Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Volunteer View - CDO Nepal

Hello, my name is Heather Coleman and I have been volunteering with CDO Nepal for two weeks now.  I was able to go along with some of the CDO staff to one of their safe motherhood workshops in a remote village in the mountains a few days after I arrived in Nepal.  I could not be of much help since I do not speak Nepali besides the standard ‘Namaste’ and ‘Dhanyabad’, but I am thankful that I was able to observe this event.  Over a hundred women came from places so far away that they had to trek for up to 4 hours on treacherous mountain roads with their children on their backs!  The people are clearly so grateful for the services that CDO extends to them, and they are obviously much needed if these mothers are determined to travel so far just to attend.  The CDO staff, as well as a few people from the government who came along to observe, taught the women proper breast feeding techniques, how to check themselves for cancer, how to avoid uterus prolapsed (fistulas), the importance of receiving proper pre and post natal care, and encouraged women to go to hospitals or local village health posts to deliver their children safely by handing out ‘packets of love’ which include clothing for the mother and child as well as a blanket.

 Much of CDO’s time spent teaching the women is actually designated to encouraging the women to unlearn certain superstitious beliefs without coming across as being disrespectful; many women believe that if you drink alcohol while you are breastfeeding the baby will sleep longer thus allowing the women to spend more time working in the fields.  Another long held traditional belief is that if you cross a stream while pregnant a demon will attack the child which caused many women to avoid traveling to the hospitals or local health posts.  It is relatively easy to provide medical check-ups and nutritional supplements, but the real challenge arises when you have to make slight adjustments to ancient aspects of peoples’ culture.  CDO has been able to make such significant strides in this due to the trust that they established within the communities they work with.  Since the implementation of the safe motherhood programs in the remote villages, there has been an increase of 31.92% in women seeking care from local hospitals and health posts versus relying on traditional healing methods.  This is amazing since the program has only been in place for one year.  This tremendous achievement did not go unnoticed; in recognition of their efforts, they received the Award Certificate for Excellent Service by the District Public Health Office, the local health posts, and the central government of Nepal.  CDO is definitely making waves.

I was also allowed to tag along to one of their health education and check-up sessions held in a local carpet factory.  Upon entering the factory my heart dropped seeing the conditions these people work under; there was a noticeable haze in the air from all of the fabric and dust particles floating around, rats scurried along the walls, people smoked indoors, the lights were strung up with threads, and spiders monopolized any space above 6’.  There were numerous stains from fires climbing the walls which is not surprising due to the cigarettes and faulty wiring when the floor is littered with fabric scraps and dust.  There were two little girls climbing around the factory - daughters of the workers and did their homework amidst the filth.  The smaller of the two began to cough at one point, and if my eyes were closed I would have thought that such a hoarse noise could only have been produced by a 50 year old smoker.  CDO teaches the workers how to properly care for themselves and dispenses medicine as needed.  It is clear that these communities need CDO’s assistance as well as workplace reforms.

Amidst all of these adventures, we have also organized a small fundraiser!  CDO set up a painting competition between 22 schools of the Lalitpur district and I will be bringing these watercolor paintings back to the United States to display and sell them.   All money raised will be for CDO’s scholarship program which sends underprivileged children of brick factory workers onto a formal education at government schools.  CDO has been able to award these scholarships to a total of 47 children and it only costs an average of $120 per student per year including the cost of school supplies and uniforms.  Since this is so inexpensive in the perspective of the US dollar, I feel that we can make a big difference with this fundraiser for the impoverished children of Nepal.  I would love to see CDO extend these scholarships to more children so that they may break free from the cycle of poverty and have a chance at a better, healthier life.