Dear Friends and Sponsors,
Like many of you this is my favorite time of year. I become very reflective and think over the Seasons now past. I think of my father who even in his eighties was serpentining Xmas lights through the trees in the yard and climbing up a ladder to run them along the fascia of his home. Or I remember the bittersweet time my daughter Maya, then 8, and I took the train on Christmas Eve to Granny’s just a few weeks after her mother died… and while crossing the Siskiyou Mtns, we looked out the window to see the snow fall, bedecking a fairy land in white. During the evening the conductor, dressed as Santa, came down the aisle passing out candy canes while we read “The Polar Express.” I am sure all of you have memories like these.
In contrast, my Holidays now have me chasing my tail getting these letters out to all of you, working on our Holiday Benefit, receiving guests, and trying to make travel plans to reunite with family so far away. All this comes on the heels of our two week tour of Western Turkey, the homeland of the real St. Nicolas. Mary Jane and I visited Troy, the expansive ruins of ancient cities like Ephesus and Pergamum, the amazing white-washed springs of Pamukkale, the caves and Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, and the many sites in Istanbul—Topkapi, Sophia Hagia, the Blue Mosque, etc.
We connected with helpful carpet salesmen who were undoubtedly the same little boys who were selling postcards to us on the same block ten years before. The more we travel, the more we see the world as one big family, and never more so than when we flew back the day after our election. Every one of our porters, tour guides and bus drivers were exuberantly celebrating OUR election returns, “Obama! Obama! US #1!” (Turkey is a Muslim country whose populace had only a 2% approval rating for our government!)
To go abroad, meet and talk with people everywhere, natives and tourists alike, one comes away with a sense of our common struggle—Peace and Prosperity. That’s what we all want! So, isn’t that what we should be working for? When we share our wealth, we promote peace and prosperity and win friends: Look at the Marshall Plan, or how we assisted Germany and Japan and transformed even enemies into allies. Nepal is another such example. For 40 or 50 years, American aid to Nepal far exceeded that of other donor nations (mainly because China had moved into Tibet) and as a result, Americans have become highly regarded there! For a school in Nepal to receive “American Aid” or to be visited by Americans is very prestigious, and certainly makes our job easier.
So, these times—they are achangin’! Or not? The new provisional government has been elected and installed. Their primary purpose is to write and approve a new constitution in two years. The Nepalis who are also ready for change gave a plurality of the seats to the Maoist party (but understand that they are closer to being socialists than hard core commies). Still, the Maoists need a majority, and the other 7 parties are reluctant to work with them. The result is that stagnation has again set in! The Constitutional Assembly has not been selected; the unrest among the minorities in the South is still waiting to be addressed; the Nepali army and the Maoist army has yet to merge; and there has been terrible flooding along the Koshi River which wiped out thousands of homes and lives, as well as a 15 mile stretch of highway, thus isolating the SE corner of the country which will take years to diverted the river back to its old course repair and resettle. Thanks to our webmaster Anita Elder, you visit our new website www.answer-nepal.org and click on the link to Pam’s World Adventure to see what Som now has to do to visit our schools there…it is unbelievable!
The Maoists are now trying to “nationalize” the private schools in order to have a more uniform educational system vis-à-vis the current two-tiered one. Some of you have even asked me how this will affect ANSWER. But again, all this is just talk, and I suspect it will be years, if ever, before this comes to pass. Our work continues.
Som Raj, our Director in Nepal, is presently visiting America for the first time to meet our Board here, so you can imagine how big his eyes are! With Som, we can better refine our operations. He will also present at our Annual Benefit on November 23rd.
As for our students almost all of them are doing well. Hopeful Home Orphanage of 40 children, many of whom we sponsor in school, has purchased a permanent home outside Katmandu. The children seem to be adjusting well, although they now have a 30 minute bus ride to school. We have received the help of a Canadian organization Learn For Life (Thank you Vanessa!) to help the older students transition out of the home when they graduate. So, their first graduates are living on their own and going to college.
To date, all of our high school graduates (approx 50) have graduated and gone on to college. We are very proud of our dozen nursing and health science students. Since we have covered almost the entire country accessible by roads, we are now backfilling, incorporating a few more schools along our routes and consolidating our gains. Our selection of poor but qualified students has improved so much that we can be all the more effective with the few who are having difficulties. So, all in all, our hard work has been blessed with good luck and good results. We give thanks to all of you for helping us make it this far.
Finally, we need to remind you to write your letters and have them to me by 1st of February, not Valentine’s Day which is when I will mail them out. I can not process 500 checks and your letters in time if most of you delay doing your letter-writing. So, please get you letters, photos, checks and form below to me early, NO LATER than February 1.
A few of you are still sending dollar bills to me for your child’s gift. We have discontinued this part of our program for a number of reasons. The USPS now has a surcharge on all envelopes that are thicker than ¼ inch, so please enclose only your current photo with your letter and check in a regular 9×5 inch business-size (not manila size!) envelope. No Gifts or Cash, Please!
A new school year begins in April, so please examine the Invoice below to see what the costs are on your child. Most of you are paid up; a few of you are in arrears. If times are tough for you, pay what you can for now and we will get back to you. Do not feel that you cannot afford to help others…we are talking about $5 a week for most of you. And if you really can’t, do not be afraid to let us know. The worst thing you can do for yourself, for your student-child, and for us, is to do nothing. As we cannot second guess your intentions, educational charges will just keep accruing. We have tailored ANSWER to be non-profit in the strictest sense in order to make this affordable to you. Hence we do not overcharge nor do we have any cushion to draw on. So,the buck stops at my front door —I end up having to pay all shortfalls, and I have no more to give! So, please, everyone! Please help by communicating with us. My contact numbers are unchanged and listed below.
Now don’t forget: Mail your letters with your photo and check (paybable to ANSWER) to me as soon as possible, but in no case later than February 1st.
Grateful for your continued support,
2363 Plymouth SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506