Eye Witness: An update from HVP Balkumari
Summer Volunteers from Cambridge University Zoe Maple and Max Khor report from Kathmandu.
During our placements as volunteer teachers at the HVP-Nepal school in Balkumari, Lalitpur, we have experienced a very friendly, welcoming environment where students are generally enthusiastic and eager to learn. A valuable cultural exchange has taken place between all of us, and we hope that we have been able to make positive contributions in the classroom by encouraging students to challenge themselves and apply their knowledge in different ways, as well as helping both staff and students to develop their English language skills.
We have been very much touched with the philosophy of the school, which has students from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and unprivileged communities. Despite minimal resources and financial constraints, it provides free education to those students who are orphans, from poor families, or living in remote areas. Above all, the beauty of the school environment is that, despite being such a diverse cohort of students, they are still like members of the same family.
The construction of the new school building - to replace the one which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake - commenced at the beginning of this year, and its foundation work has thus far been carried out very smoothly. The structure of the fourth floor has just been completed, leaving only the fifth and final floor to be built. Measures have been taken in the government-designing of this new building to make it earthquake-resistant. To maintain the quality of the construction, day-to-day work is being closely supervised by a consultant engineer.
There is a great need for this new building, as the single building which the school currently has does not provide enough room for its existing students, especially those in the kindergarten. Furthermore, the government has recently passed legislation making it mandatory that schools also teach students for an additional two years beyond tenth grade (the equivalent of sixth form in the UK), so extra space will also be needed at the HVP school to enable that to happen.
Both staff and students are very excited to see this development of a new building, as it means they will regain facilities which were lost due to the earthquake, such as their library, and the outdoor play area where the children used to be able to play football and other sports (they have sadly had to make do with their small courtyard in the intervening time). There will also be a new open space on the building’s ground floor for children to play inside, and a large hall on the top floor where educational or extracurricular programmes can take place.
The HVP school has managed to undertake all the construction so far using the money it has collected since the 2015 earthquake. This long awaited but most urgent work has been reliant on the kind donations of volunteers, the majority of those being friends in the UK. One former student, for example, recently came to revisit the school with his wife, and was so impressed with the work that is being done that he personally donated five-hundred-thousand rupees (£3,500) to the cause. Additionally, the school has received a donation of 2 million rupees (nearly £14,000) from Lalitpur Metropolitan City – the first time the school has ever received government funding. We take this as an encouraging sign that the government sees that the HVP school is doing very important work, a fact that we, as volunteers, can attest to.
But there is so much more to be done; the framework of the building will soon be complete, but the school is still in urgent need of funds for the new building’s furnishing, plumbing, décor and so on. This is why the senior members of staff feel it is important to make a visit to the UK in order to make new connections and raise further awareness and donations. The plan is to complete 16 new classrooms, each of which is estimated to require £3,500.
We believe this project is such an important one in terms of providing the school with the facilities and resources it needs to give such bright, enthusiastic children the quality of education they deserve. It has been so touching to see the amazing work that is done at this school and we would love to see it continue to flourish, and for the students to acquire even brighter prospects for their futures. The HVP school has two more branches: one in Thali, Kathmandu and the other in Gorahi, Dang. Any contributions from well-wishers and friends in the UK will be gratefully received by HVP-Nepal UK, and Gift Aid can be added where applicable to make your donation worth 20% more to the schools.
Please give generously if you can!