A very Happy New Year to you!
When I started Project Didi, with Fiona and Leonie, 5 years ago I couldn’t have imagined that we would have as full and bright a year as 2018. I am proud of many highlights with the women and girls we support. I’d like to share some with you.
But first I’d like to say a sincere thank you. Please share in my pride, as we couldn’t have reached 2019 without you and your commitment to making the world a better place.
My year started with a wonderfully warm welcome from our partner at Samunnat Nepal. I had a week at this dynamic organisation of inspiring, talented and dedicated women. My lasting impression is of a vibrant community supporting survivors of violence and an entrepreneurial spirit that has created jewellery making, a tailoring shop, a childcare centre, organic gardening and pickle making. Incomes, independence and a future for many!
We believe education transforms women, their families and communities and creates generational change. It's our priority girls get a basic schooling, have the opportunity to catch up on missed schooling and have access to further training. My best memory this year, is when 5 women, survivors of violence, gained certificates in Food Handling and Hygiene, now proudly displayed on their kitchen walls. They are working together building their catering business and cooking classes, making small steps towards an income generating success story. The smiles as they work, and receive endless compliments on their dishes (the veg curry is a winner!), are part of that success.
Our Youth to Youth Program, our seventh, was again a highlight. 16 students from St Catherine's School Sydney, joined 25 students from our partner, Asha, in a week of peer-to-peer learning, fun and friendship. The program continued the theme of positive psychology which we all benefited from. The Nepali cooking was a success and the soccer game decisively won by team Nepal! I'm in awe of how the students, Australian and Nepali, own and manage this week and grow through new challenges, experiences and understanding. I believe it changes lives.
Since the closure, 2 years ago, of the residential home at Asha which provided care in an institutional setting (now widely documented as detrimental to children’s wellbeing), I'm proud our priority has been family care. With your generous contributions to our recent crowdfunding, we are able to continue supporting our "family" of 6 girls and housemother, Binsa, into 2019. In addition to rent, education, counselling and health care, our support includes music and dance classes, sport and the celebration of birthdays and festivals, the important stuff of childhood and family life. The girls recently marked the holidays with their first exciting visit to a water park.
We’re committed to working with the girls’ biological families towards reintegration and we’re proud to say, after a long and sensitive process, one of Binsa's girls, Hasri, has successfully reintegrated with her biological mother.
In Australia, our wonderful community came together to learn more and speak out about trafficking, gender inequality and child rights. We held screenings of SOLD, which we have now taken across Australia, a panel event with modern slavery experts and our #SomethingForSlavery challenge. A special thank you to the volunteers whose energy and hard work made these events happen!
We were thrilled with the passing of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act. The Act makes Australia the first country to recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery. Children, in Nepal who in many cases still have one or both parents, are recruited into and, in many cases, exploited in orphanages to attract volunteers and donors, many from Australia. This Act will raise awareness of the vital need for the type of family care for vulnerable children we provide and will bring us closer to ending slavery.
I am excited about the year ahead. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be in Nepal working with our partner on a new project. I’m also looking forward to getting to know the 15 ladies from Fernwood Gym Tuggeranong on our trek later in the Everest region. They will meet our partners, enjoy their cooking and learn about our work in Nepal.
On behalf of the Project Didi team, our partners and the women and girls in Nepal, a huge heartfelt thank you to the many of you who have been on this journey with us over the years and also to our many new and very valued supporters.
We can't do it without you.
All the best for a happy, healthy and light filled 2019.
Names of the women and girls in Nepal are changed to protect identities.
I was fortunate enough to spend four days with some of the most amazing girls I have ever met and I loved every minute of it. Before going to Asha Nepal I was expecting the girls to be very shy and that there would be a large language barrier, however, I was amazed at how friendly the girls were and how well most of them spoke English. They made us all feel so welcome!
Our program at Asha focused on positive psychology methods and ways to deal with challenging experiences. Our teacher who coordinated the trip, had created worksheets designed to be easy and fun to use, whilst still conveying important messages for the girls to use in their everyday lives, to help them in tough or despairing situations. For example, we did an exercise called “letting go” where the girls wrote things that troubled them onto a balloon and then blew up the balloon and “let it go”. Through this activity, we hoped the girls would learn some simple ways to discard negative thoughts and focus on the future. We also spent time playing football with them where everyone, even the teachers played!
Our final day at Asha Nepal was spent talking to our new-found friends and enjoying ourselves. Asha Nepal has recently introduced a music program and to our delight, we were able to hear what they have accomplished on guitar, keyboard and in song. During our last day with the girls some of them did our hair in elaborate braids and others drew very decorative hennas on our hands. Our time at Asha Nepal ended with a few tears but with numerous memories which we will cherish forever. Through this incredible opportunity to get to know these girls, I have been able to learn so much and grow as a person.
By understanding what most of the girls had gone through and after seeing how resilient and how much determination they have to shape their lives into something positive, my perspective of the world has changed. One of the key messages, which I learnt from my time at Asha, was how important it is to be grateful for the good things you have in your life.
The few days that I spent at Asha Nepal were some of the best days and have left me with memories which I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am now looking to my year as Project Didi’s Youth Ambassador! Keep an eye on their Facebook and blog for more from me later in the year.