Jewel of the Himalayas on the roof of the world
Nepal is a small country trapped between the tropical plains of northern India and the cold desert land of Tibet.
Its position of being a tiny state between two great powers has influenced its history, religions and culture. Its people have traded with, and at times feared invasion from, both of these neighbours. India is currently its major trading partner.
This is a country of amazing physical contrasts, with altitude ranging from 8848 metres on the summit of Everest, to barely 100 metres above sea level in the tropical Terai region in the south. Nepal can boast the greatest geographical range and arguably the most dramatic mountain scenery of any country on Earth.
Since it opened its borders to the west Nepal has become the Shangri La for many travellers, from hippies travelling overland in the 1960s to the trekkers of today. The huge contrast in landscapes offers a great variety of activities for the modern adventurer. In the mountains the adrenaline seekers climb, trek and paraglide, the rivers provide a chance for white water rafting, canyoning and kayaking, mountain bikers go where they dare, and elephant back safaris are also on offer for lovers of wildlife. The mountain scenery alone is second to none and can lure the traveller back to this enchanting country again and again.
In spite of all this natural beauty Nepal is a country of extreme poverty, with some 90% of its population of 27 million engaged in subsistence agriculture, contributing in no way to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Farming is prosperous in places, where the soil is good and the weather not extreme, but in the higher mountain regions life is difficult and opportunities severely limited. The national average annual income is below £130 with many existing on less than £2 a month. International development aid provides the highest income from abroad, proving just what a devastatingly poverty stricken country Nepal is. In 2000 tourism accounted for 22% of foreign income, and with all its dependent services and souvenir trade, it is of great importance to the country. With current tourist numbers depleted due to fears of air travel and political instability there is a deficit in foreign income. In the capital, Kathmandu, there is a massive gulf between the rich and poor as many people migrate there in search of work. Many men migrate temporarily for work opportunities in India, Asia and the Gulf States.
This picture provides us with a background to the educational standards and needs of Nepal. Some 60% of the population are illiterate and there is a critical shortage of school teachers. Only half of the existing teachers actually have a formal training. Children in the mountains may walk two hours twice a day to get to and from school. Some may live too far to walk. Many parents do not choose to educate their children, as there are additional expenses to the tuition fees such as uniforms, stationery and books, which they cannot afford. In many cases the children are more useful at home helping with subsistence labour, washing the clothes or caring for their siblings. Nonetheless there is a growing number of private schools, especially in Kathmandu, where as well as offering traditional history, language and culture, they also choose to educate the children in English.
CHANCE is targeting deprived and needy children living in environments and conditions that dictate that education has either ceased to be available or is simply not an option. We aim to change the life and future opportunities for as many children as possible.