SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 20: The Woodheads visit Nepal.

This edition of Blog in a Bag is written by one of our supporters Rob Woodhead who, along with his sister Georgina, spent time in Nepal in 2016 having previously done gap years there when they were younger. Having already travelled to West Nepal to build deep water wells, the second part of their trip took them to the East of the country to distribute some of our SchoolBags.
If you visited our School in a Bag Shop in the Quedam before Christmas you would have seen some of the amazing photos that Georgina took while they were there – we have included some at the end of the post. 
We’d love to thank Rob and Georgina for all their support and now hand you over to Rob to tell us more about their trip!

The second part of our adventure took us to Helambu in the Sindhupalchok region of east Nepal, a few hours drive from Kathmandu, up into the incredible foothills of the Himalayas. We were in another 4×4, this time laden with school equipment, picking our way through the monsoon soaked mountain roads, on our way to a remote school where we were to deliver school bags to children affected by the earthquakes in 2015.

This journey started back in March 2016 when Georgina met the wonderful Luke Simon, an extraordinary guy who started the Piers Simon Appeal and its initiative School in a Bag. They found a common interest in charitable work in Nepal. Luke’s charity had started working there delivering ruck sacks filled with stationery, learning resources and eating utensils to poor, orphaned, disadvantaged and disaster affected children.
We agreed it was a great opportunity to further help and joined forces on their UK 3 Peaks Challenge. We raised just over £2,000, which paid for 133 bags that we planned on delivering ourselves.

After the well project tour had completed, we headed back to Kathmandu and met up with Jimmy Lama, the head of School in a Bag’s local Nepali partner HELP, and his right hand man, Mohan Tamang. They were to be our friends and guides for the next few days, helping us distribute the bags they had arranged as part of their collaboration with School in a Bag.
Jimmy has created an exceptional charity that is focused on his home region of Sindhupalchok, a region devastated by the earthquakes. In this region alone nearly 40% of the 8,698 casualties occurred, and we were told, 70% of residential buildings were destroyed. Jimmy and his team are working hard alongside School in a Bag to distribute school materials and even rebuild several schools in the area.
The journey to the recipient school took us through some amazing landscapes, in stark contrast to the flat lands we had been in just days before. We were now in the foothills of the Langtang Himalayas, riding along roads in deep gorges or precariously placed on the side of steep valleys. The school had been chosen after an application process deemed the children would particularly benefit from the donation.

On arriving at the school, we were met by 50 children all eager to see what we were bringing in the back of our packed truck. They helped us unload and we gathered with the rest of the children, the teachers and their parents in a clearing near the school. Georgina and I had become accustomed to receiving garlands of marigolds wherever we went, but at the distribution ceremony it felt like we received flowers from each of the 133 children. We then heard from local dignitaries, an eloquent 7- year-old girl and with Jimmy’s gracious help, I managed to stumble through a few thank you’s in Nepali, and explain we were there representing all our generous donors, to whom they all sent their great thanks.
The children were clearly very excited to have us there and to be receiving these wonderful gifts.
After the speeches, we set about filling each bag with the requisite stationery, learning resources and eating utensils. Each child received a SchoolBag filled with various types of exercise books, pens, pencils, a pencil case, a geometry set, a ruler, a tiffin (lunch) box and water bottle. Once filled, I was given the honor of handing out the bags to all the children. Each child is given a SchoolBag with a unique identifying number, so that we can tell you the names of the 133 children who received bags that day, through School in a Bag, you can follow where it has been sent and exactly who has benefitted, a great aspect of the charity.

The children then sat around examining their bags with looks of joy on their faces. It’s amazing how such simple things, that we take for granted, can help so much. Talking to Jimmy and Mohan about previous distributions it is clear these donations make a big difference. Without exercise books and pens the children can’t take notes during class or do homework. Without tiffin boxes or water bottles the children will go home at lunch time (often a very long walk), missing half a day’s school because they are hungry or thirsty. These bags improve the children’s education drastically and reduce the burden on the parents to have to pay for this equipment.

The following day Mohan took us to visit a school that had received bags some 5 months previously. Here we saw first-hand the impact that the bags were having on the school. The Headmaster told us that attendance had risen, and grades had improved, a phenomenon seen at many of the schools where SchoolBags have been donated. Another interesting observation from the teachers was that the children had felt a sense of pride and responsibility from being given the SchoolBags. They were often one of their only possessions after losing everything in the earthquakes, and provided a positive influence after such traumatic experiences.

It was an emotional few days for Georgina and me. We were lucky enough to be the first at School in a Bag to be involved with both the fundraising and distribution of the SchoolBags. To see the impact the bags had on such amazing, inquisitive and happy children was incredibly special. Visiting the second school brought home to us just how important these SchoolBags are, and we are very happy we got to work alongside Luke, Jimmy, Mohan and all the other great people in the UK and Nepal.

Re-visiting Nepal after so many years was an incredible experience. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in years, places we thought we would never see again and met new people who reminded us that Nepal is a very special place. We are thrilled that we managed to complete both projects successfully, without any major issues, and this was mainly due to the fantastic partners we had working with us. We were very lucky to be helped along the way by our great friends and I would like to take a moment to mention a few of them:
Luke Simon and his team at School in a Bag, thank you for letting us tag along on your brilliant 3 Peaks Challenge and be part of your amazing charitable family.
Jimmy Lama and Mohan Tamang and their team at HELP, thank you for arranging everything for us, guiding us and being so helpful throughout our time with you in Sindhupalchok, we couldn’t have done it without you.

And finally, from Georgina and me, an enormous thank you to everyone who donated to either project. We were touched that so many people, not just our friends and family, donated so generously to causes they believed in.