After his couple of days in KTM, David flew to Pokhara and then on to the small hill village of Ramja Derail, the red dot on the map, below.
Pokhara is the second biggest city in Nepal and the village is a further 70 km away.
This satellite map shows the tortuous road from Pokhara to Ramja Derail.
Getting there is an adventure in itself!
David is travelling with Roger and Annie Smith from Newcastle… Roger is Binod’s main PhD supervisor. They are all now safely in the village, but it’s not easy to get photos and information out of there right now. So, I’ll fill in for them today to explain a little more of the reason why David has taken on this adventure. A little background first….David and I are very involved in supporting and mentoring a group of early career medical researchers at Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle in Australia… And one of those researchers is a Nepalese, Binod Sharma.
Binod’s PhD goal is to explore whether tapping into the Napalese village culture of handing on messages through song line, through folk music and dance, can help create community awareness regarding maternal health and well being. He hopes the outcome will be improved maternity health care and baby welfare in an area where safe pregnancies and good childbirth outcomes have been, to date, very poor. To promote his message, Binod set up an intervention singing and dancing competition.
To begin with, Binod explained his proposal to the village people. Here he discusses the concept with village health workers.
He took every opportunity to chat to people as he walked from village to village.
In the beginning, Binod’s aim was to involve primary age children in preparing lyrics about the importance of motherhood, to traditional music and dance. This young performer is certainly enjoying her moment on ‘the stage’, the bare earth of a village cottage. She’s cheered on by the village women. (Binod is on the left in the red jacket.)
But it’s not just the children who are getting involved!
And the banner is bringing home the messages, too.
Soon, villages were having concerts to show off their songs.
What has eventuated is a wonderful embracing of the ideals of the competition with people from all parts of these isolated communities, women, men, adolescents and children all engaging in the project… and enjoying the experience.
It isn’t a walk in the park getting from one village to another. The monsoon has washed out roads and trails and the effort of walking for hours is not for the faint hearted. This is a group of teachers from the high school who have volunteered to go from village to village and perform the best of the 28 competition songs that were produced.
Binod negotiates a fast flowing stream on his way to one of the villages.
The teacher’s choir sings their message on the banks of rice paddy. The fact that this choir is made up of male high schoolteachers lead by the school Principal is evidence of the way this intervention is seen as very important by all sections of the community.
The singers and dancers on this occasion are taking a few minutes off from planting the rice… new plants used as ribbons to wave to the music. Binod gets into the action too.
Binod takes every chance he can to be as involved as possible with the village people. He was born in this area, so this is the lifestyle of his family and ancestors. Learning to use a plough like this is a real balancing act… and a very muddy one!
The outcome of the intervention so far has been much better than we could have ever hoped. On this occasion 450 people turned up for a concert of the songs… about 100 were expected. This was the biggest gathering in history for this area. So…an excellent start has been made and it is hoped that this community singing engagement develops into long term benefits for women, babies and maternal health in general. More anon.
Hopefully we’ll get some more input from Binod or David in the next couple of days.
David (and Jennie)
All photographs copyright © Binod Sharma
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