Lessons in gratitude
On a very wet and stormy evening in mid-February, Kristina Bourner, Lee Churchill and myself met at Bahrain airport to embark on a long journey to eastern Nepal. All three of us were experiencing a mixture of emotions from excitement to trepidation. Nothing could have prepared us for the welcome we would receive in the coming days. Nothing could have prepared us for the lessons we would learn about the life changing power of education, the privilege of choice and how educated decisions can make a real difference. We were about to learn how, by rebuilding a school, it is also possible to rebuild, heal and inspire the community around it.
We were joined in Kathmandu by Jack Clarke, School Partnership Director for United World Schools and together, we flew to Biratnagar. After a six hour drive, we reached the district of Sankhuwasabha (the epicentre of the earthquake in 2015). In Gurase, we were given a truly humbling and gracious welcome. It was evident that the money raised by the St Christopher’s Senior School community has been used effectively and is transforming lives, providing free education for over one hundred pupils in this remote Nepalese community. UWS are fulfilling their mission statement, they are “teaching the unreachable”. Previously, many of the children had had to walk for three to four hours to reach the nearest school through dangerous and difficult terrain. As we waved goodbye to Gurase, we collectively acknowledged that our experience had re-ignited our love of teaching. We had been reminded that children find joy in singing, acting out stories (Mr Churchill was a terrifying bear) and simple playground ball games. After two days, the name “Gurase” had become synonymous with laughter; the wonderful sound of happy children, learning.
As we arrived in the valley of Helu Besi, it was hard to imagine that we would replicate that same level of inspiration. Again, we were not prepared for the overwhelming display of gratitude. Garland upon garland of flowers were placed around our necks; a symbol of welcome and a mark of respect. Yet again we were being treated with such kindness, at times it felt like unearned privilege. We were in Helu Besi to witness the ongoing construction of the primary school which is being funded by St Christopher’s Infant and Junior schools. In addition, we saw how the current building was very badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake and is still in use, despite being unsafe. Although our mission was to look at how our fundraising had made a difference to this community, it was their response to us and their message, through us, to the St Christopher’s community which made an equally significant difference. Their welcome, their gratitude, their openness to working with others was both inspiring and encouraging.
It was an honour to be representatives of St Christopher’s school and truly humbling to see the difference that the fundraising has made to both communities. The staff from UWS were so dedicated, enthusiastic and united in their determination to educate another 50,000 children by 2018. On behalf of the communities of Gurase and Helu Besi we must thank everyone who has given so generously to such a worthwhile cause. Lee, Kristina and I have witnessed that every one of you have made a difference…..”Dhanyabad”.