Hello there! My name is Emma and I’m a young teacher in Melbourne who has been connected with EDUC-Nepal school in Kathmandu for over five years. EDUC (Education and Development of the Underprivileged Children) provides a free education for kids from the Basundhara slums and is a grassroots NGO, founded and run by a family of local teachers. It’s a small school that transforms lives through education. I had the great fortune of linking up with Karen and Chris (founders of Vevoke and Hello Sunday) last year, and they are now part of our incredible story. Let me take you back to the beginning…
I first visited Nepal in 2014 to do some voluntary media work, and wrote an article about the school. EDUC provides children from underprivileged homes with access to an education. You see, in Nepal even government schools come with fees. The adult literacy rate in Nepal is approximately 57%. The literacy rate for men is 72% and for women it’s about 45%. Approximately 51% of females in rural areas have never attended school.
After writing the article, I offered to help out further and ended up teaching full time for three weeks to replace a sick teacher. I quickly fell in love with the school and its founders: Keshari (Principal), her sister Beena and brother Bishnu. They are now my adopted Nepali family and I’ve been part of EDUC ever since. The school is funded by local family and friends, with a small amount coming from the government.
Rebuilding after the earthquake
The devastating earthquakes of 2015 rocked Nepal and our little school was damaged beyond repair. Keshari (my Nepalese ‘Ama’ or Mum) contacted me and asked me to come back to Nepal to help relocate families and bring aid relief. It was a harrowing time and the widespread scale of loss and destruction was confronting. While I was over there, Ama Keshari asked me to help them rebuild the school and I said I’d give it a go.
Despite being young, clueless and totally naïve, I set about my mission. It took two and a half years, support from friends and experts around the globe, lots of bonkers ideas and return trips to Kathmandu. Somehow, we managed to raise $30,000 and completely rebuilt the school. We had the opening ceremony for the new school in 2017 and I retrained at university as a teacher.
I fundamentally believe that education skills individuals to write their own futures, and it is one of the most effective means of disrupting the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Since EDUC started, 16 years ago, I know of at least five students who have gone on to study at university. One former student has just come back to work as a teacher at EDUC because the school, and accessing an education, transformed his life.
Hello Sunday sponsors five of our incredible kids at EDUC! Let’s meet them:
Sandesh is eight years old and is studying in EDUC’s Lower Kindergarten group. He loves playing games, being active and learning. His favourite activities are kicking balls and playing chasey with the other kids. Sandesh’s father is no longer around and his mother lives in the family’s home village, so he is looked after by his aunt in the Basundhara slums.
Susan is eight years old and is also studying in EDUC’s Lower Kindergarten group with Sandesh. He loves animals and food, especially dahl baht and sweet biscuits. Recently the school’s dog Snoopy gave birth to three puppies and he delighted in looking after them. Susan’s father (Suk) works as a driver and his mother (Sirjana) stays home.
Samina is three years old and is an energetic, bubbly and happy kid who loves having fun. She is part of EDUC’s playgroup and has made many friends at the school which she attends with her brother. Unfortunately, her father deserted the family, travelling overseas and ceasing all contact. Her mother works as a domestic helper to earn money for the family and adores her kids.
Abi is five years old and has started at EDUC in the Nursery group. He is a shy but curious child who loves exploring the growing book collection at school. His mother is very supportive of his learning, and often comes to spend time at EDUC too, but she cannot find employment at the moment. Abi’s father is a security guard in a small company and draws a small income to support the family.
Kritisha is six years old and is also studying in EDUC’s Lower Kindergarten group with Sandesh and Susan. She is a bright and loving child whose sister Karuna also attends EDUC. Kritisha adores learning and finding out new things. Her mother Shanta is a domestic helper and her father Krishna works long hours as a labourer.
Fair Trade Wrapping Paper
After finishing the school build, I wanted to provide ongoing, sustainable support to the school had an idea for an ethical business to sell fair trade wrapping paper in Australia and support EDUC. Mid-last year, Fair Wrap was born.
Hello Sunday supports Fair Wrap by providing us with access to beautiful wrapping paper made by women’s co-operatives in Nepal. I was lucky enough to visit a number of these co-operatives in Nepal and meet many of the individuals who are part of the production chain. The paper is made ethically using the bark of the lokta plant, and provides an income to many local women. We also stock incense handmade by women (teachers and mothers) at EDUC.
My friend Hanum came onboard after I shared my idea. In our first six months we covered our start-up costs through selling at local markets and made $800 profit. We took the proceeds over to Kathmandu in January this year bought paint to repaint and decorate the classrooms, bought fruit trees, veggie plants and flowers. We also bought a new stove (the kids receive a lunch meal each day), some lunch rations and stationery supplies for new students.
A friend donated some money after visiting us over there, so we also upgraded from blackboards and bought new whiteboards for all the classrooms.
Looking forward to the future
I’m so thankful for the support of Hello Sunday, they have supported Fair Wrap from the beginning and continue to support EDUC school. It means the world.
The best gift we can give an underprivileged child in Nepal is an education. Thank you for being part of our story and helping us have an extraordinary impact.
By Emma McDonald.
Instagram: @fairwrap and @educnepal