And so as I bid farewell to Kathmandu, one of the more surreal images of my last few days there. Not something I’ve ever seen outside of Ken’s Barber Shop in Farlington…
First week in placement completed and I’ve finally worked out how to use Devanagari script on my laptop! And lest you’re wondering, the title means welcome, which is certainly what I feel after arriving back in Banepa. There are three HIV/AIDS projects here in the district, none of whom have had prior experience of working with VSO volunteers. I will be working three days a week with Sakriya Plus Nepal(SPN) and two days with Navadeep Jyoti Kendra (NJK). Both located in the Dhulikhel Municipality of the Kavre District of Nepal and in operation since 2006, they have been implementing a range of programmes in HIV & AIDS prevention, care and support for people living with HIV & AIDS (PLWHA). Both organisations have common aims:
- To reduce the rate of HIV transmission amongst PLWHA and their families
- To provide a range of services (prevention, care and support) to PLWHA’s in the district.
- To build the capacity of the organisation
- To continue the implementation of the HIV prevention programme
- To strengthen the organisational capacity of the organisation
Which is where I fit in as an Organisational Development Advisor to work with both organisations in achieving these objectives. My counterpart, Caroline, from Kenya will have a similar role with the third organisation (ARSOW).
Wednesday morning arrives. At 8.00am, accompanied by Smriti, the VSO programme manager(HIV & AIDS), we set off for Banepa, where we meet with representatives from all three projects. The morning is largely taken up with visits to the key district offices: District Health Office: District Education Office: District Administrative Offices and District Police Office. The format, which is virtually all carried out in Nepali, is pretty much the same. VSO explain their role, and how the volunteers will work with the agencies and in turn the agencies offer their perspective. Then its our turn…and thank goodness for the earlier language training!
There is reassurance too by the police that in the present political situation there is no perceived risk to foreigners. Later on in the day we are taken to a local hotel where we meet the manager. This is a location that VSO have identified for Caroline and I as an assembly point should there be a change in the security situation and VSO need to start the process of recalling volunteers to Kathmandu. (VSO’s response to the safety of its volunteers is very good, and lest we forget, their staff are citizens of Nepal and don’t have the option of being evacuated should there be a significant change in circumstance).
…and so to the afternoon and the first visit to our projects. We are met with flowers and gifts at the threshold and once again the language training proves its worth…as does the practice earlier in the day at the various “official” introductions. मेरो नाम जोहन हो indeed!!
It’s good to be here…
The rest of the week is spent at NJK. I do however get the opportunity to accompany some of the team to a local school where they give a very thorough presentation to a group of around 35 students. A quick reminder if one were needed that getting around to appointments isn’t a matter of getting into the car. It is either walk, or local bus. On this occasion a bus ride is necessary, but when it arrives the bus is full inside. No choice then but for all of us to sit on the roof. Needless to say I conducted a thorough risk assessment of the situation before climbing on!
…oh, and just as a treat, in the middle of the session I was invited to give a brief presentation to the students about my experiences of HIV in the UK….