A SCHOOL FOR THE FORGOTTEN
Even after our many years of working to improve conditions and opportunities for the poorest of children in Nepal, it came as a shocking revelation to visit children living and working in the camps of brick factory workers in Kathmandu Valley. The conditions of these hard-labor camps are the worst we've seen and we were amazed that children could survive the filth and physical dangers that continually threaten them. Tragically, it is certain that many don't. It was with encouragement from a U.S. friend that we began research for a new project to aid children in the poorest circumstance, whatever their conditions. With endless choices to consider, it was the past experience of our rescue of a young girl from a brick factory that allowed us to consider new projects for helping all of the children in an area where ten brick factories are in operation. Open and barren, each factory compound is as primitive and abysmal as the other toilet facilities, no clean water, no services of any kind. The workers' shelters are makeshift piles of bricks -- fragile, dangerous, hopeless refuges. Plastic sheets or scrap mental are laid over the tops as roofing, offering little protection from the elements. The water source for all uses is water trapped in ditches or hollowed-out recesses in the ground, foul, muddy and disease-ridden.
After research and careful considerations of possible options to reach and aid these children, it was clear that any emergency assistance would be only temporary and enduring improvement to these children's lives demanded education. By the grace of extraordinary luck (or karma?) we have joined with a splendid local NGO in Nepal, comprised of truly committed and talented young professionals willing to join us in our efforts to organize and establish a free school and lunch program for these children. Like VCN, the volunteers in our NGO partner will work without salaries or benefits and with total dedication to the rescue and advancement of the children.
Our ambitions for these children are just beginning. We recently established our school in a location accessible to sixty children from all ten factories. Dialog and persuasion with the parents, guardians and factory foremen were essential in getting the cooperation needed to bring the children into our school The promise of free nutritional lunches every school day was an encouragement that appealed to everyone involved. Beyond academics it is our goal to instruct these young boys and girls in proper hygiene and health care, with trust that these fundamental lessons will benefit many others in their factory community. Equally important for these children is a safe place to play, make new friendships and celebrate their days of freedom from grueling labor and the miserable confines of the brickyard.