Stories from the field: Bhim Bahadur Gurung
At our event, “A Night for Nepal” you were given a glimpse of several stories of the lives of villagers in Archale, Nepal where Shining Three Star Academy is. Saprinu volunteers, Biswas and Basanta interviewed these people, translated them into English, and produced these stories. Over the next few weeks, months, and hopefully years we intend to follow students and their families continuing to tell their story. These stories may be heartbreaking, but reality often is. Through the work of Saprinu and its supporters we hope to see a shift from hopelessness, to one of hope and prosperity. It is not just about education, it is about creating a sustainable community by which education is only the beginning.
This is the next story of villagers in Archale, Nepal and it belongs to Bhim Bahadur Gurung, age 33
I have a wife, mother and three children in my family. I work as a carpenter to support my family. Three-quarters of my income comes from my carpenter shop and rest from farming. I keep cattle for dairy and rear some cattle for meat. I was in Qatar to earn money, and stayed there for 3 years. Although I used to work as a carpenter, my salary was very low, only about Rs. 10,000 per month (about US$ 120). I had no other option but to stay there for the contract period of three years, as I had taken a loan to pay the agent fees. Out of these three years, I just managed to pay back my loan and when I returned I had nothing left with me. Since last two years, I decided to be self-employed and never migrate anywhere for work. I invested some money to open my own carpenter shop. I make household furniture for villages around. My life here is happier than when I was abroad. I can stay with my family and kids; eat what my wife cooks. I even earn more here than I used to make abroad. The life abroad was very difficult and stressful. You never get to see your family; you work continuously without rest for eighteen or more hours daily and in the end make very little money. In my view, if we all work as hard in our village as we do abroad, we will earn double of what we earn abroad.
My wife Anita is twenty nine years old and is mostly busy with looking after the cattle and doing household chores. She also helps me with my work. She has learned a lot while helping me. My elder daughter Arpana is eleven and studies in grade three and my son Anil is seven years old and studies in lower kindergarten at Shining Three Star Academy. The youngest daughter is only a few months old. My children are much interested in studies and I have found that this school has changed their personalities. My daughter dreams of becoming a teacher.
I could only study up to class 5 and could not continue my education because of my father’s death. He was the sole breadwinner, and after his death, I had to take all the responsibilities of the house. Even my wife has not studied at all; she is just literate enough to read a few words.
I have learned the skills of pleasing the customers and would be happy to expand my business. I plan to employ a few people and expand my business. But it’s very difficult to find skilled people in the village. Some are afraid of learning new skills and some have never thought of anything else than moving abroad for work. Even when I tell them about the difficulties of working abroad, where you make less money, the work is dangerous, the working hours are long and without rest, they don’t believe me, or they are bent on going abroad. I have seen many people die abroad. Their families are destroyed when they lose the sole breadwinner of the family. But I feel that young people here are either insecure about themselves or are not interested in learning new skills. I feel sad that they do not believe in the things they see and are easily duped by the migration agents. But when they go abroad and face the harsh reality, they cry to their families to return. By then, it is too late, and they have no choice but to work for very little pay to repay back the loan they took to pay the agents. Having been abroad for many years and having faced difficulties, I realize that people are paid for their skills, nothing else. So, I urge all young people who aspire to migrate for work to learn necessary skills before going abroad for work. This not only gets them higher salary, but they would learn a lot and escape from harsh working conditions. People who aspire to migrate think that even if they earn less, it is better than earning anything here in village. But I have not lost my hope to inspire them to migrate only after gaining skills, and also learn skills and work here by generating their own work.
I think the villagers’ drinking habit is the biggest problem. They drink and waste their productive time. Making local alcohol wastes the grain which could otherwise have been used for food. Also, drinking has not made them any better. It’s neither good for the body nor good for the mind. I try to inspire other people in the village not to abuse themselves by drinking alcohol, and I think that it will take some time for the villagers to understand this. I will continue my endeavor to set an example in the village and inspire the youth towards making themselves and the village better.