Island School, on the island of Hong Kong, caters for local children as well as for children of expatriates. It’s a government subvented fee-paying school where standards are high and facilities excellent. Teachers are committed, resources procurable. It provides schooling with every opportunity for advancement.
Compare with the paucity of opportunity granted to the average Nepali schoolchild who, even when they can afford the fees, might well be needed to work instead.
The contrast between the high gloss, material world of Hong Kong and the poverty-ridden existence of Nepal, where survival is the priority, is strong and stark.
Teachers and pupils from Hong Kong were made acutely aware of these differences in the 25 years they have visited Nepal on trekking expeditions. Island School teachers began to support a few of the thousands of underprivileged, uneducated youngsters they came across in the Kathmandu Valley and in the hills and more structured projects evolved.
This prompted certain teachers to trial a ‘community service’ project in which they hoped to do some good by getting ‘advantaged’ students to run classes and do some basic teaching in the villages.
Links were established, connections made, but it quickly became evident that to achieve lasting, tangible results a more formal structure and greater control were needed.
What began with a growing number of people in Hong Kong being persuaded to lend their support by sponsoring really deserving cases has brought about the Katja Foundation and Katja House, just outside Kathmandu, a residential home for 50 of Nepal’s most neglected children.