Saturday, February 16, 2008

Great News

I have just received news that CanWES has obtained a significant donation this week.  A Pediatrician from Hawaii has donated $2500 toward the building of the school in Nepal.  He has been a friend of Mahindra and has spent time trekking with him in the Himalayas as well.  This brings the society very close to achieving its goal of $25,000 for the construction portion.

CanWES would like to thank all of its kind donors for their continued support.  We hope to be able to give tax receipts by July 2008, however we are fortunate to have the support of to help us with that aspect in the meantime.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

After being back in Canada for the past three weeks, progress toward the completion of the school continues at home.  The construction of the primary school in Sanitar is continuing at a steady pace.  Here in Canada, fundraising is the most important aspect at this time.  We are still in need of funding for the school and many people are volunteering their time to help with the cause.

The most recent fundraiser was held today, February 14, 2008 in the Sooke School District. There was a district wide Valentine's Day Lunch fundraiser organized by the teacher's union. This involved about 20 volunteers attending a sandwich making, brown bag packing session to create over 210 pre-ordered lunches for teachers in the district.  District employees, Sue Begin and Kathryn Sahota spearheaded this fundraiser, and the Canadian World Education Society would like to thank them for their incredible effort and organization.  CanWES would also like to acknowledge all the volunteers who attended the lunch-making session, and those district staff who contributed to the building of the school in Nepal by purchasing a lunch.

As well, several other groups have approached the society to offer assistance in both donations and fundraising ideas.  I can't tell you how exciting this is for our organization and for the children of Nepal.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Epic Journey

After a long journey home that consisted of 3 different flights, four cities, about 24 flying hours and lasted a total of 72+ hours - I arrived in Vancouver to see Tara waiting for me.  It is nice to be back in Canada (sub-zero temperatures) to see family and friends and I look forward to reliving my experience by sharing it with everyone.

I have to tell you how much I appreciate all of the e-mails that I received while I was away.  It is so nice to see familiar names and great messages from friends and family while living in a developing nation by yourself.  Now that I am home  ...  doesn't mean that you need to stop.

I will continue to update this blog as a way of keeping everyone up to date with the progress of the Canadian World Education Society (CanWES).  As well, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at if you would like.

Thanks again for following my journey!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Sad Day in Nepal

While the capital city of Nepal remains busy as usual, there is a much more sombre feeling in the air. Sir Edmond Hillary (New Zealand) died today. Hillary, while known more for his ascent of Sargamatha (Mt. Everest) in the western world, made a remarkable impact in this central Asian country. He built 17 schools, several hospitals and a couple of airstrips to allow the Nepali people the opportunity to grow both economically and socially. He is a hero in this country, and his death brings sadness to its people - you can feel it today!

Outta Touch

I know, I know ... I've been outta touch for almost 4 weeks. But I have a perfectly good reason. Sit down and I'll tell you what's happened.

On December 18, 2007 I boarded a twin engine plane with Mahindra and Rudra bound for a tiny village called Rumjitar. This village is about a 40 minute flight east of the capital city of Kathmandu and due south of the tallest mountain on the planet. Our plane landed on a mixed dirt and grass runway that was located on a pennisula of land sitting about 1000 meters above the valley floor. The pilot barely had enough time to land the plane, throw on the brakes and spin the plane around before plummeting into the valley below. It was absolutely crazy!

When we emerged from the bamboo gate enterance of the airport, there were 5 men from the neighbouring village of Sanitar who made the one hour journey south to meet us. They greeted us in the traditional Nepali way, that encompasses placing a flower necklace around my neck. They insisted on carrying all of my belongings, but I insisted right back, so we compromised. I carried my back pack while they transported my tripod and video camera. The hour walk north (uphill) was fairly easy, and I was taken by how different everything was. I had never imagined things to be so simplistic. Evidently, the locals were surprised by how different I looked too, because they actually came out of their homes to see the strange man that had stumbled upon their village.

When I arrived in Sanitar - the village where the school is currently being constructed - I was greeted by 270 school children ... all of whom welcomed me with "Namaste", flowers, and began clapping as I walked between the 2 lines they had formed to officially welcome me to their village. It was truly overwhelming to see such a response from these children. There were also about 40-50 community members standing on the side also clapping. We soon found ourselves in a community assembly, where we were introduced as the "group of three" that would be building a school here in the village ... more clapping.

It wasn't long (about 15 minutes) before the work began. We were involved in instant meetings and discussions with regard to the school. These discussions, incidently, didn't stop the entire 4 weeks that I spent in Sanitar. I have to tell you, that it didn't take long to realize that I had just set foot in both the most remote and poorest part of the world that I have ever been exposed to. Only about 5 people spoke english in the village ... and three of them had just stepped off a plane. Mahindra thinks that Sanitar is among the top 10 poorest villages in the country.

I lived with 3 different families over the course of my stay in the Okhaldhunga region, all of which were remarkably hospitable. They did everything they could to make my stay as comfortable as possible. So much so, that I wasn't allowed to "work" on any of the school building. When I threw a "fit" to Mahindra, he insisted that I didn't seem to understand, that was Nepalese hospitality - I was helping to raise the funds, so I didn't need to do anything else. In the end, after a bit of complaining and insisting on my part, I was invited to do some of the work.

The Everest English School is now well on its way to being built - 40,000 bricks are currently being made by local labourers, there are crews working on the sides of hundred foot cliffs breaking stone by hand, and there are other workers sawing 100 + foot trees into three and four foot sections to be used for windows and doorways. People are literally working around the clock. Our day would often begin at 6 am with villagers arriving outside our room, calling into Mahindra to get up. The first task of the day involved walking the 600 or 700 meters down toward the valley floor to collect any finished boards that had been sawn the day before and bring them back up to the school site.

What is happening in this tiny village of about 1200 people is truly remarkable. The entire village is in a state of euphoria surrounding this project. I can't count the number of people who have come to express their gratitude to me about what I am trying to accomplish - thankfully Mahindra is around to translate. It is a very exciting project to be a part of, and I wish all of you who donated time and money to my "vision" were here to experience what I have experienced. During my time in Sanitar, I tried to get involved in as many aspects of village culture as possible ... surprising myself with what I was able to accomplish in the remote village.

However, all of this progress come with a price. We are ahead of schedule ... and that means we need money! I can not justify sitting in a country spending my own money while I could be home earning it for the school. As a result ... I'm on my way home. I plan to leave Kathmandu sometime next week - flights are hard to come by right now (they only fly 3 times per week), but I'm hoping I can get one by Tuesday. There are so many stories to tell, experiences to discuss, and photos to show. I hope that I get the chance to share them with you.

Thanks to everyone who has made this journey possible - I, and the entire village of Sanitar, will be forever grateful.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Next Step

The day has arrived. Tomorrow morning I will board a flight to the Okhaldhunga community where the next step in the process of building the school will begin. We fly into a little village named Rumjatar (45 minutes east of Kathmandu) and we will then hike for 2-3 hours to reach the village that we will be building the school in. The community is part of the much larger region known as the Everest region, and we will be situated about 3 days hike south of Everest. From what I understand, there will be no views of the great mountain unfortunately.

Yesterday consisted of a meeting between Mahindra, myself and Rudra (another teacher) who will be involved with the entire process and will then work at the school. He is a very educated man with a masters in Education. He will be vital to the success of this project, and has worked very hard to have everything prepared. Our first order of business will be to apply for registration of the school and choose the land to build on. There is a lot of work ahead, but it is a very exciting point in the process that has taken 2 years to get to.

I look forward to the weeks ahead, as long as I can get used to the food. I'm not sure when I will get the chance to e-mail or update the blog, but you will hear from me at the next earliest convience.

Here we go ... !

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Outta Bed

After spending the majority of the last week in bed due illness, the past two days have seen significant improvement. I am feeling much better, and look forward to the next few weeks in the mountains ... as long as I can handle the food.

Today I spent time walking through a part of Kathmandu that I haven't yet explored. It was an interesting walk that took me in to some remote areas of the city, where evidently not many tourists seem to visit. The looks that I received, many with smiles, were that of surprise and wonder. The children are always so cute as they try to practice their english by using the one word they know well - "Hello!" This is almost always followed by a semi-toothless smile and a lot of laughter once I respond with a polite "Hello" of my own, and yes ... a semi-toothless smile of course. I returned to my hotel, cut my hair and bathed myself, before going onto the roof to "shoot" the sunset. I have taken some footage for the documentary already, and I continue to film a lot of what I see. I wish I could post it, but I've had trouble trying to get this technology to accept the photos let alone film footage. It seems pointless.

To those of you who have sent e-mails or just a word to offer support - Thank you! I may not respond to every message, but it sure is nice to hear from home on a regular basis. As Christmas approaches fast in your part of the world, I hope that all is well and the shopping complete. I think of you often!