The fog lies thick in Sonada. Or actually it is not fog, we’re in the middle of the clouds, 2000 meters high in the Himalayas. It’s Losar, Tibetan new year. Celebrations all around in the Tibetan Settlement here where we live. The men are playing cards in our kitchen, and I’m looking at the photos from the past weeks of providing school things for the poorest children in Sonada village. So many proud faces to see.
It’s knocking at the door. The dogs are barking. Everyone is afraid of them, visitors are calling us out to guide them safely inside. Another mother and child with the bills for the school things. Except she didn’t manage to buy the things, since she had no money. So we go down to the market together and get the stationary and books (at least one hour waiting as the staff in the stationary will serve all the customers at the same time, so everyone has to wait very long, Indian style…). We also get shoes, make measures for uniform at the tailor, and find a schoolbag. So far 40 children is getting support. School provisions for one year. A little of the future secured.
The day goes by, the card game is finished, music and celebrations are still in the air, and Urgyen is helping me with the constant knocking on the door and all the visitors. So many sweet children coming to show their uniforms and school bags and everything, and parents with their bills.
Mother Muni is happy to get all the school things for her 8 year old son Kushal. She gets a cup of tea in our front room. Slowly she tells us about her “new” son, Kumar, a 9 year old boy from Nepal that her mother took in after he was left by both parents. She couldn’t afford to take him to school, until Muni came to visit and brought him with her to Sonada where she has been trying to submit him to school. Since he has no documents, it has been difficult. Now she is trying with Scotts Missionary School in Sonada. Hopefully they will accept him, and we can include him in Shenpen’s School Bag Project. Luckily we have this program to help the poorest of the poor families. Muni is working as a coolie, carrying rocks and cement at building cites to care for her children. Not only the new child Kumar and her own boy Kushal, but also 3 children belonging to the brother of her husband. The brother mysteriously disappeared so she is left with the children.
It’s so easy to help, a few hundred kroner can get a child to school (50-60 USD). The challenge is to find the most needing families, and avoid those who want to make an easy profit. Everyone in the world wants free school things… So we, Shenpen field workers Urgyen and Heidi, have been climbing the hills of Sonada making home visits to make sure the funds go to the right families.
Coming to many houses one could cry, really. It’s so poor and cold and lacking in everything. The school project is a blessing coming by. A sigh of relief goes through the hillside. Families surviving on a cow, on carrying rocks, grandmothers caring for grandchildren alone, with only a few vegetables to survive on grown in her little piece of land. We met a lady with leg cancer and no chance to work to get her elder daughter to school, her husband also being sick with resistant TB. Luckily the 20 year old daughter, Purlamo, who was desperate to go for skills training, now has joined Shenpen’s skills training program. She is starting a 2 year course in Hotel Management this month. – I just love to cook, Purlamo says, and cooking is part of the course. She is greatly relieved and surprised she suddenly got a future! And Shenpen is happy we have space for her in our skills training program, as several of our students are finishing their studies this year.
Yes, it is really a joy helping poor children to school. Their circumstances are dire, poverty can look bad and feel humiliating, but when the children stand there in their brand new uniforms and shine, you can’t help but melt. Looking dignified is a universal thing. And being able to go to school is hard earned. Especially in very poor areas, where human worth is measured in what things you can afford, how shiny and new you appear. And maybe that is also the way of the world…
As if riches are important. Rich people know they are not, more things don’t make you happy. But on a certain level they do. When they bring you one step forward out of poverty. The dignity you get, the feeling of equality. The knowledge and opportunity that follows from diving into all those books. Education is the only way out of poverty.
Seeing the relief in the mothers is so satisfying. All the school things paid, the freedom of affording a little extra for food, maybe even some apples (expensive around here), or maybe a trip to the doctor and enough for medicines. And I wish, a brand new lipstick for themselves.
Thanks to everyone who is helping Shenpen to get children to school!
If you want to help, don’t hesitate to write to firstname.lastname@example.org and mark it “school bag project”.
You will get a photo from the field of the school child you support.