Fastflow Nepal visit - Day 2
Fastflow Chief Executive Neil Armstrong is in Nepal to see what a difference his company's £68,000 donation to WaterAid has made to the people of Biratnagar.
Here is his second blog about his six day visit.
For the last two days we have been visiting the marginalised communities on the periphery of Biratnagar where WaterAid and its partners, LUMANTI, have been working really hard to help people get access to clean and safe drinking water and to improve their hygiene and sanitation systems.
To say that these communities are deprived is a serious understatement. Prior to the intervention of LUMANTI and WaterAid, the residents of these communities were openly defecating in public places where human contact with faeces was difficult to avoid. Access to safe drinking water was extremely limited and often families and individuals had no choice but to consume contaminated water.
Awareness of the importance of appropriate hygiene was also practically non existent. Due to this, illness and disease - particularly among the young and vulnerable was rampant. Now these communities are have access to either household latrines in their gardens or community latrines nearby.
They have close point access to safe and clean drinking water with the construction of new hand pumps or the rehabilitation of existing ones. Hygiene and sanitation awareness training has taken place and now the residents of these communities are fully committed to washing their hands following use of the latrines and before perpetration of food.
The resulting impact was profound with a huge reduction in illness and disease among all residents - in particular the children. The knock on benefits are also very evident and these people are now taking real pride in themselves and their communities with various committees set up to further develop and sustain their status. This has huge socio economic benefits.
The welcome that we got when we visited these communities is difficult to put into words and was an extremely humbling experience for me. These Nepali people are a warm, friendly and compassionate. They are constantly smiling and confident, even when facing such deprivation, of what we consider to be natural human rights.
In every community that we visited, they welcomed us openly and with pride into their homes, often without even electricity. They urged us to examine their latrines and water points and explained (through an interpreter) their new found knowledge on hygiene and sanitation. These homes were constructed with just bamboo and mud plaster, topped off with a galvanised roof. All very basic but kept very clean and tidy.
On arrival, we were garnished with flower necklaces and given gifts of beautiful bunches of homemade flowers. The whole experience was truly amazing and puts into perspective our so called difficult economic times back in the UK. I want to make a special mention of LUMANTI and its executive director Lagena. This is a non profit, non government, charitable organization, dedicated to improving the life of urban poor communities. The fantastic work that it does - in what is a very complicated political situation at local government and central government level - accessing funds, lobbying for change and accountability, working directly in the communities on lots of fronts and being a real catalyst for change, is quite amazing.
So much of this great work is due to the compassion and dedication of their leader and founder, Lagena. One of the most remarkable and inspiring women I have ever met and her story regarding the set up of LUMANTI is also quite amazing also..... all for another day!Neil Armstrong