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Client feature: So the Child May Learn

Client feature: So the Child May Learn

Monday 14th August 2017

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Charity & Social Enterprise News - Issue 23 - August 2017

In this and future versions of CSE News we will be including a client feature discussing the charitable activities of one of our many charity clients.

In this issue, we are delighted to introduce So the Child May Learn – a charity set up by the charity team at Brabners in 2015.

So the Child May Learn is a charity registered in England and Wales working alongside local schools and communities to improve the educational prospects of children living in the remote and often overlooked middle hill regions of Nepal.

When the then Headmaster of Birkenhead School, John Clark, first went out to Nepal in 2012, his guide was Binay Lama who, as it happened, had already visited Birkenhead School. Binay took him to the village where he had been brought up, some 100 km east of Kathmandu. Visiting one of the local schools, located at around 6000 ft, John was struck by the warmth of the welcome but also by the dire condition of the classrooms and the severe lack of resources. It became clear that much could be achieved here with relatively little money and so the seeds for So the Child May Learn were planted. He and Binay worked informally for the next couple of years, making small improvements to the fabric and facilities of two local schools.

In 2015, Mark Feeny, Head of Brabners’ Private Client Department, introduced John to Stephen Claus, who heads up the Charity and Social Enterprise Department at Brabners. He, along with Graeme Hughes, provided invaluable advice and the necessary expertise and support to set up a charitable trust and obtain Charity Commission registration. John Clark, now Chairman of the Trustees, commented: “We were working on such a small scale and yet I felt that Stephen and Graeme had a genuine interest in what we were trying to achieve.  It was a huge breakthrough for us when we gained charitable status, giving an injection of confidence to our fundraising and a significant financial boost in the form of Gift Aid.  We were able to start planning more ambitious projects and have now ‘adopted’ another school.” 

The charity remains small, currently working with three schools in the Bhimkhori Village Development Community (Kavre District), 100km east of Kathmandu. The charity typically requires approximately £30,000 a year in order to achieve its aims – £5,000 builds a new classroom, £250 will furnish it with a blackboard and desks, £150 a month pays for one of the three English teachers supported by So the Child May Learn (one in each school).

An important principle – and one perhaps only possible when working on such a small scale – is that 100% of every donation goes directly to support the schools, with trustees covering all travel and administrative expenses themselves. John visits Nepal twice a year, sometimes joined by other trustees, witnessing projects first-hand. Binay Lama remains the charity’s eyes and ears on the ground and provides the local knowledge essential to ensure good communication and the reassurance that funds are going exactly where they are required.

Mark Feeny continues to show a keen interest in the charity and has provided invaluable contacts with grant-making trusts, etc. In April this year, whilst on a trekking trip to Nepal, Mark visited two of So the Child May Learn’s projects and saw first-hand both the challenges faced and the progress achieved by the charity over the past couple of years.

Projects so far have included:

  • three new classrooms at Krishna Lower Secondary School (2013);
  • employing English teachers at schools which previously did not have any; and
  • rebuilding the main classroom block at Jugeshwor Lower Secondary (2015).

Following the devastating earthquakes of 2015, building work at Jugeshwor Lower Secondary was suspended and the charity briefly changed its focus to provide emergency shelter for 276 local families who had lost their homes.

In 2016 work started on the construction of six classrooms at Pokra Secondary School, which were completed shortly after Mark Feeny’s visit.  Autumn 2017 will see further developments at Krishna to provide six new classrooms, including the first science and IT room at any school in the district. Alongside  this are ongoing initiatives to improve standards of teaching and learning.

The charity’s emphasis throughout is on close cooperation with local communities and there is a jointly agreed development plan for all three schools. John Clark commented: “It is probably a ten-year project to bring facilities and teaching up to the standard required for these children to have the life prospects they might have had if they had been born in the Kathmandu Valley.”

“We intend to stay focussed on this community rather than just helicoptering in some aid and then disappearing. There are hundreds of equally deserving communities across this largely inaccessible country, but you just have to do what you can, wherever you happen to be, with the resources you have. Having said that, we are already looking to extend our reach to a Sherpa community further east, in Ramechhap District, where the local primary school was destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes.”

For further information about So the Child May Learn, feel free to contact John Clark.