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Thursday
Mar272014

Sherry Sutton Photography

Sherry Sutton has been here visiting for the last couple weeks and captured some stunning images of our project.  Having Sherry capturing these photos of the children and life here meant the world to me.  It's like she was able to freeze frame moments in time.  Enjoy the images below.  Sherry's visit was a dream come true.  Please learn more about Sherry's work on her website!  And big thanks to Sherry for trekking all this way with her gear and 50+ caselogic backpacks for our highschoolers.  These definitely put my instragram pics to shame.  

Wednesday
Mar262014

The day we took on corporal punishment


Becky in the zone!
Our Superintendent of Police, Mr. Prakash Adhikary

Yesterday was a proud day for the Kopila crew and BlinkNow family! Led by our incredible social worker and Mental Health Fellow, Becky Day and an amazing team of teachers and volunteers, Kopila Valley hosted our first ever training and conference to put an end to corporal punishment.  

This has been an issue near and dear to my heart, really since the day that I made the decision to move to Nepal and work in the education sector. Anyone who talks to me for at least 5 minutes about education, knows my stance on this issue and how hard I've been working to change things. For the last four years our primary focus has been working within Kopila to set an example. Our team of teachers and administrators believes that having a school without corporal punishment is not only possible but also contributes to measurable success.  

When I visited schools and sent my own children to a school where teachers walked around holding a stick and slapping students across the face and the back of the head, twisting ears, pinching, and making kids squat like a chicken for extended lengths of time, it really bothered me. What really made me cringe was when the teachers nominated a "class captain" who was in charge of holding the stick and beating their classmates on the teacher's behalf. I tried really hard to work within the system and change things, but sooner or later I became angry and frustrated and I was driven to to start a school of my own. At first when we opened Kopila I noticed that many of the children would flinch every time we came near them or they did something wrong.

I did a lot of reading, visited high performing schools, and talked to my friends and education gurus Matt and Renee who run the Blue School. All research pointed to the fact that children needed to feel safe, inspired, and positively encouraged in order to learn and that putdowns and physical punishment actually had the reverse affect. According to top neurologists, the learning center in the brain shuts off like a light switch when it feels scared or threatened.    

In the last couple years and especially in the past few months corporal punishment and severe abuse of children has been a topic discussed in Nepal and around the world brought up regularly in the news. With the shift in perspective and opening of dialog, we decided to turn up the momentum and bring education leaders together to take action. I realized I've done a ton of complaining and alot of "talking" about the issue but I hadn't really attempted to bring people together on a local level in my community. Then a few months ago while talking about the issue over lunch with Becky, we came up with an idea for a training and focus group discussion.  I asked Becky to take this on rather flippantly having no idea the amount of work that it would actually entail. Over the past few months, Becky researched, studied, gained insight from teachers, and worked on putting an incredible training together. I took a step back and let Becky take the reigns and getting to be a witness and a participant yesterday absolutely blew me away.

She has an incredible talent for this. I get to have a taste of her magic watching her work individually with the kids, and during Mental Health month, but seeing her leading a training amongst teachers and the way she had them think about the issue was really off the charts.  Perspectives were changed. Debate and discussion was had. Techniques were modeled and practiced and even our superintendent of police and the head and women and children's welfare for our district stood up and gave a speech and promised to help us take this on. At the end of the day everybody was happy and feeling uplifted and it is with great pride and joy that we announce that representatives from 25 different school signed a pledge to end corporal punishment in their schools. To think of the thousands of kids who will be impacted in our district makes me so unbelievably proud.

More from Becky herself, coming up next. Enjoy some photos from our amazing day.

certificatesAmy, Shannon and Rajesh Sir (incredible team of ours)

Our Superintendent of Police, Mr. Prakash Adhikary

Monday
Mar242014

the famous fleece

I have so many things to post about but it's late so I made a list and will chip away at all those other entries in the days to come.  Just a quick post about Namraj. He is a full on four-year-old! He has broken away from his "no, no, no" phase and his sleep deprivation phase and his tantrum phase and is really loving life right now. As his mama, I'd like to take all the credit but I think most of it should go to his big sister Kalpana who is one of the best big sisters in the world and of course the aunties. It took a village for this one and boy is he the love of my life.    

Namraj literally DOES NOT take this fleece off and on our walk yesterday morning I snapped this adorable photo. The jacket he's wearing is kind of famous around here. Mainly because it's been passed down to every single kid in this household, starting with Shova. The kids love this jacket because each of them has a memory of wearing it every single day for an extended period of time and passing it on to the next kid as they outgrew it. The craziest part about this little jacket, is that it was already heavily worn when it was donated to us, many many years ago. I seriously think it could go in a world record book as the most worn and passed down fleece jacket of all time. Bauju laughs everytime she sees the jacket and talks about how she's probably washed that thing 10,000 times and she can't believe it's still kicking. It's funny because the kids are kids and they lose or tear absolutely everything at some point or another but some way, some how this jacket has made it through thick and thin. I would advertise, but the tags are gone so I don't even know who made it.  

I'm dying to know whose it was before it came to Kopila!

That's all :)  Over and out.  Good night! 

Sunday
Mar232014

back at kopila

my office
I’m back at Kopila albeit, terribly jet lagged. I woke up at two in the morning bright eyed and rearing to go, with a knowing that there was no chance I’d be getting back to sleep. I tried to stay in bed. I finished my book and snuggled with Namraj, just enough not to wake him. I unpacked and organized my room, walked around the house and watched my sleeping children, who I swear all grew two inches while I was away. When there was finally a hint of light outside, I went on a morning walk and helped a little with breakfast, really just hard boiling a bunch of eggs and sat around chatting with the kids as they woke up and came down stairs.  
The day started out so good, calm and easy. I’ve been really intent on easing into my transitions back and forth. I’ve learned that when I jump right in and hit the ground running it always comes back to bite me.
The day started with ease, hard boiled eggs, lemon tea, smiling kids, paying bills, morning assembly, a bouquet of wild flowers the kids had all collected for my welcome. But as the day wore on, little by little I was struck by the immensity of this project and life here. One intense thing happened after another. By lunch time I felt ready to crawl back into bed and convinced myself I was getting a cold sore. By 2:30 I had a good long chat with Kelly and Susanne and we all joked about how things couldn't get any crazier. And by the end of the school day I was asking myself “Is this for real?  All of this, on my first day back?”  We’ve lost four Kopila mommys this year and at the end of the day as I was walking out the gate to finally go home there was a mom waiting by the front gate to talk to me. She slowly walked into the clinic unravelled her shawl and revealed the entire side of her chest, completely exposed and open rotten flesh oozing with cancer. She’s been sent back from the hospital and given a few weeks to live. The only thing harder than working with orphans is being a witness to the process by which they become one. When you know their mothers, hard working loving mothers and the relationship they have with their children, and they lose their fight for life, it is just so sad. Becky and I called our nurse in and tried to urge her to take something for the pain, we had both never seen anything so horrific and we thought there had to be some sort of medicine but all she wanted and all she kept saying over and over again was that we please look after her son in our nursery class after she was gone. It was so incredibly heartbreaking.

 

I finally got back to the house. I sat in my room with the three/four year olds eating a bag of pistachios that I had deliberated buying in the airport before I left. Manisha giggled with joy every time she cracked one open. So much joy, after so much intensity.  The epitome of the contrast of living here.  Pictures from today.

 

Monday
Mar172014

Getting ready for a Launch!

Girls on the rooftop! photo by linda plym

I know my posts have been few and far between these days.  The thing is, we're getting ready to launch a new website and Kopila Journal.  We're almost there.  It's been quite the journey and I'm excited to launch the new BlinkNow.org.  We're still working on the final nuts and bolts but I'm hoping BlinkNow.org will be a space for our friends and family around the world to see and feel the magic that happens here, because as it turns out, so much of the magic is because of YOU!

I hope our little website will continue to grow by encouraging, empowering and inspiring everyone to keep changing the world.  Little things, big things, and everything in between. I'll keep journaling as always, mostly late at night after the kids are in bed.  As the children get older, I hope they can get on here more too! 

In the meantime, there's a few things I'm excited to share!  Look at what these ambitious 13-year-old students in Croatia are doing. They launched their own campaign to create a Tech Center for our school.  Check out their TechKopila website to learn more and please support and chear them on if you can!  I'm doing everything I can to back them!

  

Also there's a new app called Charity Miles that supports our amazing partners at She's The First for their Run the World Campaign.  You make 25 cents for every miles you walk, bike, or run!  As you can imagine, it can add up pretty fast.  Get fit for a good cause and support girls education!  

Run the World from She's the First on Vimeo.

 See what I mean!?  We really do have the most amazing friends and family around the world.  Thanks for being here!