Basa Village Project Report – Completing the Schoolhouse

On March 4, 2014 the BVF-USA agreed to provide $5,000 to the BVF-Nepal to construct a new school building in Basa village.  Sol Himal, a French NGO, is contributing $7,000.  The combined contribution of $12,000 will provide sufficient funds to purchase the materials needed to construct a new school building for the 5-grade village school.  Villagers will provide the labor necessary for the construction, which is supervised by the members of the village school board.Basa Village SchoolhouseBasa school

Clean water takes hard work in Nepal

Typical water supply for a Nepali village

Typical water supply for a Nepali village

Living in the West, we take clean water for granted. Not only is our water generally free from harmful bacteria, we have it every time we need it. That’s not the case in Nepal, where each village is dependent on water that comes from higher on the mountain and is typically delivered to a central spot, where jugs are filled and where kids, adults, clothes and dishes are washed. From a hygiene perspective, it leaves a lot to be desired.

A helping hand from outside

basa2

Basa Village Foundation USA approved an engineering plan and raised USD $29,000 so that this small Nepali village could be an exception to the norm.  The entirely volunteer and local labor force from Basa Village is making great progress on their new water system. What doesn’t seem hard for us isn’t the same in this part of the world. The Village of Basa doesn’t have heavy equipment and the work is done completely by hand. And the water isn’t nearby, the distance they need to carry water is a 20 to 30 minute walk away.

basa6They needed a new water system because the previous system was poorly constructed and never fully completed, leaving the northern third of the village without water. While there were taps outside some houses before, 19 taps will be installed so that every cluster of homes will have a tap a short distance away.

It takes a village

basa1Additionally, all of the pipes, cement mix and other components had to be hand carried over the mountains from the nearest road. Sand and gravel needs to be brought up from the river, thousands of feet below, to mix concrete. It truly takes a village to provide the level of effort of a project of this magnitude.

Ben Snyder, the resident engineer for Basa Village Foundation USA, travelled to the village in September 2012 to GPS map the plans and make sure the materials were appropriately factored in. In Ben’s words, “It is great to see the pictures as the project develops and to know that Basa Village will have a better quality of life. I’m very happy to see it happening.”

More to be done

While the water system is very good by Nepali standards, there is continued work to be done to ensure the water supply is filtered and free from dangerous bacteria. If you’d like to participate in our efforts to make Nepal a better place, please donate to the Basa Village Foundation USA at the top left of this page.

“Philanthro-trek” of Marion University students and other friends of the Basa Village Foundation to Basa Village and Pikey Peak Spring 2013

by Jeff Rasley, President of Basa Village Foundation USA Inc.

Pikey PhilanthroTrekOur expedition was a challenging one from the start.  The day before we were to depart Katmandu two buildings adjacent to our hotel, the Katmandu Guest House, burned down.  (One was the well-known Pilgrim’s Bookstore — the only retailer in Nepal to stock my book.)  Some guests fled the KGH, but we stayed and several in our group helped fight the fire.  (Talk about a Chinese fire drill — you should see how a fire is fought in Katmandu!  There were lots of stones thrown at the burning buildings by excited young men.)

View Jeff Rasley’s complete photo album of the trek.

PPT1The actual trek began propitiously for our group of 13 trekkers staffed by Adventure GeoTreks with our first meal on the trail served by our staff in the open air.  Beginning that afternoon, however, rain became a regular unwanted companion on the trek to Pikey Peak.  The rainy-overcast weather spoiled the chance of any views from Pikey Peak, so we did not even bother hiking up to the summit.  The early monsoon also brought out hordes of bloodsucking leeches, and so our members and staff were on constant leech watch, and all of us suffered at least a few bites.  Several of our members had bouts with diarrhea and one member became too dehydrated to continue and required a heli-rescue from Pikey base camp.

PPTK2We did have an afternoon and evening of gorgeous views the day we hiked to Ngaur Gompa at about 11,000 feet with clouds below us, white peaks to the north, and stars above. Lama Paldung and his wife were delightful hosts.  Our group members were interested in the Lama’s descriptions of the hardships of trying to maintain an ancient teaching monastery on a remote mountaintop.  We enjoyed the story of the 10,000 wood carved Buddhas.  An ancestor of Lama Paldung promised to do 10,000 prostrations to Buddha, but became too fat, so he employed an artisan to carve the statues lining the temple walls.

PPTK3We also spent an interesting day hiking to/from the Choling Gompa Tibetan refugee community near Junbesi.  Trulshik Rinpoche founded the community after he fled Tibet following the Chinese invasion.  He had expected to return to Tibet, but died an old man in the monastic community of Tibetan refugees, which has grown to 100 monks and 400 nuns.  We were told by our guide at the monastery that the Rinpoche’s body is on ice awaiting reincarnation.

PPTK4Outside of Basa we were met by the Basa Village Band.  They piped, thumped, and tooted our arrival leading us the last hour of the hike into Basa 6.  Many villagers awaited our arrival with flowered necklaces and khata scarves.  School children danced for us during a gathering of the village at the school.  The village grandmothers vied with each other to serve us their home-brewed rakshi and chang.

PPTK5During the 4 days we spent in Basa members of our group were hosted in many homes throughout the village.  We were able to observe and discuss with villagers the extent to which the caste system survives in Basa.  We had many other interesting cultural experiences, including the rituals surrounding the killing of a pig and sharing its parts with the entire village. Our shaman-cook, Purna Rai, performed a grueling 4-hour long healing/home protection ceremony, which we were allowed to witness.  Our group tried to respond to the warm welcome by singing 2 songs planned by our songleader Justin.  But, our performance was hampered by a lack of practice, darkness, so we couldn’t see our cheat sheets, fatigue, and rakshi consumption.  We did not impress the village with American singing.

PPTK6The most significant contribution our group made to the village was the 3-day medical clinic Dr. Peter Draper set up in a classroom of the school.  Dr. Patti Binder assisted Peter, and other members of our group pitched in.  Sirdar Ganesh Rai put out the word that a medical doctor was in the village and people came from around the area for treatment.  Peter’s generosity with his time, talent, and the medical supplies he donated to the village will leave a lasting impact for the benefit of many villagers.

PPTK7Most pertinent to the project work of the Basa Village Foundation, we inspected the hydroelectric power station and observed it to be functioning well and many residents expressed great satisfaction with the power system.  The smokeless stoves are being used throughout the village, although the older villagers tend to leave the door open which allows some smoke into the house.  Even so, the smoke released into the house is minimal compared to that of their open fire pits.

As to the school, we were unable to meet with all of the teachers for reasons that were not clear.  They were away at a conference the first day we were in the village, but after that it seemed like they were avoiding us.  We did meet with Assan, the teacher in charge of the computers we donated in 2011.  He explained that all students do receive weekly computer training as part of their regular curriculum.  Because there is no Internet connection, the training is simply operational as to the hardware.  While this seems remedial, Basa 6 is the only school in the area with any computers, so the students are receiving a benefit even the secondary schools in the region cannot offer.  Assan reported the teachers are not using the many instructional materials the BVF has provided to the school.  It seems that the teachers are intimidated by any materials that are in English.  Therefore, it seems pointless to continue delivering books or any materials in English.  (E.g., three of our members delivered children’s books generously donated by BVF member Jane Rubesch, but I fear they will join the stack of unused materials lining a wall in the headmaster’s office.)  Ganesh advised that the teachers do not want to try anything new and prefer to continue with their rudimentary methods of handmade posters. PPTK8 We were also told by different sources that the government had not fulfilled its promise to take over payment of teacher salaries after the first 3 years of employment.  (The BVF paid salaries of 2 teachers for their first 3 years.)  Ganesh theorized that the school had, or was about to, run out of funds to pay the teachers, and so they are worried and depressed.  This requires further investigation.  Also, a future project we might discuss with the school board is the possibility of bringing in a consultant to work with the teachers on learning how to use the instructional resources we have provided.  The first question, of course, is whether the faculty would be receptive to that suggestion.

The PVC hoses for the water project have been delivered to the village.  They are stored in a shed on property at the top of the village.  I did not try to count the quantity of the PVC, but one stack was over 6 feet and the other stack was over 4 feet high.  Funds for cement and other materials are held by the Basa Foundation-Nepal.  The plan is for construction to commence after the monsoon ends.  BVF members Sydney, Chris, and Jeanne will be able to provide an update on the status of the water project after their visits to Basa in October.

I did speak with villagers about another project, a community center.  Two families have donated land, and the village has raised about $2,000 for materials.  I was told materials would cost $7,500.  The question posed was whether the BVF would match the village in funding of the community center, i.e., raise funds for 1/2 the cost of materials.  If the Foundation receives a formal request, I would recommend that we not fund any other project in Basa 6 until the water project is completed.  And we need to think carefully about and discuss whether a community center is a project we would care to fund.  My initial reaction is that a community center is not essential infrastructure development.  So, I am not sure it would be a project worthy of our efforts.  Villagers, and our main contact Niru Rai, had previously raised a concern about the need for toilets or a latrine system in the village.  Toilets would seem a more significant need, however, the BVF is committed to responding to the village’s requests and not imposing our values on Basa.

One of my favorite memories from our philanthro-trek is Peter saying he felt like he was five years younger after giving 3 days of his time to the Basa 6 MASH unit.  Another is the lovely hospitality afforded to our group by the Basa villagers.  One of coolest sights was seeing what looked like a five foot tall white lemur scrambling down the trail toward us about 50 yards ahead.  PPTK9It broke off and leaped into the rain forest to join 4 others, on the trail west of Paphlu.  And finally, the delight of our crew during the party at the end of the trek when they received our tips and did the drawing for our material gifts to them.  We did redeem ourselves with a very strong rendition of The Star Spangled Banner during the good-bye party.  It’s been said before, but our Adventure GeoTreks crew, led by our amazingly resourceful sirdar, Ganesh Rai, are the strongest and kindest people I know.  They are an inspiration to us.

PPTK10Many of our party also enjoyed side trips to Chitwan National Park for elephant rides and to the beautiful mountain lake district of Pokhara.  They engaged in adrenaline-pumping activities of zip lines, parasailing, and white water rafting.

PPTK11Photos courtesy of  Dr. Patti “Longskirt” Binder.

Students from Marian University to visit Basa for study

Marian UniversityThree graduating seniors from Marian University have developed plans for projects to perform with Basa villagers during their 5-day visit to the village in May 2013.  The Basa Village Foundation-Nepal NGO, the School Board, and the village leaders have agreed to welcome the students and to assist with these activities:

  1. Joshua Mathews will plan a week’s worth of English language lesson plans for the English teacher of the village with the intent that the teacher will be better able to teach English.  He will also, create excitement and enthusiasm for learning the language among the kids.
  2. Jessica Williams will compile a population count of the village, and the information will be given to the foundation to better serve Basa.  She will also ask the villagers how they feel about the projects that the foundation has completed and if they have any other projects ideas that the foundation can work on in the future.
  3. David Leszcynski will be documenting the “philanthro-trek”, particularly Basa Village, through photograpy. This will include both candids and some set-up portraits of people in the village. Then, in the fall, an art show will be hosted in Fisher Hall here at Marian University. Prints will be available for sale and all of the proceeds will go back to the Basa Village Foundation USA.

“We are very excited about their participation!” says Joel Meyers, co-founder of BVF. “This will give us the opportunity to gain real insights into our impact and help with our programming moving forward.”

Click here to see the Basa Village Foundation USA presentation prepared by students from the University of Indianapolis.

Basa Village water project meets with success

Basa NepalThe BVF-USA successfully completed its fundraising campaign for a water delivery system for Basa village in November 2012.  The Foundation’s members approved transfer of $29,000 to our sister organization, the Basa Village Foundation — Nepal, at our annual meeting on Dec. 11, 2012.

During the monsoon season, water is typically plentiful in the Solukhumbu region, cascading from the hillsides and filling terraced rice paddies. Throughout the rest of the year, the people of Basa have to walk long distances over very steep terrain to bring buckets of water to their homes. The BVF-Nepal retained a local engineer, Bharu man Rai, to design a system which will divert water from a nearby spring and pipe it to taps outside the homes in the village.  BVF member and engineer, Ben Snyder, trekked to Basa in September 2012 to review Bharu’s plan and to plot out the planned system by GPS.  Ben approved the design and budget for all materials and transportation in the amount of $29,000.  The villagers will provide all labor for construction at no cost.  The system will be maintained and owned by the village.  It will be managed by a committee of supervisors chosen by the villagers.  Construction is planned for the winter of 2013.

BVF-USA members in conjunction with Marian University students plan to trek to Basa village in May 2013 to review the water project and to celebrate with the villagers the completion of the water system.  Other trekkers are welcome to join the trekking group to experience Basa village and the Nepal Himalayas.  [Anyone interested in joining the trek should contact Jeff Rasley at jrasley@juno.com]

Additionally, there will be a three-week trek to Basa and Island Peak in October 2013 for those who are interested in meeting the villagers, seeing the progress to date, and summiting a very popular peak in the area (climb is optional). Anyone interested in joining the Basa Village/Island Peak trek should contact Jeanne Roué-Taylor at jeanne@successfulworkplace.com.

Taking a break near Basa in October 2011

Taking a break near Basa in October 2011

Basa Village Water Project

Dear Friends,

Please consider helping with our project to build a clean water system in Basa Village, Nepal.  We have a fund raising goal of $27,000. With that amount we will purchase the materials to build four cisterns throughout the village, a system of pipes, and valves, and connectors from an intake at the nearby river, and network extensions to the 62 homes in the village.  The villagers will provide all labor to build the water distribution system.  The system is being professionally re-engineered by a volunteer.

When it is completed, the project will provide a better life and improved health benefits for the villagers.  The system will include a disinfection mechanism to ensure the water is potable.  Currently the village has a partially operating water system with two uphill cisterns working and two downhill cisterns unusable.  Villagers must carry water in buckets from the river or from the uphill cisterns down to their homes for all uses.  The planned system will deliver water to an external spigot at each home for drinking, cooking, and washing.  The homes do not have toilets.  A water system will make it possible to install toilets in the future.

Would you please consider contributing to the project as your budget allows.  Friends made donations to the Hydroelectric Project two years ago in amounts varying from $25 to $1,000.  Any amount would be appreciated.

Tweny supporters of the Basa Project have formed a public foundation, Basa Village Foundation USA Inc.  We are incorporated and our application to the IRS for tax exempt status is pending.  Our legal counsel advises that donations to the Foundation should be tax deductible as he expects the application to be granted in the near future.  However, First Friends Quaker Meeting has served as the fiscal agent for previous projects and will continue to maintain an escrow account for donations.  So, if you prefer, donations may be directed to the First Friends Basa Project.

Donations may thus be made by check payable to:  “Basa Village Foundation USA Inc.” or to “First Friends Basa Project.”

You can mail a check to me:

Jeff  Rasley
6422 Ralston Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46220

or

Indianapolis First Friends
3030 Kessler Blvd. E. Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46220

(If you send a contribution direct to First Friends, please let me know of your contribution.)

If you prefer to donate by Paypal or credit card, you may do so through the Foundation’s website at: http://basavillagefoundationusa.org/

If you have any questions about the Project or the Foundation, please ask me.  More infromation is available on my website www.jeffreyrasley.com as well as the Foundation’s website.

Other ways you can help:

1.  If you belong to any organization that would enjoy a program about trekking in Nepal and the Basa Village Project, please request your organization to schedule me as a presenter.  I would be happy to give a slide show about the Nepal Himalayas and the Basa Project.

2.  As Niru Rai’s company, Adventure GeoTreks Ltd. is the only regular employer of villagers, other than their own subsistence farming, consider trekking in Nepal using AGT as your outfitter company.  Let me know if you are interested in doing a Himalayan trek.

3.  If you would like to become a member of the Foundation, please let me know.  The only obligation is a $100 membership fee to defray organizational expenses and participation on at least one committee.  The membership fee is to cover legal, accounting and organizational expenses so that all donations will be used entirely for the projects and not administrative expenses.

Namaste,

Jeff  Rasley
6422 Ralston Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46220
www.jeffreyrasley.com

A self-sufficient Nepal, with culture intact

Being disabled, people usually think I’m the one who needs help/support, not the other way around. I’m here to dispel the myth that a disabled person cannot volunteer and work hard for others. Sure, you might think I volunteer for organizations that have something to do with my disability…I do…but this is different. Basa Village Foundation is something special and has nothing to do
with my disability.

Life change

My husband went on a trek in Nepal a few years ago and it changed his life. We always thought of ourselves as pretty down to earth with a good perspective on how fortunate we are. But Nepal made him realize how deluded we were. I found this ‘new man’ amazing and wanted to go for myself and ‘see’ what he saw and feel what he felt. The next year we traveled to Nepal and it did not disappoint.

Although I did not make the trek to Basa, I was exhilarated by the people, food and culture of Nepal. I loved the fact that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone where nothing was accessible as we know it. I felt like an ambassador for people with disabilities. Here I am – a blind, rheumatoid arthritic female…traveling around Nepal! I educated not only my tour guides but also villagers. Nepal gave me such a wonderful gift and it’s time I return the favor.

Reasons why

The warmth of the Nepalese people cannot be matched. Although they are in need of so much, you’ll never hear it from them. Their happiness is contagious. I’m part of the Basa Village Foundation because I care for the well being of my brothers and sisters in Nepal. By contributing to the Basa Village Foundation, I can help the village become self-sufficient while keeping their amazing culture intact.