Organization brings aid to Nepal

Daya, Nepal may be a long way from Summerland, but a thankful glance between two people means exactly the same thing in both places.

Daya, Nepal may be a long way from Summerland, but a thankful glance between two people means exactly the same thing in both places.

Growing up in Summerland, Karen Cuthbertson (Strachan) and I were surrounded by a sense of volunteerism and community that stayed with us for life. Now – as parents, professionals and, well, people with a desire to give back – we’re working together to build relationships between school communities in Canada and Nepal.

As such, we created HANDS (Helping Across Nepal Development Society) – the non-profit organization which serves as home to our efforts.

HANDS got its unofficial start in 2009, when I first visited Daya on behalf of my children’s school – Elbow Park School – in Calgary.

The children there built 16 solar powered lights and provided an additional $1,200 in school supplies, books, science equipment and teacher supplies to boost the learning experience at Daya’s mud-floor, five-room school.

My first visit there was heart-warming and heart-breaking all at once.

Bringing these experiences back, I watched the faces of my children and their fellow students and realized they were transformed by seeing the way their efforts had formed global friendships and made a difference in the lives of people living in one of the world’s least developed countries.

I saw their reaction to the Daya students’ responses to their letters, and knew they were not unmoved by this exchange of compelling life stories.

Then and there, I knew there was more to do. The next place I turned? Karen.

Together, the two of us ramped things up significantly, including three Canadian and four Nepali schools in our 2010 visit.

We now have much work to do. Our goal is to build a new school for Daya, and build new student housing for the region’s high school in Mangelson – a school students walk upwards of one-and-a-half to three hours to reach.

These projects will cost upwards of $30,000 each.

In July, Karen had the opportunity to speak to the congregation of Sonoka Worship Centre. Our work with HANDS was well received.

Not only is the Centre considering donating money to help these far-western Nepali villages, they recommended that we reach out to the residents of Summerland for their support.

Linking children here with children in Nepal is life-changing on both fronts.

Canadian children benefit from exchanging cultural information through letters and videos, building lights for students whose homes lack electricity, and providing light to extend the days of people who use their daylight hours to feed and clothe themselves.

It changes their concept of themselves forever and builds immediate understanding of what it means to be a good citizen in a global community.

Nepali children benefit from enhanced opportunities for literacy and learning, making friends with children across the world and the experience of brushing up against progressive attitudes towards children and women.

Any support you are able to and willing to provide would be greatly appreciated.

For more information, to make a donation or to see pictures of our most recent trip, please visit our Facebook community page at Helping Across Nepal Development Society. You can also contact Nicole Dunsdon,, 403-287-8280 or Karen Cuthbertson,, 403-560-5048.