I have followed the good work of Educate the Children (ETC) since its inception in 1988. I am an Emeritus Professor of Agricultural Economics from Cornell University, and have worked my entire professional career on the problem of increasing the level of living for poor people in low-income countries of Asia, with an emphasis on Nepal. ETC has developed a superb program of increasing the well-being of individual families in Nepal. They concentrate on the establishment of women's groups, which provide knowledge and credit to increase family food production, improve literacy for women, improve sanitation, and improve education. Their work in providing schools with reading material and other aids to improve childhood literacy and education has been exceptional.
Educate the Children's work following the devastating earthquake of 2015 has been remarkable. It is interesting to note that many other agencies with considerably more funding provided aid in the form of housing, agricultural seeds, etc., to earthquake victims by routing their aid through ETC, thereby acknowledging the high esteem that the agency is held in and also acknowledging the integrity and ability to move quickly exhibited by ETC. I personally donate funds to ETC.
-Prof. Daniel Sisler
ETC has a remarkable track record getting things done in rural Nepal. I've been honoured to work with the organization in an advisory role over the last 15 years. They have the local relationships necessary to make real change happen.
Educate the Children has done a fantastic job responding to Nepal's devastating earthquakes in Spring 2015. Building upon their strong existing network in rural areas hit by the quake, they have built temporary shelter for hundreds of families and are working on school reconstruction plans now. I have been impressed with their response to the crisis and recommend ETC more strongly than ever!
I have worked as an anthropologist in one of the communities assisted by ETC. In that community/region, ETC helped schools and students, built educational facilities, established local women's groups that are now undertaking development works on their own, ran literacy and numeracy adult education classes, built latrines, and assisted households to install bio-gas plants for cooking gas. In short, ETC accomplished more than any of the much larger projects that have worked in the region.
Through tough and changing times, Educate the Children has continued to provide engaged on-the-ground assistance to children, women and their communities in Nepal. I am an anthropologist and have supported ETC in various ways since its inception.
The work they did in the community where I originally did fieldwork is testament to the ETC vision and mission. In that community, the assistance ETC provided to schools, to women's literacy & economic development, and to community health is still evident and functioning--now without ETC support--even though it's been over a decade since ETC operated there. For example, the community today operates and staffs preschool opportunities, has a free-standing women's community building and programming funded in part by a small shop they run in the village, and the sanitary toilets at every house that were funded partially by ETC are still maintained and used by all.
All this in a community where, in 1977, 46% of the children died before the age of 5 largely due to diarrhea and other diseases attributable to lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, where the first girls only began to attend primary school in 1977 and no child had ever passed the national School Leaving Exam of the 10th grade, and where no adult women were literate. Anyone who has worked with very poor third world communities knows that these are dramatic changes. And, equally important, appear to be community sustained changes at this point.
This is not ALL the work of ETC, of course; much credit must go to the energies and commitment of the community itself. Still, in a world where nonprofits come and go, and where poor communities are sometimes increasingly dependent upon outside aid, ETC's history in Nepal has spanned the shift from a child sponsorship organization to a much more far-reaching--but still (and I think this is important) topically and geographically focused one very admirably indeed.
A Small Organization
Governments and International Aid Agencies Could Learn
“Leader Urges People to Revolt”, “Local Government Consolidation Recommended”, “Homeless Tell Their Stories.” These were fleeting stories recently - there one minute, forgotten the next. They had to do with dysfunctional government and social arrangements, a source of discontent in many places around the world. Let’s take Nepal where Ithaca based ETC (Educate the Children) works. Long standing and unfortunate social conditions there festered into a bloody civil war which is finally coming to an end. As will be the case one day in Iraq and Afghanistan, peace in Nepal will open the door, ever so slightly, for humanitarian relief and for the rebuilding of individual confidence, family cohesiveness, community cooperation, government services, national infrastructure, businesses and employment. Peace will not automatically eliminate lingering grievances and without the skillful repair of fundamental conditions, things will eventually come apart again or at least not work very well. The end of war in Nepal leaves social marginalization, economic disparity, gender discrimination, illiteracy, disease, landlessness, malnourishment, orphan-hood and homelessness intact. Somehow people’s fear and distrust, caused by both sides when kidnapping, property destruction, killing, torture and detention were practiced, will need to be addressed if neighbors will ever be able to face each other and communities work together again.
Several governments and international agencies will no doubt move to help the people of Nepal. Multi year, sector wide projects, farmed out to international companies and costing millions, will be designed. Complicated programs costing even more and designed to work through broken government departments, will be put into place. Donor motives will be honorable and the potential for considerable good will obtain. But much of what is done in this way will eventually run off. Donors could learn from a small Ithaca based NGO called ETC which has been working in Nepal for years. Large donors will understandably have objectives like 4000 classrooms repaired, 1500 wells opened, 500 clinics stocked, 4000 teachers trained, 300 miles of freight path restored, and so on - all worthy and needed. The thing of it is, displaced and disenfranchised people, together with alienated communities, will need to be brought together as part of the repair and redevelopment of Nepal. Wind will have to be breathed into the body. Otherwise accomplishments will be shallow, partial and temporary. This by the way would be necessary to any rooted development which has a chance of being sustained, even where there had been no war.
ETC/Ithaca is an organization that works hand and hand with local people as they are ready, depending on them to decide what needs to be done and relying on them to bring about needed change. While it has always worked in this fashion, this is especially critical at a time when an abundance of cynicism, fear and fatalism has accumulated and makes any, lay it on approach, suspect. ETC personnel work shoulder to shoulder with individuals, project groups and communities, trusting and respecting their insights and integrity. Development objectives are based on locally identified needs and desires. ETC has learned that the ownership which comes from participation is necessary to the sustainability of any accomplishment. Efforts are not limited to any sector but rather take on whatever is needed as a group or community progresses. Development is understood as a continuous problem solving process. Interventions are not seen as stand alone but as building blocks. Attention is given to the needs of whole families and communities, knowing that progress and motivation are interrelated. There is willingness to engage in every element of an endeavor, e.g. cooperative planning and decision making, group or community organization, advocacy with government offices, fund raising, training, child care, family nutrition and so on as needed. Each local success is seen as putting understandings and skills into place which make higher order accomplishments possible. The satisfaction of aspirations induces further ambitions. Surely the work of large donor organizations is important and productive in places like Nepal. However, the thoughtful approach used by ETC Ithaca could increase impact considerably while providing opportunity for the development of relationships which are so important in times like these.
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The ETC website for anyone interested, is www.etc-nepal.org