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
Though just shy of seven years old at the time, Kabita was working full-time as a live-in servant for a wealthy family when she first came to the attention of just-one back in 2006. Having found her older brother living on the street some months previously, when reuniting him with his family, we discovered that the poverty stricken parents had accepted the offer rent-free accommodation in a riverside shack, in return for their daughter’s domestic service at the landlord’s 3-storied home. I recall seeing the adorable gap-toothed smile she happily shared despite her hardships and wondering how anyone could force a child so young to work such long and difficult days…
As is the way of just-one, we immediately extended our offer of assistance to Kabita as well, encouraging her parents to allow us support her education too and not merely her brother’s. We were obviously delighted when they agreed but, sadly, I can’t say any of us were hugely surprised when the landlord evicted the family within a week of us rescuing little Kabita from the life of servitude she’d lived for more than a year of her short life. Having already anticipated that this was likely to happen though (easily done when you consider the probable character of someone who’d willing exploit a child in this manner), we were prepared and successfully supported the family in finding alternative accommodation where they’ve happily raised their children since.
In the years that followed, with the continued generosity of those who kindly contribute to our important work, just-one has maintained the regular contact we’ve found to be absolutely necessary to ensure our support is of truly effective benefit for those we work with. As you might expect, there have been various problems encountered over the years by many of these children and families, which have required the careful attention of our incredibly dedicated staff to find appropriate and lasting resolutions. I doubt that many of these issues are a whole lot different from those which the average parent faces in simply doing their best to raise happy and confident children, but know too that some of them, here amidst the cruel chaos of poverty, are the stuff of nightmares that most parents would simply dread to imagine for their own children.
The particular issue I want to deal with here, highlights just how fine a line there is between the happy and secure futures we strive to help the children we work with to create for themselves, and the drastically altered lives almost completely devoid of hope we sometimes find them unwittingly flirting with…
Thankfully, the just-one social worker tasked with the monthly follow-up support visits to Kabita, her brother and their family, noticed early on that there was something amiss with the now 14 year old girl who had previously been an eager student. Her uncharacteristically poor attendance at school and some crucial snippets of information from a watchful and protective brother combined to help us quickly discover that Kabita was coming under the increasing influence of some older girls in her locality, who had been tasked with grooming her into joining their work at a local dance bar.
Despite the understandably immaturity you’d expect from someone her age, it was nevertheless frighting to witness how dangerously close Kabita’s youthful naivety and innocent passion for dance had actually brought her to the brink of a much darker future. There were more than a few scary weeks where, seduced by the deceptive generosity of these ‘friends’, Kabita spent a lot of her time at this dance bar and risked slipping totally beyond our reach. Thankfully, the close and trusting relationship our staff establish with those we work with, played a significant role in eventually allowing us to successfully counteract the negative influence of her dance bar ‘friends’ and their insidious efforts to lure an impressionable Kabita into the same dark existence in which they’d sadly become ensnared.
Now back on track, Kabita’s only a little over a month away from embarking upon her Class 8 studies and preparing for the District Level exams she’ll face at the end of the academic year. Hopefully the valuable lessons she’s learned from this whole recent episode will stand to her in and help her avoid similar dangers in the future. just-one‘s intervention in this particular case highlighted for us the benefit of having occasional access to a safe and caring environment for children we support, like Kabita, for whom the facilities at our transit home wouldn’t be quite appropriate.
In this regard, and with the very kind assistance of the fantastic house-mother who has worked with us since mid 2009, we’re now in the process of now formally developing the additional ‘safe house’ setting without which we may not have been successful in helping Kabita over these last few months. The idea is simply to be in a position to offer a low-capacity foster home type environment where we can keep up to two or three children at a time under the watchful care of our trusted house-mother – already lovingly known to dozens of children as ‘Amma’.
We’ve calculated that the initial set-up cost of such a facility is likely to be no more than €500 and will require an additional €200 to €250 per month to operate thereafter. Having already seen the life-changing difference it allowed us to make to Kabita’s life, we’re absolutely certain that it’s a worthwhile investment and hope that some of you who’ve read this far might be willing to lend us some much needed support by visiting our ‘Make a Donation’ page and choosing the method of giving that best suits your particular circumstances. Like those who have already generously empowered us to carry out this vitally important work to date, and indeed those who continue to do so on a regular basis, you can rest assured whatever support you might kindly choose to provide us with will be very much appreciated by all at just-one and will, perhaps, help further prove our motto that it doesn’t take much to make a difference.there is 1 Comment »
Ah, that deja vu moment where I again find myself wondering how I might best explain yet another half-year silence on this here web-site… It’s certainly not a lack of the ‘significant dates’ that have occasionally, in the past, been sufficient to jolt the great procrastinator’s pen into action, as there have been numerous ‘new years’ since I last wrote to mark the last one! It’s also not a lack of news and information worthy of sharing about just-one‘s on-going work, as that too has been in as plentiful supply as ever. No, I’m afraid our most recent lexical drought here was spurred by an emotional speed wobble of previously unseen proportions which, all of a sudden and for more than a couple of months, saw even the most simple of tasks become somewhat mammoth undertakings.
I’m not exactly proud that, during these most recent months of silence, I came closer to walking away from just-one than I’ve ever come before, but I’m also happy to share that I’ve pulled through it all relatively unscathed and without having made any such rash decisions. Anyway, loosely veiled confessions of depressive drama aside for the time-being, I simply need to break the spell of silence here and write something… As luck would have it, I currently find myself in the middle of one of these aforementioned blog-friendly ‘significant dates’ that may provide a useful topic for something worth reading… Let’s see!
The photo above goes to show that my inability to write consistently has been in the making for many, many years. Pictured is the first entry I made in a beautiful leather-bound diary that friends gave me to take on my first ever trip to Nepal, 10 years ago yesterday (the great procrastinator did well to catch that particular auspicious date, didn’t he? ;o). As the caption mentions, in the decade that followed I’ve only managed to fill a grand total of 9 pages… Here’s hoping the words might come more freely now that the second decade has begun.
Our recent recruitment of a new programme manager at just-one should certainly help with this improved flow of words, as it finally gives me the opportunity to pull back from the day-to-day operations which, all too often, completely overshadowed my equally important role in terms of fund-raising and PR for the organisation. The newly arrived Mr. Lama is currently in the middle of his first month at the helm, quickly finding his feet and showing great promise in being capable of competently leading our incredible team forward and building on our various achievements to date.
Having spent much of the last two weeks helping him settle into his role, I’m as confident as one can be that I’ll have far fewer reasons not to stay in much more frequent contact from here on in. Hopelessly optimistic, I’m sure, but how d’ya think I made it through all of what the last decade’s thrown my way..? ;o) In a sincere and totally selfless (hhmmm… ;o) effort to help him find his own voice and not crowd it out with an Irish accent, I’m now only a couple of days away from temporarily removing myself from the picture, while I stroll down Sentimental Avenue and finally retrace the steps of my first monsoon in the mountains in 2003 – a journey that ultimately changed my life and saw the idea of just-one being initially conceived.
I’ve now idea if the 4 days it took me to walk to the remote village I first visited Nepal to teach in will be sufficient, 10 years on, to get me back there again for the first time since. Regardless of whether it take 4 days though or 6, I’m simply looking forward to the opportunity to breath fresh air, clear my mind and contemplate all that’s happened since I was last there. Over self-indulgence or necessary self-care – I’m not quite sure yet, but I reckon there’s bound to be a few nuggets of wisdom in there somewhere to share once I get back by the end of the month! Until then though, take care, smile as often as you can and huge thanks for whatever support you may have provided us with over the years.
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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.there is 1 Comment »