It was in October 2016 that we first set foot on Nepali soil. We had gotten information that there was a small town in the south of the country called Haripur, where the situation was abysmal. Illiterate parents, no education whatsoever for the children, not to mention the total lack of hygiene and the hunger these people had to suffer. To add insult to injury, these people were Dalits, the lowest of the low, drop-outs of the caste system. The information we got beforehand did not even come close to what we found out there. We had a job to do. Foundation 2 of the 52 had to be formed.
See photo report at the bottom of the page!
5 years later, we have achieved an awful lot
From that day onwards we focused on planting a seed and continuing to water, reap and sow it together with the local community. So we set out to invest in education, growing local produce and drastically improve hygiene. 5 years later, we have achieved an awful lot. Besides financing a primary school, last year we managed to open a nursery, hired qualified teachers and invested in school materials. Also there are solar panels so the kids do not have to take their evening classes in a room lit by poisonous kerosine fuel. Besides that we invested in several water pumps to fulfill that prime need: Clean drinking water. And how wonderful is it to provide all these kids with a daily meal. Besides that, we have made several small improvements that really matter for the local community. Think about fences, washing basins, water tanks, Covid-prevention materials etc. With the help of our social worker Arbind Chaudhary we took some big steps.
Finally we are allowed to travel again
November 2021: Finally we, Rob, Wijtze and Marsha, are allowed to travel again (for as long as Covid allows us to). A trip which was dedicated to setting up new projects, monitoring ongoing projects, catching up with local contacts and , most importantly and rewarding, embracing our kids and being able to look them in the eyes again. Eyes which are now bright and optimistic; completely different to the dull, lifeless eyes from 2016. For us a thermometer which shows a very positive movement.
After arriving in Kathmandu, we flew straight to Pokhara. As mentioned above, keeping in touch with local friends and acquintances is important to us. In Pokhara there is the Aamaghar school. This school is a great inspiration for us and is supported by Dutch foundation Light of Life. Head mistress of this school is Minu Pariyar. She is incredibly involved with our schools and plans and she helped us out several times in the past. She is also Dalit and knows better than anyone how difficult it is to be an outcast. We had an online meeting with her because she was at home because of a Corona infection. Her teachers made us very welcome though and told us lots about the Nepali education system. They will also be teaching our teachers online. Besides that, we had a lot of fun with their students, especially when we served them cakes. They were literally licking their plates.
Haripur: we feel connected to this place
The next day we had a 200 km drive to Haripur. In Netherlands we frequently complain about speed limits, roadworks and traffic jams, but usually a distance like that will be covered in 2-2,5 hrs. Well, not in Nepal. No motorways, hardly any tarmac roads and, especially around Pokhara, dirt roads with potholes the size of a small family car. It took us 10 hours along bumpy roads and our backs reminded us of the fact that we were not 25 years old anymore.
Haripur: A completely different world to Pokhara. Where Pokhara thrives on tourism, Haripur thrives on nothing at all. But it is our new home, we feel connected to this place. We were welcomed by the Chaudhary family and Arbind introduced us to Gunjan Luitel. More about this wonderful lady later. We discussed the program for the next few days. On Tuesday we visited several locations that might be suitable for our third school, a secondary school which would allow the students from our Indrapur primary school to continu to study further, preventing them from ending up in the paddy fields or the local brick factory. This is no exaggeration, this really is what is happening to the Dalit kids at the moment. What a waste of 8 years of education and what a crying shame for these young promising kids.
After finding a very good location we visited local government official Hari Thapa, responsible for one of Haripurs 9 wards and responsible for education. As Tapa showed serious interest and involvement in our previous plans , we presented him with our plans and budget and we got the green light to renovate and expand a building at the Shree Sharwan Janta school , right in the centre of Haripurs 9 wards. A fantastic result as this was the main purpose of our visit.
An emotional reunion
In the afternoon we finally got to visit our nursery and the Indrapur Primary school, where it all started . Seeing, hugging, looking our kids in the eyes. It had been two long years ! We brought lovely little bracelets for them al land treated them to a Dutch delicacy, stroopwafels. We also saw the nursery for the first time , a project which we managed to finalise in May 2021. It looked fabulous. Lovely tables an little chairs, educational posters on the walls, a beamer, plenty of toys and educational materials. We are really grateful to many contributors , especially Hahnel Industries and Koopman Transport, who helped to make this possible.
Hovels not worth the name home
After that inspiring visit we drove to a massive site with several chimnies, fields full of bricks and some of the worst shelters we have ever seen in our lives. Welcome to the Brick factory, enter Gunjan Luitel.
Gunjan is a 24-year old Montessori teacher with a Dalit background. Because of this background she is not able to get paid employment. Out of charity and love for the kids she has been teaching 24 Dalit kids from Haripurs poorest area, Little Africa, in a small community building at the site of the brick area. She calls her little school Edukick. Education combined with kicking footballs, because besides regular teaching she also stimulates the kids to play football and other sports. After brief consideration, we decided, regardless of our current budget, that we would hire her, provide her with a laptop and facilitate that tiny school with some furniture and books. Besides that, together with the great Chaudhary family, we will also provide lunch several days a week. This young lady is so amazing that we will do everything within our power to make her project succeed and keep the kids, some as young as 4 years old, away from that awful brick factory.
Taking education in our schools to the next level
In the evening we had a meeting with Raju Pariyar from the Everest Academy. A friend from 2 years ago who is helping the Indrapur school with regular support and advice. Raju brought along Kamal Silwal, an education advisor with truly inspiring insights about how to improve the level of teaching (by starting at home, making parents think about how they can support their kids). Both gentlemen had good ideas about bringing Indrapur and the nursery to a higher level and we look forward to benefitting from their knowledge and support. As already agreed with Raju , in exchange we were going to do a presentation about Netherlands, our school system and our organisation 2 van de 52 for the elder students at the Everest Academy and Oxford Academy in Lalbandi the day after.