Newsletter 2011 (No. 9)

December 2010-November 2011

Welcome to our new logo! I think it does a better job at encapsulating what we are about than our old text-only version. I hope you agree.

IN MEMORIAM

This newsletter is dedicated to Tony Abrahams, who died this April. My first overseas teaching job took place in Morocco from 1976 to1978, under the auspices of the Centre for British Teachers (now shortened to CfBT). I lost touch with “The Centre” for many years after that, so was very surprised when an email plopped into my in-tray three years ago from Tony Abrahams, The Centre’s larger-than-life founder with a  soft spot for the Gurkhas. He had tracked me down via the Internet, and became, in the last three years, a generous supporter of HELP, with sponsorships and donations. My wife, Yami, and I attended a touching commemoration of his life at his old school, Bedford College.

After the event, we were delighted to receive a cheque for £15,000 from CfBT, in Tony’s memory, which will be used to construct a new school building for the Vidyar Sagar Gyanpeeth school in western Sikkim. (See photo at the bottom of the page)

Students dealing with flooding

The school is currently housed in a picturesque, but totally inadequate wooden building that is now too small, gets flooded in the monsoon and which has been damaged in the recent earthquake.

With the help of our donors, including a very generous £700 from St. Aloyisius’ College in Glasgow, Scotland, where one of our past volunteers, Judith Scott, works as a nurse, the foundations of a new school building have been laid.The £15,000 from CfBT will provide the funds needed to build on these foundations, and there will be some left over to plough into other projects in the future.

So: farewell and heartfelt  thanks to Tony; our condolences to Liz Bryant, his bereaved partner, and our gratitude to her for facilitating this happy outcome. Lastly, our thanks to CfBT for their generosity. A plaque, in Tony’s honour, will be attached to the new school building. We will display a photograph of it in our 10th anniversary newsletter, next year.

OTHER PROJECTS

Teacher training

This is, to my mind, the most important thing we do, because it will have an impact on teaching standards long after we leave the scene. This year Barbara Porter, our trainer, ran two two-week seminars, one in Pokhara, Nepal, in January, and the other in Leh, Ladakh in September (read more…). It’s always good to get positive feedback. This is what the principal of the Lamdon Model Senior Secondary School in Leh wrote:

“Two week workshop by Madam Barbara Porter was very fruitful, productive and successfully concluded.  All the participants gained huge  knowledge and techniques to make teaching more joyful and interesting for the children.  Thank you very very much for deputing Madam Barbara 2nd time for the workshop and we also looking to have more such training in future.”

In March 2012 I will be visiting Bhutan with a view to setting up a teacher training seminar in Thimpu later in the year. But it isn’t just the formal teacher training seminars that count. Our volunteers also play their part. This is what Henrike Elter, who went to a small school in western Nepal, reports:

“These teachers (i.e the local teachers) are always peeking with curiosity on my classes, looking with interest at my blackboard and wanting to touch the clay themselves. Soon they also begin teaching such crafts, make vocabulary cards, draw large clocks for teaching time and trying other new techniques that they have seen. In this way, we support each other and learn from one another. They observe my new methods and I immerse myself in the Nepalese culture and am supported by them with disciplinary problems.”

The Tamang family

The Tamang family with cows

I often ask friends and acquaintances to do things for HELP when they are visiting Nepal. An old friend of mine took some pictures of a family in Kathmandu that are receiving sponsorship money from our sponsors, one of them being the afore-mentioned Tony Abrahams. Tony was upset by the conditions in which the family were living, and made a donation of £500 to ease their plight. The nameless friend who took the photos contributed another £500, and the money has been spent on some solar powered lights (to enable the children to do their homework at night) and a couple of cows to help their mother earn a living.

The Gyan Jyoti school, Kalimpong

The children of Highfields school in Newark, England, have continued their generous support of the Gyan Jyoti school, just outside Kalimpong. This year we received a cheque for £446 which will cover the cost of two sponsorships, initiated by Mairi McGivern when she was a volunteer there, and a generator, and there will be some left over for other projects that we will support in future.

JN Memorial School
The JN memorial primary school, Kalimpong

We have sent £1,200 to the JN Memorial school to enable them to complete the second storey of their small school building.  This project is now complete. Many thanks again  to Anne Tallentire and her family and friends for all their help in getting us there.

St. Paul School, Namthang, South Sikkim

Supporting wall at St Paul School

In our last newsletter, we reported on the need for a landslide wall for this, the first school in our portfolio. For various reasons, partly to do with the need to wait for work to be completed on the road below the school, progress has been slow, but a large part has now been built. Here is a picture of progress so far.

Bee Pooley, who volunteered at St. Paul’s this year, made a personal donation of £150 to the school so that they could build a decent toilet for the boys.

Volunteer donations

Bob and Ann Summers, both HELP volunteers, who taught at the Lamdon Model Senior school in 2009, and in Nepal in 2010, sent 400 books to the school this year. This is always a bit risky, since parcels frequently get lost in the post, but they duly arrived, and Barbara Porter took pictures of them being being devoured! We have also received a number of smaller donations from people who have been instructed by Bob to pay us for the private maths coaching that he does for their children. He also sent us £110 that he was supposed to spend on a birthday present for himself. Many thanks Bob, and to all our volunteers who continue supporting our work!

The Hope Family Trust, Kalimpong

Kids with uniforms provided by the Hope Family Trust and HELP

Earlier this year we sent £500 to a small local NGO in Kalimpong, called the Hope Family Trust, for uniforms for 50 pupils. Schools will not accept children without uniforms, so this small donation has enabled 50 children to have a schooling! This has been followed up recently, with a £1000 gift for computers for their orphanage and repairs to houses damaged in the recent earthquake.

EARTHQUAKE

Last year was marked by floods in Ladakh and Uttarkhand. This year West Bengal and Sikkim were hit by a severe earthquake. In both cases the consequences for the population is the same: death (over 100), injury, and the destruction of homes. I have recently seen a photograph of a landslide near Darjeeling that has carried the road completely away, and has left the train track that serves the little Himalayan railway dangling in thin air! Although HELP is an educational charity, our ‘objects’ include a general commitment to the relief of poverty, and so we have sent £1,000 to the Hope Family Trust in Kalimpong, some of which will be earmarked for  house repairs.

INSPECTION VISITS

We did not run any inspection visits this year, but will be visiting West Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal for a month in March and April 2012. I will be doing the Annapurna Sanctuary trek from 31 March to 10th April, give or take a day either end. One or two others have expressed an interest. Let me know if you would like to join us!

VOLUNTEERS

Ananada Hall with students

Thirteen volunteers signed up this year. Apart from one unfortunate  volunteer who couldn’t reach her school because of a political strike (read more…), and a cancellation due to illness, all the rest reached their destinations. It’s funny how interest in different regions differs from year to year. Until this year, we  had difficulty finding volunteers wanting to go to Himachal Pradesh in India and also the remote schools in the Western Region of Nepal. This year, for the first time, two volunteers went to schools in the Annapurna conservation area (click here to see Henrike Elter’s fascinating account of her stay at the Sree Sarada Primary School in Phalate), and two to the Gamru village school near Dharamsala, where the Tibetan government in exile is based.

Special mention goes to Ananda Hall (see picture) who introduced music lessons to the JN Memorial school, near Kalimpong, and stayed on during the school’s summer break to run extra music lessons for the children. (Click here to see her pictures).

SPONSORSHIPS

We have been running our sponsorship programme for eight years now, so naturally we are beginning to see some of the younger children coming to the end of their schooling, and no longer requiring our support. And, of course, there are always one or two who drop out for one reason or another (including an elopement!), which is disappointing. Very occasionally, it’s our sponsors who have to withdraw.. Luckily, we have always managed to find a substitute sponsor in these rare cases.

Currently, we have 36 sponsors sponsoring 56 young people, a couple of whom are in college training to be a radiographer and nurse respectively.

FUND RAISING

CfBT cheque for GBP15,000

It will be no surprise to you that we are always on the look-out for money , and it would be remiss of me to let this opportunity to pass without reminding you of this fact! We even have an exciting new way for you to give your spare pennies! But before I reveal all, let me remind all of you who give or would like to give money to HELP that virtually all your money is used to fund our projects or sponsorships (the only deductions are to pay international bank transfer charges). How do we pull off this remarkable trick? Surely we have expenses? Fees to pay? Fares? We do indeed, but our running and fixed costs are paid for out of the administration fee/deposit, paid to us by our volunteers in return for their placements. So rest assured that virtually 100% of your money goes towards our projects and children. There are not many charities that could give you this assurance.

 

JustTextGiving

Now, here is the exciting new way of giving, if you use a British-based mobile phone service. It’s called JustTextGiving. It’s so simple and fun that I know you will all want to give it a go! All you have to do is to text EHLP19, plus the amount you want to donate, to 70070. So, for example, if you want to donate £10, all you do is to text EHLP19 £10 to 70070, and £10 will wing its way to HELP. If everyone receiving this newsletter texted £10, we would receive £3,300!

(Please note that JustTextGiving only accepts 6 amounts from donors. These are £1, £2, £3, £4, £5, and £10. A donation of £4.50, £7 or £20 for example will not go through.)

And don’t forget, wherever you live,  you can send us a donation any time by going to our donations page.

 

Everyclick

Readers of past newsletters will be aware that if they use Everyclick as their search engine, HELP receives a small payment, at no cost to them. It all adds up. So far we have raised £65 through your clicks, of which £33.76 has been raised by just one indefatigable anonymous clicker. We could do a lot better if I could persuade a lot more of you to make Everyclick your default search engine! Here’s where to start: www.everyclick.com/himalayaneducationlifelineprogramme . But if you would prefer to use a more familiar name to do your Internet searches, then Yahoo now run a scheme called Affilyon.

Affilyon

To raise money for HELP using Yahoo’s search engine, please visit: sites.affilyon.co.uk/Himalayaneducation

Keeping in touch

Facebook and LinkedIn

HELP is now networking via its pages in Facebook and LinkedIn. Keep in touch and help to raise our profile by joining us!

The HELP blog 

And don’t forget to visit our blog, where you can keep up-to-date with HELP news, and news about the communities we operate in.


Well, that’s it for this year. Many thanks for all your support and good wishes.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy new year!

Jim Coleman

Executive Director

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HELP is rare for an organisation offering volunteer teaching in that it puts the needs of the local people before the desires of the western person wanting ‘the experience’.
Alastair SkeffingtonSaraswatimata Yumahangma English School