Himalayan school project climbs past target

A FUND set up with the help of a Deeside doctor to help build a school and boarding hostel for children in Nepal has passed the £28,000 mark.

Dr Mike Steven, of Banchory Group Practice, became involved with the Helambu Project after visiting Nepal during the filming of BBC2's Extreme Dreams, with TV presenter and adventurer, Ben Fogle in 2007.

This week alone, Banchory Primary School have handed over a cheque for more than 1,000 and Aberdeen drilling company Transocean was also due to present Dr Mike with a 600 cash boost to the fund, raised through donations and a Christmas raffle at the firm.

Lynn Service, depute headteacher at Banchory Primary School, said the children had raised some of the cash through sales of a calendar they had created, featuring self-portraits.

"The total raised by the calendars was 794," she said. "We also have 225 from the PTA raised by our secret Christmas room.

"At Christmas, all the children brought in gifts and it was all put into a grotto. Each child then paid 1 and they could pick something as a present for mum, dad, granny or whoever, and members of the PTA wrapped them up for the children to take home. The PTA wanted this bit of money to go towards supporting the Helambu Project."

A total of 400 calendars were produced - 350 of which were sold by the school and 50 at Banchory surgery. The school raised 594 and the surgery raised the further 200.

"Dr Steven said he was delighted with what the school had done," said Ms Service. "The money will go towards financing materials for the school, as well as jackets and hats for the workers who are building it.

"Last year we paid for seven yaks for the school and four have now been named. The first is Rosie - after our headteacher - and the others are Napkin, Hamish and Winston.

"We'd like to continue to support the Helambu Project by giving enough money through our fundraising each year to fund a teacher. We'd like to commit to that - that Banchory Primary will fund a teacher.

"We've done a lot this year but each year we'd like to raise at least the 500 required to pay a teacher's salary for a year.

"I'd like to thank the community and parents for supporting this very worthwhile venture."

The school's next fundraising venture will see pupils making bookmarks for World Book Day on March 6. Money raised by the enterprise will go towards the Helambu Project.

Dr Steven, who is planning to revisit Nepal towards the end of the year with his doctor wife Val, said the school building work in Nepal was gaining momentum.

"At the school, the walls are all up and windows are going in," he said. "Around 300 porters will be carrying all the roofing/windows in the next week or two.

"Because the fund is now over 28,000, it means we have salary for teachers and extra funds for solar panels. Some of the kids at boarding school in Kathmandu who are near the end of their schooling will continue to be funded rather than start fresh in the new school - so that will need funds.

"I would particularly like to thank Lynn Service. She approached me last year and this has now resulted in over 1,800 being raised by the pupils/parents and she's personally put a lot of time and energy into this."

To donate to the Helambu Project, send a cheque made payable to 'Helambu Project' to the Bank of Scotland, 70 High Street, Banchory, AB31 5SS. Cash can also be handed in directly to Banchory Group Practice, Bellfield, Banchory, AB31 5XS, marked FAO Mike Steven.