This trip, our connection to the THINGS of Nepal included electricity for two schools in the Dang Valley. Marty and I raised money for the purchase and installation of a pair of solar arrays on the roofs of Saudiyar and Madan Bhandary Schools. Between the two of us, we got contributions from more than 200 individuals and 3 corporations that covered the cost of equipment and installation at both schools. We sold blankets, and I ran an ultra-marathon to help raise that money.
Upon arrival in Nepal, we headed straight to Dang after a day to handle jet lag to see the initial stages of the solar installations. Each school had a few panels installed with an inverter and power regulator up and running. Marty gave them suggestions for change to make the arrays more efficient in the collection of sunlight and we look forward to seeing updated photos from Dang about how the final arrays look.
At each location, we talked to local people with investments in these same schools: school committee members, teachers, students and those who sent their children to these schools and some who didn’t. I was most interested in hearing why parents didn’t send their children to Saudiyar, as the lack of local enrolled students was concerning. There were two boarding schools near Saudiyar that many of the locals were willing to pay extra to send their children to attend. Saudiyar and Sucrawar have always been poor communities, so this left me puzzled. As I started asking more and deeper questions, I found out that nearly half of the young male residents in the community had found employment in the construction and services industry in the Middle East and were sending money home to their families. It showed! Many people in Sucrawar had more clothing than they had ever had, and many folks had pressure cookers, TV, motorcycles, reading glasses and the like. All of these items used to be luxury items, owned only by the wealthiest people in society. What a change!
Although our trip was brief (in Nepal only 6 days), we were well received, and I got to connect with lots of people from my distant past. Men who weren’t married when I left Nepal now had grandchildren. We drank a lot of tea! We also got a good feel for what other projects they would like us to do. And, though that Q and A process, we got a great opportunity to do two great things.
- We got to share the message of Jesus many times. Many folks asked me, “why do you keep coming back to serve us when you live on the other side of the world?” It was a great invitation to share the story of the great commission and I got a chance to plant some seeds of hope. A regional newspaper did an interview with me, and I was able to share some of the deeper, “why do you do this?”sort of answers with an audience of several hundred thousand.
- We got to learn about the “holes” created by the injection of solar power and computers in the schools. For sure, the biggest item was that the teachers didn’t know how to teach, using these new tools. Older methods of instruction that include memorization and repetition don’t apply with computers integrated into the curriculum. They asked us if we could help them put together a teacher training program that included how to find and use curriculum that incorporates computers into the training. I agreed to make that happen.
Therefore, we are going back next year, with the goal of bringing together teachers from both schools to do a “how to incorporate computers into the curriculum,” program for the two schools.
Finally, our vision of expanding education in Dang expanded. Nav Raj had done a great job at sharing with the community about how his time at Liberty University shaped his world view, and he wanted to see opportunities for students created where they could come to Liberty. I openly committed to finding funding for up to two students to come to the USA to earn degrees from Liberty. Alas, I have not a plan as to how to fund this endeavor. In an ideal world, we get financial assistance as we need it. The truth is that this is a multi-year investment, and we are considering creating an endowment to fund this. We are applying for a grant to help with this.
We have three heartfelt stories that we will publish between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
We will also publish an annual report, with financials, in early February, after tax returns are complete. We hide nothing.
Look forward to another event in Nepal in 2015, this time to change the local teachers and how they use technology.