The end of an era…

In 2009 The Storyteller Project was birthed into the world to coincide with my first journey to my second home Nepal.

Through The Storyteller Project I’ve been privileged to meet an incredible array of people from behind the lens and through story gathering, developing and researching for documentaries and as print journalist, sometime opinion piece writer and as a co-producer.

Rickety buses laden with life and the cattle trucks of the sky have opened doors to new countries, new adventures, new friends, new stories across the world and bucket loads of love and joy with a smidgen of sorrow to make the good stuff even sweeter.

I’ve sat down on dusty streets and smoked cigarettes with street kids, witnessed rituals by buddhist monks, had a knife pulled on me on public transport, had a run in or two with child traffickers, got a wee bit up close and personal with a military bayonet and perhaps had more than my fair share of interesting conversations with highly dubious characters…

Some adventures have been more successful than others but I value every moment.

So many people have joined me on this seven year journey to support and help out in a myriad of ways. Thank you to my friends and family -I cannot not accurately describe what your love and support means to me.

A few people  deserve a special mention; Rob Harley , Antony Lowenstein, Tobie Openshaw, Hamilton Pevec, Abigail Varney, Kristy Brown and Jeff Hann.

I’d also like to thank all the great organisations I’ve crossed paths with, with a special mention to Child and Youth First and the incredible Haushala Thapa.

I best get to the point then eh?

After these seven glorious, challenging, marvellous and sometimes vaguely terrifying years it is time to put The Storyteller Project to bed.

I’m a wee bit sad but I want to work creating content and telling great stories through image, word and film differently than the solo mission that was The Storyteller Project.

I want to work with passionate talaneted creators across formats as we need real storytellers and truth seekers more then ever. And if I am anything I am a storyteller and a truth seeker through image and word.

I’ve gathered so many skills that I want to put to use. Hit me up in the New Year if you need a multi talented and skilled Neesha Bremner in your team.

The Storyteller Project website will remain online for the next few months and you can contact me via email neesha@storytellerproductions.net

Thank you. I’ll miss you Storyteller Project but I am excited, nervous and hopeful about whatever comes next.

 

Neesha Bremner

Director & Founder ~ The Storyteller Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

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American Immigrant Podcast -Episode 3

In this episode we join Hamilton Pevec and his Nepali wife Devika Gurung as they navigate the Nepalese health system while preparing for the birth of their first child.

Can they get a non-caesarean birth?

Episode Three ~ How to Escape a Cesarean Section. Part One.

Written & Produced by Hamilton Pevec

Co-Produced by Neesha Bremner ( The Storyteller Project)

Please contact neesha@storytellerproductions.net if you have any questions or wish to sponsor an episode.

Relief to the Epicenter – Diary of the Nepal Earthquake

Author Hamilton Pevec lives in Pokhara, Nepal with his Nepalese wife, Devika Gurung. Pokhara is about fifty miles and many hours’ driving time from the  earthquake epicenter, Gorkha.
Gorkha Earthquake remote epicenter area relief

April 29th 2015

We gathered at Blue Sky Paragliding company headquarters in Pokhara, Nepal, to load four jeeps with relief supplies and try to organize ourselves.

The word coming out of the target area was that they needed supplies, but not people.

We loaded rice, tarps, tents, blankets, medicine, water and about eight people to help unload and load.

We hooked up with Karma Flights because they had already been in the area for a few days and they had established a relay distribution station.  With them we could make sure our supplies got into the right hands.

The paragliding companies have all leapt in to help in this crisis.

We are an international group of locals: French, Canadian, American, British and Nepali all working together to see if we can get survival supplies into rural areas where villages are now rubble. We hit the road feeling optimistic and slightly apprehensive. We knew the roads were bad and now it was raining.

We had heard stories that support groups had been attacked by desperate villagers,raiding the trucks and becoming violent with the volunteers.

We loaded our very old Mahendra truck with 120 kg rice, 25L fuel, 10 tarps,10 blankets, 15 boxes of water, shovels and picks.

Not long into our journey we began to fishtail; something was wrong with our steering.  A quick road side fix and atop up of fluids put us back on the highway cautiously.

We reached Mugline and stopped to buy more blankets and realized we had missed our turn for Gorkha, by 7 Km. Back tracking, we stopped to buy more blankets.

We saw lots of relief trucks and media vehicles on the road. The traffic was thick and everyone drove too fast. As we crested a small hill to pass through a gate, the gears would not
engage.

Robyn, our driver, looks out the window and yells “Get out now!” I jump out to and see that the back right wheel was sticking out 1.5 feet, just barely on the truck. We put stones behind the other wheels, a few small cars passed us, the big buses and trucks could not.

A mechanic was on the scene within two minutes, and we had the truck jacked, wheel removed in 10 and by 15 minutes the new part was installed, the wheel back on.

During this time an angry German film crew criticized us on our poor choice of places to break down. Members of International Search and Rescue were also in the line up to get by.

Moving again, the sun was setting over Gorkha, we were surprised to see very little damage in the main township, almost none at all.

Asking for the road to Chanaute, to our dismay we missed our turn again, we had to go all the way back to where we broke down about 10 Km.

We got on the right road as it got dark,now finally heading into the back country. The road slowly yet surely turned into a 4×4 mud bath. We had to keep one person sitting in the back to make sure none of the supplies fell out.

It was a grueling 4 hours, but quite normal for traveling in Nepal.

We arrived at the supply relay station about 10:30pm, set up the tarps just in time for a torrential down pour.

The French being French, brought some fancy stinky cheese and fresh home made bread. We picnicked in the rain as we discussed the distribution strategy for the next day.

The earth shook, and Micole,the Nepali independent aid worker reassured me that is was just the landslides.

April 30th 2015, Up before dawn the rain continued to pour, we knew in these conditions that we could not get out with our truck.

The relay station was set up 100 meters from a massive landslide that blocked one of the remote access roads. The villagers started showing up around 6AM.

They walk down from the steep mountain-side villages that have been cut off by landslides and floods. I could see the slide areas all around us.

The issues with distribution became quite obvious immediately: people wanting more than their share, families sending different people to collect, people fighting over supplies and how they should be distributed.

None of the groups, like us, at this location were professional relief groups. But Karma Flights had been there for five days and slowly figured out a system. That didn’t stop the infighting.

It was like watching directors butting heads, “My way!  “No, my way!”

I suppose it is to be expected because it takes a director to even try something like this. The groups gathered at this location were a mix of paragliding companies, independent community action groups, and individuals.

The only doctors on site were four foreigners who happened to be in Nepal, two left that day.

Micole told me that she had to play doctor in the beginning recalling some gruesome stories of mis-education when dealing the injured villagers.

One wound was caked in toothpaste, another one packed full of powdered Paracetamol. She spent a lot of time just cleaning and dressing wounds.

By 10AM, 200 villagers were at the supply station, many having come a few times that morning.

One aid worker was very upset about efforts not being co-ordinated. “1000 people are just up the road with nothing, crying, and you are here giving to all these people who already came yesterday.”

Villagers were sneaking around the ropes just grabbing whatever they could, kids were pulling up stakes from the tents of the aid workers, I saw another villager role up the tarp we slept
on and pack it away very quickly.

It was clear they wanted the tarps more than anything else.

Everyone was sleeping in shelters, even if their homes still stood. They would not sleep alone, in some cases 5-7 families would all be sleeping in one shelter, for fear of being
alone. Which makes you wonder where are all the tarps going?

Because the destroyed villages are up on the mountain sides, they cannot be reached by the aid workers directly, adding to the already extreme challenge of trying to help everyone fairly.

One local guy, Sanjay, was helping with the relief and offered to take me to his village, just 30 minutes walking uphill.

“Everything is broken, all houses destroyed” he told me.

On the way we passed over a very damaged suspension bridge and crossed three landslides. Nine out of ten houses I saw on the way were collapsed. Gunchoktar Village was devastated.

Sanjay took me to his ruined house “ My sister in law was killed here, I ran away,
that why I am alive.”

He explained to me most of the village animals were killed as well. “They
will begin to stink and this very bad,” he continued, “we put all our dead family and villagers in one hole, we burn them later when we can get them down the hill.”

When I returned to the supply station, it had become more crowded,hundreds of people, some were there to watch.

By now, it had not rained for a couple of hours and it was getting pretty hot. We decided to leave.

We had one local guy, about 20 years old, come with us. He wanted to get back to his family in
Nepalganj.

In 100 yards we got stuck deep in the mud. It was going to be a crazy ride out!

Many vehicles, buses, trucks, relief workers, media, many people were coming into the area and this was making a bad road worse.

At a land slide area,there was a bus that would not pass because the road was too narrow and the
cliff side was weak.

With 20 vehicles waiting to pass, only one guy was digging, so we mobilized and got more people involved. I saw two military guys just watching us work and yelled at them in Nepali. They hustled and got to work.

At least one of them did.

When I asked why the other wasn’t working, he pointed to his gun.

We had eight people push this bus pass, it began to slide towards the cliff and just
barely made it by a few inches and a lot of good karma.

It was a long, muddy and dangerous but we made it. A few times it made me think, everyone is telling me to be safe, but trying to help at all is unsafe.

We stopped to rest in a small grove, I unloaded some of my gear to back up my shots
and recharge my phone, the whole ride out I was emailing the first pictures to
come out of the area.

I reloaded my gear, packed everything away nicely. We dropped the 20 year old guy off at his intersection and we continued on to Pokhara.

I was mentally preparing myself for a long night of editing and uploading to make my deadline.

Completely exhausted and drained of all power we reached Lakeside, I unloaded my gear and repacked to go home.

My camera bag was missing.

My heart sunk, I wanted to vomit and scream. “This can’t be happening.

All my batteries, my lenses, my SD cards, gone, and with them any chance to continue the coverage of this disaster.

I had my camera around my neck and a single battery, thank God.

Bad news is we cannot open a Nepali account here, the government as taken all the new bank accounts that were opened since the 25th to lend to their own efforts, but this feels like the ultimate corruption move. its pretty sad, actually and a sign of how this will go for the next few years.

It makes me feel like our efforts our now that much more important.

Anyone wanting to support Hamilton’s aid efforts with Blue Sky Paragliding or to donate to help replace his camera gear can Paypal fauxreel@gmail.com .

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Aid money for development projects in Nepal linked to child labour

As part of the Guardian’s modern slavery in focus series journalist Pete Pattisson covers the links between development aid money and it’s links to child labour in Nepal’s brick making industry.

“Children as young as eight are working 15-hour days making bricks that have been used in major international development projects in Nepal, including a World Food Programme (WFP) project funded with $3.2m (£2m) of UK aid money.

A Guardian investigation has revealed that “blood bricks”, tainted by human rights abuses such as child labour, have also been used in other major construction projects in Nepal, including a multimillion pound upgrade of Tribhuvan international airport funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a new Marriott hotel and a project to improve Kathmandu’s domestic air terminal.

The findings suggest that international donors, aid agencies, multinational companies and the Nepalese government are systematically failing to ensure that there are effective policies in place to keep their supply chains free from child and bonded labour, and have failed to recognise the appalling conditions prevalent in Nepal’s brick industry….”

Swanson Street & the Racial Discrimination Act

Walking through the lower reaches of Swanson street towards Flinders Street Station is an interaction with the cultural vibrancy and underbelly of Melbourne – a interweaving of Melbourne’s communities of lack and abundance, multi and mono-culturalism, illustrating their complex and sometimes unsubtle relationships.

These interactions of Big Issue vendors, tourists, shoppers and commuters can led to telling observational moments.

Yesterday while walking through the busy weekend throng of humanity near the transportation hub of Flinders Street Station a drunken individual abused an Aboriginal man sitting near entrance to the lower Swanson Street McDonalds.

” Piss off you N****R, go back to where you came from.”

Perhaps the incident and the use of the word ‘n****r’ could be dismissed under the guise the ‘gentleman’ in question was drunk  but in reality there is no excuse for any form of racist language.

And using the term “go back to where you come from” is  redundant when spoken to a member of Australia’s indigenous people. Where exactly is this Aboriginal man meant to go to?

Racial abuse in Australia brings up complex issues of belonging and ownership within the ‘lucky country ‘ which is potentially about to take on new forms as the Liberal Coalition government reviews key sections (sections 18B -E) of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Under the proposed changes to the act (as covered in the SMH), led by Attorney General  George Brandis,  it looks likely that it will no longer be unlawful to ”offend, insult and humiliate” someone because of their race, colour or ethnic origin while making it illegal to incite hatred or intimidate. On face value these changes seem contradictory or far more allowing of hate based speech against race unless it is extreme.

How are law enforcement meant to police legal racially skewed language while making the judgment that it may or may not be being used to incite hatred or intimidation when the language itself comes from a place of hatred and intimidation? It is a net with very large holes. It is understandable that numbers of ethnic groups have raised concerns with the government over the proposed legislative changes.

But what is the real solution to addressing racially based hatred or how does government limit the use of hateful language in order to engineer an aspirational societal change? Or is that even what the proposed legislation changes are trying to achieve? Are the changes an issue of  free speech? Or are the legislative changes a complicit acceptance of the prevalence of racism in Australia and a reflection that it is too difficult to address through law except in extreme cases such as the 2005 Cronulla race riots?

 Australian Guardian contributor Antony Loewenstein, who supports aspects of the proposed changes from a free speech perspective writes;

  “I share some of the concerns of learned law experts, such as Andrew Lynch, a director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the  University of NSW, who writes in the Melbourne Age that the government has a wilful blindness to the profound power disparity between those individuals or groups who may be offended or hurt by hate speech and those most likely to be using them (such as media personalities or politicians). It’s a position utterly lost on cocooned editorial writers and also on columnist Andrew Bolt, who this week praised his ability to receive an apology for hurt feelings, forgetting that his requests come with the power of the massive corporation behind him. Bolt is neither a fair arbiter of how the law should work in relation to hateful speech, nor in a position to understand the awful effect that verbal abuse can have on an Aboriginal, refugee, Jew, Muslim, or Greek.”

If the government’s justification for changing the Racial Discrimination Act is about free speech, what is it exactly they want speech to be free to do? As going on the current proposed changes it is possible to argue, as Loewenstein does later in his column, that the major backers of the freedom to use racially charged language as part of free speech principles are all white, privileged and male.  So why do people of cultural and societal privilege need to legimitise language that rarely affects them except if they are caught out using it?

A poll carried out by Fairfax  in March this year indicated that 78 per cent of  2242 respondents thought that the current Racial Discrimination Act does not limit free speech.

Debates about the use of racially based  language and the need to protect those whom are the most common recipients of it are complex and necessary. But legislative moves to remove protections of those vulnerable to racist language while potentially protecting the users of racially based hate speech through the guise of free speech seems counter intuitive.

 

 

 

 

 

Kiwis in the land of Oz – part II

Feedback from my previous blog discussing a Guardian article by Samantha Prendergast illustrating the struggles of Kiwi’s living in Australia without the legal rights to access government support has been overwhelming.

Some of the stories people have chosen to share illustrate a tenuous existence. Some said they had no desire to return home to NZ but due to the lack of legal protections for Kiwi’s who arrive in Australia post 2001 they have no choice if things go badly.

I am looking to talk with as many Kiwis in Australia and to those whom have moved back home to New Zealand due to their current legal status as guest workers with very little recourse to better their residency status except through expensive spousal visas in the “lucky country.”

Please use the provided contact form to get in touch. Please state if you wish to be contacted further and if you wish to have your identity protected.

And to the many people whom have already been in touch – thank you – I will get back to you over the next couple of weeks.

 

 

In the Land of Oz

Following a story in today’s Guardian Australia by Samantha Prendergast I am looking for New Zealanders living in Australia doing it tough without the benefit of the Centrelink safety net. This is despite Australians in New Zealand having access to the full range of social support structures regardless of how long they have lived in New Zealand.

“When I came to Australia at the age of 12, I never expected to find myself age 23 with no access to social security. If I lost my job tomorrow, I’d be broke in four weeks time – and there’d be no Newstart or Youth Allowance to fall back on.

In 2001, two years before my family moved from Auckland to Adelaide, the then Howard government changed the visa rights for New Zealanders who moved to Australia. Previously, Kiwis were immediately eligible for Australian residency. But after 2001, every New Zealander who crossed the Tasman was placed on a non-protected special category visa (SCV), a temporary visa that is unique to New Zealanders and can be altered at any time. We can live here, work here, and access Medicare. But beyond that, services are limited. If people on SCVs want permanent residency and the benefits attached to it, there are few available options. Permanent residency is granted when people meet criteria that make them valuable to the Australian community – and that usually means having a long-term relationship with an Australian citizen, being highly skilled, or being a wealthy under-50 year-old with plans to invest in an Australian company. For many people, especially young New Zealanders who moved here as kids, the criteria are hard to meet and the consequences of staying on a SCV can be severe.”

New Zealanders can technically lose their residency rights in Australia overnight and it is very difficult to get other more permanent forms of residency.

You can read Samantha’s story here.

Anyone willing to share their story can get in touch through the contact form. If you wish to protect your identity please let me know within the contact form and we can go from there.

 

 

 

Voluntourism and Nepal

In Nepal there are links between voluntourism at orphanages and child trafficking. The links are not just theoretical they are real. It is happening. Children are being trafficked to meet the demands of volunteers and other donors prepared to pay to “help” Nepal’s  orphans.

This is not to say there aren’t real orphans in Nepal needing outside support, there are, but figures from UNICEF and Terres Des Hommes  from a 2008 report indicate that nearly 85 percent of children in the developing country’s orphanages have a living parent or parents. Nepali government figures for 2011 put the figure at 58 percent, but regardless this means over 50 percent of children in Nepal’s orphanages have a living parent or parents.

How well-intentioned volunteers wanting to help plays into this is simple – money.

At the age of seven Milan was trafficked into a Nepali orphange that accessed the pay to volunteer market before being rescued at the age of 14. Image: Neesha Bremner

At the age of seven Milan was trafficked into a Nepali orphange that accessed the pay to volunteer market before being rescued at the age of 14.
Image: Neesha Bremner

Milan Phun*, now 21, was trafficked into an orphanage, when his mother paid an “education agent” $300US to place himself and his sister into a boarding school. Milan and his sister would not see their mother for another seven years.

Milan says he and his sister received an education for one year and then the owners of the orphanage left.

After a period without any caregivers an elderly couple stayed for approximately two years and then, they also left. This pattern was repeated throughout his six years in the orphanage before being rescued by another organisation.

During the periods without care givers the children had to steal to survive.

“ When I think about before I get angry. They just left us. All together there were 14 of us with no food, no school, they left us. They are very bad.”

Education was intermittent during the time Milan spent in the orphanage dependent on whether they had carers, volunteers or foreign donors funding their organisation. After being rescued Milan, though nearly 15 years old, was placed into a year one class at school.

“We had volunteers coming all the time but we didn’t speak to them as we didn’t speak English. They came, they play with us sometimes buying us chocolates and sweets and then they are going away.”

During the periods the orphanage received funding Milan says the children still suffered.

“They hurt me and the kids. I remember one day because my school bag was torn and my shoes were torn and I said I did not want to go to school because of my torn bag. He beat me badly.”

At the age of 14 Milan and the other children in the orphanage were rescued.

Non-government agencies working within Nepal define this as a form of child trafficking as the children essentially have become a commodity.

“My Mum brought me here with high hopes, to have a bright future. She had to pay money for that good future, but they didn’t (provide it). She sent money but they didn’t help us. We were a business, ” Milan says.

Milan says before being rescued he, his sister and the other children in the orphanage, didn’t get to live their stories.

“I lost my time. Volunteers should be careful about were they are volunteering. They should think about where they are going and understand the organisation. Sometimes I think about this and I get angry.”

Australians and others volunteering in Nepal are inadvertently contributing to this exploitation and the internal trafficking of children within Nepal to meet the growing demands of the voluntourism industry.

Over the last decade volunteering has become a paid for experience as part of a ” feel good” travel adventure. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose to travel which some cynically view as escapism from the career treadmill rather than an experience which adds depth and character to a person.

The commodification of volunteering in to a “pay for service” business, especially when it intersects with children, has made said children a product.

Haushala Thapa from Children and Youth First, a Kathmandu based NGO which homes rescued children says volunteering in Nepal’s orphanages and children’s homes are becoming big business because people are prepared to pay large amounts of money to volunteer for short periods of time.

“It is a business, it is all profit-making. It is portraying kids as a product, as an object on the shelf.”

Tim Smith*  whom has worked on children’s issues in Nepal for over a decade says the growing market around volunteering with children is a form of poverty pornography.

“Partially, it can be put down to human nature and an almost instinctive sense of guilt many people have when travelling less developed parts of the world. We want the excitement of that exotic trip, but have learned that it’s possible to make ourselves feel better about it all if we can tie ‘helping out’ into our being there. We should probably be surprised that there aren’t plane-loads more of well-intentioned jetting off for an unintentional dose of poverty porn.”

Martin Punaks, country director for Next Generation Nepal, a non-government organization which rescues and repatriates trafficked children, says voluntourism in Nepal has followed a similar trajectory as it has in other developing countries.

He says poverty, lack of educational opportunities, changing laws that allowed more institutions to conduct adoptions, and the ten-year civil war which ended in 2006 all acting as contributing factors to the growth in the voluntourism market around children.

“Parents began to send their children to what they perceived were safer and better conditions, and they were often persuaded to do so by traffickers claiming that they could provide these things to children, when in fact they were exploiting the vulnerability of families for personal profit. Although the conflict is now long over, people continue to send their children away through traffickers, believing that they are actually sending their children to safe boarding schools, ” he says.

Punaks says the numbers of internally trafficked children is increasing.

“Their numbers have grown and continue to grow, (with) the availability and willingness of paying orphanage voluntourists and well-intentioned charities, and the revenue this brings in.”

He says Next Generation Nepal (NGN) has received reports of orphanage managers in Nepal asking traffickers to “bring them children” specifically because they have foreign donors willing to support their children’s home.

Smith says children are being intentionally trafficked to meet the growing demands of the voluntourism market.

“The existence of a seemingly endless supply of volunteers willing to pay considerable amounts for the ‘volunteer experience’ has encouraged the business aspect of ensuring there are enough orphans to meet volunteering demands to veer in the direction of greed and exploitation.”

Thapa says the numbers of children coming into the system are because of the high levels of poverty within Nepal.

UNICEF figures for Nepal indicate 25 percent of the population live on less than $1.25 US (2006-2011) per day with Gross National Income sitting at $540 US (2011) per annum.

“One family has five or six kids and they have no income, they live off farming, that is their main job. When they have six or so kids they can only afford to look after two or three so what happens is suddenly somebody comes and tells them you know what you have six kids why don’t you send three to this organisation and they will take care and you will only have to take care of three.”

She says for Nepali families this can be a good option, as they believe that the children they send away or pay to go to into a children’s organisation will have a good life.

“This is trafficking as money is involved. People only think when they traffic girls or kids to another country or when they are used. But I feel is that is the biggest trafficking issue because there is money involved and parents never hear about their child anymore even if the child is in Kathmandu.”

Smith says homes run by the less scrupulous often operate with the understanding that the more pity they can generate in the heart of any visitors, the better it is in terms of their fund-raising requirements.

NGN has also seen evidence of orphanage owners deliberately keeping children in destitute conditions to attract more and higher levels financial donations.

Punaks says “Reports such as these suggest that charitable donations and volunteering are having the very opposite effect from that which was intended; they are keeping children away from their families, and sometimes keeping them in destitute conditions. Children have certainly become a lucrative poverty commodity.”

Dutch tourist Pien* ( last name withheld ) says her “orphanage” volunteering experience made it immediately clear that the focus was on money.

“The six children in the home all had parents.”

She says on her arrival to the  Chitwan region the orphanage owner refused to let herself and other volunteers enter the home until they paid their volunteering fees of $6 US per day.

“First thing on arrival and he took me straight to the ATM.”

Pien says the children had prepared stories for the volunteers.

“I could see her thinking. She said she had no parents but I knew she did as someone had told me.” Pien says the child later told her about her family.

Pien says that the quality and quantity of food the children received, the general conditions and the atmosphere at the home were inconsistent and low .The one staff member on site doing the best she could with the limited amount of food provided. She says the home’s owner declined extra food offered to the children by the paying volunteers.

“It is just a big business. I don’t know what he (the owner) does with the money but he certainly isn’t spending it on the children”.

Pien says she would not recommend volunteering in Nepal especially in pay to volunteer programmes.

“ After my experience I don’t really trust anyone. I am not going to volunteer again, never again in Nepal. I would not recommend it for anyone.”

After her placement and giving the home a poor recommendation on an online volunteering website the owner threatened her via email.

God will never forgive you. We pry (sic) to the god everyday for your bad life. Since you bad comment nobody contact . The situation of children is critical. No food at the centre, no volunteer. How can we run our organization. You have to take all response (sic) of these all problems otherwise we will never forgive you. Once again we pray to the God for your bad life.You are not a human you animal (bullshit)”

Prices to volunteer within Nepal can vary from genuine volunteering for no payment, low fees to cover basic accommodation and food to around $3600 AU for a month through a high-end international volunteer program. Tourism and trekking agencies are known to charge up to $690 AU per month for placements within an orphanage type organisation.

A tourism agent admitted that friends who had set up associations related to children and volunteering were doing “very well.”

Thapa says ideally volunteering should be free but paying up to $5 US per day to cover accommodation and three meals a day during your volunteering period is a reasonable cost.

 

 

* Name changed

Aspects of this story first appeared in New Matilda March 4.

For more of Neesha Bremner’s stories on this issue click here & here.

 

 

 

 

Ranidevi Lower Secondary School

Ranidevi Lower Secondary School StudentsRanidevi Lower Secondary School StudentRanidevi Lower Secondary School StudentRandevi Lower Secondary School StudentRandevi Lower Secondary School - a disruption to classStudents at Ranidevi Lower Secondary School.

Earlier today I was privileged to spend time at Ranidevi Lower Secondary School, a government-funded school in Kathmandu. Head Teacher Ramjee Gautam is working to improve facilities at the 37-year-old school: from getting clean drinking water for the 300 plus students to sourcing second-hand computers from the United Kingdom so students can learn IT and computing fundamentals.

All images are Copyright Neesha (Alexandra) Bremner 2013.