How do you begin talking about Nepal? It’s not easy to put in to words because it’s probably one of those countries that you have to feel and experience rather than read about. We first went there in 2017 to volunteer as ‘teachers’ at a small school in a village near Pokhara. Some of you have heard our stories about how touched we have been by our experiences, by getting to know the children, sharing a small part of their daily lives, the laughs we had with them, their enthusiasm for learning and our emotional goodbyes. Nepal is a country that has suffered enormously over the years, both politically and through devastating natural disasters, especially the 2015 earthquake. Around 9000 people died and more than 20,000 were injured and 3 million people lost their homes, 9,300 schools were destroyed. As of January 2018 only 2,800 had been rebuilt to some extent, obviously disastrous to a country that is already suffering a lot of hardship, such as poverty, malnutrition, poor infrastructure and lack of hygiene, homes and schools. The efforts to rebuild lives have been slow and likely to continue for a long time still. Half the population live below the poverty line and only 54% enrolled into secondary education (2016). We have now seen this with our own eyes, the ‘sheds’ so many people still live in as they’ve not been able to rebuild their homes, and the temporary classrooms with just a corrugated roof as cover (and winters are cold in the mountains!), where children have to sit on the ground, some kids living so far away from the nearest school they have to leave their families in order to study (if they do at all). The region most affected is so huge and thousands of villages are inaccessible by road, it can take hours to walk to reach them, so just imagine how difficult it is to get materials for constructing houses up there.
After this first trip we felt completely overwhelmed by the openness and warmth of the people, we had never received such a welcome anywhere else where we had travelled before. We returned home from our short trip immediately feeling we wanted to do more to help. We had first got to know a small charity organisation called Nepal Alliance run by Krishna, who taught us a lot about how the government schools operate and what the problems with the system are, and we soon learnt that it is not all just financial, there are also many other gaps. Still, a government school only gets a few hundred $s per year as their budget. This is not even enough for uniforms or notepads and pencils, let alone footballs, books, lunch or computers! Realising this, how can you not want to help? So the following October we returned for some more teaching in Pokhara at the same school, and as we had been raising money we were able to buy school uniform jumpers, socks, hats and shoes for all the kids. $200 was spent on rice, lentils and oil for families in need in Sarangkot during the Dashain festival. £500 was donated to buy furniture for a school in the Helambu region that was badly affected by the earthquake and still desperately needed help… 3.5 years on and the damage done is impossible to miss, you see ruins of buildings everywhere, and so much help is still needed to rebuild homes and schools, that you almost feel helpless… but you’ve got to start somewhere. H.E.L.P. (Helambu Education Livelihood Partnership) arranged for us to visit the region, which is 70kms (6-7 hours by jeep) northeast of Kathmandu. They have been involved in supporting more than 3000 families in 32 villages since the earthquake, and have constructed 226 temporary learning centres across 45 schools, but there is still a huge need to improve structure and practicalities for schools, thereby providing opportunity and encouragement for the children in this remote region. We met the lovely kids and saw the amazing work that the H.E.L.P. has been doing in rebuilding and providing for the communities. When we got back we held a fundraising event in Islip (Oxford) and raised a further £1540 for H.E.L.P, which was used to buy uniforms for the 120 children at Shree Saraswoti School and Shree Kalika School at Baansbari. They also got some computers and a printer.
THANK you everybody who has contributed! Every $, £ and € will make a difference!
So, after our trip in October 2018 we felt just as touched and came back perhaps even more enthusiastic wanting to help. As tough as it can be living with creepy crawlies, sleeping on board hard beds, and practically only eating Dal bhat day in, day out, as well as dealing with many other cultural differences / challenges, you always leave wanting to return. Because of the warmth, the innocence, the kind hearts, the beauty of the nature. Just seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids, hearing the ‘namastes’ being shouted out from the schoolyard as we walk across the suspension bridge to the school. And because the needs, basic, simple needs in Nepal are endless. Things we take for granted…and it makes you realise, we have way too much ‘stuff’. To see a grandfather walking barefoot to school every day to pick up his grandson, knowing some kids have no parents or just one parent with no income, thinking about the winter coming and how cold it will be… once you have seen this, it’s impossible not to want to do something, share what you have. For example, for $400 Alliance Nepal were able to buy warm jumpers, hats, socks and proper shoes for every single child at the Shree Basic Janata school. It made us so happy to know they wouldn’t have to trek in flipflops in the winter (some do a 1.5hr trek each way, every day). We also bought tights for all the girls at the school in Sarangkot and a whole lot of toothbrushes. We had a clothes / shoes donation day with all sorts of useful things, including football shoes for every boy, and some girls. The happy faces will remain in our memories forever!
With our continued fundraising activities, through Alliance Nepal we have been able to buy more uniforms and shoes, as well as get furniture for a school near Dhampus, and how sweet is it that they put our names on the bench, but of course, this is not just from us, it’s thanks to YOU all, because of your generous donations they are able to make such a difference and help these children. Imagine how exciting it is to have school benches instead of sitting on the floor! And to have a new jumper and a new hat and proper shoes, or even your first school uniform! In March 2019 Alliance Nepal was approached by a government school in Pame, a small village just outside Pokhara, who desperately needed support, and we were asked if we wanted to help them with the basics, such as uniforms, exercise books and pencils. Of course, we were more than happy to, and have since bought both winter and summer uniforms, and materials, as well as held a health and dental camp for the attending 67 kids. Again, all that was only possible with the help of people who are able to give us a bit of money.
Our journey will continue, keep checking the update pages… please take a look at the pictures and videos, and thanks again for your ongoing support! Every penny counts, and every penny goes exclusively to where it’s needed (i.e. not towards admin, travel, fees, etc.). Whatever we are able to collect will mean so much, no amount is too little to make a difference. We, and they truly appreciate your support.
Thank you! Elina and Diane