Project for a team of volunteers at Aarogya Ashram / Leprosy Village, Pokhara
12 of its 15 residents
Aarogya Ashram is a village for leprosy sufferers. It is located on the outskirts of Pokhara, Nepal with stunning, panoramic views of the Annapurna Himal. The ‘village’ could house 30 people but the funding is so small and has been static for more than 10 years so currently there are 13 very elderly people and by the time you read this there will probably be 15.
The residents need a raised washing up and laundry place
Leprosy is caused by various bacilli, including the Tuberculosis bacillus. It can be cured and then it is not infectious or contagious. All the elders are cured, but like all leprosy victims the results are on-going and unstoppable for the rest of their lives. Most gradually lose their toes and fingers and other parts of their bodies also continue deteriorating because they can’t feel pain in those areas so don’t notice when they bang themselves etc and gradually it is worn away or cartilage is reabsorbed into the body. This is due to the irreversible, permanent damage sustained by the autonomic nervous system.
Conditions at the Ashram/village are pretty awful and the provision for these elders is very inadequate. Their diet is dhal bhat for every meal with some vegetables that they manage to grow themselves during the growing season. Above this, they are only provided with 1 small glass of milk and 1 egg each per week. Their clothing provision is equally poor, consequently they save their underwear for example by only wearing it if and when they walk into the outskirts of the nearby village. Many Nepalis don’t understand leprosy still and are afraid of contact with former leprosy sufferers so many of the old people don’t leave the village at all.
Fulmaya in her kitchen
The old people’s rooms are very small, the beds are old and decrepit, the mattresses filthy, the walls dirty, they don’t have storage for their clothes or food and there are no curtains at the window to keep the cold from bouncing off the glass in the cold season. Naturally the whole complex is unheated which is normal in Nepal. In the winter it’s warmer to wash from a bucket in the sunlight than use the single shower which is too cold.
Despite their disabilities and sometimes lengthy hospitalisation to deal with injuries they sustain as a result of being able to feel various parts of their body, they each have a small strip of land in the village on which they grow vegetables during the growing season. These are often lost to the marauding monkeys that invade to steal the vegetables but a dog is currently being bought for them to chase the monkeys away.
Dilman with the visiting nurse – she also had leprosy
What is needed at Aarogya Ashram is a dedicated team of volunteers skilled in carpentry, DIY, building, electrics and plumbing. The team would need to be no less than 4 people but the more the merrier up to about 8. There is a whole list of work that these volunteers could do to improve the daily lives of these overlooked old people. Most of the volunteering world is concentrating on helping children because they are the future but surely these elders, who have had such a hard time during their lives, deserve to live in better conditions.
Due to the lack of funding, the team would need to fundraise prior to their journey to Nepal to fund buying the materials to do the work. They would need money to buy all the tools and materials required to make the various improvements. Of course, the team would also need money or accommodation, food and taxis.
At the end of the meeting when for the first time their views about their needs were asked for
We can recommend a particular small, family run hotel in Lakeside, Pokhara where a good rate of about £7 per night can be negotiated and the rooms are very large, modern and very clean. They will give you a much better rate than is displayed on their website.
Eating out is cheap in Nepal – there are many restaurants of varying size and standard in Lakeside from $3.50 upwards for a main course.
We also recommend a very reliable taxi driver who offers a good rate without the necessity of bargaining.
Travel from Kathmandu is possible by domestic air or a very interesting coach journey with Greenline – which is the best service – with toilet stops, a bottle of water and lunch in for the price. Lunch is in a beautiful location. This is best booked ahead of time by your KTM hotel. About $25 return journey.
You can get clean, adequate hotels in KTM for $25 and less per night. They will also collect you from the airport. Sometimes, but not always there is a small fee for this ($5) and cheaper than you will get if you go with an airport taxi driver.
A list of team tasks for improving the Ashram would be:
• Clear out and decorate the elders’ rooms from top to bottom, walls, ceilings, and floors with floor paint.
• Put up a short curtain rail in each room with a heavy curtain to pull across the small window to keep the cold out.
• Make wooden chests with linings to keep out the dust – for the elders clothes storage
• Make wooden cupboards with a metal screen for ventilation for storing each individuals food and vegetables
• Put shelves on the walls of their rooms and in the communal room where a volunteer has recently installed satellite TV to brighten up their days – when the power cuts are not on.
• Ensure the mosquito net hanging points are sturdy and in the right place for the beds
• Repair any broken room doors
• Make and install screen doors to all the elders rooms so that they can be ventilated but not let in the mosquitoes
• Build partitioned wood stores with waterproof roofs at the back outside of their kitchens where they can each store their wood used for cooking
• Build a shelter under which they can all sit when they want to be outside but it’s raining or the sun may be too hot to sit in the open. They don’t like sitting alone in their rooms. If the shelter is correctly sited, they will also be able to sit under it to ward off the monkeys.
• Build a raised place where they can do their washing and dishwashing at standing height rather than having to bend or crouch
• Build another toilet with septic tank so that some of them don’t have to walk so far. One of them walks bent over double and one more is headed that way.
The team would need to bring their own basic tools, as tools purchased in Nepal may not be strong and up to the same standard. Due to lack of funds, the Ashram doesn’t have any tools.
Basic materials of wood, metal fixings, wiring, fixings, paint, etc. can all be purchased in Nepal. You may need the help of a local for this and you would supported if necessary.
To volunteer or inquire about this project, please email Ann Chawner firstname.lastname@example.org