Visiting the school

Almost exactly three years since the earthquake and I have had the privilege to return.
On April 20th 2018 I was able to visit the school. Here’s what happened…

About four hours into the drive on the morning of the visit, we turned a corner into a new valley and stopped. They pointed across to the other side and said “That’s where the school is”, second zig-zig up apparently. It looked close, but there was a huge valley to cross first.

And it’s a beautiful valley. So different to all the others we’d been through, very lush and green, with banana palm fronds growing naturally. 🍌🌴

And the river at the bottom is a beautiful blue; I found myself hoping that the children that go to the school sometimes get to go down to the river to play.

The road, inevitably, did get much worse and it took us two more hours to get across the valley!

I’m not sure how long they’d been waiting to welcome us, it was one of those “they’ll arrive when they arrive” kind of situations. But after gobbling some food at a neighbours house we finally made it.

They let me lead the way up to the entrance which had been decorated especially and the children were lined up carrying flowers, scarves and tikka (the red powder to put on your forehead) to adorn me as I walked through.Our group were ushered into the guest of honour seats with all our gifts. The ceremony began with a long list of introductions of absolutely everyone present, which included the local mayor. John, from The Gurkha Welfare Trust, and I were asked to light candles to declare it open and then I had the honour of pulling back the curtain to reveal the plaques for The Country That Shook classroom block and the second one too as well as an opening ceremony board.Some of the children performed, with a group singing while three of the younger girls danced 😍Then I was asked to stand up and speak 😳😂

I’m sure nobody had any idea what I said but I just emphasised how happy I was to be there and to be able to support the rebuild of the school. I showed the books, posters and T-shirts that I had bought as gifts, in his speech John, from the GWT, reiterated in Nepali about the book and how it had helped to create their building.

In return I was presented with a plaque to take home with me, called the ‘Token of Love’ ❤ so cuteOnce all the official business seemed to be over I requested a photo with the children in front of the school. It was so good to say namaste to some of them and give them books to hold after being sat in the ‘grown-up’ area, separate from them.
I’d brought letters and drawings from children in a school in Hampshire so I took them to the english teacher, and the crowd that immediately formed was amazing. The children were so intrigued and wanted to see every page. (I’m hoping that the english teacher might send me some replies to give to the children back home)

Elsewhere children and parents were looking at the books, and it was clear that some of them had never held a book before, they weren’t sure what to do with it but they were so curious. I pointed out the bit of nepali writing in the illustrations and the flag so I think they understood it’s about their country.

After that there was just time for a quick look round the classrooms, and a huge round of goodbyes and we were off again! Literally a whirlwind visit! The classrooms are very bare and simple, they have new desks and chairs which will be in there soon, and maybe the A2 prints of The Country That Shook that i gave them might end up on the walls too… who knows!

SUCH a beautiful experience
The school is so grateful for what The Country That Shook has achieved, the English teacher went out of his way to keep telling me 🙂 and of course, again, HUGE thanks to The Gurkha Welfare Trust for connecting me with the school and for making the trip possible 

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The school is finished

I have had incredible news today… Shree Barbot school has been finished, safely before the monsoon begins.

Here is a photo of the two classroom blocks, each containing two classrooms.


I am so proud to have been able to help and will continue to do so…

Shree Barbot Lower Secondary School


This is the school that we are helping to build!

Shree Barbot Lower Secondary School teaches 199 children from nursery through to year 8. It was very badly damaged in the earthquake and children have been going to school in a dangerous building for over a year. Four classrooms, a toilet block and a proper water supply will be reconstructed.

The Country That Shook will fund the building of one of the classrooms, the toilets and the water supply which is incredible. We are very proud to be supporting such a worthwhile cause with such an incredible charity.

As of February 2017 the foundations are in and the build continues! All supplies are brought up the mountain using donkeys and mules as there are no roads!

The Gurkha Welfare Trust

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The Gurkha Welfare Trust (registered charity number: 1103669) is one of the oldest charities in Nepal, originally established in 1969 to relieve poverty and distress amongst ex-Gurkha soldiers and their dependants in Nepal.

Since then they have expanded their mission to include Gurkha communities too, understanding that the wider community needs to be stable as well as the individual.

This work includes a medical programme, delivering community aid to rural villages in Nepal, installing clean water and sanitation systems, building and refurbishing schools and running mobile medical camps. It really is a huge task and incredible work to be doing in one of the poorest, most remote countries in the world, where communities can live 5 days walk from any reachable town.GetImage.ashx

Then the earthquake happened.

Thousands were killed and millions of people across Nepal were left homeless, including around 1,200 Gurkha veterans and widows.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust acted quickly, and was able to reach some of the most remote areas before other aid. This is a huge benefit of being such a longstanding, established charity in the country with many connections within communities. For the long term rehabilitation effort it sparked a need to expand the community-focussed part of the Trust.GetImage-1.ashx

There are now 50 staff on the ground in Nepal, solely assigned as an earthquake response team. They are all Nepalese, as are all staff in Nepal; the trust prefers to employ local people wherever possible.

Of these 50 staff over half are project engineers, who are sent to assess sites that have been badly damaged by the earthquakes. They decide what can be done, how necessary the building requests are and how the trust can help best. Any planning and building applications then have to be sent to the government for approval, endorsed by the research carried out by the engineers. After approval has been given building is allowed to start. Due to the monsoon rains, most big builds will start in the autumn after the rain has stopped, with a view to be completed in the spring. On a big build one of the structural engineers will be on site every day to ensure smooth and efficient development. For smaller projects they will visit on a regular basis.

This is a slow process, especially when there are people in need, but it is necessary to ensure that all buildings are legal and that the funds are spent in the most effective way. All building work is carried out by local people, teams from outside are not brought in, in an effort to keep revenue in the local area. Likewise all building materials are sourced as locally as possible.

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with everything I’ve learnt about the Trust so far, I am so excited to be partnering with them.

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Here are some more mind blowing facts to leave you with:

It is estimated that 15% of Nepal’s GDP comes through the Gurkhas (although this cannot be officially verified).

Over 50% of Nepal’s GDP comes from tourism (again this is an estimation), which is why the earthquakes and consequential lack of visitors is such a blow for the country.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust aims to build 12 new schools each year until 2020. It will provide repairs and extensions to hundreds more. The school I am supporting is one of the big projects of 2016/2017.

The M.O.D. provided £0.5 million to help with the earthquake response and continues to provide an annual grant-in-aid to support the Trust’s admin costs for welfare development.

D.F.I.D. (The Department for International Development) funds the majority of the Trust’s water projects. The Trust plans to develop 120 projects a year until 2020.

Please have a look at The Gurkha Welfare Trust website. There is a wealth of information on there… https://www.gwt.org.uk

The Country That Shook and The Gurkha Welfare Trust

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I am happy to announce that the charity I am partnering with is The Gurkha Welfare Trust (registered Charity number 1103669).

As I mentioned previously it has been a tough journey to get to this decision, but, having done so much research, it is now one that I am very happy with.

Through the Trust I have chosen to support one school, which I have picked from a range of profiles.

Shree Rastiya Primary School is in Saamari, Nuwakot in the Bagmati area, not far from the epicentre. During the earthquake it sustained serious damage and classes are now taking place under a temporary shelter. 20160313_154434

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It is incredible to think that this has been a school for so many children for well over a year now.

The Trust is going to build a school with 8 classrooms and a separate gender toilet block with work due to start this autumn. The school will also receive supplies such as desks, chairs, whiteboards and storage units to ensure it can function smoothly.

It is a huge job which will be built to a high standard, making it earthquake resistant. Features such as separate gender toilets are unusual for the country, but are invaluable in providing much needed privacy, especially for young, vulnerable girls. On top of that a designated, fenced play area is planned which also improves children’s safety.

The total cost for the build is estimated at around £54,666. Each classroom will cost around £6,000 so The Country That Shook has already raised enough to fund one, plus some supplies for the school. The classroom will have a plaque to commemorate TCTS’s support.

However we don’t really want to stop there and there is more money to be raised from sales.

Over the coming weeks I will be giving an idea of what else The Country That Shook’s money can buy if we reach certain goals. I will also be working with The Gurkha Welfare Trust to get the book and the project in front of a much wider audience. Watch this space.

There will also be an insight into The Gurkha Welfare Trust over the next couple of days…

How do you connect with people who are in genuine need?

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This is a very valid question I was asked recently by someone considering their own project. I would say that this decision has been and still is the hardest part of the project.
When I started The Country That Shook I naively thought that this task would be incredibly straightforward because there are so many deserving and needy people in Nepal. Following this intention, I have been in talks directly with a few people in Nepal, who organise community based support and rebuilding projects, for many months. Unfortunately I have continually come up against the problem that they are unable to offer me proof of where the money will be spent. This is not surprising as it is not their culture to have contracts and documentation for everything like we do in the West, plus of course a country recovering from an earthquake is not a normal situation.
However, we have now raised over £7,000, and I have a responsibility to know where the money that so many people have kindly spent to support The Country That Shook is going. I don’t feel like I can hand money over without this knowledge or alternatively being in the country to oversee it, which is not a viable option for me.
Unfortunately this has lead to a couple of difficult situations where opportunities to support communities have not developed as I had hoped, and a lack of information and trust has meant that I had to back away. This has been distressing at times because I do truly believe that their intentions were good, it just felt like too much of a risk.
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Therefore, I am going to go down a completely different route and donate the money through a charity. This is something that I was completely against when I started out as I thought that too much of the money donated would be lost in admin fees and then even more would be siphoned off by the Nepali government.
However, after contacting endless charities my opinion has been changed; it is true that only around 85% of the donation is spent on the school rebuild (or alternative project), but that other 15% is what provides all that is needed to coordinate something like this, the connection with the local people, the knowledge of where help is really needed and the ability to be in constant contact with the build as it progresses in a very remote area. These are all things that I don’t have and would be unable to do from the UK with a full time job.
All of the charities I’ve been talking to have been recommended to me by various reputable people in Nepal and the UK. The conversations have been invaluable in my steep learning curve about how charities function and what the best fit for us will be.
I will be updating you shortly on how and where the money will be spent and who I am partnering with…12493617_10156453753870526_4635670540354304582_o