Ward 9 Pokhara, Nepal could have been the setting for Slumdog Millionnaire. The people of ward 9 are homeless squatters living in tin shanty homes on government owned land.
I couldn’t believe the story Govinda had just told me so I asked him to take me to Ward 9 so I could see for myself. There are sixteen daycare centers currently operated by the municipality but the one in Ward 9 was special since this was the ghetto. Govinda had told me its history and the story was just too compelling to ignore. In the past, these sixteen centers had been operated with support from UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund. UNICEF had created a lot of new jobs to give oversight to these centers but little in the way of funding had actually reached the centers. The one in Ward 9 had a low tin roof that turned it into a sauna during the hot monsoon season. Govinda says when he first went there the yard was full of feces since there was no toilet provided. The kids had no choice but to defecate outside. The story caused me to wonder if there was any place for the children in UNICEF.
That was the past. In the present, UNICEF is gone and the city, partnered with local NGO’s, has taken on the management of these centers. The children’s center in Ward 9 now has a roof that is three feet higher and some fans for increased ventilation. There’s also a toilet now. The inside has been brightly painted. Toys, games and chairs are available. It’s a far cry from the dank and dreary days under UNICEF. Locals are in charge and doing a great job.
The center still can’t afford to provide lunch for the children who stay there while their parents work but starting this week, lunch is provided by The Mountain Fund. For about $2.00 a day we are able to feed these children a hot lunch every day. I’m starting to like Ward 9 and people who scrape out a meager existence there.