Over the years we have regularly run programs in the brick kilns in the Kathmandu valley. Our main objectives have been to encourage children into school and to prepare them with some basic learning skills to go to school; to provide the community with some enjoyable down time, whilst teaching drawing, mime and clowning skills. Along the way, we have helped deliver messages about health and wellbeing, better nutrition, and created art flags to help people locate the toilets in this grey landscape.
We do less of this work now – preferring to offer our services to train people who will work in a variety of communities in Nepal. Nonetheless, we made a short two-day visit to one of the brick kilns this year. And despite many improvements that have happened over the years for the workers, they remain dismal, archaic and alarmingly polluted places. Positive change making is not easy to achieve here, as the issues are complex and far-reaching for those involved.
We can see that the NGOs are doing the best they can with limited resources, and admire the efforts of those people who work so hard to find solutions, however, the industry and government need to show much more commitment to effecting real change here.
Since our last visit a temporary school offers the brick children some education for a few hours daily. It is a huge challenge for the two workers and four volunteers to teach more than 90 children who come each day. The age range of students is wide – from babies to pre-teens, backgrounds are diverse – there is not a common language, and the space is tiny and resources are few.
Many children look after their younger siblings. Yesterday one was hungry and cried throughout the session. Difficult for all to concentrate and learn.
Having fun with the children – using mime and clowning to teach them about washing hands and face, and brushing teeth ready for school. These are the messages of the NGO’s however, in reality we can see that water is not easily accessible to them and keeping clean in that environment is almost impossible.
A parting gift of mustard flowers from some of the children in the brick kiln school after our first day there. A very touching moment.
Children waiting to greet us on our 2nd day at the brick kilns. They are desperate to learn, although very let down in their ambitions by the culture, system and their circumstances.
Teaching children from Nepal and India, many of whom are illiterate, about shapes and pattern, and concepts of inside and outside. Children love drawing and made enough small flags to decorate each side of their temporary school.
Very young children have the responsibility of looking after their younger siblings whilst their parents work. They do their best, but it is impossible to learn and keep a young baby happy when s/he is hungry, sick, bored, or ill.
Brick kilns are not a great environment for anyone. Smoke belches into the valley, polluting the air, the land and the water. Gradually hills are dug away for the clay and the whole landscape is changed. It is bone dry, the workers here seem to emerge out of the dust. You breathe it in and carry it home on every part of you.
Looking down on the environment, it feels like we are in a 15th Century painting … people laboring away on tasks that should have, long ago, been modernized and mechanized. It is not the work for human or beast.
The work is hard, and poorly paid. And it seems to bring out harshness, indifference, and despair.
Many people are working hard to change these places, yet after the earthquake there is a huge demand for bricks, and a huge opportunity for some to make money. So there is not always a shared vision for change.
A child beating the donkeys to move faster. Donkeys carry huge sacks of bricks to and from the kilns in their relentless daily work.
This project was part of MakeDoTell2018. We provide our services and the costs are met by the generosity of our many donors. Please consider becoming one. DONATE