POKHARA, NEPAL -- I arrived in Nepal last Friday and have been busy getting the ball rolling so we can begin the construction of the school.
Since we began Phase I of the school project last Summer, we have successfully raised enough money over this past year to start Phase II! It was a community effort that brought in the bulk of the funding through our Musicians for Nepal Benefit held on April 5th in Breckenridge Colorado.
Six bands and solo acts performed live music well into the night. Breckenridge Distillery donated cases of bourbon and vodka, 100s of business owners around the county donated raffle and silent auction prizes including Breckenridge Outfitters while Napper Tandy's donated the door cover and a portion of alcohol sales. We were more than grateful to have a match of US$5,000 from the owners of Grand Lodge on Peak 7, located in Breckenridge.
Because of the generosity of the Breckenridge community, and several additional private donations from individuals all over the U.S. and world, we were able to successfully raise enough money to finish the school project that was started last summer!
I am currently working on the project from Pokhara because of the accessibility to ATMs, internet connection, and most importantly... my translator! I will travel down to the village in 1-2 weeks time. It's about a 18-23 hour journey by bus from Kathmandu, so I am letting the workers get a head-start on the school before I venture into the jungle!
It has been near-to-impossible to organize anything from America. To begin with, communication in Nepal is arduous. Dipak, my Nepalese translator and friend (who's family village we are helping) is very difficult to understand over the mobile. It's a lot of "Hugh? What? Say again!" then the call will drop. Not fun.
I had dreams of getting the project started before I came, then arriving with the school nearly completed. This would allow me more time to organize the purchases of enrichment material and work on curriculum development. But alas, doing business in Nepal can not be done over the phone. The country is simply just not setup for this.
School Budget Reform:
Since I arrived last Friday, Dipak has been communicating my questions to the Village Development Committee (VDC) of Tappu over the phone. They gave me a make-shift budget for the school project last October and then again in March. I needed the final and revised version. This is generally how our 'phone meetings' go; I ask Dipak to call my project manager Sitra Ram in Tappu to ask for the revised budget. He then goes around to each person's home in the village who reside on the development committee (12 in total). Sitra Ram is the only person with a mobile, so once he walks to each persons' home, this takes up to a full-day. They meet and discuss the budget.
The following morning, Sitra Ram phones Dipak with the news. Of course, I have a dozen questions and adjustment requests. Dipak owns a restaurant, so we can only meet when it's not busy. It takes a full-day until Dipak can phone Sitra Ram back. Now, Sitra Ram has my new questions and concerns and again goes around to everyone's home in the village. He can give me an answer the next day.
And so this process continues until finally, after one week, we are able to create a reasonable construction proposal for the school that I approve of.
The budget is considerably more than they told me in March. I saw this coming (because I know how business is run in Nepal), so I over-shot the fundraising goals at the Musicians for Nepal Benefit. There are several reasons why this has occurred.
Nepalese Economy and Inflation:
The Nepalese government is very corrupt and disorganized. Cost-of-living for the Nepalese person has nearly doubled in the last six months, while wages have stayed the same. This includes things like rice, eggs, petrol, milk, livestock... but most importantly, construction material! While material has doubled, it isn't hurting my budget too much because the value of the dollar has risen (last summer it was trading at US$1=70 rupees and now it's at 85 rupees). This inflation is more-so severely hurting the livelihoods of the Nepalese. This is why it is now more important than ever that we continue to help them.
I believe the locals are now starting to see that having a Monarch was a good idea. Many people that I have spoken with hope for the return of a King, though it is not very probable. When the Maoists overthrew the King in 2006, they had hopes of creating a democratic or parliamentary government but in truth, it really has turned into a Communist society. The government has yet been able to create a constitution -- something they have been working on since '06. They sell Nepal's power supply to India and China to serve the increasing needs of those populations. However, the cost for them is only two rupees per kilowatt while the Nepalese are forced to pay 10 rupees per kilowatt.
And we mustn't forget all the revenue that tourism generates for the country. Where is that going? How is that being spent? You can ask any Nepalese person and they are unable to give an answer. The economy and living standards for most people are not good here. I have seen for myself that the government is getting worse off since I was here last summer. This can be evident by the dwindling currency value.
The Next Step for the School:
The next hiccup will now occur with getting my money from my Global Orphan Prevention bank account into my hands here in Nepal. Bank fees, bank fees, and more crappy bank fees! In addition, the Nepalese banks only allow for $500 to be pulled out per day. It will take three days until I can collect enough money to give the VDC a deposit for the building
The good news; construction starts back up again on Monday!
Last summer, we gave the VDC a small grant to begin Phase I, which consisted of a foundation and pavilion. Phase II will be constructing walls, framing, roofing, plumbing, and buying enrichment material!
School enrollment has increased from 75 children to now over 100 since last Summer. At the moment, they only have two teachers. I am trying to see if there is room in the budget to hire on two more. I believe this is more than necessary.
I am currently accepting donations for this. The money we raised in Colorado and from out-of-state private donors this year was primarily for the building, enrichment material, and two teachers' salaries providing we had anything left over.
If anyone out there would like to sponsor a teacher's annual salary, we could really use this. The annual salary is US$850 per teacher (depending on the exchange rate at that moment). You can just do it once for this year, or make it a yearly contribution with your tax refunds.
Please email me at email@example.com if this is something you'd like to get directly involved in. Alternatively, you can donate the full amount to our PayPal, with a note saying what it is to be used for. A photo and bio of the teacher you are sponsoring will be sent to you! If needed, a tax write-off form will also be included.