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 ❤