Mon, Jan 30, 2017 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Classmates work to help Nepalese children

VOLUNTEER EFFORT:Several university students are headed to Nepal to work with the Calls Over Ridges project to educate elementary-school youngsters in Gorkha District

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Schoolchildren in Gorkha District, Nepal, focus in a class in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Calls over Ridges

While most Taiwanese are celebrating the Lunar New Year with their families, a team of volunteers from a group known as Calls Over Ridges is heading out today for the Gorkha District of Nepal to help children affected by the massive 2015 earthquake that hit the nation.

National Taiwan University student Lin Tzu-chun (林子鈞), who has worked as a volunteer in Nepal teaching children English and crafts, and classmate Tsai Wan-ting (蔡宛庭) cofounded Calls Over Ridges in early 2015, just months before the earthquake hit in May that year.

Last year they helped students at an elementary school create two libraries out of storage sheds and taught them to read and write English.

This year they want to focus on ensuring the children have lasting access to education.

“The most crucial step to achieving this goal is to change parents’ attitude toward education,” Lin said.

“Children have to help with their parents’ work after they get home from school, so it is very difficult for students to practice what they learn at school or what we teach them,” Lin said.

To help parents realize the importance of education, the team has planned a “parents’ and children’s classroom” program, where Nepalese university students, businesspeople, teachers and other professionals will be invited to give speeches to parents and children in remote villages every month.

The first “class” will feature a student who grew up in a financially disadvantaged family, but won admission to a university through hard work and financial assistance, Tsai said.

The team will work to establish more contacts to bolster its list of speakers, she said.

The team’s Nepalese volunteers are in charge of scheduling the speeches, so the program will continue after the Taiwanese volunteers return home, she said.

As the team’s target group mainly consists of fifth- and sixth-graders, the goal is to fund their education over five years so they would at least be able to finish their high school education, Lin said.

“High school is the important stage of a Nepalese education because professional subjects are taught at that level,” Lin said. “However, 95 percent of pupils at the elementary school where we volunteer leave school in middle school.”

The team held a fundraiser in Taiwan earlier this month and succeeded in pairing 93 sponsors with 93 Nepalese children, raising the number of children the group is working with to 144.

The sponsors have agreed to donate NT$600 (US$19) a month to “their” child, which means that at the end of the five-year program, the team will have raised more than NT$5 million, Lin said.

Instead of just giving the money to the children or their families, the team has opened a savings account for each recipient, depositing NT$200 of the monthly donation into each account as a “higher education fund,” Tsai said.

“Although receiving NT$600 every month does not sound like much, it is more than enough for what they need for their education,” Lin said. “However, when it is time for them to enter higher education, the amount might not be enough.”

Lin says he wants to tell potential sponsors that they are funding young “dreamers,” as there is a common hope among children in Gorkha to “leave this place and have a different life.”

One of the “dreamers,” named Anish, was a second-grader being raised just by his mother, Tsai said.

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