GROW

Reflections from the Summer 2016 Grow Team

When we wrote our first blogpost about GROW, not having yet arrived in Nepal, each of us mentioned our excitement and enthusiasm for learning about PHASE and using that knowledge to strengthen our partnership. As a chapter who went a year without being able to send a GROW team due to the devastating earthquake in 2015, we have experienced firsthand the palpable disconnect between the majority of the chapter and our partner organization that occurs when a GROW team is unable to go during the summer. We were able to present small bits about Nepali culture and PHASE, but without the ability to tie in any strong personal connections, many of the lessons just skimmed the surface. It was difficult to get new members to understand the purpose of our fundraising and education efforts. Some of our members had prior experience in Nepal, but no one could remotely comprehend the effect of the earthquake on communities in the country.

Not only has life changed due to the earthquake, but so has PHASE’s efforts. They had to reallocate funds from their usual programs to support relief projects, which included our own fundraising which was originally structured to go to training a teacher-trainer who would facilitate workshops for teachers in the communities PHASE works in. Learning about these changes without seeing it in action has been difficult, and further muddled the information being given to members about the organization. Other than PHASE newsletters once a month about their different efforts and the many videos of the earthquake’s destruction in tourist areas, it was impossible to know what working in Nepal involved. Even the last GROW team’s stories of day-to-day life became less applicable because the house they stayed in became too damaged to be inhabitable along with one of the schools they worked in. The gap made us ineffective and less accountable fundraisers. This year, we hope that having had 5 members get so much exposure to and experience with PHASE will enable us to renew GlobeMedders’ sense of purpose, and help everyone in the chapter better understand our partner. We look forward to transferring our knowledge through presentations, the incorporation of information about PHASE in weekly ghUs.

The absence of the GROW trip from the GlobeMed model also created a disconnect on PHASE’s end of our partnership. We realized this summer that most of the PHASE staff weren’t very aware of who we were, why we were there, or what we do. Other than a small stamp as a donor on the company calendar, GlobeMed was an unknown. The trip was an invaluable opportunity to communicate our goals to PHASE staff and demonstrate our potential as interns every summer. We got the chance to interact work with so many PHASE staff members, getting to explain who we are to them. We also gave a presentation to the staff at the end of the summer, summarizing what our initial goals for the trip were, what we had been doing in our time in Nepal, and more general information about the chapter. We were graciously hosted by a PHASE education officer who we spent many nights chatting with about PHASE’s work in detail and these personal relationships will not only help in creating better dialogue going forward but they are the types of grounded experiences that will make our fundraising, education efforts, and future GROW planning easier.

Finally, we believe that GROW is crucial to the GlobeMed model, because GlobeMed supports sustainability in development. We believe in accountability for the impact that we have. It is critical for individuals and organizations to understand the impact that they are having when they support projects. Although the work may not be hands on, it is still affecting people, and it is of the utmost importance for donors to understand that and hold themselves accountable for it.

 

The 2016 Summer Grow Team: Colette Midulla, Jenna Sherman, Nick Roberts, Kiley Pratt, Kellie Chin 

GROW Returns to Kathmandu: A Reflection on Rayale

Hello from Kathmandu! We arrived back in the capital a few days ago, after having spent the past three weeks living in the village of Manadhova, Rayale in the Kavrepalanchowk District of Nepal. While relatively close to Kathmandu (no more than a few hours by bus) and the most developed PHASE project area, it was still a big change for all of us GROW interns. The natural beauty of the village we lived in was awe-inspiring: rolling hills covered in robust green forest alongside miles upon miles of rice paddies. Often, women in brightly colored Nepali clothing worked in the rice paddies from dawn to dusk, creating breath-takingly bright and colorful views. The sense of community and serene environment was a very welcome change from the dusty and loud streets of the city.

Our day-to-day experiences were based primarily in two local government schools: Nick and Morgan worked with the Shree Bhalchandra School and Reilly, Emily and Linda worked with the Shree Shanti Niketan School. In each school, we worked with students from grade four to grade ten in multiple contexts, including teaching English and creative writing as well as establishing and directing extracurricular child clubs, which are similar to student governments. Child clubs are school-run student groups endorsed by the Nepali government that act as forums for conversation and action in areas such as child rights, child protection, youth empowerment and leadership, health education, and extracurricular activities.

After being in the schools for a few days, we realized how different the Nepali teaching methods and education system are overall from what we experienced in our own elementary and middle schools. In the Nepali schools we observed a heavy reliance on rote learning in English classes, and much less focus on creativity, open-ended activities, and active participation. Part of the PHASE education development program is to improve teaching methods with the help of highly-trained traveling PHASE staff. We were able to sit through certification sessions, where PHASE teacher-trainers observed lessons taught by schoolteachers and provided feedback. Following the session, several teachers were newly designated as mentors with the responsibility of using their new skills and knowledge to further PHASE education initiatives with their fellow faculty. Watching this process allowed us a glimpse into how exactly PHASE works to improve educational practices in these rural schools.

In addition to working in the local schools, were also able to experience the livelihood and health aspects of PHASE programs by spending time with on-the-ground PHASE staff in their respective roles. Kriti, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife in-training allowed us to observe her in the health outpost multiple days, and Kabita, a livelihood specialist, came out to Rayale to guide us around local “practical plots” that were grown with the help and training of PHASE staff. Even though our time spent experiencing PHASE’s health and livelihood sectors was comparatively short, we were grateful for the opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the PHASE approach to breaking the poverty cycle.

Experiencing firsthand PHASE’s multifaceted model of development in rural communities allowed our team to see how the three programs (education, livelihood and health) work together to create a sustainable solution in the project areas. Isolated attention on any one of the three programs would not effectively break the cycle of poverty; the best quality education will do little to help a child who is too hungry to concentrate or absent due to illness. Likewise a child in good health can never reach his maximum potential if the school system is failing him. Realizing the interconnectedness of these three aspects while in the villages helped our team fully understand the PHASE mission of achieving self- empowerment by engaging communities rather than providing a one-time delivery of external aid.

We worked with PHASE not to implement new infrastructure or an educational program project during our three weeks in the village, as traditional volunteering expeditions might. Instead, we used our time there to learn about the needs and mission of the schools and PHASE to be better able to make an impact through advocacy and fundraising once we return to the US. The model of this approach, termed “service learning,” is aimed to allow us to make the most of our relatively short time in Nepal by setting achievable and practical learning goals that focus on future sustainability in our partnership with PHASE. While the internship was focused on the idea of service learning, we also felt that, unexpectedly, we perhaps had made a lasting change within the schools. In a small way, we were able to show teachers active participation activities, which were not widely used before, and we, hopefully, made a lasting impression on the children and families that we met.

As our GlobeMed at Tufts partnership with PHASE began just this last academic semester, this trip was for the GROW interns, GlobeMed at Tufts, and even PHASE Nepal, a learning experience. We went into this internship knowing that we were acting as a sort of experiment – to see what worked and what didn’t for the GROW internship. We were also acting as the initial bridge between our two organizations, charged with laying the foundation and cultivating a relationship for a long-term partnership with PHASE. In our opinion, it was amazing. We are extremely lucky to have worked with the dedicated and compassionate PHASE Nepal staff, and also to experience first hand the communities they work in. In a joint effort to improve our relationship and future GROW internships, we have begun discussing plans for both the upcoming academic year in terms of fundraising, advocacy, and the GROW trip in 2015. Our aim is that future GROW interns will continue to facilitate progress toward child club goals, with a specific focus on improving student health conditions and knowledge, including implementing standard health checks. If our trip has been any indication of what is to come for the GlobeMed at Tufts and PHASE relationship, the future looks bright.

The GROW team with Kriti, PHASE Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, and children from Rayale

The GROW team with Kriti, PHASE Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, and children from Rayale

 

Going Green in Rayale

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of staying in a rural Nepali village for three weeks was the opportunity to escape some of the undesirable realities of city life. Especially after experiencing the chaotic nature of Kathmandu, I was intrigued to leave behind the hustle & bustle and all that came with it: dust-filled air, smelly tap water, and an abundance of litter in the streets. Stepping off the bus in Rayale, I was met with some shocking and unwelcome sights. The village was, of course, picturesque and the views were breathtakingly beautiful, but the problem of pollution persisted. As an environmental studies major, I was troubled by the fact that these village residents – a community that depends so much on their natural surroundings for sustenance and livelihood – were treating the land so poorly. When one imagines an agricultural society in the countryside of Nepal, they certainly don’t expect to see the river, used for both drinking and washing, to be inundated with candy wrappers and old soda bottles!

On our fifth day in the village, both of the schools we were working in were closed for a holiday with an appealing premise: environmental clean-up. The idea could not have been welcomed more wholeheartedly by myself and the other GROW interns. After a handful of lightning-speed Nepali speeches from those in charge that hopefully contained a message of the day’s importance, the children hopped into the river and began their work. I followed closely and clumsily behind, trying to gather as much trash as possible without losing a shoe or succumbing to a deadly leech bite (just kidding, Mom).

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However, while the organizers of the event certainly had good intentions, some of the specifics of the environmental clean-up revealed unfortunate gaps in their understanding of proper waste disposal. First of all, the plan was to make numerous piles of the collected trash and burn them. Because there was a variety of materials in these piles – from plastic shopping bags to metal cups to rubber shoes – this was neither the greenest nor most efficient way of solving the problem. Furthermore, these piles were all placed directly on the riverbank. When a huge storm occurred hours after the event’s conclusion, we joked that the clean-up had definitely been successful in moving the trash – a few kilometers down the river. If the goal is protecting the village’s main source of water, then new and improved waste management methods are necessary.

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Although this environmental issue is far from being solved because it involves serious changes to Nepal’s infrastructure, other ecological concerns of Rayale were far more promising. The GROW interns and I spent a day with PHASE Nepal’s livelihood coordinator, Khabita, checking in on the status of one of the village’s “practical plots.” PHASE’s livelihood component involves education in areas such as vegetable farming, animal husbandry, and beekeeping, in an effort to teach villagers more sustainable and effective methods of such practices. The “practical plot” that we visited was one of five in the region, and contained tomato and cucumber plants grown from seeds provided by PHASE. Both proper planting knowledge and the plot’s produce were available to all nearby residents, and it was doing quite well. It was a real treat to experience the success of PHASE’s livelihood program – especially when we were able to taste one of the cucumbers!

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Before I came to Rayale, PHASE Nepal’s work with vegetable farming was always extremely interesting to me. Focusing on improving this major source of income is both useful to villagers and relatively easy for staff to implement. As an intern, I envisioned that this could be one way I could help the organization. During our time at Shree Bhalchandra School, Morgan and I were in charge of facilitating new activities for a child club, a collection of driven and passionate students between grades 6 and 9 that wanted to engage in social work and help their community. I suggested that we start a vegetable garden at the school, and the kids loved the idea. Morgan and I purchased seeds in Panauti, a nearby city, and the next week, our work began.

The child club started preparing by cleaning the grounds behind the school nursery, where our garden would be located. For such a narrow strip of land with few passersby, it was filled with trash – likely thrown out the windows from bored students. After disposing of the crumpled essays and food wrappers (organized into yet another pile to be burned), the students began to form a seed nursery with soil and fertilizer they brought from home. We formed an assembly line of burying seeds into the soil and passing them along to be kept with their respective types – even learning their Nepali names along the way! After repeating cacro (cucumber), golberra (tomato), chimi (green beans), and carella (bitter gourd) numerous times to Sujan, the chairman of the child club and final person in the line who placed each vegetable type together, I know I’ll never forget these four words.

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Only time will tell if the garden is a success, but on our last day in the school, some of the green beans had sprouted! What was even better than watching the garden come to life was how inspiring the child club was. They were truly bothered by how polluted their school’s grounds were, and anxious to prevent it from becoming that way again. They began watering the garden every day before and after school, and Sujan told me that he wanted to create a rule that would enact punishments on litterers, especially near the garden. Rayale’s pollution situation has a long way to go, but with zealous and fiery kids like the Bhalchandra Child Club in charge of fixing the problem, the future looks green!

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Nick James Macaluso is a senior majoring in Biology and Environmental Studies.  He is a member of the Campaigns team.

“You’re Putting Him on a Motorcycle?”

It was Wednesday, and I was sitting under the merciless Nepali sun, my pasty Irish complexion slowly roasting to a crisp red, chatting with the ladies of grade eight by the football field. Just as I started to contribute to the turning of the Bhalchandra School rumor mill by inquiring about a hush-hush puppy love courtship among two of the eighth graders, one of the younger players howled; I turned to see him stumble toward the edge of the field,  a limp hand dangling awkwardly from an outstretched arm. Nick, stopping the play to address the wailing, sat him down on a shady stone and asked what had happened. He continued to moan, the slack hand was becoming more apparent. The sleeve of the sweater (yes, he was wearing a sweater playing soccer as I sit on the sideline sweltering) was sheared to expose the damage: a grotesquely apparent, shouldn’t-be-there kink contorted his frail forearm.

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Pre-Break: Ominous walk to the soccer field.

I turned and trotted down the main/only village road, looking into all the local tea houses hoping that I would stumble upon Kriti, the closest medical care provider. Kriti is a 21-year-old Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) in training, completing her On-the-Job training of five months under PHASE while living in the village. We had shadowed her days before at a nearby outreach clinic that she mans on a weekly basis, a sparse but clean and efficient one room medical office in which she saw patient after patient, most of them older men and women who came for follow-up visits to refill medication and track symptoms. No emergencies to be seen that day. We later learned that some of them had to walk significant distances to reach the outreach clinic, despite their age and ailments. The outpost is of great value, as the next provider, a larger medical post, is about a half hour walk up the road. Stumble upon Kriti I did, discovering her in the canopy of a tree off the side of the road about a third of a mile away from the incident. She was hacking away at the highest branches.

“KRITI, SOMEONE BROKE THEIR ARM IN HALF.” My rushed and slapdash-shouted English was hard to follow (even more so than my usual quick diction).
“Okay.”
She continued to lop off branches.
“KRITI,” more slowly this time. “SOMEONE BROKE THEIR ARM IN HALF.”
“Ooo.”

I pivoted and ran back, with Kriti (I assumed) following. It was her last day in the village, as she had just completed her training, and was set to return to Kathmandu the next morning. I arrived back at the scene to find that a crowd had gathered around the broken boy. Several of the onlookers decided to take a more hands-on role in the situation, and one woman (who we later found out to be the aunt of the boy) was massaging the break. As Nick and I tried to disperse the crowd and prevent any more fracture-kneading, I asked if anyone had called an ambulance. There were a few confused nods, confirming my suspicion that no, no one had called an ambulance. While in the states, there would be no question as to whether an ambulance would have been called, or at least a car prepared to take the boy to the hospital, it was a question without any definite answer in Rayale.

This, upon reflection, sheds light on the true meaning of the frequently discussed community health buzzword of accessibility. In places even as rural as the small village of Manadhova, which, thanks to it’s proximity to Kathmandu and the frequent buses to the nearby city of Panauti, is not considered very rural by many standards, accessibility is simply too limited to ensure quick care for real medical emergencies. We were in luck to be close to the main road and within a 5-minute walking distance of Kriti and her house full of supplies. While the boy was soon whisked away by motorcycle to a hospital about an hour away, the time elapsed between fall and arriving at the hospital was, as precisely as I can remember, a very, very long time. While there is an ambulance that services the area, it takes, at minimum, half an hour to arrive. Having traveled to some of the students’ homes higher in the hills of neighboring villages, it’s clear that a more immediate medical emergency in a harder to reach area (of which there are very many) could not be handled as straight forwardly and as quickly.

Before the boy was tossed atop the bike, Kriti soon arrived, looked at the arm with a empathetic mien of pain upon her face (precisely the same face as Nick displayed upon seeing the arm) and took a (painfully) bumpy walk with the boy to her nearby place of residence as she held a make-shift notebook-and-string splint. There, she quickly addressed the arm with a expertly-applied sturdy cardboard splint and a gauze sling.

The broken-arm incident naturally made the idea of the lack of healthcare accessibility a very clear one. While, in places like the U.S., financial barriers are often the ones preventing needed care from being received, we witnessed a situation where the geographical obstacles were the more immediate concern. Even without a single thought to the financial aspect of care, the boy probably could not have received care any more quickly. Of course, in places like this, both financial and geographical barriers are hinderances to receiving proper and needed care.

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Nick, what do you got there?

A few days later, Nick and I trudged up a steep and rocky hill not without difficulty a ways away from the football field to the home of the boy; it was certainly not an easy walk. His hand and fingers were shades darker and clearly very swollen on the broken side than on the non-broken side, and he told us he didn’t feel any better and that the pain hadn’t subsided. He would be out of school for two months due to the injury (it was his writing hand, and, moreover, the walk to school was not a short one). In the same room, his incredibly petite and very elderly grandmother lay bedridden and unexpectedly talkative, a outmoded-looking green tank providing her oxygen through a nasal cannula. As I sat on the bed by her, I wondered how they got the tank, and her, down and up the steeply rugged path to the house; yet another medical concern exacerbated by the hard journey to the closest provider.

Morgan Jordan is a junior majoring in Biology and International Relations.  She is the Director of the Finance team.