Arriving back in Nepal in June 2016, after eight long months away, I was finally here again revisiting Baluwapati. My heart was warmed to be reacquainted with the familiar faces from last year’s project; building a house for Monisa and her family after the earthquakes of 2015; where I also reached out;- promising Monisa a good education for life.
My return was primarily focused on checking her education was going well over the last year since we put her in school. I was in constant contact over the eight months I was away, it means so much more being here again seeing the progress and looking over her work. It makes me very emotional as I am very proud of how she has started; she is doing so well. The school years run over the year from April to April, after six months of school she had been successful enough to go up to the LKG year, where she is now only two years behind her age. The year has not gone without its problems but the progress made so far fills me with optimism. When leaving I knew the situation was brittle, but with contact and support from dear friends here, it is working. I also felt my return at this point was very necessary.
The biggest problem facing the situation was her attendance. Monisa was starting to fall behind a little due to missing too many days from school. This was becoming too regular over the month before I arrived back. It was concerning that her father had not fully come to terms with the change, still not yet understanding the importance of an education. Another problem was homework, due to her family not understanding the need for it. Monisa wasn’t getting time at home to really focus on her studies. Any other issues seemed normal for a child her age in a new school that has had to adjust to the surroundings and make friends for the first time.
Ram, her father, was working more which was encouraging, but sometimes taking her to watch him work causing her to miss a full day of school. As an uneducated man he is generally doing hard labour for whatever’s available on about 600 rupees (six USD) a day.
Speaking to my very good friend Ramesh (who I stay with in the village) helped me find a solution to this problem. Ramesh had very warm feelings and thought he could help. As he said in his own words;
“My wife and I never had a daughter, and we have become fond of Monisa; so would love to help with this problem. Maybe we can do breakfast here, care for her uniform and send her to school in the mornings. After school, she can come here to get changed and do her homework before going home.”.
These words were the encouragement I needed. What beautiful friends of ours!
I was also hoping for Monisa to establish a relationship with a trusted older woman in the village, someone to talk to and feel comfortable with as she grows up. Without a mother, Monisa will need to learn life skills about hygiene and eventually body changes in years to come. It is so important for her to trust an elder woman with open conversation, which is only a good thing if the relationship starts now, that if they really feel up to it, I would love for them all to be her trusted confidants in the village. Ramesh’s wife agreed, saying she could take on some of these responsibilities.
To keep myself busy in the village while visiting, I was already sorting out Monisa’s house with a good quality toilet and wash room facility. I also offered to build Ramesh and his wife a wash room with a shower facility to help with the new situation. I was feeling a lot more confident moving forward and facing the issues we had with my sponsorship of this amazing girl. Ramesh has always been beside me on other problem solving missions in the village. He helped when he could, and is indeed a great friend of mine. So off to work we went, building these facilities together with our other dear friend Sukram, a local carpenter.
On my visits to the Budland School, it was apparent that they were still in dire need of certain facilities. Dolma, the school Principal approached me one day while walking to school with Monisa. She was a little nervous to be asking, as she knew I was already helping with toilets and wash rooms in the village. Dolma said there was no money available at the moment and they are still very much in need of toilets. It’s becoming a hygiene problem with sixty three children having no where to go about their business. Obviously with me sponsoring a child in the school, this meant a lot to me, and my heart felt for the situation. I said I would speak to Sukram and see what we could arrange together. I asked what their situation was about rebuilding the school again and her face seemed troubled. She said she was not so optimistic of it happening in the near future. Sukram was very keen and generous with his time to help and extremely fair with his cost and his skills, so it wasn’t long before we started work on three new toilets for the school with what we could afford without donations.
Purna and Santa, two Directors of Budland were more than happy to help build the toilet which made the job much faster. With Purna being able to supply the amount of wood needed for the toilet frame, Santa was very skilled and fast with the concreting of the toilet floors. Seeing them so passionate to help, and through conversation with them whilst working, I grew more concerned about the School’s situation, and indeed, about its very survival.
I strongly believe in the school and the service the school is providing. The development I had seen in Monisa in a very short time led me to ask if we could have a meeting with all of the school Directors and the Principal present also.
Over a couple months we met several times and spoke openly back and forth about what is needed to move forward. I also spoke to the local authorities and the VDC government office, who said they would also support me with helping the people of the village.
After finishing the toilets, with hygiene on my mind, when visiting with my friend Gaeton, we realised that the children of the village had seriously unsatisfactory oral health. He had inspired me to do an oral health class for the school, to teach the children about why and how to brush their teeth, something I had already been doing with Monisa. My friend Gaeton had been doing these classes in other regions of Nepal and had just come back from Agra. We bought seventy tubes of toothpaste with free toothbrushes for pretty small change. Soon, I headed back to the village alone to co-ordinate the class with the teachers. It seemed a great success!
As the dialogue continued with the school directors, I made it very clear that I wanted to help them. I mentioned that it would be beneficial for a scholarship program to be implemented in order to help the other children that are not in school, who may have family problems and would excel more in a school with smaller class sizes. I expressed the need to look for the most under privileged children every year, the most extreme cases where we can really make a difference together.
We invited the landowner to the meetings, who also agreed to sign a contract that secures the longevity of the school for a minimum of one hundred years, to protect the donations. With the school committing to the scholarships it started to feel like a worthwhile project. With no further delay I spoke to a lawyer as quick as possible, to draw up a legal contract between us all to create a strong foundation for the project. I got the contract approved by my contact in the VDC government office before finally we all signed it together.
The project was born!
Next we will need to speak to an architect and work on a design, along with a more accurate costing, so as to get an approval to build an earthquake resistant design.
I feel we can start the fund raising now, whilst also asking as many people as possible to be a part of it by donating. For anybody that would like to be a part of this project and be involved in the many activities, please get in touch with us. All information will be published on the website as soon as it is available.