September 2019 - WWEP's Graduating Class Proceeds from High School to University

By Steve Mannshardt

   When WWEP began to support some of the younger children in our programs ten years ago, we hoped to see the day when these students would get to complete their studies in secondary school. We held out the hope that they would have the strength and determination to stick out the many years of difficult and strenuous studies, whereupon they would have the opportunity to continue onto university. Much to our great pride and pleasure, we are now seeing that class of fine students graduating into a level of higher education they had never even dreamed of. 

   Earlier this year, Sabin graduated from his Class 12 studies and is currently awaiting entry into a local university next month to earn a degree in Business. At the same time, Rajendra passed all of his classes in Class 10 and proceeds into college prep courses in Classes 11 and 12. His intentions are to pursue a double major of Business and Art/Music when he is done with Class 12 in about 18 months. Over the years, we have seen these two fine young men progress from small children into adulthood, all the while demonstrating an amazing transformation along the way.  

Photo: Chitra Magar

Photo: Mitrata Nepal Foundation

  Sometimes the students come from families that are stable but struggling deeply with poverty and unemployment. Other students will be rescued from the streets of Kathmandu, often found homeless and destitute while dressed in dirty clothing and malnourished. The children are provided with a home at a local orphanage, if required, all supplied with nourishing food and warm clothing. Those in a better financial situation will benefit from tuition and school materials as well as social services provided by local aid organizations.

   Congratulations to our graduating class of 2019. We wish them the best as they continue their studies with our help.   

August 2019 - Kindergarten Classes Make Father's Day Cards

 

By Steve Mannshardt

   Just three years ago, the options for pre-school education in the remote village of Sipaphokare were non-existent. Young children wandered the village, located high in the mid-hill region of the Sindhupalchowk District, looking for bits of trash to fashion into rudimentary toys as they played in the dusty streets. Now, with the recent addition of the Sano Sansar Pre-school facility, the same children are provided with art supplies to create colorful cards to bring home to their fathers and Father's Day.

   The majority of Nepali children start schooling at the age of five or six, entering Class One and proceeding ahead with the basics of government funded education programs. The supplies are limited by the meager budgets provided and the classes are grounded in standard studies such as language, math and science. The children generally love their classes, as it provides them with a much needed education that they know, even at age six, will lead them to some level of success. But so often little emphasis is placed on pre-school education, the years prior to the start if Class One. It is these earlier years where children can begin to explore the ideas of language, numbers and the world around them in a less academic setting. 

   The class levels of Play Group, Nursery, Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten in Nepal are all structured to allow younger children to learn the introductory skills needed for learning before they are thrust into the more intensive studies of Class One. We in the West may think that First Grade is the time for basic play and the introduction of simple concepts such as the alphabet and numbers. But in Nepal, where education is a prized commodity and students sometimes do not make it to Class Six before dropping out, the teachers hit the ground running and push the young children to learn at an accelerated pace. 

   However, we at WWEP have learned from the administrators and local facilitators of rural education that the value of pre-school play is vital to giving the children a leg-up. Children participating in pre-school tend to be far more prepared for the level of studies found in primary schools and show more success as they progress. 

Photo: Raj Bhattarai

Photo: Raj Bhattarai

   In 2016, our partners at Sindhu Utthan Kendra Nepal raised the funding to create the Sano Sansar School, a small four room facility to serve the needs of the younger children so much in need of beginning education skills. The opening of the school was a great success and attendance immediately packed the classrooms to capacity. The pre-school facility was doubled in size this past spring with additional fund-raising and the school now serves 75-85 children on a regular basis. In the past three years, children promoted out of the pre-school have entered their assigned primary schools far better prepared than expected in prior years.

   Although aggressive study procedures may encourage the children of upper classes to learn quickly, some can get left behind if they miss some of the basics along the way. The introduction of this pre-school program has allowed more students to develop their learning skills before they are required to apply them to their studies.

   WWEP has been providing ample funding for the classroom furniture, activity supplies and art materials, in addition to the support for salaries for the faculty and staff of the school.

June 2019 – The Mitrata Nepal Home for Children Gets a New Home

By Steve Mannshardt

 

   I am pleased to note that the Mitrata Nepal Home for Children has re-located into a brand new facility.

It was October 2008 when I first visited the Mitrata Nepal Home for Children; their first home. It was a four story brick building in a dusty and noisy neighborhood of Kathmandu. It was rather spacious, until you realized that it was for 65 children and eight staff members. The rooms were sparse on furniture and most had few windows, so things seemed a little empty and dark. And the walk to school for the children was rather hazardous, given the amount of traffic on the busy streets.

   In early 2012, the Home moved to a better area, higher on the hill to the west and away from traffic. It was a step up, for the sake of the children’s health. The property was a bit more roomy and the number of children had been reduced to 35 due to a change in the program. The rooms were more open and there were far more windows. The walk to school was shorter and safer.

   In April 0f 2014, the Home was forced to move again, this time due to rising rents. I was fortunate enough to be in Nepal for the moving day and was happy to help organize the schlepping of items from one building to another via hired bus. It was also at that time when I realized that Nepali children are quite resilient. I figured that this move would be traumatic, yet the children took it in stride and actually found it to be an adventure. I tried to help carry things but had an eight year old kid asking to carry my burden so that I would not get injured. It was a propane gas tank and it was the size of the child but he still endeavored to make things easy for me. This was the moment when I realized that despite all of the challenges, the children can manage through anything. The rooms of the new home were large and the light was good in all of them. Being on the north end of the city, the walk to school was even shorter and safer. This time, they were able to have a garden, a valuable asset for them when food supplies ran short.

   This past May, the Home moved again, this time only a short distance away. But this move is the last move for them. For the Mitrata Nepal Home for Children has now found a permanent home. No longer bound by rising rent payments and an uncertain future, the new home is now owned by the director of the orphanage. The number of children has been further reduced to 15, as many of them have been able to re-join family members as the economy has improved conditions for many residents. The new home has four stories, many spacious rooms, a large and efficient kitchen, a small garden and a great view of the city far off to the south. The walk to school is even shorter now.

   The children are happier now, as they can understand that this is their home for years, until they are graduated from school and enter the world outside as adults. I visited them all this past June when I went to Nepal once again. So many of them I have seen for the entire past ten years, as they have grown up and become more educated and responsible. Some children have come and gone, as they enter and exit the sponsorship program. I even keep in touch with some children whom I met on that very first visit but they are now graduating from University with advanced degrees.

   Every time I see the children here, I see so much hope and potential. All of this is due to many very generous donors who wish to help and a stable place for them to live. Thank you for your support.

February 2019 – The Importance of the Future for the Children of Nepal

By Steve Mannshardt

 

   I have been traveling to Nepal for over ten years now and I will say that I have never found a community of residents so determined to make things work in life, despite tremendous adversity. At this point, I have traveled to 63 countries and have seen the various highs and lows of economics, politics, natural resources, standard of living and employment opportunities from many of these countries. I have seen some of the highest per capita GDP in many well-off European countries and I have seen some of the lowest standards of living in many impoverished Asian countries. But not anywhere have I seen as much will and determination in the residents of a nation as I see in Nepal.

   One of the things that I notice with every trip I take to Nepal is the concerted effort to keep the opportunities of the children as high as humanly possible. I have seen families struggle, with each person working (sometimes multiple jobs), in order to further the education and future for their children. Nowhere have I seen so much determination to make the future brighter and happier than I see here in Nepal.

   And much of that I see is in the lives of the children here. There is so much poverty here but also so much joy. So many of us in the West feel that self-worth is governed by the amount of goods and materials that we buy, own and keep. Yet it is all of these items in our lives that often give us so much emptiness and lack of satisfaction.

In contrast, I see the residents of Nepal with so little in terms of possessions. I see them holding onto only the basics needed and maybe one or two extra items that may be called luxurious. But in this basic lifestyle, I see so much inner peace and joy in people’s faces. In all of my visits here, I find that I strive to become part of that simpler and more peaceful lifestyle, if I am able.

   Seen here are some of the many children I have met over the years. Although I often see them out in rural areas with ragged clothes and little in the way of toys, there is a peace and satisfaction I see in their spirit that shines through the dirt on their faces. For those children in the cities who are perhaps a little better off, they might have a few more possessions but nothing in any way excessive. Yet in their eyes as well, I see a magical quality that shines a tranquility and inner contentment. Yes, they can recognize that having a little more is better for their family. But they do not have any obsessions on that idea and find that what they have is valuable in terms of the context of their friends and family.

   It is all of those people, both young and old, that I find the most inspiring to me. I have so many photos of myself visiting with children in various schools, villages, orphanages, monasteries or just walking down the street. It is all of these memories that I find the most enduring and the most cherished for me.

Photo: Khadak Rokaya

Photo: Bidur Bhattarai

Photo: Khadak Rokaya

Photo: Karma DM Sherpa

Photo: Ranjan Bhattarai

July 2018 - Creating a Safe Space for Kids in Rural Himalaya Village Schools

by Steve Mannshardt  

   In October of 2012, I ventured way to the far north of Nepal to begin an ongoing relationship with a small community of villagers who had previously been completely bypassed by the charity world. Arriving as the very first westerner to offer any assistance, I was greeted with great fanfare in what turned out to be a very emotional ceremony for myself and all the residents of the tiny hilltop village. Our programs immediately set about to provide basic classroom supplies for the students as well as a plan for renovation of the aging primary school building. Cracked concrete floors were re-poured and carpeted, dark and dingy walls were re-painted, a leaky roof was replaced and a small library was opened.

   But on April 25, 2015, a series of massive earthquakes struck Nepal and reduced the school to unusable rubble. Thanks to an enormous outpouring of support, we were able to re-build the school with more resilient wood construction. But alas, the small play yard for the children was altered from a grassy patch to a pile of sharp rocks. Perched on a ridgeline high above the valley below, the school yard required the children to manage on what is basically the edge of a steep cliff where errant soccer balls would often tumble nearly a kilometer to the river below. If this sounds like a case of “how can this be true”,I admit that I am often amazed by the Nepali people’s ability to live a reasonably content life in what we would consider unacceptable conditions.

   At the suggestion of my good friend Passang Lama, the resident facilitator for the Mendo project, a new play yard for the children was high on the wish list of the local villagers. Passang has volunteered so much of his time over the years helping hundreds of children, both in this rural village and in the urban capital of Kathmandu, and his insights for their well-being always shows when I visit the schools in Nepal.

   Last December, our donors helped raise the funds to totally renovate the aging play yard to a safe and suitable place for the children to gather on their breaks between classes. With funding delivered to Nepal in February 2018, Passang pledged to keep me informed of the progress of the project. As is always true in Nepal, some projects are harder to accomplish than others. The village of Mendo is located at the end of an eight to ten hour journey from the capital on a circuitous and rutted road that sometimes tests even my resolve. Tiny twisting roads, often washed out by the monsoon rains, cling to mountainsides above precipitous cliffs that disappear into the mist below. Riding either jeeps or motorcycles, we sometimes pass buses and trucks with only a few inches to spare, sending a cascade of rocks and dust down the ravine from the weight of our wheels. And it is over this road that most of the materials are delivered, weather permitting. Nepal is currently in the midst of monsoon season when adverse conditions can sometimes delay our projects for months. Thanks to Passang’s unfading resolve and persistence, the project has moved the forward despite day to day challenges that would typically stop westerners in their tracks.

   The upper photo shows the children in 2016 receiving their uniforms and annual allotment of school supplies on a rubble-strewn patch at the edge of a cliff. The middle photo shows the same area in 2018 cleared of rocks and then leveled for the introduction of grass. The perimeter wall has been laid prior to the installation of a fence near the cliffs.  Passang tells me that the remaining materials have been ordered and are awaiting shipment to the remote village. Kathmandu is currently seeing its typical daily spate of thunderstorms, so I trust that Passang will allow the goods to proceed once it is safe to do so. The bottom photo show two of the children who attend the primary school, dressed in their newly acquired uniforms for the school. Uniforms, whether simple or fancy, will always instill a greater sense of  pride and purpose to the children when they think about going to school.

   And to give added perspective as to why a small play yard is so important, it is crucial to see that these children have so very little in their lives as it is. Although they fully understand the value of an education, the economic factors of Nepal often pull children away from school to instead gain some modest employment as porters for trekking companies or as field workers for their family. Passang and I often discuss how to provide numerous incentives to encourage these children to stay focused on their education and the perk of a safe place to play their favorite games is always high on this list.

   We thank all of our donors for helping to make this small, but very important, project happen. I look forward to my next visit to the village and to perhaps engage the kids in a lively game of futbol, without watching the ball bounce down the cliff beyond as it did so often before.

Photo: Passang Dhondup Lama

August 2017 - The New Kindergarten Doubles in Size

by Steve Mannshardt 

 

    Many years ago we were asked by Sindhu Utthan Kendra Nepal to help develop a program and construct the facilities for a new kindergarten class in the village of Sipapokhare in the Sindhupalchowk District. The road to completion was full of delays, most notably the major earthquakes of 2015. At that time, WWEP’s resources went to the valuable efforts being undertaken to provide emergency shelter for the many hundreds of residents of the village left homeless by the quake. Although the kindergarten project was put on hold, the members of Sindhu Utthan Kendra Nepal contacted and gained the support of a European NGO that was able to see the building to it completion in the meantime.

    In April of 2017, the three room kindergarten opened to great enthusiasm. Enrollment of the young children was not only higher than expected but soon managed to outgrow all of the resources in the small building. Reaching out to the previous donors, SUK Nepal was able to secure funding to build another three room wing for the kindergarten to house the children currently on a waiting list for enrollment. This would indeed double the size of the classroom space but does not address the pressing issue of staffing the classes. This is where WWEP plans to fill the upcoming need.

     Our goal is to raise all of the funding for the teacher’s salaries and the classroom furniture by the end of this fiscal year. That will allow the time to commission the construction of the extra furniture and offer a guarantee to the local principal so that he can secure additional teachers for the children. The furniture is estimated at $750, the classroom supplies will run about $400-450 for the year and the salaries for the teachers are about $1140 for all of the instructors.

    Today we are happy to see the second phase of construction of the Sano Sansar ("little world") Kindergarten facility nearing its final stages. The official opening for new classes is in April 2018, only eight months from now. Please help us achieve this goal by making a donation to WWEP before the end of December 2017. This will allow us to finish the expanded kindergarten project that has shown such great success in recent months.

April 2017 - Trekking Porters to Receive Much Needed English Language Training Through KEEP and WWEP

By Steve Mannshardt  

The majority of trekking porters have limited English language skills to help them progress in their careers. Furthermore, this lack of skill makes it difficult to communicate easily with the guests they are helping to serve. The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project, a well-known NGO located in Kathmandu, has been providing low cost English language courses for porters for many years in order to help those wishing to increase their employment prospects. For the past six years, WWEP has contributed to the funding of these classes at KEEP as part of our Porter Advocacy Program to help those unable to pay for these classes themselves.

Every six months, a class of between 12 and 20 trekking porters meet at the KEEP office for two weeks of intensive classes in vocabulary, grammar and common usage of the English language. In addition, students are given extra lessons in cultural context, worldly experiences and general knowledge to help them better at making conversation with those guests they are assisting on treks. The KEEP staff and volunteer instructors from both European and American countries lead the daily classes based on the pacing suitable for the students in attendance.

At the end of the course, students are presented a certificate of completion by the KEEP staff, as seen here in this photo, and receive an inspirational speech from the Director of KEEP, Mr. DB Gurung. I am fortunate to be able to be in Kathmandu when the next set of courses are being taught, this July and August of 2017, and will be able to help with the cultural education segment of the courses.

So many times I have relied on the skilled and faithful services of porters, guides and long-time friends for assistance in navigating the numerous trails, villages and regions that I have traveled in my many years in Nepal. It is with great gratitude that I am able to return the favor by helping to enable these valuable language courses that are provided by the skilled staff and volunteers at KEEP.

Help us to maintain this valuable program by contributing to our Trekking Guide Training Program here on the DONATION page of our website.

Photo: Arjun Limbu

Photo: Arjun Limbu

February 2017 - Dental Hygiene for Rural and Urban Children Gets a Boost from WWEP

by Steve Mannshardt  

 

   Education takes many forms throughout the world, especially in regions that are systematically challenged. Nepal is certainly no exception to this and Health Education is one of our important crossover programs for children. On one of my recent visits to Nepal, I was able to deliver a large supply of new toothbrushes to the students of a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu. Donors here in America have helped us by providing both funding and material supplies for our various programs.

   Maintaining proper health for the children is a key factor in ensuring that they are able to attend their scheduled classes with regularity. In additional to the basics of the Health Education crossover, keeping the children healthy and in good spirits is one of the best ways to encourage an attitude that is conducive to further learning.  Thanks to the help of our local partners in the schools, distribution programs like this can be administered over the course of a full year with great success. Without supervision, the children may misplace their supplies due to lack of proper storage. If provided with too many supplies at once, sometimes families will sell extra materials to others.

   Our program facilitators are most often the staff of local NGOs, but can also be teachers, caretakers or concerned members of the community. We owe a great deal of thanks to our program facilitators for helping us with the day to day administration of programs while the staff of WWEP is here in the USA.  You can also help us by pledging your financial support to our Classroom Supplies Program which is found on our DONATE page here on this site.

Photo: Lea Jobert

December 2016 - A New Kindergarten Facility in its Final Stages

by Steve Mannshardt  

 

     We are all aware that Preschool education is a very valuable step in child development. But in Nepal, the advantages of this type of program are even more vital for the successful education of children in this impoverished nation. With over half of the children in Nepal dropping out of school by the age of 14, the first few years of education are ever so important to each and every one of them. We are right at the cusp of providing this valuable program to many of the children in the rural area of Sindhupalchowk.

     Four years ago I was in Nepal discussing the future needs of one of the small hillside villages in this district. As I stood in the open fields owned by a prominent resident, I was asked to fulfill a vision that was dreamed up many years earlier. Local elders had asked for a kindergarten to be built in the village and members of the younger generation promised that this wish would be fulfilled.

     I never gave up on the kindergarten but the earthquakes of 2015 threw all of our long range plans to the wind. At that point, all of our efforts shifted to rebuilding damaged schools instead of creating new ones. Luckily, our partners in the village were able to negotiate a major donation from a Swiss NGO to get the kindergarten project off the ground in late 2015.

     Eight months ago, I visited the village and saw the excavation and foundation work for the kindergarten well under way. Speaking with both the younger and elder residents of the village, I was asked to pledge a commitment to the facility to keep it running once it was finished. The promise that we agreed to was threefold; construct furniture for the three classrooms consisting of low tables and benches for the small children, provide basic classroom supplies for the children to use during the year-long term, and supply funding for salaries for the teachers to educate the children.

     Today we are happy to see the construction of the Sano Sansar ("little world") Kindergarten facility nearing its final stages. The official opening for classes is in April 2017, only four months from now. We hope to raise all of the funding by the end of this fiscal year so that we can have the time needed to commission the furniture and offer a guarantee to the local principal so that he can go ahead and secure teachers for the children. The furniture is estimated at $750, the classroom supplies will run about $400-450 for the year and the salaries for the teachers are about $1140 for all of the instructors. Please help us achieve this goal by making a donation to WWEP before the end of January 2017. This will allow us to finish the kindergarten project that has been so long in the making.

 

Thank you so much for your continued support.

Photo: Subash Shrestha

Photo: Subash Shrestha

Photo: Subash Shrestha

June 2016 - Classroom Supplies in Rural Nepal Delivered

 

by Steve Mannshardt

   

   School attendance in our sponsored villages has risen dramatically in recent months. Many of our donors have helped support our Classroom Supplies Program which brings writing materials, uniforms and book bags to children in rural villages. The program has grown slowly over the years, as funding has allowed us to add more students to the rosters. Little did we expect to see such a peak in attendance over the past six months. Luckily, support after the 2015 earthquakes swelled to meet the needs and allowed us to provide materials for the new school term, even with the amount of supplies that were destroyed.

Photo: Deepak Bhattarai

   Which brings us to our latest challenge; we now have more students than ever. Parents who may have looked upon education as a passing activity, now see it as the vital key to their children’s future and a guiding force in providing the motivation to learn. In a country where failed systems and broken promises have resonated over the decades of shaky governments and political strife, WWEP has now begun a wave of change for so many people. In light of this buoyed sense of purpose among the residents, I would like to do all that we can to continue the growth of our Classroom Programs.

     In the photo seen here at the top, staff members Murari and Deepak from our partner organization of Sindhu Utthan Kendra Nepal have come to distribute supplies to impoverished children in the Sindhupalchowk District. The small facility of the Kalika Primary School seen behind them houses classes in a temporary structure that WWEP funded as the nearby permanent structure is being rebuilt by government funding. Ram Krishna Nakarmi, the principal at the school, is seen on the right proudly posing with the children as they came to collect their supplies.

   But these distribution efforts do not happen by magic. Dozens of volunteers have stepped in to help with the distribution of classroom supplies since the earthquakes hit last year. Supply chains in Nepal were crippled and roads were often impassible. Still, our partners at Sindhu Utthan Kendra Nepal worked tirelessly to get the needed supplies ready for the new school term starting in April. The members are seen here checking in deliveries of supplies and dividing the load into lots for each specific school. Thousands of blank notebooks were created for the students, many of which were to replace ones lost in the destruction caused by the quake when most all of the local buildings fell.

     And still we strive to grow the program larger. After many years of waiting, we are now witnessing our partners breaking ground on a new kindergarten facility for the village’s children who are ready to begin their schooling. The building is due to be completed in the winter of 2016 and then opened in the spring of 2017 when the new term commences. But the opening will only be complete if WWEP is able to fund the day-to-day classroom expenses of the facility. This will entail expanding our Classroom Supplies Program to meet the needs of the additional classroom as well as the added students in the existing classrooms.

     Please help us see the successful expansion of this valuable and much appreciated program by offering your support.

March 2016 - State of  Normalcy is Returning to Nepal After the Earthquakes

by Steve Mannshardt

 

  After the 2015 earthquakes, schools were shuttered for safety reasons and it took months to not only get temporary structures built for the classes but also to convince the children to come back. After having their homes and possessions destroyed, residents had relatively little on hand to provide day to day sustenance, much less the time and energy to encourage attendance in classes that had nowhere permanent to meet.

   Luckily, we were there to provide immediate help. With so much international aid still stuck in bureaucratic red tape even to this day, residents and local organizations were amazed to see WWEP’s swift response and solid support so quickly. Deliveries of both food and shelter were supplied within days of the quake while other international aid was just leaving its home country. This immediate response was credited mainly to our having so many local partners on the ground in Nepal who were able to mobilize quickly. We have received numerous expressions of gratitude as to how fast WWEP was able to fund emergency programs and mobilize local partners to implement those programs.

   Within 15 days after the quake, we had funded a program to build interim structures to allow classes to resume despite the summer monsoon rains. By the autumn months, the temporary classrooms were full to capacity which made it necessary for classes to meet on staggered schedules to accommodate all of the children.

   In April of 2016, our first permanent replacement school building us due to open in the Rasuwa District. We expect a record number of students, given the absense of any school activities in the meantime. Sitting down with the head of the School Development Committee, we discussed (through an interpreter) how important WWEP’s swift response was to the recovery of the villages and the residents. With so many visitors passing through the area over the years and pledging some sort of vague assistance in the future, WWEP was the first to fulfill its promise and enact substantial change in these communities. And this integrity of purpose was not lost on the many residents in the villages. They have now come to trust WWEP as a loyal source of support.

Phpto Raj Bhattarai

Photo: Bidur Bhattarai

Photo: Rajan Bhattarai

April 2016 - Recovery and Hope: One Year Later the Mendo Primary School Re-opens

  

By Steve Mannshardt  

   It was one year ago when I sent out a message to our friends and supporters that both chilled my heart and sent WWEP into action. It was one year ago when a massive earthquake struck central Nepal, causing tremendous damage and destruction. Within two weeks, another equally destructive quake in a nearby region of Nepal shook whatever structures had remained in the center of the country and sent many of those tumbling down as well. Aftershocks rumbled through the wide region day and night and the significant ones have numbered over 400 in the past year. These events were to set the stage for one of our biggest challenges in assessing the damage and figuring out where to begin so as to affect the most relief.

   Just last week, I returned from a trip to Asia which included almost a week in Nepal. During this visit, I was able to accomplish quite a few tasks that renewed my faith in the country’s ability to recover and move on. I have seen strength and fortitude beyond anything I have witnessed prior. I have seen courage and perseverance that would put even my best days to shame. Yet the road ahead for Nepal is still a long one, far beyond what we perceive with our known levels of disaster relief. Political struggles that alternate between mere differences of opinion and outright corruption have kept much of the mainstream relief efforts from being as efficient as they could be. Traveling through the country on my own and speaking to affected groups, I have seen that the smaller and more directly involved relief groups have made some of the biggest strides towards getting work done. I am pleased to be a part of that smaller and, often times, more dedicated group of organizations that have evaded the red tape of the government and have struck out independently to create constructive change.

    My most recent trip was indeed productive in both the work done and the information gathered. I was able to deliver funding to a number of schools and social service organizations, all of which help residents of various ages and a range of economic hardships. I was able to survey the recovery of numerous communities in rural areas who had lost nearly everything and still moved ahead bravely.

 

   Most emotionally for me, I was able be present for the grand re-opening of a school which had been destroyed by the quake and rebuilt with our funding. The photo of that re-opening, on 12 April, 2016, is seen here below.

    And as equally important as helping with the physical reconstruction process, I was able to meet with and offer emotional support to children and young adults, some whom I have known for many years. One student, who is soon enrolling in university, spent close to two hours traveling to and from her home on the outskirts of town to speak with me for less than ten minutes. She came simply because it reaffirmed her belief that WWEP was there to help regardless of the scale and difficulty of our work.

    Despite the many challenges, we are indeed able to accomplish a lot. With our help dozens of children are enrolled in public schools, some even entering university. With our help hundreds of poor children now have a far greater respect and appreciation for attending school, an activity which often times wanes in interest by age 12. With our help numerous adults have transformed low wage manual labor jobs into sustainable careers that now support their families. And, most importantly, with our help we have instilled a sense of kinship and respect with these communities which shall not waiver, despite the hard times in life.

    We certainly look forward to participating in the rebuilding of Nepal, regardless of the amount of time, money or energy it takes. Thank you for supporting us.

Photo: Prem Tamang

December 2015 - Reconstruction Begins in the Far North of Nepal with WWEP’s Assistance 

   
by Steve Mannshardt

   
     A few weeks ago, we were able to begin the reconstruction process for the small primary school in the tiny village of Mendo in northern Nepal near the Langtang region. After being irreparably damaged in the earthquakes earlier this year, this four room structure has sat dormant awaiting the start of the rebuilding process. Our partners at Kids of Himalaya in Nepal worked diligently to clear bureaucratic hurdles, waited patiently for the rains to cease and struggled frustratingly with an ongoing petrol shortage that makes the eight hour drive to the remote village even more of an arduous journey.
    But recently work has begun to raze the fractured walls, bringing down the tortured and twisted frame while salvaging all possible materials in the process. The work is slated to take three to four months, despite the bitter temperatures of winter that will buffet the steadfast crew who have undertaken the challenging project. All materials are brought by vehicle to the nearby trekking community of Syabrubesi. They are then carried by hand up the steep trail to the hillside village.
    The children can be seen standing near the distant ledge, where their play yard sustained significant damage in the tragic events. The quakes occurred during a break in the school term and the start of classes was delayed for many weeks. Now having resumed, classes have continued in a small temporary building nearby. This is despite moderate tremors that have remained ongoing throughout the year and keep an ever-present sense of unrest in the air.

October 2015 - Adult Education Programs Ramp-up

 by Steve Mannshardt

  

   Education is a process that should be kept available to all. In the past six years, WWEP has helped hundreds of primary and secondary school children progress in their education by providing tuition, classroom supplies and uniforms. Whether the recipients are enrolled in private schools, boarding schools or government-funded public schools, the results have been dramatic and inspiring.

   But we also have an ambitious adult education program as well, aimed at reaching those residents twenty years of age and above. For so many decades, the concept of someone in their 20s, 30s or 40s attending school was so far from normal that almost no one pursued the options. It was not until 2006, the end of the devastating civil war in Nepal, that the idea of adult education was considered viable. WWEP has maintained a strong will to encourage adults in the greater Nepali community to seek and obtain any form of education that would help them achieve a greater chance of success. In fact, the first program that WWEP started after its creation centered on furthering economic advancement for adults.

   One of the adult programs that has found a significant success for us has been our Guide Training Program, a series of classes provided to help porters advance into higher areas of the tourism and trekking field. Many adults leave school in the eighth grade to become a porter on the trails of Nepal. Some leave even earlier if they are needed by their family in the fields. With limited traditional education, so many porters are stuck below a virtual ceiling that limits them from working as anything higher than what effectively is a pack mule for the rest of their life.

   This is where WWEP can change the picture. Working with Access-Himalaya, a trekking company, and the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project, a social service based organization helping many Nepali residents, we have been able to provide ambitious adults in the trekking industry with game-changing opportunities in career advancement. Working with our local partners to select suitable candidates, we are providing a series of four courses to advance the futures of promising students. Courses in the program include Basic English, Guide Training, Intermediate English and Wilderness First Aid.

   Just the other day, we heard reports of a great success story of this program. The following are snippets of the ongoing conversation between me and Pradip Rai, the owner of Access-Himalaya, on the subject of potential course candidates, shown here with me in Kathmandu.

“Prakash is very pleased to have been funded for the Wilderness First Aid course. He has now registered and will begin the course soon. Prakash is very keen to become a registered guide, and has already taken a basic English course. He feels that the course did not go far enough, and is asking if there is any possibility of Intermediate English also. We have to say that in our estimation Prakash will make a first class guide in the future, and would recommend him highly.”

 “I think you will be pleased to see the evidence of Prakash’s first aid course, which he has just completed. He is very proud of his achievement and grateful for the opportunity.”

 “Prakash has already made inquiries about the Intermediate English class. He will be very surprised and pleased when he learns that you are funding this for him.”

 

 “We thought you might also like to know that the two guides whose training you enabled last season are continuing their trekking work with increased satisfaction and enjoyment.”

 

   Needless to say, I feel such a profound sense of satisfaction to see that our work has so dramatically improved the futures of so many residents in need. I am due to leave for Nepal within five days and will be meeting with Pradip while in Kathmandu to discuss the expansion of this program into the upcoming year. With the earthquake in April having such a detrimental effect on the trekking industry, we have seen a marked rise in interest for courses provided by this program. With continued support, we can meet this growing need into the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

May 2015 - Assessing the Damage of the Earthquakes

    
by Steve Mannshardt

   
   It has now been five weeks since the first of many devastating earthquakes rocked Nepal into a state of utter destruction. We have spent a great deal of our time lately contacting our partner organizations in Nepal to collect and assess the information that they have been able to report on the current condition of their respective regions. Ironically, communications systems have been so badly damaged within Nepal that is it easier for people to contact each other through me. Nepali residents may be only a short distance from each other but they have found that using WWEP as an intermediary has proven to be a more effective way to reach each other, even if that communication goes halfway around the world twice.
   The various villages in the Sindhupalchowk VDC (village development committee) suffered a great deal of damage. Unfortunately, they sustained more damage in the second quake, as it was that quake that was centered much closer to that particular community. The first quake toppled virtually all of the homes but left many of the schools in usable shape. The second quake completely toppled what had remained and all eight of the schools in the area which we support were reduced to rubble. The rebuilding of these structures is far beyond our means financially. Luckily, there are thousands of residents in the area who are able to help with the process of reassembling the walls of the schools, a task that has already begun in earnest.
   In the Dolakha District, further to the east, we had begun to explore projects in the small village of Singba that contained only one small primary school. Damage there was significant but not crippling. Once again, it was the second quake that did more damage in that village due to its proximity to the second epicenter. The residents there have fewer resources but are appealing to the government for help in the rebuilding process.


 

Photo: Urkin Tamang

Photo: DM Sherpa

Photo: Basu Adikhari

Photo: DM Sherpa

Photo: Urkin Tamang

Photo: Raj Bhattarai

   The Rasuwa District, near the Langtang range of the Himalayas, is the area in which we had provided the most critical support in previous years. A small village named Mendo lies virtually unnoticed to the throngs of trekkers and aid organizations who take the east fork in the road past Shyaprubesi to climb the great peaks of Langtang instead of the west fork that snakes towards the Tibetan border less than ten miles away. When I first went to the village two and a half years ago, I saw a bleak environment populated by robust and energetic residents who had not been helped by any outside sources in decades. It was here that one of our larger aid efforts took hold. With a relatively small budget, we were able to affect major improvements in the village simply by making a few much-needed repairs at the school. But alas, that structure sustained significant damage in both of the quakes. Although it is still standing, the perilous condition of the school means that it cannot safely be occupied and needs to be replaced. It is here where we will be doing most of our work.

   In the neighboring Gorkha region, the area near Barpak was the epicenter of the first quake. That tiny village was one of my stops on my tour surveying the countryside. It has likely all been destroyed and has possibly tumbled into the valley below. There is no way for us to contact our friends there, given the level of destruction in the entire region and the degree of isolation.
   Luckily, all of the schools that we support in the city of Kathmandu sustained little or no damage due to the superior construction methods and materials used in recent years. Also, we were quite fortunate that none of the students or staff in any of our supported schools sustained any major injuries. Most residents of the city are sleeping out in the streets under tarps for fear of aftershocks which occur frequently and do not allow anyone to get any meaningful sleep.
   As for the rebuilding efforts, we are currently planning for a multi-phased program assisting various villages based on their specific needs, resources and populations. The timing of this rebuilding program is not helped by the coming of the annual monsoon rains. The entire region of the lower and middle Himalayan elevations are currently experiencing torrential downpours that make daily life on a normal day a challenge and construction projects difficult. In these conditions, the Nepali people are stretched thinner than ever before. Still, we will proceed forward with these efforts as soon as practical.

 

April 2015 - The Earthquake of 25 April


by Steve Mannshardt   


   Today , our deepest sympathies extend to the millions of residents affected by the major earthquake that took place near the capital of Kathmandu on 25 April. It is impossible to express the difficulty that this presents to every Nepali citizen, no matter how rich or poor. Millions of residents are affected in so many ways as the death toll from the disaster rises with each passing day. In a country where everyday life on a normal day presents challenges that most Westerners could not imagine, a tragedy of this proportion is beyond belief.
   In the midst of the aftermath, we are slowly making contact with our facilitating partners who work hard to execute our programs in Nepal all while taking care of our students. One by one, more of our children are being located and deemed safe following the destruction of the main earthquake and the numerous aftershocks.    

   Twenty five students touring a historic temple site on a school field trip narrowly escaped serious injury when the entire temple toppled to the ground around them. Due to the broad nature of some of our programs, other children are more of a challenge to locate and confirm their safety. We are still connecting with many of our working partners to ascertain the well-being of all of our supported children.   News from our sources in Nepal can be very mixed with each passing day.

   On the good side, all 17 children from the Mitrata Nepal orphanage have been checked in as safe. The structure is undamaged as, being a much newer building, it has fared much better than the frail and rickety ones in the nearby area that have tumbled down.  

   Fortunately, Facebook has a "Safety Check" feature that has allowed us to confirm the safety about two dozen of our partners in the Kathmandu area who are still without internet access. Mobile phones have proved very instrumental in keeping the communication going, but even that may falter as gasoline for the portable generators that can be used to charge them is running low. Many on our list of associates are still unaccounted for, so hopefully they will be found safe soon and recorded.  

   The limited contact in the higher elevations makes it nearly impossible for us to immediately know if any of the porters whom we support are involved in the deadly avalanches that occurred near Mount Everest during the quake. I have only heard from one of our trekking guides, who has reported in safe while on a short trek in a different region of the Himalaya.  

   On the positive side, we have since heard that all of our kids from the Conscience Primary School are all safe. Their school was newly built in early 2014 with much stronger materials than 95% of the older buildings that can often tumble like dominoes. The CPS School suffered minor damage to support structures but the dormitories are fully intact and the children have safe places to sleep.

   But with each report of good news also comes the announcement of dire tragedy. The remote hilltop village of Sipapokhare, located in the highlands of the Sindhupalchowk district, was utterly decimated by the quake. Our partners report that 99% of the village houses are completely destroyed. Of the 800 residents in the cluster of villages along the ridge line, 160 have perished in the devastation. The village is the primary recipient of our annual program for Classroom Supplies Program and now suffers unimaginable losses for both children and adults as well as all of their schools. Reports have come in that all eight of the schools we serve have either been damaged or destroyed.  

   The residents are now living out in the open with no shelter. And to make matters worse, it has just begin to rain heavily today in the entire Kathmandu Valley. The monsoon rains typically occur in the summer months but will occasionally come earlier. The next three days are also forecasted for thundershowers which, luckily, tend to be of shorter duration. Still, with so many hundreds of thousands of residents sleeping outdoors for fear of aftershock collapses, the situation is getting worse quickly.

   As you see and hear the never-ending reports  of tragedy and loss, please consider donating to our programs which will aim to rebuild the education infrastructure that has been so badly damaged in this natural disaster. These efforts will not only play a major role in 2015 but will also linger into 2016 and beyond. Thank you for your consideration. (photo credit: News Agency/REX Shutterstock)

February 2014 - A New School Year and a New Season of Benefits from WWEP

by Steve Mannshardt

   Every year, February comes with mixed blessings for me and WWEP. In one way, it is our slowest month of the year and in another it is our busiest.

Nepal is still in the middle of winter and many rural schools are cut off from the urban centers. This often makes it difficult for us to enact any new progress on the work that we have done in the previous year. Also, schools are approaching the end of the academic year which means that most are busy dealing with end-of-year exams.  Information in both directions is much less at this time of the year as preparations for upcoming transitions take precedence. Any aid shipments from the prior year are typically dwindling, as students learn valuable lessons about the rationing and pacing of their resources.

   Conversely, February is also when WWEP is doing the most strategizing. For it is this relative lull that allows us to assess how the previous year’s program fared prior to embarking on those of the new year. Although communication from the schools is often at a low, the conversations back and forth from our partner organizations in Nepal are usually at a peak for the year. Many of our partners know that we rely on the surge of donations at the end of the calendar year to be able to make realistic and accurate plans for the upcoming term. Reports on progress and requests for support begin to trickle in during mid January and reach a peak about the beginning of February. And then our Board of Directors gets a month to ponder, discuss and decide.

   With the majority of our benefit programs doing well, many are gauged for how much we can expand. Occasionally we find some program that does not perform as well as expected. It then gets a thorough assessment of whether to continue the support, the best method to redirect the resources or how to totally discontinue the effort. Once again, the difficult decisions come up. Like with any budgetary process, there are never as many resources as there are points of need. The decisions of where to exact the most benefit are indeed complex. Is helping one child in a monumental way more valuable than helping ten with a significant effort? And is that more valuable than helping one hundred in a simple way? As in most things in our lives, the answer is hidden in the complexities of Balance.

   On one end of the spectrum, we have a disabled child for whom we provide nearly everything vital to her successful life; housing, education, food, clothing and health care. On the other end, we allow some students the opportunity to supplement their existing education with artistic avenues to enrich their own lives as much as they choose. But the majority of our assistance falls in the middle of the spectrum, mainly in the form of education sponsorship and classroom supplies. This year, our sponsorship support grows from ten to fourteen students. Our classroom supplies program provides annual benefits to a number that expands to 175 this year. Our adult education programs grow very slowly, most often due to the logistical and emotional difficulty in reaching those beyond normal school age. 

   Luckily, with all of this growth, comes a dramatic sense of progress. For as we grow at WWEP, we also see a tremendous growth in the organizations which we support. Idealistic residents who formed a new organization only a few years ago with little more than a desire to help in some way, have now become formidable drivers of social change. I see newspaper clippings from Kathmandu of our partners engaging in substantial efforts to help their fellow citizens. And I cannot help but think that all of this is possible by way of the care and support expressed by the donors to WWEP, each and every time there is yet another need to be filled.

Thank you, once again, with all of my heart.

Photo: Raj Bhattarai


by Steve Mannshardt, Executive Director   

   For those of you who are following our efforts to reach into the schools of northern rural Nepal, we have joyous news of great success in our endeavors. One of the recent additions to our classroom aid program in rural Nepal is the tiny village of Mendo, a tight-knit community of 200 residents perched on a barren hillside near the border of Tibet. In November of 2012, I traveled far north to tour the village and the little three-room primary school that had fallen into great disrepair since its original construction some 25 years ago. Meeting over 100 of the adult residents of the village, I was deeply touched by their balance of tireless hard work every day and a determination to educate their children beyond the bleak and difficult life that they have endured themselves. Seeing the 40 children who attended the classes in the dilapidated classroom, I was moved to action immediately upon returning home to the USA.


   In the first week of February 2013, funding sent from WWEP enabled the local workers to start with the renovation of the small school. The first photo shows the run-down condition of the small school house when I first toured the facility. The middle photo shows the staff from Care Himalayan Region working alongside hired workers in April 2013 to pour a new concrete floor and repaint the darkly stained walls to a bright white that would provide greater natural illumination inside the rooms. The final photo shows the children from one of the classes enjoying the comfort of the newly renovated classroom, including carpet on the previously bare floor. Although the work was completed at a modest cost and was done in a relatively short time period during a school break, the show of hope and joy on the faces of the students, their parents and the faculty of the school was an immediate show of great success. With just a small upgrade to the aging structure, WWEP was able to lift the spirits of the entire community by providing an atmosphere much more conducive to learning and proper education.


   Thank you to all of our donors for their continued support in this process, as your contributions  and words of support have meant a great deal to the children of Mendo and to their parents who look to them as the future that they never had.


 

April 2013 – Success in Our First School Renovation Project

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All photographs on this site created by Steve Mannshardt, unless otherwise noted