just-one strives to actively promote and facilitate educational opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized children in Nepal by working at a grass-roots level with the children, their families and their communities to implement a range of carefully developed, culturally sensitive, sustainable initiatives.Our Work Their Stories Your Help
You’ll be forgiven for not knowing that today marks the beginning of the year 1133 – according to the Nepal Sambat calender, followed by the indigenous Newar community here in Kathmandu. I’m also hoping that I’ll be forgiven for the shameful 7-month gap since my previous post… Aside from being incredibly grateful, I must also admit that I’m continually amazed that we continue to garner valuable support from so many of you – despite my inability to keep this here website sufficiently updated. It’s somewhat bizarre that for someone who can (and does) talk at significant length about the ongoing challenges and successes of our important work here in Nepal, I continue my struggle to actually write about it on a suitably regular basis. Here’s to 1133 being the year when I finally get that frustrating mental block sorted for once and for all! For now though, so much has gone on since I last wrote that I’d be hard pushed to recount all of it here, but I’ll do my best to briefly summarise some of it at least – so those of you who have been kindly supporting just-one will have an idea of all that you’re actually involved in.
We were very pleased to see our important ‘giving is selfish‘ message making it, once again, into a much coveted information box in the Nepal edition of Lonely Planet, and even happier that my name and any reference to just-one‘s website had to be edited out of this 2012 publication to meet new editorial policy introduced at Lonely Planet PLC when they were acquired by the BBC. We were also delighted to learn last July that Intrepid Foundation selected us as one of the 4 organisations they support in Nepal. This has the potential to be of significant value to the ongoing success of our work as socially responsible Intrepid kindly match, dollar for dollar, any donations they receive for us here on their website! Mid-July too saw the annual renewal of our project approval documents successfully completed without too much bureaucratic hoop-jumping being requested by the relevant authorities here, such as the Social Welfare Council, District Administration Office, etc.
As the unusually light monsoon rains of July/August turned the city’s streets (in the slow process of being widened by the incumbent - so easily mistaken for incompetent - government) into muddy thoroughfares, we made a decision to temporarily wind-down the residential rehabilitation aspect of our work, to allow our small (yet truly amazing) team of local staff to focus on improving the various follow-up support activities we engage in for the long-term benefit of the children and families we currently work with. This is a decision which will see us not recruiting new resident children once those in our Transit Home at the moment have been successfully reunited with their respective families. While our residential facility is likely to remain empty for approximately 6 months, our humble HQ in Khusibu, where it’s based, will be far from a quiet and soulless place, as we’re now only weeks away from finally opening a library facility/activity centre on the ground floor of these premises – where we plan to offer after-school support to many of the children receiving our assistance, as well as providing non-formal education and basic tuition to a number children working in the local vicinity.
From August 29th last to November 11th just gone, my failure to provide anything in the way of an update (other than an occasional post on our facebook page or one of my equally sporadic articles for the West Cork People) was largely down to the ‘headless chicken’ nature of what turned out to be a round-trip of well over 25,000km – during which I gave almost 100 slideshow presentations as part of the annual fund-raising trip back to my native Clonakilty. Visiting nearly 50 schools this year (from Ballydehob to Belfast and Dublin to Dubai) I was happy to share the incredible successes we’ve been empowered to achieve by the hundreds of students and teachers I spoke with – all of whom remain as interested in our work as they are supportive of it. Perhaps the proudest of many anecdotes I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with our supporters was that Shakti Lama (the mountain-biking star mentioned previous in this blog-post) finished in 2nd place in his first ever international race during the Autumn and has since returned to Nepal with the very real prospect of proudly representing his troubled though beautiful country at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil!
I’m happy to report that the 10 week trip I happily returned from Sunday evening last, provided a very welcome break from the grinding and chaotic reality of day-to-day life here in Kathmandu and has given me renewed confidence that just-one can (and WILL) continue to go from strength to strength with the inspirational assistance we continue to receive from our slowly growing army of supporters around the world! For whatever role you may have ever played in this, I’d like to finish up by assuring you that (despite my general lack of saying so on a regular enough basis) both I and all at just-one are forever indebted to you for your kindness – without which none of what we’ve managed to achieve to date would have been even remotely possible. If, on the other hand, you’ve just stumbled upon us now for the very first time, you too can rest assured that any amount (large or small, once off or regularly) you might kindly choose to donate to us here today, will be of huge benefit to our ongoing efforts to show that, really, it doesn’t take much to make a difference.
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With the 1st day of the month of Baishakh only a matter of seconds away from coming to an end, I’d best take this opportunity to wish all our friends and supporters a very Happy New Year! Regardless of whether or not you’re aware of the Bikram Sambat lunar calendar used officially here in Nepal, I hope that 2069 is a year full of health and happiness for all of you. With new years generally providing good opportunities for fresh starts and clean slates, I’d like to unveil the shamefully late follow-up to our inaugural newsletter of 2009. I’m pretty sure it contains more than enough words to let me off the hook with an uncharacteristically short blog-post here! Here’s hoping you enjoy what we’ve come up with this time ’round. If you do, perhaps you’d also be kind enough to download it, print it and share it with anyone else you think might be interested in learning more about our work.
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Considering how incredibly effective the sharing of the ‘real-life stories‘ behind virtually each of the children supported by just-one would most probably be in helping to persuade any potential donors who stumble across our web-site to be drawn towards that nice green ‘make a donation‘ button on the sidebar to your right, it’s perhaps somewhat surprising how shamefully sparse the ‘their stories‘ section of our site has remained for a ridiculously long time now… There is, however, a particular reason for this which I’m about to attempt to explain here now, to the best of my ability, so please do bear with me if you dare to care!! ;o)
As already mentioned in greater detail in the general introduction on the ‘their stories‘ page, it’s through the sharing of such tales that we have the opportunity to bring our generous supporters closer to the important work which they kindly empower us to do here in Nepal and allow them to rightly share in some of the truly wonderful successes that we simply could not have achieved without their on-going assistance. While a few snippets of some of these real-life stories I speak of here, have certainly been shared in some random blog-posts over the last couple of years, any long-term visitor to this site might well question the continued presence of the now long-outdated “coming soon…” ending used on the page in question.
I’ve included the picture below in a sincere attempt to help me explain the frighteningly complex ethical issues (in my head, at least…) that we’ve been grappling with now for far too long already. These issues relate specifically to the rights of dignity and privacy of each and every individual we work with here in Nepal, versus the potential financial gain to be had from the open and honest sharing of their stories. Very few would argue, I imagine, that the photo portrays nothing short of a truly heart-wrenching scene – not that much different from countless similar scenes openly visible on the streets of Kathmandu which, in fact, combined to provide the initial catalyst that saw just-one spark into existence ’way back in 2004. Take a lingering look at the picture now in passing, but be sure to scroll on past it, before your eyes perhaps well-up – making the words I intend to continue with below little more then an illegible blur of dark pixels on your monitor…
It’s a picture that I took shortly after moving to Nepal in mid-2004 with the relatively unplanned, and largely emotional, notion of getting school children in my Irish homeland to help disadvantaged children in Nepal go to school. The photo holds far more personal significance than I could ever hope to share here, but that’s entirely irrelevant for now as I’ve chosen to include it simply to highlight another more important issue. Shakti Lama (the pseudonym he chose himself when he agreed some time back to allow just-one share his story on this here web-site) was a little boy who bravely accepted the offer of assistance we made him the morning after the night this photo was taken. With almost 8 years passed, he has now grown (so significantly, in fact, that he’s certain he’ll be unrecognisable in the photo above to anyone other than those he might choose to share the words “That was me!” along with his cheeky grin) into a confident young man – with a much brighter future ahead of him than he may otherwise have had and a somewhat remarkable story to tell.
While just-one is most certainly part of this young man’s inspirational story and he, in return, is currently one of our proudest success-stories to date – we’ve never been entirely comfortable with taking ownership of a story that’s primarily HIS to tell. Considering the potential financial benefit the sharing of such stories can provide, it’s hardly surprising that they’re so often used by many others in this business called ‘charity’. To strum upon your heartstrings with the finer details of any particular individual’s story, with the primary intention of loosening your purse strings, does very little in terms of respecting the dignity which every individual (rich or poor) rightfully deserves. This significantly grey area of ethics is one which perhaps deserves far more consideration by all involved, while either preparing or browsing through the variety of fund-raising material that continually arrives by post or email – often sharing intimately personal details of the impoverished lives of some poor unsuspecting Pedro or Aaliyah in a faraway land, who may one day grow to discover (and perhaps question or even regret…) the potentially widespread knowledge of the underprivileged origins which either of them may understandably wish to leave in the past…
I realise that we can, and indeed should, provide at least summary details of the individual stories we’ve become part of through our work here in Nepal, but also remain ever-conscious of the potentially unhelpful and unwelcome ‘labels’ that doing so could so easily see applied to any of the individuals in question – more particularly so in a country as prone to stigmatisation as Nepal sadly remains… Shakti’s not (nor, as we have reassured him time and time again, does he have any reason to be) ashamed of his hard-luck start in this seemingly random lottery called life but, despite happily agreeing to allow us share his story openly, it’s also likely that he has very little comprehension of the utterly unpredictable outcome that our doing so may one day lead to…
His particular story is such an amazing example of how true our ‘it doesn’t take much to make a difference‘ tagline actually is, it was chosen as the focus of our next short film to advertise and promote the work of just-one. This particular film though is likely to forever remain in its current close-to-finished state on the hard-drive of the Irish film-maker who kindly volunteered his services to document just-one‘s involvement in Shakti’s remarkable rise from a young rag-picking street kid to an emerging talent in Nepal’s mountain-biking community. It would most certainly have helped to highlight the general success of the family-focused approach taken by just-one and would perhaps also have further explained that, while we regard education as a immensely important factor in breaking the cycle of poverty that most of those we work with are trapped in, their overall personal development is of equally significant importance.
It was in this particular regard, which sees us pro-actively encouraging and enabling the children we support to pursue any extracurricular activities and hobbies they may be interested in, that we introduced young Shakti and his mountain-biking ambitions to Dawn ’til Dusk - who kindly agreed to take him under their wing and allow him to join their staff training rides during his weekend break from the schooling opportunity just-one provided for both him and his siblings. It wasn’t too long before his apparent athletic talent was noticed by his biking mentors and, with the incredibly generous sponsorship of ‘The Children’s Project‘ in my native Clonakilty, just-one was in the fortunate position to be able to provide Shakti with the entry-level simi-pro bike which allowed him to further advance his clear athletic ability.
His intense passion and growing ambition for all things mountain-biking (coupled perhaps, amongst a variety of other factors, with the well-intentioned, though poorly-considered, mention of international training/racing opportunities made, somewhat prematurely, by a foreign competitor impressed by Shakti’s gutsy participation in last year’s Yak Attack – one of the five most difficult and challenging mountain bike races in the world) saw ‘education’ drop ever-further down his personal list of priorities. Eventually, only a matter of months before the District Level exams he was due to sit, Shakti sadly (though wholly understandably) decided he no longer required the educational support just-one had been providing him with and chose instead to focus entirely on his youthfully and determined ambition to be the best that he CAN become in his chosen sport.
Considering the original thought which spurred this particular entry to our somewhat more active blog of late, I’ve probably shared too much of Shakti’s story already and should honour his right to decide whether or not to ever share the finer and more identifiable details of what is essentially HIS own ‘That was me!‘ story. I do hope though, that I’ve in some small way at least explained the years old ‘coming soon…‘ ending to our ‘their stories‘ section. I’ll endeavour, as best as time allows, to ensure that these stories are indeed shared soon… It will most likely be with a revised introduction explaining that whatever stories are eventually published will be composite creations of the real-life stories we encounter each and every day through our ongoing work – told in the true and honest manner which potential donors like you expect and deserve, but also in the anonymous and personally unidentifiable manner which the individuals concerned are no less deserving of too!
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