Sunday, June 30, 2013

Room to Read School Visit in Nepal

My fundraising work for Room to Read culminated in a school site visit in the wonderful country of Nepal last week. I am proud to report that the organization I have been independently working for and supporting is just as amazing as I have thought (and even more so now that I have had the chance to learn more about them in the country their work started in)! My sister, Mollie, and I had already been traveling in Nepal for almost a month and seeing all of the great aspects of Nepal while also seeing the reasons why Room to Read’s presence is so needed there.
We met Rishi, a writer and photographer for Room to Read Nepal, at their office in Kathmandu and were soon off in a jeep to a school about an hour from the city. Rishi was awesome and answered all of our questions as we drilled him about Room to Read’s work in Nepal, its monitoring process, and actual effectiveness. As we steadily drove up into the hills, I could see how much of a challenge getting to school could be for kids living only an hour from Kathmandu. Their homes and school were set in a beautiful, but remote, setting and some of the students walk up to 2 hours to get to school.

Mollie and I both expected to just peak in at a school in session and were not ready for the overwhelmingly beautiful welcome we received. All of the students (ages 4 to 12) were lined up to “Namaste” us and give us bouquets of flowers or put garlands around our necks. We were overjoyed!
We then met with the principle, librarian, and teachers who were clearly proud of their school and excited to show us their work. The school was established in 1985 (without Room to Read), but they were lacking teaching materials and sought out Room to Read’s assistance. Room to Read established a library program at the school last year and now each classroom has its own corner library, stocked with Room to Read published books in Nepalese, to put the books at the students’ fingertips. In addition, they provide teacher and librarian training to help teachers teach in a more engaging and interactive way instead of lecturing to these small children the way the government traditionally trains them to.

We were led into the bigger classroom that all the students were gathered in to display their literary talents and welcome us with a song. Each Friday, they have library activities and they gave us an example of what these activities included. Children recited poems they had memorized, stories and essays they had written, and one girl listed off over 40 book titles and authors that she had read that semester! All of the students came from farming families who were in a lower caste and their stories and poems reflected on tragic, yet common, problems in their lives, such as poverty and kids being tricked into sex trafficking. However, they all focused on the difference an education can make and their gratefulness for the resources Room to Read helped provide by working with their community.

On our way back to Kathmandu with Rishi, he explained the importance of partnering with the government and communities instead of simply going in and building a school. Room to Read Nepal is constantly lobbying the government to use Room to Read’s educational model by showing the government the results from their research and monitoring (Room to Read actively works with a school for 3 years and then phases out so the school becomes self sufficient-allowing Room to Read to focus on more projects. 98% of the schools that they phased out of are still going strong). Their goal is not to have Room to Read schools and libraries all over the country, but to raise the standards of education in the country and give the government an effective model to use.

Mollie and I left Rishi incredibly pleased with Room to Read as an organization and were so grateful to have been able to see their work first hand. Of the countries I traveled in, Nepal has the greatest need and I am happy to put the funds I have raised to Room to Read Nepal. Please support my work and passion by investing in global literacy and help me establish a library (books, learning games, furniture, and librarian training included) in Nepal!