"Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education."

'Please write to me,' said the Nepali boy. But the English couple decided to do much more 
By Julie Akhurst

The bus grounded to a halt. The driver and the three Nepalese passengers hopped off, leaving Beryl and Peter Shore alone. "This isn't the Chitwan National Park," said Beryl gazing round at the scrubby undergrowth and distant village. "We're lost." The couple, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Nepal, had spent all day on board the bone shaking bus in the hope of seeing the rhinos and tigers of Chitwan. Now, shouldering their rucksacks, they walked determinedly away from the bus and from the clamouring youths surrounding it. 

Peter saw a tall, slim boy beside the road. "Chitwan?" Peter asked. The boy pointed up a flat, narrow track, flanked by banana trees, paddy fields and grass roofed mud houses. It was getting dark. The boy began loping along beside them. "What are yours names?" he asked in good English. 

Beryl looked at him properly for the first time. He looked about 17 . His faded clothes were neatly pressed, his smile genuine and unlike the other boys, he wasn't trying to sell them anything. He reminded her of her own sons. "Beryl and Peter," she answered. "And yours?" "I am Hari Bhandari," he said proudly."! I live in Meghauli." Rounding a bend, they came to a muddy river, 50 yards wide. "How do we get across?" asked Peter "You can't," said Hari. "The bridge is ten miles downriver." Peter slid his rucksack off his shoulders. "Then we'll sleep here." Hari gaped. "Oh no, sahib, you cannot, there are wild animals. Please stays in my home no money." 

A wild dog racing through the trees, a dead vulture in its mouth, was enough to convince the couple. They followed Hari to a mud house in the village. One of Hari's sisters, a girl of about 12, brought them two brass tumblers of buffalo mild, while his elder sister bent over a Primus stove, preparing rice and curry. The English couple sat down on a rattan mat to eat. "But where's your meal?" Beryl asked Hari. He shrugged. "I've eaten" Beryl glanced at Peter. Clearly they were eating the whole family's food. Taking the bare minimum, they passed the rest to the family, who fell in it smiling. 

Hari gave the Shores his rattan bed in the roof and woke them before 6 am, in time to catch the only bus out of the village. 

"When you get him," he said," Please write to me." He scribbled down an address. Thank you for coming to Nepal." Back home in Henleaze, Bristol, the Shores sat down to writ to the teenager who had fed them his own supper and asked nothing in return. "Hello, Hari, we got back safely after having a fantastic time........." they told him what their sons Kevin, Nigel and Craig were doing. Within weeks they had reply. Hari's letter was full of news of his work and family, still at school at 17, he was one of the privileged few in Meghauli, a member of the high up Chhetri caste. "I am studying English and wish one day to leave my village to help others," he wrote. 

Remote Hopes. 

A regular correspondence developed between Meghauli and Bristol. Hari write mat, he'd gone Kathmandu to work as a waiter. Within another couple of years the shores learned that he was teaching English. Then he moved to a leprosy hospital to work as a fund raising secretary, in charge of selling clothes and souvenirs made by the patients." I am happy," he wrote. "Now I know I make people's leves better." 

For ten years they kept in touch. Then, in November 1996, Hari write to say his parents had both contracted TB. He had return home to look after them. "They have been going ten miles to Bharatpur for treatment," he wrote. " A day's walk. Meghauli still has no telephone. I go home to find how ill they are." The Shores waited, worried, for his next letter. In it he sounded his old, determined self." I have a new plan!" he wrote. Enclosed was a rough sketch of a small hut with a corrugated iron roof. " This is the health center I now plan to build in Meghauli so my parents will not have to travel to see a doctor." A free clinic, it would treat 20 to 30 people a day. " It will cost about 1800 pounds can you help us raise the money?" he added. Next day in the office where he worked as buildings manager, Peter faxed the sketch to his son Kevin, a 36 years old petty officer medical assistant with the royal Navy in Gibraltar, asking for his thoughts. 

Peter began gathering information on the medical situation ion Nepal. He discovered there was only one doctor for every 21000 people and the hospital treating Hari's parents covered a catchment area of 100 square miles. TB and leprosy were rife and lice expectancy was 53 years. Then Kevin rang from Gibraltar. "Dad, this is little more than garden shed" he burst out." Surely we can do better?" He had a plan drawn up for a brick built clinic with proper glazed windows. "We don't want a white elephant." Peter told him." This must be self financing and low maintenance." 

They sent the revised plan to Hari. "We felt this was more me type of building you'd need," wrote Peter. "How much would it cost if the villagers built it?" "How are we ever going to raise that?" Beryl demanded when she heard the target was 5000 pounds. "Just like we've always done," said Peter, who, like his sons, was a member of the Scouting Association. "You hold coffee moorings; I'll see what I can do with the Scouts; Kevin can raise funds though the navy. And, if we fall short, we'll just have to cover it ourselves."

About this site

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