A Ripley Rotarian told members of the Buckhannon club Tuesday that education in third world countries is not taken for granted, as it is here in the United States.
Chuck Conner gave a presentation to the Buckhannon Rotary Club about his eight years of traveling to Nepal, using pictures to show the effort being made to improve the quality of life in that impoverished country.
Conner is in his eighth year of traveling to Nepal to help the rural schools meet their varying needs. He said the Nepal government pays the teachers of the schools, who still barely get by on their earnings, but does not supply funding for school materials. According to Conner's slide show presentation, government spending on education there is only 4 percent of the country's budget.
"The poorest of us are so wealthy compared to what's going on there," Conner said, adding that it is rare to have running water and bathrooms in these schools.
He showed images of Parbesh Dewar Preschool where hooks on the wall held handkerchiefs for the students who often would come to school sick. There is an average of two physicians per 2,000 people in Nepal.
"Education is valued so much differently there, because it's not taken advantage of," Conner said, telling how some students walk two hours just to go to school and can often cross some treacherous landscapes just to get there. Conner said the students are happy and always excited to learn.
"These kids are happy; they're happy to be in school," Conner said. "It's simply amazing. It's still hard for me to wrap around how people can be so poor, and we base our happiness on external material things. They have nothing and are some of the most giving and happy and humble people I've ever met in my life."
Conner said that the the people of Nepal frequently offer him gifts just for helping out, gifts he said he doesn't believe he deserves.
"Chuck truly, truly embodies a true Rotarian in every sense of the word," said Jody Light of the Buckhannon Rotary Club, adding that Conner doesn't use buses or trains, but hikes miles carrying backpacks to go to these schools. "He truly lives the 'Service Above Self' motto we have."
Since 2004, Conner has made efforts to provide 28 schools with supplies and first aid kits, along with providing some schools with labs for physics or other science classes He funded a toilet for Dip Joti Primary School in Nepal in 2007, which is now in need of repair.
According to Conner, the Sharaswoti Secondary School couldn't be repaired after an earthquake damaged the structure. That school is still in use.
"I'm always amazed at the dedication of the parents and the teachers," Conner said.
On his first visit there, Conner funded a new water line for a toilet, along with school furniture and supplies. Conner said he could take $7,000 to Nepal, and it could be put to great use there, adding that the value of money continues to decline.
A donation of $500 from the Buckhannon Rotary Club was presented to Conner after his presentation to help in Nepal.
Conner is also a photographer, and anyone interested in seeing the images he has taken in Nepal or learning more about his efforts may go to www.chuckconner.com.