We have cycled over 5000 kilometres, and motorcycled over 3000 more, and eventually, after 6 months on the road, we hit the smog of Kathmandu! And would you even believe that before we set off the furthest Joel had ever ridden was 30kms-Bath (from Bristol) and back?! It’s mad, isn’t it! I honestly can’t believe it. There have been times when it felt like we would never make it, the Zagros mountains in Iran seemed to go on forever, the humidity in Goa almost killed us by dehydration. And the thick fog in Northern India almost froze our fingers and toes off! We have had one hell of a journey! This morning, we arrived at the school in Kathmandu where I taught 3 years ago, and invited the boys to ask questions about our trip. And so came the inevitable: “Why didn’t you come in an aeroplane?”… And you know what, Joel and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. How to explain? The warmth of the people we met along the way, the peace from pedalling through a winding valley, the camping, cooking and showering in woodland, the sunshine… The relentless packing and unpacking, the sound of the rain on the tent, the soggy socks. The frustration at not being able to find a camping spot, the overcome fear of new places (like Iran, which was one of our favourite bits! But you’d never know it unless you went there, would you?) And the food… YUM! When all these scenes come whizzing to mind, the question that seems more relevant is “Why would we fly?”, but after a long list of the things we’d seen along the way, the mountains, rivers, people, I think they got the picture.
But listen, as well as to tell you about our adventure, the reason I write is a plea for help.
Before we set off on the trip, we arranged a meeting with a company back home to discuss sponsorship – we were planning to raise money for the school I mentioned. The school is actually an orphanage/monastery school, taking in Tibetan and Himalayan children who have either lost their parents or their families are too poor to keep them.
Shortly before we set off, Rainbow Zebra, (www.rainbowzebra.co.uk) an online office furniture company back home, agreed to support us on our ride, offering to provide the school with whatever it was that they are most in need of. Suddenly this trip became about more than just us out for a jolly… This offer is what kept my legs turning up those mountains!
We agreed that we would arrive at the school, find out what they needed, and then discuss how the sponsors could support the school. There was talk of solar panels and computers, as well as the basics; food, medicine and clothing.
Khenpo (title for a doctor of Buddhism) Rinpoche (a reincarnation of a high lama), the patron and man behind the dream which opened the school, used to have a grand(er) title, he was Head of Buddhism for Nepal, and part of the ruling government party. His salary (together with support from the UK and France), was what kept the children fed. He recently lost his position and moved out of his house in the suburbs and now inhabits a single room on the roof of the school, in order to give all he has to the 80 boys who live there. He is the one responsible, and he is relying on his savings now, which obviously cannot last forever. The worry is what will happen when it eventually runs out. They really do need help – now.
Rainbow Zebra’s contribution at this stage will go towards food as this is number one priority, and some will be divvied up for pocket money; a luxury the boys rarely receive. Photos coming soon!
Khenpo’s dream is to build a new school for 500 students, and he has already bought the land. The problems they had been having with the Maoists are now solved and there’s nothing to stop them going ahead and building, apart from lack of funds. However, it is apparent that this is nothing more than a dream for the present moment, as they struggle to feed the boys a simple diet of rice and daal. Food prices as ever, are on the up.
I could write and write and write about them, these are wonderful, respectful and incredibly open-hearted people, and my experiences with them in the past have changed my life forever (I realised my dream of becoming a teacher). I really want to do everything in my power to support them, and appealing to friends and family back home is my first stop.
Please, join me in remembering how well off we all are in the west. We might be in a recession but we are lucky enough to have food and shelter and money for leisure. How much have you spent on eating/drinking out in the last month?
So Joel and I and everyone at the school here in Kathmandu would be very grateful if you would consider sponsoring a child. It’s up to you how much, 70p a day is enough to feed and educate one of the children, but 20p a day provides a significant difference. In return they will write to you and send you photos and traditional artwork. They could do with the English practice too! Trust me, these kids are delightful, you will not regret it.
(If you can’t afford an ongoing sponsorship, please consider buying them all some fruit -or anything you think would be a good idea- via Joel and I, fruit is relatively expensive and thus a luxury for them)
Joel is doing his bit – he’s going to do some serious baking – making dessert for 80 boys! (I’ll post pics to the blog.)
Go to www.siddharthafoundationuk.org for more information on how to donate, or maybe how to come and volunteer?
Anyways guys, thank you all for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it. To borrow a phrase from a company with good ethics: Every Little Helps!
I hope that 2012 finds everybody happy and well.
Happy new year!
Betty and Joel