Shree Kumrung Baraha is located in a stunning but remote spot on the terraces of Tikhyan, under the dramatically looming slopes of Annapurna South. The school’s headmaster, Ram Poudel, oversees the education of around 60 primary age pupils.
I came across the school whilst looking for off-the-beaten track walking for individual trekking holidays in Nepal’s Annapurna Mountains.
My wonderful guide, Shantaman "Shanta" Gurung, told me about the school and how the young children walk to it for up to two hours each way, every weekday, during term time. There is no road to the village which is served only by footpaths and donkey tracks.
It quickly became clear to me that the children were not eating anything during the school day. Many of the childrens' parents are subsistence farmers and are very poor. Sending their children to school with lunch was not an option.
Most of the children had a very early breakfast but then didn’t eat again until the evening after they had walked back home.
As we know, abstinence from any energy source will impact children, especially their ability to absorb information. Philanthropy has always been the heart of everything The Explorations Company does so, moved by the determination of the children to learn and attend school despite the daily challenges they faced, I instinctively knew that we could make a real difference.
Working with the support of Ram Poudel we have been inspired to come up with a win-win three part solution to fund the provision of lunchtime “tiffin” for the children.
1. For a relatively low sum, we are funding the purchase of lunchtime provisions for the school.
2. Instead of the headmaster taking a whole day to descend to market in the valley to buy provisions and bring them back on his donkey, the basic ingredients are sourced at normal market rates from the children's parent's smallholdings, in rotation.
3. Each parent then takes a turn to come to school, bring firewood and cook the midday tiffin for the children.
Like many effective plans it is a terribly simple concept – and it works. Not only are the children eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime but their families are benefitting from the additional income that selling their produce to the school - at fair market rates - brings them.
The parents are now also combining their efforts to share the production of extra crops to suit the school’s requirements.
One can visit this school during a tailor-made walking or trekking holiday in Nepal; an excellent opportunity to truly get “under the skin of” - and experience - rural Nepal whilst learning, in a proper and unaffected manner, about local society, lifestyle and culture.
The best way to trek in this region is with an expert local guide who can show you all the beautiful details of off-the-beaten-track, rural, Nepal.
You can stay in a series of comfortable lodges from which you trek each day, either in the surrounding area and then returning to the lodge later in the day, or (my favourite) between lodges. The daily treks take around 4-6 hours, starting after breakfast.
Nepal is, without doubt, a walker’s paradise. Each morning you wake to stunningly breath-taking views of the Annapurna range, some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.
The scenery is exactly what many expect when they imagine the Himalayas; brilliant green terraces of rice and barley, fields ploughed by buffalo, pretty hillside villages of thatched houses and dry stone walls and forests of oak and rhododendrons that burst into colour in spring; all set to an eye-wateringly stunning backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains.
Your guide will take you along the ancient pathways that criss-cross the region, often avoiding the more usual routes so that the true flavour of this interesting, colourful and eclectic area is brought to the fore.
Along the way you share your path with local hill peoples, passing by on trails trodden for centuries by traders and pilgrims between yak pastures and villages, temples and holy lakes.
You will be sustained en route by hearty snacks provided by your hosts! There’s no rush (moving relatively slowly is actually the key to walking in this seriously undulating terrain) and there is plenty of time to visit villages, photograph the scenery and soak up the spirit of the mountains.
If you would like to visit Nepal and the Shree Kumrung Baraha School or donate to the tiffin programme contact me here for more information.
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