Nepal, in spite of its natural beauty, remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Nepal’s economy is largely based upon agriculture and tourism with 90% of its 20 million population engaged in subsistence farming. Sadly, the country’s national average annual income is below £130 with many existing on less than £2 per month . In the capital, Kathmandu, there is a massive gulf between the rich and poor as many more people migrate to the capital in search of work.
The government of Nepal struggles to provide even a basic education system for their children. 60% of the population is illiterate and there is a critical shortage of school teachers. Only half of the existing teachers actually have a formal training. Many parents choose not to educate their children because of the cost of tuition fees, uniforms and books. Instead these children often remain at home helping with washing, cooking or caring for their siblings. As a consequence they remain trapped in poverty.
In Nepal education is clearly one of the only ways children can escape a life of poverty. It gives them an opportunity to seek employment beyond subsistence farming, giving them and their families a better quality of life. And there are still other schools in the region which desperately need help.
Over the past 15 years Birkdale School under the guidance of Mr Brook and Mr Kenyon, has been running trips to Nepal helping in several poor schools on the edge of the Kathmandu plateau. As part of this work Birkdale built a school in Kokhana called The Peace Garden School, aiming to improve the lives of very poor children. About 10 minutes walk from Kokhana is a leprosy colony with about 500 families living there – Birkdale now provides them with health and education.
For the past 12 years Birkdale has also been supporting 9 orphaned children in Nepal by paying for their education, food and accommodation. On Saturday 25 April 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. It severely shook the lives of at least 8m people and left many homeless. Nepal’s major cities, including the capital Kathmandu were badly damaged and rural areas near the epicentre were completely cut off by avalanches. A second equally severe earthquake struck just over two weeks later adding even more to their misery.
Since then, the Birkdale community has worked hard to raise funds to help with the relief effort. The money raised so far has been used in many ways, including re-building the school to ensure the children can continue with their education. The Civil Engineering Department of the University of Sheffield and the Humble Smile Foundation, are partnering Birkdale in these efforts in 2016.