Saturday, December 19, 2009

How Our School Began - Mike Church's Story

This letter was written by Mike to friends and family in April 2007

In January 2005 Greg Grimm, Cam Moore and I entered Nepal on the day the King dissolved the government and declared martial law. In response, the Maoist Rebels declared a strike across the country. This forbade businesses to open or vehicles to travel on the open roads. An interesting backdrop to begin a journey.

We cycled from the border, eastward across the Mahendra Highway, through the Terai, a belt of grassland, marsh and forests at the base of the Himalaya range. We found the gladed forests and quaint villages enchanting.

Riding along we overtook a pair of brothers rambling along in their single speed bicycles. Very soon we were all gliding down well beaten trails through the forest toward their village. This is how I met Ujjwal and his brother.

Cam, Greg and I spent a few leisurely days with their family. The brothers were enthusiastic to discuss Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, which they had read in English. We talked late into the night about their country's future. They often talked about education.

Before we left the brothers put a proposition to us. Why must we go? Why not stay in the village and in exchange for teaching English to the local children, the family would provide food and lodging. After all, what deadline required us to keep moving.

This possibility has been lodged in my mind ever since. Why did I not spend a few months in a subtropical Eden helping out those disadvantaged children who could so desperately use my help?

Over the intervening years I have stayed in contact with Ujjwal. He likes to call my parents in the middle of the night. Following the Hindu reverence for age, he first inquires about "mother" and "father's" well being. He then inquires about my whereabouts. Recently I have managed to get Ujjwal to begin using email, which has improved our communication dramatically.

Now Ujjwal is taking steps to fulfill his dream of opening a school in his village. To this end he has asked me for financial help.

I am a firm believer in the parable, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The benefits of basic education need not be reiterated here. They are plentiful and convincing. Never the less, here is a refresher. Girls who are educated are better able to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS, marry later in life, have healthier children and have work opportunities beyond the home. Boys who are educated may be able to break a family cycle of hard labor and typically earn more than their non-educated counterparts.

I believe that Ujjwal's project to establish a school has a high likelihood of success. Unintentionally, this project is reminiscent of Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute in that it is a locally initiated project, unlike many non-profit projects that impose foreign ideas to local situations. Because local people are the impetus for change, the community has a vested interest in the outcome. Community participation is a key to long-term success. Additionally, there is no overhead in this project. Every penny donated will be directly transferred to the project.

If you agree with the philosophy of this project, please be generous and contribute.

Thanks on behalf of Ujjwal and the kids who will benefit.


(NOTE The Rest of the Story: Ali Sharp and Mike Church were married on May 3, 2008. They asked guests to make donations to several non-profit organizations including Ujjwal's school as an alternative to giving wedding gifts. Mike and Ali were able to send about $2500 and the Mikey Medium English School in Bauniyan, Kailali was able to open it's doors to 40 students - 20 of which were girls.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mikey,
    I would like to extend my gratefulness to you for being such a generous and broad minded human being. I like your belief to teach to fish than to give a fish. I really appreciate your support to the school which is there in the rural part of Nepal.
    I am from Nepal and established here in Baltimore. I am strong supporter of education. I would like to support your project.
    Though, right now I am not capable to help you economically but I can tell other people who could support it financially.
    You told me when you come in my store at inner harbor, that you are going to send a lady from here to teach in Nepal. I would like to meet with the lady and if you want I can train her to learn nepali language and culture.
    I did my M.A. in teaching English as a second language so I might be a help to develop curriculum and materials for the school.
    Please let me know if I could do any assistance.
    You can contact me by either email or phone.
    my email is:
    my cell no is : 4436552032
    Thank you.