This has been a long summer in California. The fog has been relentless making it cold and very “unsummer-like.” On top of that, I got a total knee replacement on July 18. It was much harder than I expected. My knee did not function well, but my brain was also quite impaired. So, I took a break from fundraising, accounting, web designing, donor managing and all the other the tasks in my role as the Executive Director of PiSL.
As I was recovering, I spent time a lot of time reflecting on my trip to Nepal in April of this year. It was wonderful in many ways. Working with VIN, our Nepali partner, we began an early childhood education project in a new region closer to Kathmandu called Okharpauwa. I was happy to meet and train 18 new teachers. I walked around the region and visited schools that had been damaged by the 2015 earthquake.
But there was one place that stayed with me. This village was completely devastated by the shaking. All 85 families lost their beautiful stone and mud ancestral homes that once filled the landscape. The road to their village was basically impassable, but when the principal found out that we were planning to visit, he rallied the villagers. We met them on the road with hoes and spades, trying to make it passable. It was an impossible task, so we started walking. Along the way, the villagers talked excitedly with the VIN driver, Akkal, who spoke the same Tamang dialect.
When we arrived at the school site, it was heartbreaking. There was nothing left of their school but rubble. They had tried to make temporary learning structures of tin roofing and bamboo mats, but these were flimsy, small and drafty. They asked me, “No one else has been here. Can you help us?” Through tears, I smiled, saying, “Yes, I will try to build a new preschool classroom.”
I knew it would not be easy. Construction would have to wait until monsoon season was over in September. It would be expensive to build an earthquake-resistant building which was, of course, the only option. The road would need to be fixed before the large trucks could bring cement and the steel framework necessary to make the building strong. Community members would need to put in sweat equity to get it built, but they were ready and eager. Illiteracy rates in this region are high. Only about 40 % of the women can read and write. The men have slightly better skills. But they know the importance of education and are willing to do whatever it takes to give their children a better chance than they had.
The big news is that construction on the classroom has started!! We were able to get the funds and they were able to fix the road. Stay posted for the latest updates. Soon, the Shree Devi Early Childhood Center will be preparing the youngest residents of their village for a future of learning!
PS My knee is getting better every day and I am leaving on October 28 for Nepal. I will definitely be visiting the Shree Devi Center!
Diann Grimm is the Executive Director of PiSL. She is back at all of her PiSL tasks and is counting on her new knee to get her around Nepal.