On April 25th 2015 a huge earthquake struck Nepal, devastating the country. Schools and buildings were destroyed across the country, which are slowly being replaced. In a town called Dhulikhel, twenty miles east of Kathmandu, the hostel for the blind attached to Sanjiwani School, home for up to 26 blind children who have to board far from their families, lost one of its two buildings. What remained was not safe and all of the children were squeezed into one building. The children could not go home to see their families as Dhulikhel is government school is the only one for several days’ travel that will educate them.
Even before the earthquake, the hostel was in a poor condition but following, the site itself was even more dangerous, with three metre drops surrounding the building where the foundations of the old building were destroyed. Temporary safety balcony fences were loose within the hostel and access around the school was very hazardous for those with visual impairments. In the hostel building itself, there were no study desks, dilapidated kitchen facilities and little in the way of entertainment for the children who live permanently on site for ten months a year. Despite this, the children remained incredibly friendly, optimistic and the most welcoming people you could meet.
John Davis first visited Dhulikhel School back in 1999 on a Ullswater Community College expedition to Nepal as a pupil. He returned for the third time in summer 2016 as a qualified and experienced teacher to volunteer in schools in Dhulikhel with his wife, Paula. Many evenings were spent at the blind hostel with the children. On their return to the UK John and Paula gave a talk at the George Hotel, Penrith, which was attended by the Juniper Trust and Glenn Rowley, a founder of KE Adventure Travel with whom John first travelled to Nepal on his first visit. The Juniper Trust agreed to work with John and Paula , to make life better for these children and, working with them and the local community, raise money to fund a complete renovation of the hostel.
Building started in December 2016 thanks to a donation of £5000 from the Trust , and with the help of John & Paula. the remaining £10,000 was raised for the renovation. The hostel was completed in May 2017 and in addition to the building work and essential living equipment, the children were asked for a wish list of simple things that would improve their quality of life, to add to the USB players and headphones already donated and much-used. They asked for several traditional musical instruments to play which would help integrate them into the community – music and singing are such an important part of the Nepali way of life.
The Juniper Trust has since made several visits to the hostel while in Kathmandu as part of their school rebuilding programme and continue to support the Sanjiwani hostel for blind children