Retired Teacher Helps Students In Nepal
By Abreanna Blose
Ernie Schiller can still recall his second-grade teacher holding up a book that showed a picture of Mount Everest. As she turned the pages, Schiller was amazed to see photos of Nepal and the Nepalese culture and traditions. In that moment, he became determined to visit Nepal.
This dream stuck with him into adulthood and through his 30 years as a high school biology teacher in Iowa. Then, 10 years into retirement, Schiller finally got his chance. In 2014, he trekked through Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley for the first time, including checking out local schools
One year later, a massive earthquake devastated the tiny nation, killing nearly 9,000 people
“Six months after the earthquake, this trekking company kept my email, and they said ‘Ernie, we need help. Everything that you saw on that walk, on those treks. All those schools are gone,’” Schiller says.
So he returned to Nepal as a volunteer, alongside a former student and her family. After witnessing the devastation caused by the earthquake, they worked together to found the Rebuild Nepal Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping Nepalese students in school
Since that time, the foundation has funded eight trips to Nepal, in which volunteers have helped support education in rural areas. The government has rebuilt most of the schools, but many students still can’t afford the basic supplies and fees required to attend. The foundation gives out scholarships, provides books and uniforms, and even delivers food boxes to families in need. Schiller and more than 150 volunteers have enrolled and paid school fees for some 4,000 Nepalese children in primary and secondary schools and 46 students in college.
“It’s been a huge revelation to work in improving education in a country a world away.” Schiller says.
100-YEAR-OLD SCHOOL SAVED!
By James Paterson
In the small farming community of Orchard, Neb., former teachers gave a 100-year-old abandoned school building new life
Last year, retired educators Bev Krutz, Joan Maple, Cheryl Schwager, and David Shrader founded the Old School Thrift Store, where they give donated items to families and organizations in need and sell clothing, toys, housewares, furniture, and appliances to support the shop.
“We hated to see this old school building be torn down,” says Krutz, who led the effort. She explains that when local school districts consolidated, the school building was abandoned. Orchard, a village with a population of 380, took it over in 2022
“I think teachers naturally want to help in their community, so this made sense,” Krutz reflects. “We saved the building, found meaningful work for retired educators, and found new uses for material, rather than having it end up at a landfill. And [we] can provide things for those who really need them.”