SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 51: The Everest Staircase Challenge and the fundraising heroes continuing to support our cause!  

“Thanks for your appreciation and encouragement to help to educate more children in the remote villages and slums. We are thinking and planning to adopt schools at villages and slums to educate as many as children to learn to read and write by your support. We concentrated to reduce the school drop outs and child labor. Our volunteers are teaching well and children are learning for knowledge in different subjects, mainly mathematic techniques and skills and English grammar and speaks in English, also painting, games and puzzles. 

Thanks for your support that you collected and distributed to all the partners. We are very grateful for your good work for sharing fruits for fruitful life and bright future for CHILDREN.”

Namaste, Madhava
Mercy and Grace, Vijaywada, INDIA

This is just one of the many responses of gratitude we have received from the beneficiaries of our staircase challenge funding.  For our partners Mercy and Grace, they have used the opportunity to venture in to the slums to seek out and support more children by providing them with some simple resources to enable their volunteer educators to teach.

However, it was clear following the funds donated from the first staircase challenge summiting the equivalent of the 3 Peaks that our global partners would need more money to assist in their home schooling efforts during the pandemic lockdown.  There was only one thing for it…to go higher and further…

Friday May 29th, 2020…67 years to the day that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first to summit Mount Everest and it was my turn to have a go at climbing 8,848 metres, albeit in slightly different conditions!  My aim…was to complete the Everest Staircase Challenge reaching the same height elevation on the staircase up to the office in the barn by going up and down it 4,023 times – my target…was to achieve it in under 24 hours.  Training had gone well but I was anxious about my knees and whether general fatigue would determine that I needed to take a sleep break.  After six and a half hours, I knew I would be in uncharted territory but without frost bite, altitude sickness, jet stream winds or depleted oxygen levels to contend with, I really had nothing to worry about.  The first four segments of 610 flights of stairs each (more than four summits of Ben Nevis) were long and tough at almost three hours each, and that final segment just to get to base camp at 5,345m above seal level was easily the hardest. My knees ached at this point so I took a longer break of 45 minutes, elevated my legs, iced my knees and it did the trick.  The ache didn’t worsen, the segments from base camp to the summit were more varied and although my pace slowed, I reached the faux summit at 2.50am on the Saturday morning, 22 hrs and 25 minutes after setting off.  Several people called in to the barn to show their support (from a distance of course) which undoubtedly helped ease the monotony and of course, watching donations roll all just made it all entirely worth it.  Huge thanks to everyone who supported the lockdown staircase challenges – the beneficiaries and the team here are so, so grateful.

It felt fitting that a proportion of the funds raised from the Everest Staircase Challenge should support our brilliant partners Helambu Education Livelihood Partnership (HELP) in Nepal.  Since 2012, HELP have put together and distributed over 17,000 SchoolBags to children in hundreds of schools and facilitated three of the school builds co-funded by School in a Bag so they are hugely respected from an educational perspective throughout the Sindhupalchok district.  Please allow Jimmy Lama, the Founder and Executive Director of HELP to explain how our funds have been utilised.

I am pleased to be sending you a quick report and update on how the £400 was spent.

1. We have purchased a Zoom license with two host capacity to conduct a large meeting. It cost us £48 that will last through the end of June. This will allow us to run as many online meetings and training we plan with teachers, Saathi teachers and students over the coming week. Using it, I presented on last week about the impact our work and we have a 5 days teacher training scheduled from Monday onwards. I attach a picture of what I presented last week.

2. We have also created several educational videos that are being premiered. We now have them compiled on YouTube to share it with schools and children beyond just the schools we work and support. Here is the Youtube link showing various educational materials our Saathis have produced.  Your support will enable our Saathis to devote more time to share it widely and create similar videos in the future. We will use about £100 for this work.

3.  I had initially planned to put some of the funds to set up internet at Nakote School to which we did some preparation, however last week the government sealed everything going and coming out of Helambu area, which means we could not send anybody to set up the facility. So, we rolled back our plan and announced to provide basic stationery and colouring books to children who are most deprived in and around Kathmandu. We purchased and got delivered various colourful books, copies and play equipment worth £250. I sent out the notice about the availability of these items through Vibers and my Facebook too. I received far requests more than the items we have to distribute. So, naturally, I had to be selective. For this phase, I have chosen 16 children who are all orphans who live together in the orphanage called “Sahoyogi Samaaj Nepal” or “Helpful society Nepal”. I will attach pictures of what we had distributed but they were mainly copies, colour books, colour pencils, pencils, storybooks and play items. We even got featured by local news for providing this support. Here is the link to the news but it may not be too helpful for you as it was written in Nepali. Here is also a link to youtube that the local newspaper did for us. I then reached out to 10 kids whose family work in a carpet factory but they have lost their jobs. There were then some requests from here and there. A few children have also started sending me the work they have done with the stationery such as colouring on the book we gave – you will see in the attached pictures.

Further donations of £300 per contribution from the Everest Staircase Challenge have also supported our partners:

INDIA: Mercy and Grace
INDIA: Rural Welfare Development Society
GHANA:  Merona Foundation
TANZANIA:  Pamoja Leo

Aside from climbing staircases, some of our loyal supporters have created online birthday fundraisers to raise funds in lieu of presents.  Facebook is an easy platform to create this on and we are eternally grateful for this selfless act which enables us to continue raising funds during the lockdown when so many of our annual events have been postponed.  Thank you.

Talking of one event in particular, the second weekend in June felt decidedly quiet here at School in a Bag HQ as the usual furore and amazing music of Home Farm Fest was replaced with only the sounds of birdsong and the rain :(. We celebrated the week-long build up to HFF15 #thefestivalthatdidnthappen with a look back through the archives which you can see on the Home Farm Fest Facebook page.  In true supporter spirit, we were delighted to see that some of our loyal festival friends held their own homage to Home Farm Fest in their gardens and rather brilliantly, some of you even turned these in to fund-raising events asking for donations instead of the beer money you would have spent!  And whilst the village was eerily quiet, HFF committee member and School in a Bag trustee Keith Brownhill hosted Home Pharm Fest, a sister act the the real Mccoy just 250 metres up the road, where he recreated the festival in his garden with pre-recorded and live acts (carried out by himself), all to raise money for the cause!

How lucky we are to have such committed and creative supporters who endorse what we do and help us make a difference to the educational opportunities for underprivileged children around the world.  Thank you again.

Keith performing ‘I Want To Break Free’ by Queen’ on the Main Stage at Home Pharm Fest 🙂 !!

I started this blog with a lovely testimonial from our partners Mercy and Grace in India and a request from them feels like a fitting close Blog in Bag 51.

“Hope you are fine and healthy. Children are learning and teachers are looking for guiding the children. Could you please send help?  Could you please collect donation to buy a laptop for the teachers to download latest methods from Google to collect and share useful material in teaching to children?  If possible to donate.  Thanks to understanding the need.”

Namaste, Madhava

As I write this from the laptop where I download all of the learning materials for my two daughters so that they can make use of the abundance of online resources provided by their teachers, it appears that our partners have reached the point where they need to access this online provision of learning.  Any further help and contributions towards a laptop would be transformative to the education they can provide which we readily take for granted every day at the moment.  If you are able to contribute, please do so here and email luke.simon@schoolinabag.org to let us know about your generosity.

Thank you in anticipation,

Luke Simon
Founder and CEO of School in a Bag

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,800 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org