Hitchin dad helps rebuild earthquake-hit school in Nepal

PUBLISHED: 11:24 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:28 22 November 2017

Graham Pither on the building site in Nepal. Picture: Graham Pither

Graham Pither on the building site in Nepal. Picture: Graham Pither

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A Hitchin dad has returned home after helping to rebuild a school in Nepal that was badly damaged by an earthquake.

Some of the children Graham Pither and the team have been supporting in Nepal. Picture: Graham PitherSome of the children Graham Pither and the team have been supporting in Nepal. Picture: Graham Pither

Graham Pither travelled out to the Asian country in the wake of April 2015 earthquake to work with charity ActionAid on a classroom block and toilets for children in the Kathmandu Valley.

Some 7,500 schools were badly damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, which killed almost 9,000 people and left about a million homeless.

“The 600 to 700 children at this school have been forced to study in temporary shelters that are unfit for purpose,” said Graham.

“The increased number of children dropping out of education leads to a higher risk of them ending up as child labourers, or falling victim to trafficking.”

Graham and other volunteers raised the money to complete the project, with the 3rd Hitchin Cubs climbing the height of Mount Everest at Windmill Hill to raise funds. The 3rd Hitchin Scouts also contributed with a fundraising car wash and bake sale.

With other fundraising, Graham was able to bring in £6,765 in all.

The project at Bani Bilas school in Chapagaun is to build a new three-storey classroom block on the site of the destroyed building, and to knock down a smaller ruined structure to create toilets for the children.

Over a week, Graham and the team dug nine of the 21 two-metre-deep foundation pits for the new building’s pillars.

The site is inaccessible for machinery, meaning they had to clear debris and dig through concrete, brick and stone with pick axes and shovels.

“Of course, the work that we did could have been undertaken by local workmen, but our presence for the one week had a couple of benefits,” said Graham.

“Firstly, it’s easier to raise donations if you are going yourself – and it is these that have paid for the school building and toilets, and which will provide employment for the local workers for the next eight months or so.

“Secondly, the teachers, pupils and villagers now know that thousands of miles away people care enough about them to want to donate money and time to help them rebuild their school.

“The psychological benefits of this after the trauma of the earthquake are hard to measure – but based on the reaction of the local people around us, they can’t be underestimated.”

Work to rebuild the school is set to be completed next summer.

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