Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting Down to Business

When I was a teacher in Japan, I had 11 regular classes of 55 students and 4 special classes of 25 students. I had to give speeches on occasion to as many as 2000 students and faculty. So, although I was surprised by the lavish attention and the impromptu speech making, I was able to whip up a little something. I found that the more I spoke, the more I promised. By the time I had finished talking, I was not just donating a few books but a whole library.

Tania and Jeri with the teachers and elders of the community.

The two older gentlemen were among the first in the community to organize and create the original school.
These are some of the school teachers. All of these men were very interested in the books that we brought and in discussing the educational facilities in the US. There was one female teacher, but regrettably, we did not get a picture.

There were a lot of female students.

When I asked the children what they wanted for their school, one boy asked for sports equipment. I was imagining a soccer ball regularly flying off the side of the mountain hundreds of feet to the river below. Another young man asked for a laboratory. They have science workbooks with standard lessons that they are supposed to get through to pass their levels, but they can only read about experiments because they don't have any equipment. I promised science books but I wasn't sure that I could provide a laboratory.

The teachers showed me three old donated computers that were no longer working. If they had modern lap tops, they would be able to get a satellite connection to the Internet, although it would be very costly. The children had helped to create a promotional video for the Italian biologists to generate donations in order to get their school built, but they have never been able to see the video.

This entire community has a passion for education! They have, without the help of government, figured out who to ask for help and how to get things accomplished. Their latest idea is that they will provide a house for a volunteer to come and teach English to their students. They can't provide food, or a salary, but they will gladly give the space and generously invite a foreigner to live among them in their community. If I were young and single again, I would do it in a moment. The offer is wide open, even if you have only two months of your time to share and no formal college education. Literacy is often the qualification for teaching school in Nepal. Let me know if you are interested, contact: butternutsquash2@gmail.com

Here is the situation that we encountered. These students have only government approved workbooks to learn from. The books that I carried to them were the first that they had had in the school. There was no library to contribute to. For most of us in the developed world, that is simply unimaginable. What is a school without books? But for people whose families might make only $1 a day, there are more important things to buy with that $1.

By the end of our discussion, I had a lot to figure out. For political reasons, it is not possible to make a direct financial contribution to anyone at the school. I had to find the proper channels to make good on my promises within the following week of our journey.
I want to give a big thank you to Leenie of Sidetrips for sending books. As well as my dear friend Sarah who also sent pencils. I also received useful photos of children from Australia and the US to share from Leenie, Irene and Sarah. They were fascinated by your books!

The pencils were particularly wonderful, because I was having trouble getting the children to come close to me until I pulled out the pencils, I did not see any pencil sharpeners, but I was assured that the students were accustomed to sharpening pencils with a sickle.

If you want to make a donation of books or money, contact me and I will put you in touch with the proper channels.


  1. I know it is difficult to see so much need for simple things we all take for granted. But it is also wonderful to see such eagerness for education. Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

  2. I don't know what kind of books they need but I wish you had posted this a month ago as I have, in the last several weeks, donated boxes and boxes of books to the local library.

  3. Hi Ellen,
    Thank you for the thought. I only announced the need just before I left but still I had as many books as I could carry. The next time I go over, I'm sure that I will be looking for more. It is possible to ship books to Nepal, but it would be very expensive. It is better to either have someone purchase the books in Nepal or to choose books to send that would be very hard to get in Nepal.
    Good Reference books: Atlas, Science picture books are good choices.
    Also, Nationlal Geographic books and magazines are incredibly thought provoking for children of all ages.

  4. Who can purchase books in Nepal? Do you have a contact? I'm going to send this post on to my 20-year-old daughter. An experience like this, to live among people in their community, would be life changing for her. Thanks for posting this.

  5. I have several contacts who can buy books in Kathmandu and carry them up to the mountains. But the most wonderful thing I found was 'Room to Read.' I will make a whole post about how to buy books for a buck and get them to where they are needed.

  6. How exciting to see the books that my (now adult) children loved in the hands of children in Nepal! Good for you, Butternut, for the efforts you made to see those books on their journey around the world and to the tops of the mountains. Also blessings on you for the work you have, and will do to help make life in Nepal a little better.

  7. Looking forward to the post about the books - and everything else you have to say, of course!

    wv: slang!

    Go figure.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This was such an inspiring post, i truly hope to be able to contribute in the future. Thank you for all you do, and Bless your heart Jennifer.

  10. So sad to think that there are still children out there who are lacking the basics, and so heartwarming that people like you are helping to fill a need.

    I am looking forward to read more about the 'Room to Read' initiative!

  11. I have shows in Atlanta and Boston this weekend and next so I may not be in touch. You can find my show schedule at http://aworldofgood.com

  12. This is terrific- really inspiring! I enjoy the photos here and find the story both meaningful and fascinating to follow.
    Thank you-

  13. Just catching up Butternut, and I want to thank you for your wonderful contributions to the world. I would love to help in some way. Please let us know how to do that.

  14. Oh what a hope giving experience Thank you for doing this great much needed job You are an angel. I work with volunteers and will put out the message that people are needed over there. Have a great day