By Emily Stanley
Twelve Edge of Seven volunteers just returned home from building a school in the rural village of Phuleli, Nepal. Lots of rock crushing (to make “gittee” or gravel) and heavy lifting made for a dynamic several weeks!
Together, with the local community and our Nepali project partner, we began construction on a much-needed lower secondary school for students in classes 7 and 8. * Inspired, energized and more aware of the issues facing the developing world, our volunteers are now settling back into life at home as they process through their experiences.
As one of two Edge of Seven staff members on the trip, I am recounting every day, every moment and savoring this experience as a powerful reminder of the dichotomies so prevalent in today’s world. The fact that beauty can live side-by-side injustice. That simplicity is actually sometimes quite complex. And that people, those struggling to get by and those with something to give, are inherently good.
Some basics about the Phuleli project…
The Need: In rural Nepal, most families live off of subsistence farming. Household chores like collecting and chopping wood, harvesting millet, feeding animals, fetching water, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so on, require more hours than there are in a day. Families need the support of their children to get by and sometimes opt to keep their kids out of school (particularly if the school is not nearby). In rural areas, girls bare the brunt of the work, often marry early, and are disproportionally affected by the barriers to education. In Nepal, just 38% of girls eligible to attend secondary school actually attend school regularly (in comparison to 46% of boys).**
Prior to this project, the Phuleli school housed students through class 6. Students in classes 7 and 8 had to walk 2+ hours daily to the nearby village of Nunthala to receive a secondary education. Many families chose to keep their girls home, concerned about the large volume of household chores and the long commute to school.
The Solution: Phuleli’s community leadership approached our Nepali project partner, asking that we construct classrooms for grades 7 and 8, so that more students (and thus more girls) could receive a basic education in the village where they live. Thanks to Edge of Seven’s generous community of supporters, we were able to raise the funding required for the school and broke ground in early November. The school should be finished in late December and 49 students will move into the new classrooms in January. Over the past several weeks volunteers worked tirelessly beside skilled laborers and the Phuleli community to clear the site, lay the foundation and begin construction on the facility. See photo of our progress below (the white bags are where we are building). In fact, I actually heard news just this morning that the team remaining in Phuleli laid the last earthbag today!
This school, an earthbag construction project, is the first of its kind in the region and (from what we know) just the 2nd time earthbags have been utilized in Nepal! Stay tuned for more information about earthbags.
Overall, the project and the volunteer trip were a great success! The next series of Edge of Seven blogs will explore our volunteer experience, the loveliness of the people, food, landscape and everything that is Nepal. Stay tuned!
* The structure of education in Nepal is as follows: Primary – grades 1 to 5 (typically ages 6-10), Lower Secondary – grades 6 to 8 (starting at age 11), Secondary – grades 9-10, Higher Secondary/College – grades 11-12
** Statistic courtesy of UNICEF: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nepal_nepal_statistics.html.