Changing lives, one penny at a time

Perkins holds campus-wide coin drive to support earthquake-damaged school for the blind in Nepal

A group of students wearing blue uniforms outside the Gyanchakshu school.

Students at the Gyanchakshu school in Nepal, the country's only school for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities.

February 3, 2016

Spare change collected from the pockets, purses and couch cushions of Perkins students and staff is on its way to Nepal, where it will help fund the creation of tactile learning materials for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities.

About $720 in coins was collected as part of “Pennies for Potential,” a campus-wide campaign to raise money for Purwanchal Gyanchakshu Vidhyalaya, a school for the blind located in Nepal’s Lamjung region. The campaign was announced in October, and over the next three months, a colorful collection box slowly and steadily filled with coins.

“I’m proud of our community for coming together to support such a worthy cause,” said Perkins Interim Superintendent Pat McCall. “We may be miles away, but our belief in the potential of every student who is blind is greater than any distance.”

The person most touched by the generosity was Gyanchakshu principal Keshari Thapa-Rana, who arrived at Perkins in September to take part in the Educational Leadership Program (ELP), a teacher training program for international educators. Now mid-way through her nine-month stay, Thapa-Rana is excited to put the lessons she’s learned at Perkins to use in her home country. The extra funding will help her do that, she said.

“I have a dream to use those pennies for the betterment of children with multiple disabilities,” she said. “In Nepal, we can establish a playroom for them with that money and make them tactile materials – Perkins has shown me how to do that.”

Gyanchakshu is the only school in Nepal to serve students with visual impairment and multiple disabilities, many of whom come from poor families and would not otherwise have a chance to attend school. Last April, the region was devastated by a massive earthquake, which destroyed entire villages and killed more than 8,000 people.

“We were away from the epicenter, but there were cracks in the walls of my school,” Thapa-Rana said. “Students were so scared at times to enter a room. For the first month, we all slept outside the building.”

When Thapa-Rana arrived at Perkins five months later, her new students were curious about how the disaster had affected her and the children in Nepal. Many expressed a desire to help, she said. “Pennies for Potential” was launched and three Perkins students wrote letters to children enrolled at Gyanchakshu, hoping to become pen-pals.

When the campaign ended, Thapa-Rana stayed up late to place a call to her staff at Gyanchakshu, where morning assembly was taking place. She asked them to put the phone on speaker so she could share the exciting news with students.

“I said, ‘When I come home I will bring something for all of you – because you have very good friends, students from Perkins.’”