A trek through Nepal typically has the makings of a life-altering experience. For Royal Bay secondary teacher Troy Harris, that proved to be the case and then some.
After hearing from his guide, a native of the remote village of Sanitar, about the poor state of the Nepalese public education system, Harris decided he was going to try and make a difference in the developing country.
“I was thinking about how I could maybe help in a different way, rather than just educate kids here in Langford and Colwood; that maybe I could provide something more,” he recalled.
Initially, Harris thought he would donate some money, but that idea evolved into him taking money and finding a way to give back in a more hands-on way.
His initiative eventually grew into Canadian World Education Society (CanWES), a non-profit that established the Everest English School, a 250-student, 20-staff member school that’s now in its 10th year of operation.
“I remember being questioned by people saying, ‘you really want to do this for the rest of your life?’” he said.
Five years after the school’s opening, the full scope of how much time, effort and energy he’d expended fully hit him, but the rewarding nature of his work is the ultimate motivator.
“It’s remarkable to walk into that village and see those kids and the education and the way it changes,” Harris said. He hasn’t had a chance to visit Nepal since 2011 because he feels his own money is better spent on the organization rather than on expensive overseas flights for himself.
Unfortunately, the school’s foundation was literally rocked last year by forces beyond anyone’s control.
Following the violent 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people, it was determined that the Everest school’s buildings were damaged beyond repair and they’d need to find a new home.
CanWES is currently fundraising for a new $70,000 facility, of which $10,000 has been raised so far.
Meanwhile, students are continuing to receive their education in small huts, but the conditions are less than ideal.
“The kids have had to put up with some cold conditions, and you can imagine in the summertime when it’s monsoon season, the winds and the rains that come and those kids are sitting in outdoor, sort-of classrooms. We’ve made it work and the teachers have been very patient and the kids have been very patient, but it’s still a work in progress,” Harris said.
In an effort to raise funds for the new building, this Saturday (Nov. 26) CanWES is hosting a night of magic on the West Shore featuring Camilo Dominguez, a Belmont alum and a former student of Harris.
The teacher recalled how Dominguez would entertain his fellow students during Grade 10 Social Studies class.
“We started every class with magic and I would say I had the best attendance in the school. Everyone wanted to be there for that,” he said.
Having honed his craft since he was a toddler in Colombia, Dominguez’s act is now a well-oiled machine, making for a thrilling performance.
“He’s just grown into this incredible, creative, charismatic human being,” Harris said, adding that Dominguez gives a portion of proceeds from all of his shows to CanWES.
The organization will also host a golf tournament in the spring and an annual hanging basket sale that runs in February and March, with orders being delivered in time for Mother’s Day.