First Steps Himalaya was founded in 2008 by Durga Aran & Fionna Heiton to give Himalayan children access to quality early years education.
Durga grew up in a small village north east of Kathmandu, the youngest of eight children. He dreamt of going to school but his parents didn't understand the value of education. Instead, Durga was sent to look after his sister's child when he was just six years old. When he finally attended school, there were no resources and the teachers were frequently absent. At the age of 15 his father arranged his marriage, and he then spent years working in restaurants in Kathmandu. He met his future partner Fionna there in 1998.
In 2001, when expecting their twin babies, Fionna and Durga decided to start an organisation to give Nepali children access to better educational opportunities. Inspired by Durga’s childhood, and now their own children’s future, they became passionate advocates for improving education in rural communities and helping others see the immense difference it can make.
They founded First Steps Himalaya, which works in partnership with disadvantaged communities in rural Nepal to promote early childhood development and quality education in schools.
"We believe all Himalayan children should have access to quality education"
This is done through early childhood and school support projects, where First Steps Himalaya upgrade existing classrooms, train local teachers, and offer ongoing support through regular supervision and management.
Fionna and Durga have a strong vision to take their methods to communities across Nepal so that as many Himalayan children as possible receive a quality education, ultimately empowering rural communities to create a better quality of life for themselves.
first steps himalaya so far..
After starting with just three children in one early childhood class, we have since worked in over 25 villages in Sindhupalchok district. We have impacted the lives of thousands of children and given them the first steps to a better quality of life. As these children grow and develop, we continue to train teachers, provide resources and closely monitor and support schools.
In 2015, we constructed a purpose-built earthbag training centre to provide space for training more teachers. The training centre was just nearing completion when the 2015 Nepal earthquake struck, devastating the entire area. Our earthbag training centre was one of the few buildings left standing, and undamaged.
In the earthquake and aftershocks, many of the school classrooms that we had been supporting were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Following the quake, traumatised children were forced to go to school in temporary learning shelters made of bamboo and tin.
We saw where we were needed most, and immediately started a rebuild plan using the earthquake resilient earthbag building method to build safer, stronger classrooms. We have since rebuilt 12 classrooms of different shapes and sizes, with the help of skilled volunteers from all over the world. The children love their new classrooms, and are grateful to now be in a safe learning environment.
Now, after several years of dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and rebuilding classrooms, we are re-focusing on the training and monitoring of teachers, and expanding our reach to improve education standards for more children across Nepal. These days we also provide consultancy, implementation and management services for other organisations wanting to adopt our methods, and have been moving to work in other districts around the country.