The young children in Batase Village, where most of our volunteers are sent, are not as brand aware as their western counterparts. They’ve never heard of ecco boots and they couldn’t tell Tommy Hilfiger from Calvin Klein. Abercrombie is nothing more than a long word on a sweater that keeps them warm at night. Many of these children struggle to read their own language, having only sporadic schooling, and English is something they only encounter when volunteers arrive at the village.
That doesn’t mean brand names are not to be found in the village. Thanks to the work of the FHC charity, many of the children wear clothing donated by westerners. Every year or so, a new batch of bright, colourful jackets and sweaters arrives from Cairns—donated by schoolchildren, charity members, and strangers who just wanted to help. When these deliveries turn up, it’s like Christmas come early for the kids.
Life can be hard for young children in small villages in Nepal. They rise early in the morning, tend to livestock and animals during the day, and the older girls often work in the fields alongside their mothers. School is a welcome break from the work of the village—now more than before in Batase, as the school has grown greatly over the past few years, opening up new opportunities for the children.
When those shipments arrive from Australia, boxes are torn open by eager hands, and it’s the colour that draws their attention, not the brand names. A bright red or yellow jacket becomes a prized possession, especially if it’s the only such jacket in the village. In this respect, the kids of the village are similar to kids in the west. They want to be a little different, to stand out from the other kids, and the best way to do that is through colourful clothing.
The picture above perfectly illustrates the diversity in clothing amongst the children. There’s the more traditional dress of the girl in the centre right, topped off by a hoody that would not be out of place on the streets of London or Sydney; the fashionable jeans worn by the young girl to the left, a little dated by the standards of western fashion, but as they’re unaware of current fashion trends in the village, a perfect, colourful pair of jeans. The bright pink and lilac worn by the girl on the right is not a combination you would ever see in an Australian town, but somehow it seems to fit up here in the Himalayas.
Clothing may seem like such a small thing in the face of all the problems these children face — lack of adequate schooling, low prospects for the future, health issues — but it’s one of the first things many volunteers notice and comment upon when they arrive in the village. The mismatch of east and west is a perfect visual symbol of their interaction with the wider world outside the village.
If you’re visiting Batase or volunteering with Take on Nepal and want to make an impression on the children of the village, don’t dress like a fashionable westerner. Break out the colours and you’ll fit right in.
[The youngest, and shortest, girl at the front of the picture, much as she tries to look like one of the locals, is in fact Tara, Som and Susan’s eldest daughter, who regularly accompanies them from Cairns to the village.]
© Take on Nepal 2019