I have been waiting years for this. I lived in Asia for 4.5 years and not only did I somehow miss visiting Nepal during that time, even worse was not seeing the school several friends and I donated in 2004 (completed in 2005) through Room to Read. This school and Room to Read overall were not only a game-changers for me in terms of philanthropy, but it eventually led to me meeting my fiancé Sonya in Sri Lanka! Still, I had somehow never been to see the school and a big reason for this whole trip was for me to finally check that box.
We met Arun (from Room to Read Nepal) at the RTR offices in Kathmandu and immediately drove for about 1.5 hours South toward Dhading. Eventually we pulled to the side of the road, grabbed our cameras and headed for the hills (literally). First step was crossing an amazing suspension bridge and then about 45 minutes of hiking in mud and rice fields up some steep hills to the school (glad we wore the boots). It was blisteringly hot and humid. I was a sweaty, muddy mess when I arrived but that was easily forgotten when I saw the reception.
Keep in mind that the school is closed right now because of the monsoon season, so theoretically there shouldn’t have been anyone around. What we saw however, was about 50 students (in uniform) and about 50 parents, teachers, and community officials all lined up to greet us. I have seen this before when visiting other RTR projects, but you can imagine the difference when a) it is your project, and b) you aren’t traveling with a big group that usually includes John Wood (RTR founder) and others donors. They did this just for us.
I could write for hours about the experience, but in order to save you the pain I will summarize below and let the photos do the talking (they are all posted in the photos section of the site):
- The school has five classrooms and a library. They want to expand to six so that Kindergarten and 1st grade don’t have to share a room.
- 140 students are enrolled here and it has been in operation since 2005. We even met a graduate who has gone on to another school (high school or Jr. High equivalent)
- The students put enough flowers around our necks that I could barely move, and that was only part of them (the rest wouldn’t fit). They also filled our hands with flowers and other offerings of thanks along with the customary red markings on our foreheads (which eventually were running down our faces with the sweat). It was overwhelming.
- We sat for about 30 minutes while the community leaders spoke to us, giving thanks for everything that has been done and telling us how important the school had been to their villages.
- We toured the school where they showed us each room with great pride and repeated how much better this was than the previous building, which had pretty much collapsed.
- Most of these students walk for miles through mud (often with no shoes) to get here every day, and they LOVE school. This is such a contrast to America and other developed countries where school is often a chore for kids.
- The children were very shy at first, but there’s nothing like a camera and especially video to get kids interested. By the time we left they were crawling all over both of us and having a great time.
- We took hundreds of photos and 70 videos – the highlights are posted in the photos section
Thanks to Dominic Carr, Donna Hindson, Oliver Roll, Claude Brown, and Annie Bacon who were the other donors, and to Room to Read (Stephanie and Arun in particular). More importantly, I want to call out my parents who provided me the education that made it possible to help these people with theirs. Amazing. Thank you.