Newsletter 2012 (No. 10)

 

December 2011-November 2012

10th anniversary edition


It’s true! We’ve been around for 10 years helping children from poor families or none get an education in the Himalayas. It’s been a demanding but rewarding ten years. Our achievements are briefly recorded below. The fact that so much can be achieved by just one executive director in the U.K. (with advice from his fellow non-executive directors) and a handful of helpers in India and Nepal is testimony to the immense power of modern computing and the internet. What would have taken a dedicated office with several full-time staff, can now be done part-time by one person at home at minimal expense.

Before reading on, why not bring a smile to our faces by visiting our donations page right now, while you’re thinking about it – to celebrate our anniversary!

Or, if you prefer, and you use a British-based mobile phone service, you can send us a small gift by texting 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. (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.)

 

Rest assured that all your money (minus only the cost of international bank transfers) goes towards our projects and children. There are not many charities that could give you this assurance.

What have we achieved with your help?

Set up as a limited not-for-profit company in 2002 with the principal aim of enhancing educational opportunities in poor communities in the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas, HELP was registered as a charity in January 2007. What has been achieved in these ten years? It’s easy enough to come up with figures. 100 volunteer teachers have gone out on assignments to the schools we support. They pay their own expenses and the fees they pay HELP form a substantial part of the financial resources that we deploy on the projects we support. These projects have the objectives of improving school infrastructure, of making it possible for children from poor families to attend school and get the most out of their time there, and, crucially, of improving the teaching skills of the local teachers.

With the financial help of our volunteers, and with other donated money, we’ve built three village schools from scratch (including a landslide wall to stop the new school sliding down the mountainside in the monsoon!), and have contributed funds for computers and books, an IT centre and a science class-room, and a generator for a remote school in Uttarkhand in north-west India. In the picture on the right you can see the new JN Memorial School, one of the three schools constructed with our support.

 

Our volunteer teachers provide the students with a window on a wider world, and set an example to the local staff of professional behaviour (e.g. simply by turning up to teach regularly and on time), and their teaching methodologies and methods of classroom control do rub off on their less experienced and untrained local colleagues. In the picture below, Charlotte Cotton poses with the school-boy monks of Spituk monastery. It is difficult to assess their impact on English or Maths standards in their schools, but we have to be realistic: there is a limit to what 

can be achieved during a two-month assignment. So we began a series of teacher training seminars for local teachers in 2007. Since then, we have run seven teacher training seminars, the latest being held this summer in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. Reports and assessments of the teacher training programme can be found in the ‘teacher training category’ of our blog.

 

So much for our support of the supply-side of educational provision. Enabling children from poor families to attend school and benefit from the experience is the other side of the equation. Since 2003, 45 sponsors have been found to sponsor 52 school children and college–level students. This involves a long-term commitment of up to 12 years in some cases.

 

In addition to these education-related projects, we have provided £4500 for earthquake and flood relief in West Bengal, Ladakh and Uttarkhand, in areas where our school projects are based.

JetWings Magazine

We got some free publicity this year when Jet Airways published an article about HELP in their in-flight magazine, JetWings, earlier in the year! Jump to page 53 to see it.

 

THIS YEAR

 

INSPECTION VISITS

During March and April, my wife, Yami, and I were able to visit West Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal. These visits are essential, giving us the opportunity to visit the schools we support and renew our connections with the school principals and our local helpers. We were able to meet many of the sponsored children, and take their photos. I managed to visit two of the more remote schools we support in the Western region of Nepal, by diverting from the Annapurna Sanctuary trail, – a pleasant way of combining business with pleasure, although I have to confess that I found some of those steep Himalayan climbs a bit challenging.

I am going downhill in the picture, so all was well at that particular moment!

PROJECTS

Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth school

The new school building is nearly complete. Friends of HELP raised some £17,000, the most notable contributor, as reported last year, being CfBT in memory of their founder, Tony Abrahams. However, there’s still a lot of work to do inside to get the rooms ready for the new school year in February 2013. This is the third school built from scratch with HELP funds.

Floods in Uttarkhand

Floods bring disaster every year to Himalayan communities. Houses are swept away and villagers made homeless, Government agencies move very slowly, taking weeks to swing into action. Small local NGOs, with financial help from donors such as HELP, can respond within a few days. This year HELP sent £1500 to the Save and Shae Association (SASA) in the Indian State of Uttarkhand, to provide temporary shelters, food and medical care for the dispossessed.

 

Teacher Development seminar in Thimpu, Bhutan

Sheena Davies,  a teacher trainer at the University of Edinburgh, ran a week’s seminar at the Druk School in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan at the end of June. Over 20 teachers from the host school and three other state schools participated, and gave it a big thumbs up.

The principal of the Druk school sent me this evaluation of her work: “Sheena was just wonderful…as a person as well as the facilitator. She was very serious with her work and she just managed to see a wee bit of Thimphu and the Bhutanese life. The 24  teachers enjoyed her course and learnt a lot. Thank you for sending Sheena.”

See Sheena’s report here.

The Hope Family Trust

We visited this orphanage in Kalimpong on our inspection visit. We were impressed by Kiran Chettri, the founder, and his team, and have agreed to help them in their efforts. We are looking for sponsors for three children, all siblings. If you would like to help them, please click on this link.

(To help with their immediate need for clothes, blankets, mattresses and a cupboard, we have sent a one-off payment of £250.)

VOLUNTEERS

Ten volunteer teachers went out on assignments this year to schools in Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, and West Bengal. In the picture, you can see Karen Englander who taught in the old classrooms of the Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth school. Future volunteers will be teaching in the new building pictured at the top of the newsletter.

For the first time we were able to send two teachers to village schools in Nepal’s western region on behalf of a Belgian NGO (Himalayan Projects). These are very tough assignments since our volunteers are far removed from the comforts of urban life and the company of other westerners, and yet both assignments worked out well. This is what the director of Himalayan Projects has said about Wendy Garrity’s efforts:

“…her work is impressive: the school looks fantastically decorated and set up with a huge amount of educational tools. She made a big impact on the teachers and on me. It most certainly helped to get us the first prize of the Education Ministry of Best Primary School in the whole Myagdi District. A big thanks to her. Apart from a money prize we also got an extra gov’t paid and licenced teacher”  

Wendy kept a private blog, and has allowed me to place extracts from it in the HELP blog.

Lila Hebert, a French volunteer, has written an interesting report, with fabulous pictures, about her experience at the Lamdon school in Tikse, Ladakh.

The picture on the left is a view of Tikse monastery from Lila’s school playground.

You can also find Charlotte Cotton’s report on her assignment at the Spituk monastery school.

David Smullen taught science at the Lamdon Senior Secondary school, Here is a link to his blog.

SPONSORSHIPS

We have been running our sponsorship programme for nine 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 a couple of years ago!), 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.

Many thanks to all of our sponsors, past and present. You have made, and are making, a big difference to the lives of the children and young adults that you have been supporting with your hard earned income.

We have some children and young adults looking for sponsors. Can you help? If so please click on this link….

FUND RAISING

Special mention this year goes to the children and parents of the St Phillips School in south-west London, who raised £6000 for our projects fund,  which was an amazing effort. When they first offered to raise money for HELP I was thinking they would manage to raise a few hundred pounds. £6000 was a very welcome surprise, so many thanks to all of you at St. Phillips!

We really make your money stretch a long way because 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. 

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 £74.25 through your clicks which is not bad. 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. It works well as search engine.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

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


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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I want to let you know that I have looked at a lot of volunteer organizations since I did your program and you have (as far as I can tell) one of the best. I really like how much you personally care about each volunteer and each school.
Anne GillilandDenjong Pema Choling Academy