9 November 2017

Canberra foundation's small projects make a huge difference in Nepal

| Ian Bushnell
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The Canberra group in Khara ko Mukh in western Nepal where they helped build classrooms and a computer room. Photo supplied.

The work of a Canberra-based foundation that has been helping Nepal recover from the devastating earthquakes in 2015 is growing, as it raises funds and sends volunteer teams to the Himalayan country to provide on-the-ground relief and rebuild schools.

A group from Canberra has only just recently returned from the remote village of Khara ko Mukh in western Nepal, where they built two classrooms and a computer room for the Shaheed Hari Prasad School.

REACH for Nepal co-founder and director Lachhu Thapa said the four men and eight women, aged from the mid-30s to mid-60s, took five days to trek to the village in sight of the Annapurna mountains.

REACH has been visiting the school for two years as part of its program to rebuild schools and libraries, provide educational scholarships, foster sustainability, enhance the skills of local teachers and boost participation in sporting activities. The foundation’s priority is assisting people in remote areas of Nepal that have not been reached by other aid agencies.

Mr Thapa said REACH had six projects scheduled over the next 12 months and organised several Community Rebuild trips a year. There are two next year, with one already booked out and the second with eight spots left.

‘The aid the Foundation is able to provide in Nepal is growing very quickly with nearly $20,000 raised at a recent fundraising event, and Canberra schools and universities expressing interest in participating in future community and school projects in Nepal,” he said.

A group from Canberra Grammar is travelling in April and University of Canberra students are set for November.

young Nepalese girl greeting

“We can’t change the world but we can change the world of the people that we help,” – REACH co-founder and director Lachhu Thapa.

The trips combine a fully guided trekking experience with volunteer work on a rebuilding project.

Travellers commit to fundraising a minimum of $250 with the money buying goods such as dental kits, school bags, and schoolbooks to present to the schools. Foundation partner Singapore Airlines provides a 5kg allowance for travellers.

“It’s a pretty nice way to see Nepal, and you can see exactly where your money is going,” Mr Thapa said.

With no overheads, almost all of the funds raised go to Nepal.

The work also boosts the local economy by creating jobs and buying locally produced building materials.

“We aim to keep it local, keep it authentic, keep it small,” Mr Thapa said.

“We like the little projects that we do. And that’s the direction the foundation is headed over the next five years.”

He said REACH (Rebuild, Educate, Assist, the Children/Communities (giving) Hope) had a broad meaning and scope, and a lot of the big projects need to be approved by the government, “so there is only so much we can do”.

“Over the past two years, we’ve come back and had a lot of people say we can’t change the world but we can change the world of the people that we help,” Mr Thapa said.

Over the last two years, the Foundation has raised more than $50,000 and Mr Thapa thanked the Canberra community for their generosity.

“We are grateful to the Canberra community in supporting the foundation through fundraising activities and providing direct hands-on support in Nepal,” he said.

“Nepal has a really soft place in people’s hearts because of what it brings to the world.”

For more information, visit their website.

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