The Friends of Himalayan Children was founded by Som Tamang in 2007. Initially, we focussed on expanding the school in Batase Village to cater to children in Grades 4 to 8 and building a hostel to provide comprehensive care for disadvantaged children, including students from distant villages and those from families struggling to cope. Since then our vision has expanded and evolved, to meet prevailing conditions and resources available, while also taking the effects of the devastating earthquake of April 2015 into account. Today, the FHC remains committed to its vision of improving the lives of vulnerable women and children in Nepal through better access to education, and through educational programs and community development projects.
As a child working and living in Kathmandu, Som Tamang supported his family back in his home village of Batase. He saw education as a priority for his siblings and continued to support them after coming to Australia in 2003, but it was after a trip home to Nepal in 2006 that he felt compelled to help more widely. He was shocked by the poverty he saw and the lack of opportunities for young people in remote villages. Realising that many village children with potential were leaving Batase to work on the streets of Kathmandu, Som determined to create a better future for them.
In 2007 Som purchased a 17-bedroom hostel in a village called Talamarang. Talamarang is a six-hour return walk from Batase Village. The closest high school to Batase Village is in Talamarang and many students, like Som himself, were forced to undertake this gruelling walk to high school each day. Many students gave up school as they were too tired at the end of the day to complete their homework and so fell behind with their studies. Some students would live with local farmers in Talamarang and were forced to work long hours on the farm in exchange for accommodation.
After setting up the hostel and ensuring that all the children were looked after, Som returned to Cairns where he began a university access course. After talking to his peers at the university about his goals, some students started to assist Som to achieve his goal. Friends of Himalayan Children Inc. was founded by a small group of young students who shared Som’s belief in helping others. Som returned to Nepal in 2009 with his partner Susan and after three months in the village, they gained a deeper understanding of the educational needs within the village primary school. After returning to Cairns, Som gave a presentation at the local library which resulted in a groundswell of support from a community inspired by Som’s drive and passion to help others.
Initially the FHC focussed on expanding the Batase Village school to cater for children in Grades 4 to 8. We also built a hostel to provide comprehensive care for disadvantaged children, including students from distant villages and those from families struggling to cope. In the years that followed, the school was further expanded to cater for classes to Grade 10, and a volunteer program saw progress on a range of community development projects, including the establishment of a commercial chicken venture and a reforestation program.
The FHC journey was interrupted, by the devastating earthquake of April 2015. This destroyed both the school and the hostel and wreaked havoc on families and livelihoods. Som’s much-loved brother, Amber, who had been President of the school committee, and had worked tirelessly and passionately for FHC in Batase, was among those killed in the earthquake. The FHC’s response to the disaster was immediate and is ongoing, thanks to a flood of donations from its supporters.
A shed was erected to provide crisis accommodation for families who lost their homes. A temporary school, consisting of simple, corrugated iron buildings with dirt floors, was constructed on a new site. A new hostel was built and the old hostel was re-constructed as volunteer quarters. The new hostel has expanded to accommodate children orphaned in the earthquake and those from families further disadvantaged by their losses. The Nepalese Government and Caratas are jointly funding the re-construction of the school on the original site.
The FHC has a growing membership base and the FHC committee is dedicated to ensuring that Friends of Himalayan Children Inc. is a professional, accountable organisation that adheres to its mission and goals and works in an inclusive manner to bring about change for Batase Village in Nepal. Som works from a community-based perspective and receives regular feedback from the village about what support is needed.
The FHC is a humanitarian organisation working to stop child labour and child slavery through providing access to education, a safe home for disadvantaged children and community development projects in rural Nepal. Founded by Som Tamang, the FHC has direct links to the charity’s causes and communities, ensuring that 100% of money donated goes directly into supporting the children in Batase Village and surrounding areas. Volunteers regularly visit the village to work at the school, assist with building projects, connect with their sponsor child and see exactly what the money raised in Australia is being used to achieve.
President: Som Tamang
Secretary: Susan Devitt
Vice President: Shane White
Membership and Sponsor Coordinator:
Executive Committee: Roz Pulley, Marion Mundana & Janice Tiller
Meet Sujan. 27-year-old Sujan lives in Batase and has the main responsibility for looking after FHC responsibilities there. As a casual employee of Take On Nepal, he is sometimes required for trekking duties, but otherwise, he assists with the running of the hostel, helping as needed, and organises sporting activities and events for the hostel children. He also monitors the progress of sponsored children and meets regularly with their families. He provides monthly updates on matters of interest to FHC and alerts the charity to matters requiring urgent attention. His role also involves liaising with the village community, the Nepalese government and Friends of Himalayan Children.
In 2014 Take On Nepal (TON) was established by Som and Susan, to provide employment pathways for young people from Batase, directing their talents and skills into ethical vocations in the tourism industry. TON also supports the FHC’s Volunteer program by organising visits, facilitating access to the village, providing services for volunteers and co-ordinating activities for them. Most TON staff work flexibly across both areas, working as porters and trekking guides on Himalayan trails, or supporting Volunteer programs in various roles. TON particularly encourages girls to take on work with the company, this keeps them safe from human trafficking and provides a viable option rather than an early marriage.
© Friends of Himalayan Children 2019