kitchen with water inside! We will have a toilet inside! We will have a room to do our training in and an office where people can talk privately about their problems and start to plan solutions. We will have room for our micro finance cooperative. We can spend the money we used to spend on rent on solutions. And NOW, thanks to you, our ladies will have our second storey.

Kumari and her son will care for our building with devotion and gratitude. Bishnu (Maya) will finally have a home, a place to stay where she is accepted for the beautiful person she is; and one other lady will have somewhere permanent to live.They will be able to make a meaningful life, to move ahead.

Thanks to you, ladies who travel from far away will have somewhere to stay while they are doing all the work entailed in getting their rights and learning the skills they need to live independently. Last week I could say to a lady who was giving up her case because she could not afford accommodation, “Don’t give up. Come back in three months and you can stay here while you work it out.” She was too happy.

Thanks to you, now we do not have to move from one place to another. We can really settle. We can unpack knowing that we won’t be packing up again in six months or one year. We can hang our much travelled Samunnat sign and people can know we will be here when they return. This is a huge thing for us. We have our permanent address.

This is all thanks to you.

We will indeed RAISE THE ROOF. We will sing and dance and laugh and tell our stories. We will thrive and grow and help as many other women as we can to escape violence and vulnerability and to live fulfilling and independent lives.Thank you.

Happy Christmas and much love,
Kopila, Wendy and the ladies of Samunnat

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