In March 2018, a group of 23 students and 5 teachers from La Châtaigneraie will travel to Kathmandu (Nepal) during their holidays in order to engage in an extraordinary humanitarian project.
How did this project come into existence in the first place? What are the pedagogical aims behind this trip?
The home “Children of Sagarmatha” was created in 2002 in order to give shelter and an education to children left to their own devices in Kathmandu. Today, “Children of Sagarmatha” takes care of 50 children whose parents are either deceased or extremely poor.The home came into existence thanks to a French NGO and a Nepalese couple who decided from one day to the next to radically change their own lives in order to look after the children. The idea of involving students from the International School of Geneva came from Olivier Revaz, head of the French department at La Châtaigneraie who, with his wife, is the main driving force behind the project and the fundraising.
In April 2006, a first group of students from La Châtaigneraie left for Kathmandu, accompanied by enthusiastic teachers and doctors. Missions to Kathmandu involving La Châtaigneraie students have taken place every other year since then.
This year, 23 students and 5 teachers will be fortunate enough to travel to Kathmandu and be part of the 2018 humanitarian mission. All the students are in grade 12 and they either follow the IB programme or the Maturité Suisse programme. All members of the group will pay their own travel costs and accommodation.
The students engage in fundraising in Switzerland months before the trip. Each student is responsible for finding ways of raising money. For example, some students have taken part in the Saint Nicolas’ market, while other students have organized a sponsored biking tour of the lake. First and foremost, the money raised will help to pay for the childrens’ food, medicine, school fees and school equipment and to improve their living conditions at the home. On site, the activities are divided into several components: practical help at the home (such as repainting the walls, tutoring the orphans, playing with them), excursions with the orphans, and discovering local culture and beliefs through visits to different sites. The accommodation for students and teachers is in a local hotel.
Before the group leaves for Kathmandu, several meetings are organized in order to prepare the students and to inform parents. During the trip, discussion groups and debriefing sessions take place in order to reflect on the experiences of each day.
Throughout the years, the humanitarian trip to Nepal has been a revelation for many students and has completely changed their outlook on life. The International School of Geneva aims to encourage its students to engage with the ethical challenges of their times and to “take an active part in making their world a better place”. Solidarity and ethical values are at the center of its pedagogical values and the school adheres to the United Nations Charter. Many students have reflected on their Nepal humanitarian trip in their International Baccalaureate CAS project or Swiss Maturité Extended Essay, thus revealing the extent of their experiential learning. Several alumni are still involved in the project and help with the fundraising. The idea of the humanitarian trip is thus to create a life-long awareness of a different reality.
Managing to finance the “Children of Sagarmatha” home over the years is no simple task. It is in fact a whole community engagement. When it came to providing a new building for the children, several very generous donors contributed. Fortunately, the new building was constructed with anti-seismic materials which meant that it survived the 2015 earthquakes. Several Ecolint parents and teachers are amongst the donors as they sponsor a child or help to finance the daily functioning of the home. Numerous hours of volunteering are also involved to make the fundraising sustainable, to find new donors and to ensure effective communication through the website and social media for example. If you wish, you can find more information about the project at the address www.sagarmathasuisse.ch
Collectively, we thus all have an important responsibility to make the project sustainable. The students who are taking part in the 2018 mission are well aware of this. They have already shown outstanding engagement in the fundraising, so let’s wish them a fulfilling and enjoyable trip to Kathmandu alongside successful involvement in the project.
By Nadine Barreiro, Teacher at La Châtaigneraie
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