“A Walk With ‘Dog’ in Nepal”, John ‘Dog’ Callister, 15.10.14. by John Slater

This month’s Peel Heritage trust meeting was unusual. We’re not so insular that we don’t occasionally stray to other parts of the Island but Nepal …! How did that come about?
John ‘Dog’ has spoken to us before, usually on things Manx, such as making bumbee cages and the like. However, we knew that he was much involved with the Pahar Trust which builds, staffs and runs schools for impoverished peoples in Nepal, often with the help of Ghurkas. Since 1993, over sixty schools have been established.
A former head of Kirk Michael School, Howard Green is much involved, to the extent that Kirk Michael is now officially twinned with Ghamrang, one of the areas served by the Pahar Trust. You’ll see the road signs as you enter the village. A similar sign has now been erected in Nepal! As we saw in one of the slides, this is in a far more precarious position than a Manx roadside!
John said that he was very honoured to open Ghamrang School in 2013. He had raised £9 000, half of the total cost, by selling copper bracelets made there and other Nepalese goods. This is truly remarkable. We invited John to bring some of his sales stock with him and there was a brisk trade in the interval.
It transpired that John had to struggle with a virus on his last visit but despite this, put a brave face on things and managed the walking, travel sickness and inability to eat for the two-week trip. However, we did see a shot of him tackling the local millet beer, so that must have sustained him. It says a great deal for the total commitment of John and his colleagues who accompanied him.
Travel seemed to be an excitement in itself. We particularly liked Yeti Airlines. Perhaps they might like to start operating direct flights to the Island. This might take our minds off the loss of UK destinations such as Luton and Blackpool! Most of the roads seemed to be precarious, earthen tracks covering everything in fine dust. Presumably these become even more exciting when turned to mud.
Surprisingly, there’s some hi-tech gear available, including rickshaws with electric motors and solar panels on the roof. These would soon be put out of action in Peel by our incontinent seagulls! John was surprised when one little girl he’d shown his smart phone to, flicked through the photo’s and then raced around other apps John didn’t even know he had. Clearly, children outsmart us adults, worldwide!
It’s no good opening schools if there are no teachers, so these have to be trained and resourced and the consumables for the schools provided. Unlike so many countries, girls and boys are educated equally and all look smart in neat uniforms. How they manage to keep shirts so white in such primitive surroundings is a testament to the commitment and determination of these charming people as much as those who work for the trust.
Particularly poignant was the school for the blind. We saw one boy, born without eyes and cast out by his family because they had no means to support him. With the help of boarding, he has become a star pupil and is on his way to a worthwhile career. This presentation must give our much more fortunate children pause for thought.
Everywhere the Manx party visited the welcome of food, music and dancing was overwhelming. The happiness of people of all ages, despite what we would regard as deprivation, was striking. A lesson for us all!
It is worth noting that 97% of all monies raised is applied to the schools. Labour costs are minimal as the locals provide the labour for free.
There were many questions in the second half of the meeting and a very thoughtful audience departing. Our thanks and good wishes to John and all his colleagues.
Our next meeting is at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre on Wednesday the 19th November. This is billed as, ‘an electrifying experience’. Ashton Lewis is going to be a luminary on electricity in the Island. This will spark some interest!

Do ring Corrie on 843502 if you’d like to come to the Christmas dinner on the 9th December. It’s filling up nearly as fast as we will be on the night!