In 1999 Joey and Mark Owen travelled to the Himalayas. In a tiny hamlet called Jispa, the road was blocked by a landslide, and they could go no further. Staying with a local family – the only family with space – they began to understand more about the impact of education. The family had three brothers; they were the only family in the area who had been lucky enough to get sponsorship for education. Each brother had been successful in their work and was able to bring home an income to support their own families and their mother’s home. They were not living beneath the poverty line like other families in the area. They were sustaining a good life. And it was all down to the opportunity of education.
This inspired the start of Freedom to Learn – working to create the opportunity of quality education for everyone.
In 2000, Joey and Mark then raised funding to sponsor children from Jispa, and the Kullu and Lahaul Valleys in India. After a number of years travelling back and forth volunteering, they registered Freedom to Learn with the UK Charity Commission in 2004. Joey undertook a MA in Theatre and Film for Development to support the development the charity. Her research and project work then laid the foundations for our foundational programme, ‘Act on Education’ which we still run today, and ensures the stakeholders we work with fully inform all of the ongoing project work we do.
In 2009, a colleague of Shree Krishna Thapa, who is now our Programmes Manager in Nepal, saw one of our impact reports online, and got in touch to see if Freedom to Learn could collaborate in some of their Nepali government schools. So, in 2010 Joey, Mark and their two children visited Nepal to explore the option of expanding.
Then, thanks to the faith of The Erach and Roshin Sadri Foundation board, who funded the first Act on Education Project in Nepal, our Nepali roots were laid.
By 2012 Freedom to Learn staff were working consistently in Nepal, building the team we have today. We supported the school in India up until the Nepal earthquakes of 2015, when all our resources were concentrated into the communities we work with in Nepal. For a year we responded specifically to Earthquake relief, before gradually moving back to our regular programming.
There have been various evolutions of the board of trustees over the years, all who have and do worked tirelessly to keep Freedom to Learn’s work sustainable. Our leadership staff, Joey and Shree Krishna, have led the wide variety of projects that now make up the impactful work across 34 schools in Panauti Nepal for 12 years. We are incredibly proud of the achievements our small charity has accomplished with a committed number of fantastic Nepali facilitators, teachers, trainers, and office staff.
This has only been possible with the support of an amazing base of generous donors. Some who give monthly, some who attend our fundraising events, respond to our campaigns and some Trusts and Foundations who have put their faith in our work. Until every child in Nepal has better access to a quality education, we will continue the important work.