Volunteer Centre & Community Building
The first full days spent in Mamkha highlighted just how much damage packaging and the lack of an awareness or removal system of rubbish was doing to Nepal. There are only 3 shops here, people don't have a lot of money to spend on cheap packaged consumables...therefore the landscape is still practically unspoilt. Compared to the piles of litter burning in the street, or layers of soil mixed with ancient rubbish it was extremely refreshing.
Work on PDCN's Volunteer Centre had been delayed slightly, and the first day there I was unfortunate enough to witness the firing of an employee for breaking PDCN's working regulations. We'd met the night before, a friendly young man, insistent that he could carry me up and down the hills on his back all day. He'd been drunk and we'd had a drink and a laugh. PDCN have a policy of no drinking while at work, of paying 60% more in day wages, of paying for the workers lunch, employing ex-dalits and breaking done old caste distinctions with everybody eating together and sharing water. Something which even the ex-Dalit women themselves were initially not prepared for...trying to stop Arun, ( PDCN chairman) from sharing their drinking vessel!
The next morning he was still drunk, and he hadn't sobered up for work, clearly drinking in the morning. The first 30 minutes he'd been involved in an accident and had started laying blame aggressively around him, stopping work and making accusations at the Head Worker. He was sent home, and might have kept his job if he hadn't spent the rest of the day sitting next to the work site heckling the other workers and PDCN Chairman. Eventually the other workers loudly surmised that his wife wasn’t at home, and that’s why he was bothering them…suggesting maybe he should go and f….ind her.
There is a huge drinking problem in parts of rural Nepal, with all the health and social complications that come with it. PDCN's approach impressed me, as they try to break down traditional practices detrimental to social and physical health.
The community building was facing similar delays, with the main leader of the community group suffering poor health and unable to push forward the construction. While the building of the Volunteer Centre as unfinished there was also a reduction in the local workforce skilled and available. However we did manage to finish demarking the, (changed) location, clear the cover stone and check the measurements.