As the entire world goes through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Nepal also marks the 5th year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of April 2015. With thousands of lives lost and countless houses and buildings destroyed, it was one of the worst disasters Nepal has ever experienced. As with most major crises, education of children was at stake since school buildings across the county were badly affected and with them the future of millions of children was in jeopardy. One of these buildings, which was completely destroyed was Shikharapur Community School (one of our partner schools in Pharping). Without a school building, the parents, children and teachers were anxious about the future of this community school. To formulate strategies to mitigate the crisis, we held several meetings with the local government officials and we came to the conclusion that a make-shift bamboo school should be constructed immediately so that once the government gave the ok to restart schools, we would be ready to welcome them back. With the help from community members and donation from Rukmini Foundation, we were able to build a bamboo school within 2 weeks.
The result of a community-led effort in partnership with the foundation
Our goal was to ensure that education could continue as quickly as possible for hundreds of children in this community, and we were able to make it happen.
A few months after the earthquake, we started a donation campaign to build a permanent building for Shikharapur School because we knew these temporary schools, while absolutely critical to getting the students back into school, would not last for the long term. Thanks to the generous donations from people all over the world, and in partnership with other NGOs and our local community members, we were able to help build Shikharapur School in a very short time given the resource constraints that were ongoing in Nepal at the time. This result proved that in the time of crisis, NGO (Non-Government Organization), local governments, and community members can cooperate to overcome challenges, even the ones that seem almost impossible to do so.
The finished Shikharapur School now provides a safe environment for hundreds of local students while offering even better amenities, such as a Science Lab.
Our response to COVID-19 is no different to how we tackled the post earthquake crisis. The Lockdown in Nepal, which started on March 23 has now been extended until May 7. Not only does this mean that kids are not getting their normal education in school, but for a few of our partner schools where we provided a daily meal, it also means that many of the students, especially in the rural Pharping area, will be going hungry as well. Because of the strict lockdown, we are not able to serve meals or provide aid ourselves, thus essential goods are not being provided to the affected students. To overcome this challenge, we held meetings with elected local government officials, and we came to the conclusion that the Rukmini Foundation could donate to the “Covid-19 Crisis Fund” set up by the local government and the local officials will distribute the basic daily essential items for the community members impacted. This meant that we could support our communities while also strengthening our working relationship with local governments.
All over the world, NGOs and governments are seen as rivals, and this seems especially true in Nepal. The government sees NGOs as a money-making organizations that either campaign for “foreign propaganda” or for PR. On the other hand, NGOs see the government as ineffective, out of touch with reality, and corrupt. While these allegations may have some merit for both institutions, we know for a fact that we cannot and will not achieve anything positive by playing the blame game, especially during such crises.
After the earthquake of April 2015, a make-shift bamboo school was built with strong cooperation between our foundation, local authorities, and community volunteers, which enabled hundreds of students to go back to the school. After that, we were able to come together with international support and local energy to build a permanent school. The current situation is even more complicated than that disaster, but we believe that our support of a small donation to the local government’s COVID-19 Crisis Fund is a good initial strategy to alleviate hunger triggered by the pandemic. We firmly believe that cooperation and not competition between NGOs and local government is the key to survive and revive, and eventually thrive from the current crisis as well.
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