Amidst Earthquake Destruction & Fuel Crisis, Hoste Hainse Pushes for Education
Hoste Hainse is an organization dedicated to sustainable community development through education. 3rd Creek Foundation has partnered Hoste Hainse to support its education centers in the Sarlahi District of Nepal since 2008. During my visit in December 2015, I visited a new Hoste Hainse project site in Sinupalchowk District, an area that underwent significant destruction during the 7.8 richter magnitude April 2015 earthquake.
Tuesday, December 1st was a big day for the teams at Hoste Hainse and 3rd Creek Foundation (3CF). We were out the door of our Kathmandu residences by 4:30am and on our way to two remote villages in the north of Sindupalchowk District. Hoste Hainse’s Krishna Shah and Pratistha Bhandari led the journey, which included Lisa Pier, Hoste Hainse’s current volunteer who hails from Germany, Prem Lama, a manager at Formation Carpets and the lead local liaison, and myself representing 3CF. In the early darkness, we spun around winding mountain roads, up and over Kathmandu’s surrounding foothills, back down into river gorges, and yet again back up steep mountain passes. After the sun was well into the sky, we hit our stretch of dirt road, where we began bouncing around violently until we reached our first stop in Thulo Dading.
We made surprisingly good time through this leg of the journey, shaving 1 hour off of what typically takes 4 hours thanks to minimal traffic. The reason behind the minimal traffic, however, is no reason to celebrate. Nepal has been experiencing a critical fuel shortage since late September, a dilemma that has crippled the country, brought earthquake reconstruction efforts to a standstill, and is fiercely testing the resilience of the country’s poor and middle classes. 3CF nearly canceled this very trip to Nepal and Sindupalchowk, questioning the potential for instability in the wake of such a commodity shortage. The situation on the ground is no joke, although there is also a vague and eerie façade of normality, thanks to a black market that emerged.
As our vehicle bounced into the Thulo Dading area, we first met with Prem Lama and a community group that welcomed us to the area. Prem is a manager in Kathmandu at Formation Carpets, a company that manufactures and exports exquisite, hand-knotted carpets. Formation Carpets, founded in 1990, is a Nepali company that promoted corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies well before the term had become the familiar buzzword it is today. The company and its founder, Sulo Shrestha Shah, have received significant recognition for ensuring progressive practices, praise which is well deserved when considering Kathmandu as a business environment is historically riddled with poor practices, some of which include widespread child labor, hazardous working conditions, and corruption. At the same time that Sulo founded Formation Carpets, she decided to start Hoste Hainse, where she continues to serve as Board Chair, providing guidance and managerial support.
Through this network, Prem introduced Hoste Hainse to the Thulo Dading and nearby Attarpur communities, two locations where the April earthquake damaged and destroyed several buildings, including the village schools.
As we met with the community here, we discussed the problem at hand. The damage that the schools experienced represents just the tip of the iceberg. Historic school performance, meaning the quality of education delivered, was (somewhat unsurprisingly for rural Nepal), extremely poor. None of the students from either school had passed the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) for the past two years. The SLC is the equivalent of an exam to receive a high school diploma, meaning that both schools had a 0% graduation rate.
While this 0% pass rate may appear somewhat hopeless, Hoste Hainse sees it as an opportunity.
This is where Hoste Hainse’s proposed intervention model comes in, the idea being to partner with the schools to support new construction, extra teachers, tutoring, and the Hoste Hainse education model which is known for its 90+% SLC pass rate. At the same time, Krishna Shah, who represents both Hoste Hainse and Formation Carpets, intends to build a carpet factory from which Formation Carpets can manufacture product and share a portion of the resulting proceeds with the Hoste Hainse school program. This will create much-needed income generating opportunities for individuals in the villages who are currently faced with minimal options. Through its new initiative, Hoste Hainse can address the education gap by reconstructing schools, improving the quality of education, and ensuring some degree of financial sustainability.
After our community meeting, we traveled to several potential sites where the community is willing to donate land for the new school. We then ate lunch, which the school management committee chairperson and his wife, graciously served in their home. Next we visited the actual site of the old school: a scene of quite dramatic destruction, the dingy frames of several buildings persevering with a pile of concrete rubble beneath them. Each of us noted how fortunate it was that the earthquake hit on a Saturday. Had it been during school hours, it is doubtful anyone in the classrooms would have survived.
Our last stop in Thulo Dading included a visit to the Temporary Learning Center where classes are in session. Here, although we had requested no celebration, we were greeted customarily with students lined as far as the eye can see holding garlands of marigolds and other flowers to give to the guests (us). After collecting all flowers, we went through a brief assembly program where several from our team made speeches.
I drew upon my Nepali language skills to share how proud we were to see everyone in school, and the importance of studying hard. I then called up one boy and one girl from the audience to discuss what they are studying and what they want to be in the future. Both aspired to be teachers.
After school resumed, we briefly visited each classroom, met with the teachers, and finally continued on the journey to Attarpur. The road we took is unusable during the rainy part of the year, meaning it was a very steep, bumpy decent followed by a river crossing, then followed by an even steeper ascent next to a dramatic drop off into the gorge.
Thankfully we made it to Attarpur in time for another elaborate welcoming of marigold garlands. Afterward we went directly into the Class 10 session where Krishna spoke with the students at length. Many of them attend Hoste Hainse’s sponsored tuition (tutoring) courses for two extra hours every day. They are highly motivated to succeed and understand how important the SLC can be to break the cycle of poverty.
The Attarpur school suffered damage during the earthquake, rendering certain classrooms unusable.
Our final event involved a meeting with the Attarpur teachers and principal. We then made the big journey back to Kathmandu, again arriving earlier than expected due to the fuel crisis.
Hoste Hainse will not initiate new school construction until the fuel crisis is resolved, but it plans to hit the ground running as soon as that happens. We sincerely hope that day comes soon.
If you would like to pledge a donation to support new school construction, please contact Krishna Shah at email@example.com. You can also visit www.hostehainse.org/donate.
Gwen Straley is the Executive Director of 3rd Creek Foundation where she oversees the foundation's grant-making processes and ensures fiscal and regulatory compliance. An emerging markets professional, Gwen has worked for a diverse range of organizations in some of the most complex environments in the world. Prior to moving to Seattle, Gwen managed a large-scale nutrition program in Mogadishu, Somalia. She has also consulted for government, foundations, NGOs, and small businesses in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Gwen holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College with a concentration in Sustainable Development. She is a travel, outdoors, and coffee enthusiast.