Twenty years ago, Jimmy Lama was a student at Yangrima School in Helambu. Jimmy came from a family where education was virtually unknown and where children were obliged to spend hours each day helping their family with their crops or looking after younger siblings at home. Jimmy was lucky, as well as bright, and went on to study degrees in Kathmandu and Sussex. An excellent communicator, he was invited to attend international conferences in USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, China along with several other countries. In 2008, he spent nine months working with the Mondo Challenge Foundation in the UK, an international development charity with the aim of supporting grassroots projects focusing on education and livelihood in developing countries. Upon returning to Nepal, Jimmy realised that his skills and connections should be used to improve the dire situation of education at government schools in the Helambu region.
Jimmy formed a team that included Chiring Lama and Nima Tshering Lama, Jimmy’s friends from school; their teacher Ram Krishna Shahi; and Purna Gautam, the headmaster of Melamchi Gyan. The team carried out a ‘needs assessment’ at ﬁve schools in the Helambu region before creating a proposal which secured the initial grant to begin operations. HELP was formally registered as an NGO in Nepal in 2009, and began working with ten partner schools in the Helambu region based on their needs assessment through activities such as building classrooms and toilets, installing access to drinking water, providing books for library, equipping schools with sports materials, providing desks and benches, sponsorship for poor children and paying salaries for additional teachers. The aim of HELP was, and continues to be to assist the development of government schools in Sindupalchowk district in partnership with the local school management committees.
Jimmy was subsequently appointed as Country Manager for Nepal by Anthony Lunch, the founder and Chief Executive of Mondo Challenge Foundation. HELP became an organization to channel and manage the funds raised in the UK, and became the foundation’s partner in Nepal. The connection between Anthony and Helambu dates back to the years Jimmy and some of his HELP colleagues were students at Yangrima School during the 1990s. The school was supported by Anthony, whose son was a volunteer teacher there in 1991. Inspired by a visit which consisted walking 10 hours from the nearest bus stop to the hilltop village where his son was teaching children (one of them being Jimmy), Anthony started coordinating a network of worldwide supporters to raise funds and recruit volunteers in support of the school.
Our work has become even more crucial to the residents of Helambu in the fallout from the 2015 earthquake. Very quickly after the first earthquake we started to deliver emergency supplies and shelter. In total we supported more than 3000 families in 32 villages in the Helambu region and have constructed 226 Temporary Learning Centres across 45 schools. Our priority is now to rebuild classrooms and damaged facilities and provide desks and books that were lost in the earthquake. According to government figures, of the 545 schools in the Sindhupalchowk district, around 470 were destroyed. This means the government has an enormous challenge and that the chances of receiving support for our more remote schools from other agencies is low. Our task now is to help with this rebuilding process, and we are working with local communities and the Ministry of Education to do so.