Summer in the Dhading district of Nepal can be brutally hot, and the red clay (for which the region is known) doesn’t help. On most days, few would venture outdoors in such weather—taking shelter in their homes, but there is one man who remains undaunted by the sweltering temperatures.
At 78 years old, Buddhi Bahadur Raj is the picture of concentration, digging a wide trench in the clay. Nearby, a group of assistants—many half his age—dig alongside him in rhythmic unison. As the day wears on, the small crew is joined by many others from the village carrying shovels, pick-axes and whatever other tools they can find. Despite the oppressive heat, there is a palpable air of festivity among the group.
They have gathered here today to build a new school for their children, and everyone looks to Buddhi Bahadur Raj for direction. He is the leader today not only for his expertise in engineering and architecture, but also for his unwavering passion for education.
Decades ago in this same spot, Buddhi Bahadur Raj volunteered his labor to help construct the original building for Shree Rakta Bachala Secondary School. Originally built to accommodate only one village, the school now serves students from the surrounding area as well and needs more space to alleviate overcrowding. Room to Read has partnered with the community to add new classrooms and better restrooms.
“It has been very difficult for our students to study because the old classrooms are very small in size,” says Mr. Acharya, the school’s headmaster. “Now they can easily move from one place to another and focus on their class work."
Mr. Acharya credits the community for the new school building coming to fruition, and Buddhi Bahadur Raj for his leadership. “When Rai learned that we were going to add another building he was very happy and promptly volunteered to help, even though we were hesitant to have him do such physical labor,” he says. Buddhi Bahadur Raj was insistent, however, and as Mr. Acharya puts it, “he was the first one here this morning—ahead of all the others.”
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