Wish List for Nepal

Dear Friends,

When I first went to Nepal 14 years ago, I wandered into a small shop in Patan, near Kathmandu. The shop owner, Dash lal, and I had a lovely conversation that resulted in an ongoing friendship and exchange of letters. I decided to return to Nepal in December. I emailed Dash lal who immediately replied he would be delighted to take us on a trek (he had become a guide over the past 10 years). 
When we returned to Kathmandu after the mountain trek, Dash lal invited us to his home for dinner. Meeting his wife, three children, nephew, father, sister and niece and sharing a meal of dal bhat with them was the highlight of the trip.
That night, I woke up out of a sound sleep and knew with a deep conviction I was to somehow be of service to children in Nepal. The next morning Dash lal took us to the local government-run school. We were immediately surrounded by the children, in their neat blue school uniforms, smiling and staring at us and shyly saying "Hello" and "Namaste!" As I took their pictures they would laugh excitedly to see themselves on the camera. I knew this was where I wanted to help. Attached are two pictures of students from the school.

We met with the principal and the English teacher, TN Sharma. TN showed us the small library, which had several shelves of books, some in English—all the children learn English in school. The computer room consisted of five very old computers. In the winter months in Nepal, the electricity is on only 5 hours daily; so when the power comes on, they immediately send children to the computer room to practice their keyboard skills before the power cuts out again.

The Lalitbikash School includes nursery through grade 8. The school year started with more than 300 students but now there are 225 left—some had to move with their parents who do migrant work, some work in "party palaces" as waiters, helpers and cleaners, some work as domestic workers. The domestic workers don't get paid wages, just receive food and old clothes from their employers. TN said because they have to help support the family, they often don't have any time to study and subsequently stop coming to school. Some drop out because their parents can't afford to buy them the school uniforms or school supplies. Most of the students' parents work for carpet weaving and woolen knitting factories.

I have been in touch with Dash lal and TN since returning home in an effort to learn what would be most helpful to them. The Nepalis are so polite, it's been difficult to get anything other than "whatever way you can support us, it would please the children who are struggling to get an education; your kind support will open the doors to them for a brighter future." I explained the concept of a wish list and last week, was delighted to finally receive one:
Three computers   ($300 per computer)
Children's books in English 
School supplies: pens, pencils, notebooks 
225 uniforms of the student ($8 per uniform)
My thought is to collect the books and school supplies and send them to the school. The uniforms and computers would best be purchased there. Prior to sending this email, I have been telling people about Nepal and amazing things are already happening: a sixth grade class in Pawtucket is now connected with a similar class at Lalitbikash School. The new computers will facilitate their learning and ability to email between the two countries. I gave a presentation at the school this week for the children to learn about Nepal. They were enthusiastic and excited about being in touch with children on the other side of the world.

It was so clear from my time in Nepal that the key to helping the next generation is through education including learning English. The literacy rate in Nepal is 28% of females and 65% of males. Only one in four children reach 10th grade. I feel passionate about this project and know I am working with individuals who are dedicated to improving the situation for the children. TN, in addition to being a classroom teacher, is the chairperson of an organization that helps build school libraries throughout Nepal.

Years ago Dash lal took a Japanese visitor to see the school and served as liaison as he helped the school. TN explained to me: "Once Teruyuki Ohasi happened to visit the school as you did, seeing the children sitting under a small tin-roofed dark classroom his heart melted and he helped to construct school building which we have now." Dash lal has been consistently supportive and has made numerous trips to the school to get information each time I email with questions. He will take pictures for us to see what is being done with the donations. What I like about providing this type of help is that there are no administrative costs. Whatever I send will be spent on the computers or uniforms or whatever else one designates they would like to provide.

If what you've read calls to you, I'd love to hear your ideas on how you might like to help—whether it be connecting your child's classroom with one at Lalitbikash; or sending money for uniforms or a computer; or donating children's books you may have. I will see that they arrive safely at the school. I have already discussed involving the local Kathmandu Rotary group in facilitating getting the books and supplies through customs, through a friend who is in Rotary leadership here.

Please feel free to forward this email to your friends and family who might be interested. I've started a blog 
(http://namastelalitbikash.blogspot.com/) to keep everyone informed of our progress. If you want to go to Nepal or simply want to know more about the country, contact me; I'd be delighted to talk with you about any aspect of it. If you want to go on a trek, I will help you with that. Dash lal is a fabulous guide!

While I was looking up information on Nepal, I ran across this quotation from the Dalai Lama that perfectly speaks to why I'm committed to helping in this way.
The True Meaning of Life
We are visitors on this planet.
We are here for ninety or one hundred years
at the very most.
During that period,
we must try to do something good,
something useful with our lives.
If you contribute to other people's happiness,
you will find the true goal,
the true meaning of life.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I thank you from my heart for taking the time to read this lengthy email and look forward to hearing from you and sharing ideas on how to bring about change in this one small corner of the world.

With gratitude,