Nepal is one of the poorest, least developed countries in the world with over half of its population living below the poverty line. Over 80% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. The majority of the population lives in rural areas that are often very difficult to reach, resulting in a lack of basic infrastructure such as clean water, telephone service and schools. Political instability continues to challenge Nepal's ability to improve its infrastructure.
Many schools in remote areas consist of four wooden poles supporting a thatched roof. No blackboard. No desks. Few books. Not surprisingly, over 70% of the population is illiterate. There is a saying in Nepal that educating your daughter is like fertilizing your neighbor's crops. Because of this type of cultural bias, there is a large disparity between educational access for females and males. Only 14% of females are literate, while male literacy is over 40%.
In order to address the lack of educational infrastructure, Room to Read (http://www.roomtoread.org/) has developed a comprehensive program of building schools, establishing libraries and computer labs, and providing girls' scholarships. In an effort to increase the number of local language children's books available in Nepal, Room to Read also publishes Nepali language children's books to donate to our large network of libraries.
Our climbing team, consisting of Jill, Dan, Jean, and me, has been working with our climbing sherpa, Ningma Tshering Sherpa, to establish a library in Ningma's remote Himalayan village of Tasinam. Through Room to Read and with a generous donation by John Keagy of San Francisco, our climbing team provided funding for books, training, and the facilities for the library in Tasinam. Ningma coordinated the shipments of books, via porters, to the village. Nepalese porters are needed to carry in the books and supplies as the village is a three day hike from the nearest road. Room to Read trained the local library staff, and with funding from our climbing team will provide continued development and stocking of the library with materials.