From certain chaos to potential doom…

Written by Declan on December 10th, 2015 Categories: General, Latest, Our Work, Poverty | no comments so far. write your own »

You’d be forgiven for knowing little or nothing about what’s been going on in Nepal over the last few months. Not least because of my own continued inability to keep this here website even nearly as up-to-date as it deserves and in deed needs to be (Cringe!) but also because, unless there’s a deadly earthquake to sensationalise or a quirky government-sponsored goat slaughter or similar to fill the “and finally…” news slot, poor ol’ Nepal never commands a great deal of the global media’s increasingly limited attention.

Earthquake devastation aside, it’s the political chaos, ineptitude and criminal inaction which has unfolded since that sees Nepal now in the grips of a humanitarian crisis the outside world most probably knows very little about. What started with violent protests (against the introduction of a knowingly divisive constitution some months back) disrupting the regular supply of goods across the Indian border, has continued to spiral out of control with the powers-that-be doing very little by way of constructive intervention and the black-market economy fast becoming the accepted norm.

Political intricacies and confusion aside, the current situation remains that with ‘normal’ supply channels from India being severely disrupted for months now, a slowly-growing array of daily essentials (including petrol, diesel, cooking gas and, perhaps most worryingly, medical supplies) are only available to those who can afford the extortionate prices demanded by those who somehow or another have managed to maintain a readily available supply.

Needless to say, the long-suffering Nepali citizens continue to struggle on, as best they know how, getting by on what little they have. Times are tougher than they’ve ever been before though and I find myself wondering if the resilient nature of Nepali people, which I’ve admired for years, isn’t actually one of their greatest weaknesses… One being cruelly exploited by those who have the power to create change but choose not to… Ke garne? Nepal este ho…

While it’s definitely a whole lot more uncertain than it’s ever been in the almost 12 years that I’ve lived here, I can’t actually say that it’s hugely different. The children and families we work with remain vulnerable and as in need of a caring and supportive hand as they’ve ever been. We’re incredibly fortunate at just-one to enjoy the continued support of a small but incredibly generous army of fans from all over the world who kindly empower us to do what we do.

From the hundreds of school students who were inspired by our visitors on this autumn’s Etihad-sponsored fundraising trip to Ireland, to individuals like Thomas Fitzgibbon who ran the Everest Marathon kindly raising over €7,000 and the 14 fundraising trekkers from Ireland who visited Poon Hill recently and contributed almost €35,000 between them are just some of the endeavours that have allowed us to continue reaching out to some of those most in need and help them get their lives back on track.

***Post-Script***

As I wrote that last paragraph just there and wondered how I’d wrap the post up ready to be published, I saw notification of a message received by our facebook page and went to take a look… I’m still shell-shocked by what I read but feel I must share it with you here too… It was from the daughter of one of the aforementioned Poon Hill trekkers to share the terribly sad news that her father, James Fitzgerald, died yesterday following a tragic accident at his home. It’s difficult to comprehend that the gentleman pictured to the fore of the photo below is no longer with us… :o(

RIP

James Fitzgerald, Nov 12, the morning we reached Poon Hill.

In sharing our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt condolences with his family, I’d also like to remind them that the legacy of his incredibly generous and valuable contribution to our work (well over €1,000 more than the €1,500 minimum each participant had to raise) will live on in the bright and happy smiles of the children who are already benefiting from the support he kindly empowered us to provide for them and their families. May he rest in peace.

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Joining somewhat random dots…

Written by Declan on July 10th, 2015 Categories: Exploitation, Latest, Migrant Labour, Poverty, Your Chance | no comments so far. write your own »

Hot and sweaty from the 12km journey through dusty chaos in sweltering monsoon humidity, I’ve just arrived back to just-one‘s humble HQ in Kushibu having cycled across the city and back to collect the authorisation letter I need to get every 4 months from the Dept. of Information so that I can get my visa renewed and was very happily surprised at how uncharacteristically hassle-free it was this time ’round. Here’s hoping Sunday’s bureaucratic hoop-jumping at the Dept. of Immigration will go in a similar manner for me. I saw something just as I started my journey back and figured it’s worthy of sharing here as it relates somewhat to the bigger picture of Nepal’s general situation and where the work of organisations like just-one tie into it all…

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Chaotic traffic-clogged streets & monsoon clouds gathering overhead

Having crossed the bridge by Tilganga Eye Hospital and started pedalling up the hill towards the traffic mayhem of Gaushala Chowk, I noticed a battered old Mahindra 4×4 flat-bed truck chugging along beside me. As it slowly overtook me and left me taste the carcinogens in the haze of diesel fumes left in its wake, I had enough time to contemplate the most likely sad and morbid reality of the large metal trunk it carried as cargo. Our proximity to the airport at the time and the white bar-coded “KTM” label I saw stuck on one end by a carrying handle had me surmise that the 2 men crouched either side of the trunk, holding a white sheet over it as best they could, were most probably close family of the deceased migrant worker who, by now, will have already been cremated at Pashupatinath Temple – towards which the truck had turned right by the top of the hill, leaving me cycle on with a sense of sadness for someone I never knew.

Any time I’ve ever departed Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport I’ve witnessed just a fraction of the seemingly unending exodus of young Nepal workers being shipped out by the various local manpower agencies who fill the foreign demand for migrant labourers. On my numerous returns too, I’ve shared boarding queues and gulf flights with many of these workers flying home. Today though was the first time I’ve seen someone coming back to Nepal in such a stark and conclusive manner.

PeterPattisonGuardian

A photo of cargo coffins taken by Peter Pattison for this recent article

I’ll have to admit that I have no recollection of where I heard or read the statistic that 4 migrant workers return to Nepal like this each day and can only wonder whether or not any of the 1,000 or so Nepali folks who migrate daily ever ponder the possibility that “going outside” might not be all that they have hoped for… High-profile cases like the Qatar World Cup have seen the slave-like conditions occasionally featuring in mainstream media, along with the inhuman exploitation suffered (often initially at the hands of their own less scrupulous countrymen who charge handsomely for their questionable brokerage services) by so many unskilled manual labourers whose collective absence from Nepal currently leaves their native country facing a somewhat ironic labour-shortage of its own as it struggles to rebuild after all the recent devastation it endured.

What I also couldn’t help but wonder about though was the safety and well-being of the half-dozen or so now young adults who’ve unfortunately slipped through the cracks of what just-one generally offers to those we work with and, having invariably succumbed to family pressures to choose the short-term gain of foreign employment over the longer-term benefit of our educational support, are all currently working somewhere or other across the gulf. While the couple I’ve got occasional contact with on social media seem generally upbeat about their situations, one 19 year old now working in Saudi-Arabia did recently express regret at not taking his education more seriously when he had the opportunity.

Such is life, I guess, and we can only ever help those willing to accept our help. Seeing what I saw earlier though has me recommitted to notion that we have to constantly give it our absolute all to better ensure that we succeed with as many of those we work with as possible and help them achieve all that they’re capable of rather than risk becoming a much sadder statistic. If you’ve helped our work in any way, shape or form over the last 11 years then please accept my most sincere and heartfelt thanks on behalf of all here I work with and for. If you’d like to make a contribution and help our important work here to continue in the way it must, then you’ll find all the details you need here and can rest assured that your support will be very much appreciated and put to the very best of use.

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Same-same, but different…

Written by Declan on June 18th, 2015 Categories: Fund-raising, General, Latest, Our Work, Poverty, Their Stories, Your Chance | no comments so far. write your own »

Much of what just-one has done over the last 10 years has involved closely working with the children and families we support here to help them in creating solutions for problematic aspects of their lives, and our efforts since the devastating earthquake on April 25th last have, in many respects, been carried out along very similar lines. As the earth shook and buildings crumbled, so many of those spared death and serious injury found themselves nonetheless exposed, vulnerable and facing a formidable struggle to return to normal life. ‘Normal life’ for many of those we work with was even at the best of times already a struggle – post-earthquake though, it’s hardly surprising that it’s now become an even more difficult challenge.

Our earliest response saw us providing what immediate support we could for the communities in which we work – both within the city itself, as well as a couple of affected villages in the neighbouring districts of Sindhulpalchowk and Nuwakot. Food supplies, clean water and tarpaulins shelters for some of those whose accommodation was rendered uninhabitable by the initial quake and the countless aftershocks which followed. With the initial paralysing fear and sense of panic now long subsided, efforts have already turned to doing all we can to ensure these families we’ve reached out to will remain safe and secure over the monsoon season which is currently sweeping westward across the Himalayas.

With a few temporary shelters already constructed for the families of children whose education we support, we’re currently approaching the final stages of what’s been a frustratingly long process of renting a plot of land to the north-west of the city, on which we’ll be building shelter for up 10 families who are still managing in tented accommodation. We’ve ensured the plot’s big enough to allow us comfortably and safely accommodate these needy families, while also having enough land remaining to allow us help them to set up a small vegetable farming project through which they’ll be able to generate additional income. Our accountant is with the landowner and a lawyer as I type, finalising the lease agreement, so hopefully it’ll signed and sealed before the end of the day.

I think it’s only fair to mention here in closing that absolutely none of this additional work that’s landed on our plate since the first earthquake nearly two months ago would have been even remotely possible was it not for the most incredible and humbling outpouring of generosity that I’ve ever experienced in all my years working with just-one – particularly from my native Clonakilty and the surrounding West Cork area. Each and every one of the numerous individuals, families, schools, companies, organisations, groups, etc. who’ve kindly made contributions, be they large or small, in support of our ongoing work here can rest assured that we will continue to make it our top priority to ensure that every single rupee received will be spend to the best effect for the benefit of those we support.

Know too that your kind support, be it past, present or future, is hugely appreciated by all here. Now, more than every before, we need continued and, if at all possible, regular support to help better ensure the medium to longer term sustainability of our newly added responsibilities. Please, if you haven’t done so already, do take a look at the variety of options we’ve listed here on our ‘Make a Donation’ page and consider if you’re perhaps in a position to kindly lend us some much needed support.

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