Next month, my son Gordon and I are continuing a long tradition of dubious hikes (see, e.g., our heat stroke hike out of Antalya, Turkey). We’ll be trekking up into the Mustang region of Nepal. Closed to outsiders for many years, Mustang borders Tibet and partakes heavily of Tibetan culture.
I’m writing about it here because, in some of our past hikes to remote areas, we’ve turned treks into schleps, carrying toys and other supplies to village schools. The best part was getting our kids to donate their much-loved but outgrown toys to the cause. We still treasure a few photos of our mundane suburban toys in the hands of Peruvian schoolchildren (like our pillow-fencing set, right).
Unfortunately, our kids are now at that awkward age where the only toys they still have are reserved for their children, who are too young to have outgrown much.
So I’m throwing the opportunity open to readers of the blog, or at least their children. If you’ve got kids over, say, ten, and they want to donate some of their educational toys, I’ll schlep them to Nepal and deliver them to one of three schools/libraries in Mustang that were started in memory of Alec Lowe by some of Lowe’s fellow mountaineers. And, assuming my camera keeps working, I’ll bring back a picture of Nepali kids making use of each toy.
The school/libraries are part of some very intimate and admirable work the Alec Lowe Charitable Foundation has done in Mustang. One of their libraries is pictured, left. Liesl Clark, a moving force in the library campaign, tells me that educational toys and books in English would be quite welcome. The libraries serve kids from preschool to secondary school, so there’s no age cutoff.
And what if you’re too old to have outgrown toys lying around? That’s just a question of redefining toys. Liesl says her latest project is to acquire laptops from the US, reformat the drives to Linux, and add educational software in Nepali and English:
A new program we're working on is getting laptops into the libraries that are preloaded with Nepali-English learning software by our partner, Open Learning Exchange Nepal. If you are interested in donating any old laptops for the cause, please let me know and I can have a colleague pick the laptop(s) up from you in Kathmandu so they can be loaded with the software for the libraries. We did a pilot project with my old laptop and it was wildly successful. We hope to have at least one laptop in each library within a year.
(Here’s a nice short film that gives a feel for Mustang, and for the laptop project.) So if you’ve got a laptop or netbook that’s been gathering dust since you switched to an iPad, this is your chance to put it to good use.
The three Mustang libraries are in Kagbeni, Tsarang, and Chhoser, near the old capital of Lo-Manthang. For further background about the locations your kids’ toys would benefit, check out the online PBS photo-tour of the region.
Since we’re leaving in just a couple of weeks, and since there’s a limit to how much we can carry, I suggest that you email me at [email protected] as soon as you decide you’re interested in making a donation. Let me know what you’d like to donate and where you are. If demand is overwhelming, or time is short, we may have to limit contributions by weight or by location (I can pick up donations in the Washington DC area). And, if you’re willing to donate cash as well, I’ll get information about how you can air-freight any laptops I can’t carry to Katmandu for pickup by the Open Learning Exchange.