|Orlando Bloom greets a young child on his visit to a village in Nepal.|
By Rupa Joshi
KASKI AND CHITWAN DISTRICTS, Nepal, 10 January 2008 – Another Hollywood movie star might have felt strange in a remote and impoverished area of Nepal, but actor Orlando Bloom seemed perfectly at ease.
A recent UNICEF-supported visit to Nepal took Mr. Bloom on a four-day journey to various programme sites in the western districts of Kaski and Chitwan.
Accompanying Mr. Bloom on the trip were UNICEF South Asia Regional Director Dan Toole and UNICEF Representative in Nepal Gillian Mellsop. Besides touring UNICEF programmes, he visited Chitwan National Park and Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
|Women in Kalika village welcomed Mr. Bloom by smearing his forehead with red ‘tika’ and putting garlands of flowers around his neck.|
A village shares success stories
In Kalika village, Mr. Bloom’s forehead was smeared red with the ‘tika’ with which local women had welcomed him, and he wore garlands of flowers they had given him upon his arrival with the guests from UNICEF.
“There was a time when we could not walk alone on that hillside, where the villagers used to throw their dead babies,” one resident told the visitors. “They said their spirits used to haunt the hills. Not any more. Over the years, with improved health, there are no dead babies being thrown over the ridge and no more spirits wandering these hillsides.”
“Look at the comparative indicators of the last six years,” added village facilitator Chali Subedi. “Things have taken a turn for the better since the men and women got organized.”
Ms. Subedi directed the guests’ attention to a chart on the wall of a village home. “Six years ago only 84 per cent of school-going-age children were enrolled in schools,” he said. “Now every boy and girl goes to school. Previously only 25 per cent of the households were taking iodized salt [to prevent iodine deficiency disorders]. The figure now has increased to 38 per cent. Similarly women's workload has decreased from 17 hours per day to 14 hours a day.”
|Mr. Bloom visited a school in the Himalayas, where he got involved in a friendly battle of balloons and bubbles.|
‘Talk about your problems’
The members of a children’s club at a local school in the hills of Pumdi Bhumdi had a different success story to narrate to Mr. Bloom. As the children explained, they have been instrumental in promoting safe hygiene and sanitation practices in their village.
In Pokhara, Mr. Bloom mingled with over three dozen blind girls and boys. He also played a small role in a mini-drama the children were recording that day for the UNICEF-supported radio programme ‘Saathi Sanga Manka Kura’ (Chatting with My Best Friend).
The drama dealt with the plight of girls in a hostel without a female warden. Mr. Bloom played the role of a guest who tries to offer the girls advice. “Talk about your problems,” he said, consulting the script provided by the children. “There’s no need to feel shy. It’s always good to talk about issues that concern you.”
Later, sitting cross-legged in the yard with children surrounding him, Mr. Bloom learned more about their studies, their ambitions and their world. “I may be disabled, and might need assistance from others for everything I do,” 10th-grader Sujan Dhakal told him. “Yet the world I see for myself is one where I can be of assistance to others and work for the betterment of my society and my country.”