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2009-09 ~ Sue's Story

Memories to last a lifetime ... 

It was with some trepidation that I accepted a friend’s request to visit a small, but massively significant, charity in Nepal that they support. I had never visited a Third World country before and knew that my experience would lead me well beyond my current comfort zones. 

The charity in question is the Manisha Child Welfare Foundation Nepal, MCWFN. It was founded officially in 2003 by Mahendra Shakya, then serving in the British Army as a Gurkha, but now retired. Mahendra is a delightful, deeply spiritual man, a gentle giant who towers above most of his Nepali kinsmen. Even in his early years he was enthusiastically raising money for the homeless victims of the devastating Nepal monsoons that can sweep away long-established homes within hours. 

During his leisure time, trekking in the mystical Himalayan mountains, Mahendra came across remote villages with no electricity, no water supply and no educational facilities for the local children. However, poverty and lack of resources had not robbed them of a real enthusiasm to learn and better themselves. Their frustration at being ignored by their own government was evident, and so the seed for MCWFN was planted. 

To date, Mahendra has established 16 schools from East to West Nepal. Some are completely new buildings and others utilise the traditional stone and clay dwellings typical to the area. The aim of MCWFN is to bring quality teaching to the most needy children, improve sanitation, provide a reliable water supply and basic medical needs. Ongoing support is then required to pay teachers’ salaries, maintain buildings and supply basic school stationery and equipment. 

During our visit, we were able to discover what life is really like in a village with one of Mahendra's schools. We stayed overnight at Pipal Danda, West Nepal. Our welcome was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The village elders and all 125 children greeted us as we walked up the final section of a treacherous track that led to their school. They sang beautiful traditional songs and as we were laden with flower garlands, I felt truly humble to be in the presence of such a warm and happy community. 

Later we had a chance to share the stationery we had packed into our cases, all donations from friends at home. The children were delighted to each receive a pen, pencil and new exercise book, with other gifts handed to the Headmaster for when needed. We were only able to allocate two solar-powered calculators to this school, yet the reaction was of such celebration that it was a stark reminder of how we at home take for granted access to everything that we need. 

After giving a fun English lesson to the pupils, darkness fell and the whole village came out to join in the party arranged for us. Many of these people, trapped by poverty in the hills and being self-sufficient in their limited farming, had probably never seen a European, let alone had a chance to engage with one. We joined in enthusiastically as they taught us their traditional dances, and laughter, smiles and joy filled the beautiful Nepali mountains. We were left with unforgettable memories and a determination that this was to be only the beginning of a lifetime’s devotion to this fantastic cause. 

Every effort will have a direct and immediate impact on these children and not get lost in complicated bureaucracy and costly overheads. Helping can be as simple as knitting a school jumper, donating school uniform or unwanted stationery. Or it could be a donation; £20 pays for a teacher’s salary for one month. 

For the more adventurous, there is a desperate need for volunteer English teachers, perhaps an ideal chance for Gap Year students who want to combine a trekking adventure with a worthwhile cause. 

If you would like to help, even in a small way, please do get in touch! Every little really helps.