Over the summer holidays we visited Nepal and met members of SOCH, the Humanist Society of Nepal, and visited their school – Ambience International School. As a family we did a four day trek, through some of the mountain villages of the Annapurna region. A favourite memory is seeing the constellation Orion in the night sky. Venturing outside in the early morning hours, without light pollution, an upright Orion is a stunning vista. Another revelation was seeing the natural growth habit of the poinsettia. Here in NZ, I am accustomed to the poinsettia as a pot plant, making its appearance before Christmas. In Nepal, it is a tree with the brilliant red flowers hanging delicately from the ends of slender arching branches. Life is hard for the Nepalese people. There is a serious clean water shortage. The electricity supply is disrupted daily with load shedding – power is only available for 12 hours a day spread over several short periods. With no wind to blow smoke and traffic fumes away, pollution is high in the Kathmandu valley. But, cafes and restaurants sell refreshing freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade from fresh lemons. Delicious!

SOCH Nepal Humanist Society’s activities & Ambience International School, Kathmandu: Superstition and unsafe cultural practices still exist in Nepalese Society and SOCH has been assisting work on a Bill to be put before parliament on Improper Culture and Law. The Norwegian Humanist Society sponsored a Conference on this issue in January.  People are still accused in Nepal of being witches and treated horrendously. Last year a woman was accused of being a witch and force feed faeces. In 2012 SOCH purchased a school as they wish to provide an opportunity for students to receive a secular education. At present we are considering the possibility of providing some sponsorship for the school. A student may be sponsored at a cost of US$15/month. Options are being considered for sponsorship with the possibility of individual members sponsoring a child. If you are interested in this possibility please let us know. More details to follow.