A Nepalese boarding school set up with the help of generous Deeside folk is set to become self-sufficient by March this year.
Many local people have raised funds or donated to the Helambu Project, set up by Banchory GP, Dr Mike Steven. He was inspired to act after witnessing the tough living conditions endured by locals when trekking through the Sindhuplachok district of Helambu as team doctor on BBC2s Extreme Dreams in the summer of 2007.
He said: “The project, which is now entering its fourth year, continues to support the education and health of this Himalayan community which has seen a transformation over the last few years.
“Highlights have included the construction of Gangkharka boarding school and health work, such as camps and first-aid treks. In 2011, over 20 volunteers travelled to work alongside the community as teachers, gardeners, builders and medics.”
The last year has seen the development of new links with other groups in the outlying areas, with volunteers working at monasteries, nunneries and other small schools.
“When I returned to Gangkharka boarding school in April, I was astonished at how the children had advanced in such a short time,” said Dr Steven. “They can now read and write and nearly all can both speak and write in another (English) language. This was all too evident in the penpal letters I brought back for the Banchory Primary School pupils, which were beautifully written.
“The school has brought together of large group of children whom would otherwise have lived in relative isolation in their small, remote Himalayan villages.
“The school leaves plenty of time for having fun together, playing games and sports such as badminton and football. I did try and introduce rugby but they grew frustrated with the ball bouncing off down the steep slopes of the mountain!”
Although they have yet to set-up a more permanent medical post to serve the community, health camps helped identify chronic illness and some have been able to travel to Kathmandu for more expert care. School staff have become more self-sufficient after being taught first aid and receiving instruction on how best to treat common childhood illnesses.
“Our paramedic volunteer spent several weeks touring the villages running first aid classes with the villagers,” said Dr Steven. “This became all too relevant during the earthquake in September, which saw 16 people killed and damaged the building of one of our branch schools.”
Helambu Project agreed with the community that it would help support the Gangkharka school during the first three years, whilst it established itself. Earlier this year, on its second birthday, the school became successful in applying for government support and should become self-sufficient by March.
“Whilst we will continue to support the school, we hope to consolidate our new relationships with outlying facilities and in January, the nunnery will receive a delivery of new whiteboards and school furniture,” said Dr Steven. “The Helambu Project was born in Deeside and none of what’s happened in Nepal would have been possible without the initial groundswell of support from our community. On behalf of the people of Helambu, I’d like to thank the Piper readership for its continued generosity and kindness.”