Going for GEMS

For: The Garhwal English Medium School
Sanji, UK, India
Organizer: Katie Webb, James O'Flynn and Lori Mcfadyen
Going for GEMS (The Garhwal English Medium School)
of £500 goal
100% Complete
Raised by 23 donors

The Story

My partner, James, and I will be returning to the UK over land and sea from South Korea, where we have been teaching for the past two years.

About our trip
Our journey will begin in Donghae, South Korea (4/6/2017), where we will take a ferry to Vladivostok in the Russian far east. From there, we will board a train that will take us through Siberian Russia, past the Ural Mountains and on to Moscow... all in a mere 7 days. After detraining (and delousing - there are no showers on board) we will head to St. Petersburg, where we will mount our bikes and begin our 3000km ride through Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belguim and France to arrive, finally (and perhaps mercifully), in England (9/2017).

Although we are not taking this trip in the name of altruism, we would love to use it as an opportunity to raise some money for a good cause.

About GEMS
The Garhwal English Medium School, or GEMS, is a not for profit school in the Garhwal region of Uttarkhand, India. Most children from this area come from extremely poor homes, scattered across 25 villages, and in most cases their parents have not completed education. The school serves 213 children, ranging in classes from Lower Kindergarten to Class 8. The aim of the school is to provide the children with the skills, knowledge and confidence that will enable them to realise their full potential and put them on equal footing with their more financially well-endowed counterparts. GEMS is run by Lori, a Canadian anthropologist, and Kunwar, a Garhwal native who has devoted his life to improving the conditions of local rural villages.

In 2014, over the course of three months, we witnessed, first hand, the daily struggles that Lori and Kunwar face in order to keep the school afloat financially. Because of this first hand experience, we know that any funds raised will go directly towards helping the children and the school in the best possible way. Your donations will be used to help Lori and Kunwar cover the cost of the schools most pressing needs, such as providing the children with books, uniforms, stationary, sports equipment, or IT equipment.

The school is currently running a campaign to help the students purchase new textbooks. They are halfway to their target and it would be great if we could help them reach it.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on July 22, 2017


Posted on July 22, 2017

We've now cycled 1330km. Lori has already begun the construction of the school, but they still need a lot of help in financing the building of the new school. They have 200 children out of school, and need to work fast to get them back in school. So today I am asking my friends to donate as little as £1.33 - that's a penny for every 10 km I've cycled or as much as they can! Everything helps.

Posted on July 20, 2017

Posted on July 20, 2017

Hey guys! 

I haven't really been keeping this page up to date but I hope you have been following our Instagram or Facebook updates. 

A lot has been going on at GEMS and I wanted to share with you the recent updates so that you are aware of the situation. 

Unfortunately Lori and Kunwar have been involved in a legal battle for the school (the building). Since they are a non profit charity they did not have the funds to pay a fancy lawyer and I'm sad to report that in India money talks and justice did not prevail.

Having met Lori and Kunwar I did not feel completely dismayed... giving up is not a term in their personal dictionaries.

So, now more than ever GEMS needs our help. Any pennies, pounds, euro, won, dollars that you can spare will really help them to (quite literally) rebuild the foundations of the school  and get back to doing what they do best - educating the children of the Garwhal region. Although our legs are cycling away for the cause I also wanted to show our support and belief for the cause by adding a donation of our own. Please note that although a lot is needed to for the new building any amount will really help. 

*** Below I have posted Lori's story about how the predicament with the building occurred and also her most recent update. 

Thank you in advance. 

Katie and James! 

Legal battle. 
Many of you have asked for our story. I will make it short and sweet for here, and send a longer one later. We started our school 9 years ago in a cow shed with 8 kids. When we had about 50 the HANS Foundation came along and promised us a big shiny new school. It was too good to be true because in 2012, just six weeks after we moved in they tried to snatch it away from us. They had always said that this was our school, and they were only there to support us. Everyone protested and we held on to the school despite their best attempts to close it. After that they put four court cases against us. In each case the judge ruled in our favour. This time however, they have managed to sway the judge to ruling that they have three small plots of land in front of our school, but the judge also ruled that Kunwar and I had five days to do something or they would take that land, and we would have to pay about 50,000 US. We immediately went to the supreme court judge, but we only had five days. They were told if we did not come up with funds or an appeal, then they could APPLY for an 'execution' order to remove us from the premises. It appears they did not apply for that and instead showed up with 4 bus loads of police on a school day, with school in full session. They surrounded the front of our building and then the head policeman gave the signal. With children standing in the hallways, they began grabbing teachers and forcibly removing them from the premises. In one case about 10 little children were clinging to their teacher. They pried the children's hands off the teacher and took her forcibly out of the school, even though the children were crying. I was pulled down the stairs head first -- screaming. Parents were hit and pushed around, one thrown against the bus. The children were completely traumatized. At 2 pm we received word from our lawyers that a stay had been issued from the supreme court judge, and that they were to leave or be held in contempt of court. The HANS Foundation did not listen and instead began rounding us up again, as we had been allowed back in once the children were leaving, and again forcibly, and sometimes brutally pushing us out of the school. I was dragged from my office, pinched, hit, and stomped on. Now, if you want to know who the people are at the helm of this HANS Organization, you can visit their website: http://www.thehansfoundation.org/about/our-team/ and see their photos below. First Ms. Sweta Rawat, Director of the organisation, next, her parents, self professed Gurus who are at the helm of the organisation,but maintain a distant connection, and the funder, Manoj Bhargava, producer of the Five Hour Energy Drink and one of the wealthiest men in the US. The HANS Foundation prides itself on building hospitals and schools in Uttarakhand, but we have never seen or heard of any of these facilities in Uttarakhand. What we do know is that they go in to areas and drop large sums of money with the aging population or with sick people, all it seems with the aim of bribing them for support. They seem to do a lot of this in our area. Political motive? Perhaps....

update 29.07.2017
I am writing to inform you, as a supporter of GEMS, that we have lost the case in the Supreme Court put against us by the HANS Foundation over the land and building we have been running GEMS from. We did not have the funds to hire senior lawyers to fight at this level. It would have cost us 500,000 Rs (or about $7,500.00 US) for each hearing. The judge ridiculed our junior lawyers and within five minute ruled in favour of the HANS Foundation. So we have learned that in order for justice to prevail, you need to have money.

We were devastated, but not beaten. We have lost our building, but we have not lost GEMS. We do not know what plans the HANS Foundation has for the land and building, but we have 200+ children who need a building to learn in. Within one day, a villager came to us and has offered the land on the opposite side of the road from our present location. Today we are clearing the land to put up metal framed buildings. Foundations are already there from the pre-existing Eco-taskforce, who occupied the fields a few years ago. We can make about 15 rooms and have them ready in about 2 weeks time. Along with classrooms we will have a kitchen, dining area, library/office, computer room, science lab and of course toilets. Classes will resume in two weeks time.

GEMS has always striven to provide our children with quality education. We have reached out to the variety of ways children learn through activity based methods, projects and a learning atmosphere that does not punish mistakes, and rewards inquisitiveness. We always remind our teachers that their success as a teacher reveals itself when every child is gaining knowledge, and to measure a child’s achievements not through comparison, but through their individual progress. We know our children have benefitted so much from our foreign volunteers, and our partnership with Oldfield Brow School in Manchester, whereby our children have gained penpals and developed friendships. They have met children and adults from around the world and have taken part in projects with many different groups from many different places. As a result their level of English is superior to even their city-educated counterparts and our children who are passing out are proving to be well-equipped to enter good high schools.

I don’t know why we are presented with so many challenges in trying our very best to improve the quality of life here in our area, but I do know we are doing the right by our villagers, and that in the long run the success of our students will rain on their families. We cannot stop what we have been doing. This is but a bump in the road, but we do need help to get over it.

We are launching a fund raising campaign via YouCaring. We need to raise $25,000.00 US to pay five years rent (about $14,000 US) the court has imposed on us and to finance the new location. If you would like to help us, we would be very grateful. I have listed the ways to make donations below. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your ongoing support, and I promise to supply you with photos and updates of our new school, and the progress of our students.

Posted on April 23, 2017


Posted on April 23, 2017

We decided to do a test cycle with all our equipment today. We managed 77km over the day which is pretty good considering we have been very busy packing up our lives in Korea and working full time. 

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