Last April, 2015, a tremendous earthquake, close to 8 on the Richter scale, struck Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people. Today, much of the country’s infrastructure lies in ruins. Among the most impacted are Nepal’s thousands of children who not only lost their homes and perhaps parents, but also their sense of normalcy and trust in the world around them. Theirworld, a non-profit focused on improving the lives of children around the world, launched a dedicated campaign, “A World at School” whose purpose is to return Nepal’s children back to the classroom and some semblance of routine their lives.
Theirworld joined forces with experts in virtual reality design and a leading British journalist, to bring the plight of Nepal’s children right into your living room. All you need is a special VR headset and your desktop computer and you will be instantly transported inside one of the many temporary classrooms where thousands of children are attempting to return to learning. Through the VR experience, you can travel with them as they traverse incredibly dangerous landscape, for hours, to arrive at a small island of sanity in a world torn apart. Their determination to cling to education as the only pathway out of poverty is palpable through the VR experience.
Sara Brown, President of Theirworld says that the goal was to bring the experience of the Nepal destruction to as close a level of realness for outsiders as possible. This was critically important because educational facilities are not on the top list of priorities for disaster aid. The majority of funds from governments, NGOs and private donors go toward rebuilding basic services networks, such as food distribution, housing and medical care.
The earthquake destroyed 35,000 classrooms. Through the work of Thierworld and partner agencies, 57 percent of the children have been able to return to learning in provisional learning structures, oftentimes a tent. Despite the makeshift setting, it is still much safer than the child’s home environment which is fraught with many dangers, including slave traffickers.
Brown stresses that the classroom initiative is more than just getting the children back to learning. She says that it must be the top priority of post-disaster relief to keep the kids in a safe environment for the majority of their day. Staying in the classroom also means that the children have a future. If they believe there is still a future, it means they continue to have goals and hope for a better life. This alone can drive away many post-disaster afflictions, such as depression, drug or alcohol abuse and illness.