On January 11, 2018, the Nepal Don Bosco Society -- a Salesian-affiliated charitable organization serving the country’s youth for the past 25 years -- dedicated a new, earthquake-resistant school in the remote village of Kallery. The ceremony, which represented the culmination of several years’ work, signaled a new beginning for hundreds of children whose lives were forever altered by 2015’s tragic earthquake.
In the aftermath of that disaster -- which killed more than 8,000 people, injured close to 20,000 more, displaced as many as 500,000 from their homes and left an estimated 8 million survivors in desperate need of humanitarian aid -- Salesian missionaries responded immediately: collecting and distributing hundreds of tons of aid to thousands of victims in several isolated communities. They also built 21 temporary schools in order to ensure educational continuity for as many children as possible.
“After the earthquake, girls and boys were highly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking,” explains Fr. Tony Valiaparackattu, a Salesian missionary serving in Nepal. “They had been displaced from their homes and families, traumatized by devastation and in many cases, lost parents, siblings or other loved ones.”
“In such circumstances, returning children to the classroom is crucial to restoring a sense of normalcy, and to combatting the long-term side effects of what they have experienced,” adds Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “As important, education prepares them with the knowledge and skills they will ultimately need to rebuild their own lives, communities and country.”
Salesian missionaries did such a good job with these temporary schools, in fact, that both government officials and non-government organizations took note. “They realized that the buildings themselves, and the quality of the education offered within, should become permanent,” Fr. Mark says. As a result, 10 new schools, including the one in Kallery, have recently opened, or will soon open, in remote communities throughout the Kathmandu valley.
Each school represents a true collaboration among the Nepal Don Bosco Society, Salesian missionaries and governmental officials. Students and recent graduates of Don Bosco Thecho, a vocational training school in Kathmandu, helped construct the schools as a way to gain practical experience and contribute to the rebirth of their communities. And, Salesian-run programs are training future teachers in order to ensure continued educational excellence.
In the coming months, more than 1,500 girls and boys will resume their education in new classrooms, equipped with new desks and blackboards, books and school supplies. Father Augusty, another Salesian missionary serving in Nepal, says “By using the aid provided to us to rebuild schools and communities, we show our commitment to the country and its people -- but above all, for the children and young people who need it most.”
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