Jan Harris returns from Nepal

Hello all,

I am home safe and well, although surprisingly I still feel a bit jet lagged.  What an experience!

The first few days were spent acclimatising and having introductions to the schools we would be working in.  What impressed me first off was the warmth and resilience of both the children and teachers.  Despite difficulties it appeared as though the attitude was business as usual with almost a reluctance to discuss the after effects of the earthquakes.  Kathmandu was less affected than i had imagined it would be.  The city was also a lot larger than I thought. Many buildings did look in a poor state but it was difficult to assess whether that was poor building design or as a result of the earthquakes.

The most obvious effect of the earthquakes were in the outlying villages, particularly Bungamati and some others I can’t remember the name of. Some homes were completely demolished while others looked practically untouched. Many families were now living in temporary shelters.  I took many photos and people were always so welcoming with very few saying “no picture” when I asked.  I did find it difficult sometimes being a “disaster tourist” and I put the camera down remembering these were real lives that had been effected and not just a photographic opportunity.  This particularly hit home when we visited the leprosy colony and hospital where many had lost limbs and some were in immense pain.

The group of 52 of us who travelled over carrying 20kgs of charity items each, were divided into teams.  1. Teaching. 2. Engineering. 3 Medical team. 4 Ministry team.  We also had a couple of people who were teaching older students about photography.  The students were given cameras (kindly donated by BPS members) to take home and take images of their homes and family and then return to discuss.  This gave us a great opportunity to explore the living conditions of many families.
I was part of the medical team.  We had separate stations to check height, weight, eyes, teeth, goitre, vitamin deficiency, worming etc.  If any of the children were found to have difficulties these were referred to local medical contacts and practitioners funded by the Birkdale school charity.

One one of these occasions when we were doing medical checks and teaching the wind started to pick up just as we were leaving and the children started heading home.  By the time we arrived back to our accommodation the storm had picked up with pictures blown off the walls and windows and doors smashed.  That night we received a phone call to say that part of the corrugated iron roof had come off the school we had been working in that day.  We were not too concerned but the next day we had a shock when we went to visit to do more work.  The whole roof which was attached to a large metal frame had been lifted tearing brickwork apart. It had landed in the playground where we had been working with the children.  We discovered a tornado had hit the school and if it had been an hour earlier many would definitely have been injured.

The head master talked with us saying the school would have to permanently close as there would be no money to fund repairs.  This would effect the education of 200 children.  After consultation with our engineering team the cost to repair the roof using local builders (given advise on how to make the construction stronger) was estimated at being £1,500.

You very kindly raised nearly this amount – thank you – so i donated this money to mend the roof and keep the school open.  I have attached a couple of photographs.  Your donations mean that these children can continue an education for which many travel miles.

Besides the work we did get a bit of play time.  I miraculously managed to climb Poon Hill which is 3193 metres high!  (Ben Nevis is only 1345 metres). This took a group of us 4 days constant climbing and of course descent.  Not sure which was worse!

We also did a bit of jungle safari but no sighting of tigers, only their poo!  And we had an exciting white water rafting experience where 3 of our number bounced out of the dinghies.  I was too heavy to bounce!  Being heavy has some advantages although there was a bit of shoving and pushing to get me on an elephant!

So an amazing trip and I would love to share more of my story and images if anyone is interested.  There is so much more I could tell you but you do not want to read a novel.  I am very happy to put on some slide shows – just let me know if you would like to attend.

I will keep you in touch with how your donations have helped the Noble Education System School at Lalitpur​.  I did try to send some images but unfortunately many emails bounced back.  You will just have to attend my slideshow if you are interested!

Warmest regards and a big thank you,

Jan Harris

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