How Simikot faced the electricity supply problem:

Can you imagine a world which is completely dark, no means of communication, no INTERNET, no telephone line, no mobile phone network, no television, no computer operating etc. You might think that this is almost impossible in the 21st century. If so, then you are wrong. Such a world still exists in almost everywhere in the Himalayan region of Nepal. Now I am especially talking about the district headquarter of Humla, Simikot. Simikot has been one of such places that faced huge difficulties with the lack of all these developmental infrastructures for the last 3 months. It is all due to the electricity supply problem in Simikot. The „Hildum Mini-Hydopower“ stopped supplying electricity in September 2011 because of a big destruction in the dam caused by a flood. And the District Electricity Office also took a very long time to fix it up due to the lack of sufficient resources. The public in Simikot and some of the villages around experienced very difficult circumstance, for example concerning many house-hold works, communication, business etc. Moreover, the organizations, INGOs, NGOs, and government organizations who are functioning in Humla are badly affected with this long time power cut. Some of the organizations, who are financially stronger, installed a solar system to manage the urgent organizational and official/administrative works and communication within the organization and even with the outer world. But those who don’t have enough fund to afford the solar system underwent a tougher situation for the last few months. Many of the works in the organizations got delayed, some remained pending, some were postponed, some even got canceled and some were disorganized. The work efficiency has been decreased and some of the staffs had less work during the office time.
Now these kinds of difficulties are over as the hydropower was repaired partially and it started supplying electric power from November 25, 2011. Once again the life in Simikot has been bright allover and the means of communication are running smoothly. It is still in a testing or examination period. The future will show how sustainable and reliable the electricity supply will be in Simikot.

Filming at Head Nepal:

A filming crew from the August Picture T.V. Production House Singapore visited HEAD Nepal from October 9-12, 2011. The main purpose of the crew was to make a film/documentary about the recently running project, the Head Mobile Blind School. The crew consists of four members, the host, the director, an assistance director and camera man. With the arrival of the group at the Simikot airport in the morning of 9th of Nov, HEAD Nepal volunteers and staff including the founder welcomed them with a white scarf, locally called Khata, being put around each of their necks. After having breakfast and rest for sometime at the hotel, the crew started filming at HEAD Nepal’s main central office where the instructor of the Head Mobile Blind School was taking class with 7 children who are visually impaired. The founder/executive director, Chhitup Lama explained about the organization and all the activities of the Head Mobile Blind School. The filming crew filmed how we conduct the classes and how we use the special materials/equipments as well for conducting the class. In addition to it, on the same day, they also filmed at the rented house of Harimaya, a 15 years-old visually impaired girl who is also one of the students in the unit 5 of the Head Mobile Blind School. There the household works and performance of daily living activities for a visually impaired girl were the main interest of filming for the crew. In the same evening, the crew was headed to a house of a 5 years-old partially sighted child called Helen Jethara where they filmed about how we teach very small children with visual impairment performing daily living skills such as brushing teeth, washing, wearing clothes, etc. The founder and the instructor of the HEAD Nepal guided the crew along the way to the village.
The next day, the 10th of October, early in the morning at 8 am, five porters and six horses were arranged because that day the plan was to go to the village called Thehe where Unit 4 of the Head Mobile Blind School was running. The day was quite challenging for the crew members because they had never experienced such a mountain trek and never walked in such a difficult landscape. They had to walk half the way down hill. This was because horse riding to down hill so steeply is very risky. As horse riding was also very new for three of them except the producer, it was very adventurous for them as well. “Though the journey was quite tedious and tiring, it has been the most beautiful trip for me” said the producer. After about 5 hours of walk and horse riding, we arrived at the village where the parents of the children of the Head Mobile Blind School welcomed the crew and the staffs with their very own cultural way. After the heart warming welcoming ceremony and lunch, the crew started filming the class at Unit 4 in the same village. There the main subject of filming was the progress and the improvement that a 15 years young boy, Gorasingh Bohora, has made after he was joined to the Head Mobile Blind School. Actually, he had never been to regular school before. Now he can read and write in Braille. He can also walk independently with the help of a white cane that we provided and taught him to use. The filming crew also filmed how he performs his daily living activities and also how he helps his family in house-hold works. In the same village, the crew also filmed some of the activities of a 15 years-old girl, Gahugora Bohora from the same village. Though she is totally blind, she can do most of the house-hold works like, fetching water from the public tap, cooking for herself and even for her family, collecting fire-wood from the distance, cutting grass for the animals that they keep. But, she never had the chance of school education and literacy before she joined the Head Mobile Blind School. The crew filmed especially how Gahugora cooks for her family. Though the cameraman started filming at her home curiously, due to too much smoke and darkness in the kitchen, it was very difficult for him to continue filming. That night the crew and the staff of Head Nepal slept at a home-stay at the house of Gorasingh Bohora. They enjoyed the food which is locally produced and prepared. The next day early in the morning, after some tea, the producer took an interview with the founder/executive director of Head Nepal on the roof of the house. After having a late breakfast in the village, the crew and the staff and volunteer of Head Nepal started their journey back to Simikot. While departing from the village, there were some drummers who performed their instruments. The sweet and harmonious sound of the drums was meant to be a farewell ceremony for the group. Then each of the group members rode his horse all the way back to Simikot. That day was much more comfortable and relaxing than the previous day due to more up hill passages, where it is much easier to horse ride. After about 4 hours journey, the group arrived at Simikot at 4 pm and everyone including the porters had a nice rest and lunch in the highest quality standard hotel, Sun Valley Resort in Simikot. Then all the porters and horses got back to their own home. On the next day, the 12th of November 2011, the filming crew departed from Simikot with a heart warming farewell by Head Nepal’s staff and volunteers. Now we as Head Nepal are curiously looking forward to the releasing of the film and we also think that the film will remarkably contribute to the communication of our vision and mission all over the world and equally help in the growth and development of the organization and its program.

Experience in Humla

I come from Germany and currently I am a participant at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE) in Kerala. For my two months internship I decided to work with HEAD Nepal in Humla.

“Humla is considered as one of the most remote and isolated regions in Nepal, reachable only by foot or small aircrafts which are irregularly landing in the district head quarter, Simikot. It is situated high in the Himalaya, in Karnali zone, North-western Nepal, bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region.”
This is what you can find about Humla on the internet. It was also what I read before leaving Kerala, but I was not really able to imagine what this means. I just imagined a countryside place with a lot of mountains around. I got a better idea what it means when I arrived in Kathmandu. I was told that there is no plane due to bad weather conditions and I need to wait. I was very lucky because after two days there was a flight to Humla, but I heard that before there were 2 weeks without any plane reaching the district.

Once arrived in Humla I found out that there are no streets. Of course, if there are no cars there is no need for streets. It is better to talk about footpaths that are covered with rocks and water flowing down in the rainy season. This leaves the ground muddy and slippery. The first days I found it hard to orientate myself because I was not able to recognize streets. Only on the main market there is a large road, but instead of cars you find chicken going for a walk.

I stayed with a Humli family. Highlights were momos, interesting Tibetan tea and a good internet connection. Things to adjust to were rice and dal every day, washing clothes at the water tab outside and many people speaking Nepali.

My tasks were fund raising and preparation of a sustainability plan. This involved mainly computer work. I went on a field trip to visit a unit of the mobile blind school. It was a long and exhausting trip, but a good experience. I also participated in a class of mobile blind school in Simikot. This gave me the opportunity to collect interviews with children and parents.

I want to say thank you to HEAD Nepal for the great learning experience in Humla and also during my work in Kathmandu. A special thank you to the family of the founder where I stayed during my time in Humla. Though our communication was very limited, they always tried to make my stay as comfortable as possible.

Explore Humla

We invite tourists with and without disabilities to join us on a journey to explore the nature, culture and traditions of Humla with all senses. The program for accessible tourism takes special care of the needs of blind and partially sighted travelers because students of the HEAD Blind School will be the guides to take their guests to a journey through their world.

Different tours take the group into the mountains and end in villages of blind or partially sighted students. While staying with their families, visitors learn about life in such a remote area and get to know the culture of Humli people. While walking up and down hill there is always time to appreciate beautiful mountain views or to discover different plants or rock formations. While riding on horse back it is easier and faster to move up the hills and arrive back in the accommodation for the typical Humli food, maybe some momos. We don’t tell you what it is, you have to come and find out yourself!

There will be offered two journeys per year, one in spring when there is the Raling festival, a Buddhist tradition with rituals, drums and dances. The journey in autumn gives visitors the possibility to participate in one of the many Hindu festivals.

The contact with the students of HEAD Nepal Blind School and their families as well as meetings with other local NGOs gives visitors the possibility to learn about the challenges of living in a remote area like Humla without many services that are normal in other parts of the world.

At the beginning and the end of the journey there is also time to explore Kathmandu with many historical sights and shopping opportunities.

Parents Meeting at Mobile Blind School

For HEAD Nepal it is very important to include the parents of the blind and partially sighted children in decisions about the project development. Therefore, parents meetings are organized regularly to discuss the progress of students and decide on new plans. The last meeting was held on August 15th 2011 in the HEAD Nepal office in Simikot. This day it was raining heavily, this meant several hours of walk in the rain for many of the parents. Their decision to participate in the meeting under those circumstances tells a lot about their commitment to the education of their visually impaired children.

In the first part of the meeting, the director, Chhitup Lama, and the teacher, Lokraj Shahi, talked about the progress of the students and the parents had the chance to give feedback about the work of the Mobile Blind School. The volunteer of HEAD Nepal encouraged the parents to challenge their children to become as independent as possible. Later, the parents discussed their contribution to the planned residential program where their children would receive a more intensive training. In a lively discussion it was decided that the parents would contribute food to the program. They will bring vegetables and other required food items to the center. After tea and biscuits the meeting was closed and the parents got on their way through the rain on a long walk back to their villages.

Braille Class

Braille System
is the universal writing method for the blind. There are six dots arranged like the 6 on a dice. Combinations of those dots form letters, numbers and other characters. For example, only one dot is an “a”, two horizontal dots form a “b” and so on. Though the Braille system is used internationally, there are different alphabets, just the same as in regular writing.

In the picture you can see the Nepali Braille alphabet. This is what children at the Mobile Blind School are studying at the moment. As this alphabet is very complex, they have to learn many different combinations of dots until they are able to read and write all letters.

For writing, the children use slate and stylus. The slate is the frame that gives orientation for the correct size of letters and helps to position the dots at the right place. The stylus is the tool to print the single dots.

During Braille class, the older children practice writing the alphabet and small words. Smaller children learn how to use slate and stylus to print the six dots in the right position. In some villages Braille class takes place in an office or school building, in others students meet on the roof of a house for their class.

Most of the partially sighted students already know regular print. For them Braille is a method to make their studies more effective because they are not able to read printed books or writing on the blackboard. For small children this is the first contact with the alphabet and for two totally blind teenagers, the Braille class is the first opportunity to learn how to read and write.

Plans for the HEAD Blind School

The HEAD Nepal Blind School will be a residential program to equip blind and partially sighted children with the necessary tools for successful integration into a mainstream school. The target group of the project are
blind and partially sighted children aged 3 to 15 years. For young children the program is a preparation for mainstream education. For children who are already in school it is a supplementary course to provide them with more effective methods for their studies.

The curriculum is focused on the following areas:
– Braille literacy in different languages (Nepali, English and Tibetan)
– Mobility training: independent movement with the use of the white cane
– Daily living skills such as personal hygiene and some housework
– Computer literacy with the use of screen reading software
– Self confidence and communication training to accept the disability and respond to challenges and discrimination.

After one to two years of intensive training, the students will return to their home communities and integrate themselves into the regular schools using knowledge and methods acquired during the program at the HEAD Nepal Blind School.

Compared to the first experience of a mobile blind school, a residential program will be more effective for the following reasons:
– The teacher can concentrate on the preparation and implementation of classes, as he doesn’t have to travel several hours per day anymore to visit the villages
– Classes take place on a daily basis
– The residential setting ensures continued practice, e.g. of daily living skills, even outside the classroom
– The regular contact with other visually impaired children shows the students that they are not alone with their problems and they can build their confidence together
– Integration of older children in nearby schools can be easily supported.

Welcome to HEAD Nepal

Imagine you live in a place where there are no streets. The footpath in the village is covered with stones, mud and water. Not to forget the holes and steep slopes on or next to the way. Most people live from farming, though this is very difficult due to the mountainous landscape.

Are you still with me?

Now try to imagine that you cannot see well or you are even totally blind. How would you move around on the roads full of obstacles and surprises? And what would you eat if you were not able to do farming? The only way is to get a good education and to find alternative means of income.
But the challenges continue. At school you are not able to read what is written on the blackboard or use textbooks. Friends laugh at you because you cannot do your homework or bump into obstacles.

What to do?

The HEAD Nepal Blind School brings the solution. Blind and partially sighted children learn methods for effective studies, such as Braille. They also learn how to move safely in a remote area like Humla with the use of a white cane. They practice daily living skills to be independent at home and they learn to be confident so that they can respond to challenges and discrimination.