Help raise USD10K to build a school library in Nepal

We've set a target to raise US$10,000 by the end of October. That's enough to let the 'Room to Read' charity build a library for a school community in Nepal. And stock it with books. And provide three years' support to make sure it is a success!

Think what that means - the children's current future is to grow up learning in a school without any printed books. Together we can change that. Here's where we need your help:

Donate! It's easy - we've set up an online donations page where you can make payments by Visa or Mastercard (Note that all amounts shown on that donations site are in US$, not HK$). Next month we'll invite the people who've made the three largest donations out to lunch to say thank you. (Now we realise that might stop you from wanting to donate at all - so don't worry, the lunch is optional!!) Please help us reach that target before October 31st.

Advertise on Batgung. So far the only advertising on Batgung has been the Google ads you see around the place. For the month of November we'll turn off the Google Ads, and display your banner adverts instead. The Google reports show that their adverts are displayed about 1,400 times each day, so your banners will get seen by plenty of people.

We'll also allow text adverts to be entered as comments on any of the pages on the site. Many of the pages do well in Google searches, eg Batgung pages are the top result for searches like "hong kong work visa", "digital camera hong kong", etc. The catch? You'll have to make a donation to get your advert displayed!

Read more about advertising on Batgung here.

Spread the word. If you have a local blog or website, please could you ask your readers if they can help?

No blog? E-mail works just as well! Please forward this page to friends that you think would support improving literacy. Do you have friends running businesses? If they'd like batgung's readers as their customers, please could you ask them to take a look at advertising here?

You'll probably want to make sure your money will be well used before making any donation.

First, be sure that none of it ends up in our pockets. The online donations page is run by a company called FirstGiving, that specialises in online fund collecting for charities. Your donation goes from them to the Room to Read charity, bypassing us completely.

Next there's the charity, Room to Read. They are a well-established, effective charity. Visit their website for a full background to their work, but here's a snippet from their overview:

Room to Read partners with local communities throughout the developing world to establish schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructure. We seek to intervene early in the lives of children in the belief that education is a lifelong gift that empowers people to ultimately improve socioeconomic conditions for their families, communities, countries, and future generations. Through the opportunities that only an education can provide, we strive to break the cycle of poverty, one child at a time.

Finally there's the project itself, to build a library. Some highlights of Room to Read's approach include:

  • They partner with the local community, so the local community is expected to make a significant contribution of funds, labour, material and security. That reduces the risk of it being built then falling into disuse soon after the pictures have been taken.
  • The $10K is not just to provide a building, but also to fill it with books, train the librarian, and give three years ongoing support. Again, it's looking for a long-term success, not some short-term feel-good project that fizzles out after the first few months.
  • We'll also be able to keep you up to date with progress as they'll send:
    • An Application Report, which describes the community in need, reasons for support, and details of the Challenge Grant
    • A Progress Report with updates on construction, and
    • A Completion Report with a summary of the project and photos of the completed library

Their website has more information about library projects, and in particular library construction projects.

If you have any questions, please leave a coment below. No questions? Then we sincerely hope you'll help with a donation, by advertising here, and by helping us spread the word.

Best regards,

MrB & Mr Tall


Why Nepal?

Room to Read are building libraries in Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam. Nepal has the lowest literacy rate of the four, so that sealed it for me. Mr Tall has trekked in Nepal and seen the type of place that could benefit from a school library. That made it the preferred country for him too.

How about the bigger question? What's a charity appeal doing on

It started with a shout from our 4-year old daughter "Mummy, come out quickly...". This is usually a sign that our younger 21-month old daughter has got into some sort of trouble. Not this time though, as the sentence finished "... I can read it!" And sure enough, she had picked up one of her sisters simple story books, found she could read it, and full of pride she wanted to show off her prowess to mum.

Ok, cute story, but the point is how important being able to read is to us all, and how difficult it is to imagine life without being able to share information and experiences via the written word. So the next day when I read Tim Ferris' blog, and his 'LitLiberation' challenge, I paid attention. He's asking people to help raise US$1million in October to enable literacy, choosing to support either Donors Choose in the USA, or Room to Read internationally.

John Wood, the founder of Room to Read was in Hong Kong last month, promoting the charity and his book 'Leaving Microsoft to change the world'. You might have read some of the press coverage of his visit? I'd also had a browse through his book at Page One, so again, it all made sense to me that it was a good charity to support.

But how about you? Is it one that you'd like to help?

I could think of some reasons why you might. You may well have young children of your own. And for all our grumbling about the difficulty of the school system in Hong Kong, I think we all realise how lucky we are, especially when the alternative could be a school with no children's books, or indeed no school at all. Maybe you'd like to share some of that good fortune?

Or maybe you've enjoyed reading the batgung site so much you've thought of buying us a beer? (Could happen!) Can we trade it in for a book this time?

There were 16,000 unique visitors to the site last month, so just donate 63 cents and by the end of the month they can start building :)

Cheers, MrB

The power of reading

Although MrB has done a fantastic job of introducing this charity and the project we have in mind, I just wanted to add a couple of words.

I couldn't agree more that giving children a better chance to learn to read is one of the most potent and long-lasting gifts we can give. When I think about the joy that Mrs Tall and I have already been able to share reading with Daughter Tall, I hope that joy can be shared, over and over, by children who can can go into a well-stocked library and have free access to its riches.

Sorry for the rapturous tone, but I've been a voracious reader ever since I learned to sound out words myself, so this project has got me quite excited!

So I also invite all of our reades, regular or casual, to consider giving something. Even a little bit will help!

Thanks for your support

Thanks to Doris, Sally, Kam, Pamela Ng, Timmie, Dawn Wong, Grace, Batpor, Angela Hou, Fiona, Sarah & Emma for your generous donations.

Thanks also to our first sponsor, Young Face Beauty Day Spa. They are advertising on the Shopping and Things to see and do pages, attracting visitors to Hong Kong to unwind at their spa.

Please help us find more donors, and business sponsors that would like to advertise here. We've passed USD1,400, so we're already one seventh of the way to building that library.

Regards, MrB

Making sure your donation is well spent

I mentioned above how Room to Read expect a significant contribution from the local community that receives your donation. That makes sure the community is committed to the ongoing success of the new library.

The book by Room to Read's founder John Wood gives some examples of how this works in practice. First the donations are gathered into half of what they call a "Challenge Grant", then the community is challenged to offer up the other half and so demonstrate their commitment.

In some cases, the local parents make an investment of their own money:

[John decribes listening to the headmaster's speeches at the opening of a new school, and asked what was the long list of names and numbers being recited.]

"He's reading the names of each family who donated one thousand and one rupees to the school construction to honor and thank them for their commitment."

After the ceremony had concluded we were invited into the teacher's room for tea. I sat next to the headmaster and told him that I was impressed by the number of families who had donated money. I asked if he knew the exact amount of donors. With a look of immense pride and a wide smile full of perfect teeth, he informed me that 183 families had contributed.

John notes that 1,001 rupees is about US$14. Which doesn't seem much - until you remember the average person in Nepal earns less than a dollar a day.

Some places the families are even poorer, so they have to be more ingenious:

During subsequent visits to Nepal, I woul continue to hear stories about the power of these challenge grants. One of our projects, Himalaya Primary School, was located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, in a poor community whose economy depended on the local brick factories. The local soil was conducive to brickmaking, and the six soot-belching factories surrounded the village.

On a site visit to check on progress, I met the headmaster. He proudly recounted how he'd visited each factory to ask for support in building a new school. He reminded each factory owner that the workers' wages were so low that parents could not afford to contribute to the challenge grant. But Room to Read required each community to coinvest, so he proposed an innovative solution: each factory owner would donate 10,000 bricks, and Room to Read's money would be used to buy cement, window frames, desks, and to pay for skilled labor to erect the walls. His sales strategy succeeded, and once again I was blown away by the ingenuity of the communities with which we partnered.

And sometimes they are poorer still:

[Two days later our destination was] the village of Katrak, which perched on a hillside overlooking verdant rice fields. Dinesh parked our rented truck along the side of the road, and with a head nod and a shout of "Jhane ho. Orolo" (Let's go! Uphill), he announced to me that we had a steep hike in front of us.

At 8a.m. the sun was already burning down on us, and my pace slowed as I stopped for applications of sun cream and gulps from my water bottle. On frequent occasions women with large bags hoisted onto their backs rushed past me, heading up the trail. I could not hope to match their pace, even though I was carrying only my water bottle and a Nikon. I asked Dinesh if they were returning from the market, He laughed and asked whether I realized that these women were carrying cement. I must have looked perplexed, so he explained.

When the local government of the village requested Room to Read's help, Dinesh and Yadav (our civil engineer in charge of the School Room program) said that they would provide half the resources if the village could come up with the other half. The head of the village development committee told our team that the village was poor, with 95 percent of parents living on subsistence farming. What little economy the village had was simple barter, and as a result few parents could afford to put money into the project.

Yadav explained that contributions other than cash would count towards the challenge grant. As an example, parents could prove their commitment to education and the new school by donating labor.

The women we saw this morning had responded to the call. Each morning, a group of them would wake up before sunrise, walk an hour downhill to the roadside where the cement bags were being stored, and then walk 90 minutes back up to the village. The bags weighed 50 kilos - 110 pounds - and some mothers were making the trip twice in one day. Dinesh reminded me that this was a farming village, and that the women would still have to spend their day in the fields.

After reading these I felt confident that the library we're all donating will go to a community that really treasures it.


Thanks for your support

Thanks to the team at GeoExpat, who are very kindly promoting the library fund-raising on their site. The GeoExpat site has been the first link on our 'links we like' page for several years. Their forums host lively discussions on just about everything related to expat life in Hong Kong, plus they arrange regular happy-hour get-togethers - well worth a visit!

Thanks also to the recent donors: Charlene, Shri / GeoExpat.Com, Dawn Wong, Victoria, Peter Lee, Kegral, and Moddsey. You've taken us over the USD2K mark, so we're one fifth of the way there.


We'll triple your donation

We'll both match any donation you make until we've reached the US$10K target.

eg if you donate US$100, we'll both donate the same amount so the library fund gets a total US$300.

With your help we want to hit the US$10K target by the end of the month.


MrB & Mr Tall

Okie Dokie

I'm going in again!  Who can resist this level of generosity!

And thanks again!

That's great, Fiona -- you're right; we're getting close, and I think we're going to make it!


Great to see we've passed the $10K mark - many, many thanks to everyone that's helped.

Dashing out now - more later.

You Did It!!!!

I was so happy to see the little bar count all the way up to 100% today.  Kudos and well done to you!!!

Thanks for your support

Thanks to individual donors Minnie Ho & friends, Fiona, Goodfood, Isdl, Lina, Andrew Olson, two anonymous donors from the GeoExpat.Com community, May, Joey, Vince and Kaman, as well as corporate advertisers Relocasia and Explorer Publishing for your generous donations.

Kind regards, MrB

What next?

If you're still thinking of donating, please go ahead! We'll let the appeal run until the end of October, then set the website back to its normal look. Any extra money raised over the initial $10K target will fund another Room to Read project in Nepal. There are several to choose from, including:

  • US$ 2,500 : 10-year girl's scholarship
  • US$ 3,000 : Set up a Reading Room (ie a library) in an existing school building
  • US$10,000 : Enough to build a second library!

So we'll each put in our last matching donation today, then let's see the final total at the end of the month.

We've also learned a few lessons:

  • The best results often come from personal appeals. We'll see a donation from one person, then a couple more from their friends. Minnie Ho's donation took us to the $10K mark, but she contacted us to explain it was not just hers, but also included several donations collected from friends. She has a great technique for getting the message across to potential donors: "I read the article on scmp on room to read.  It was very good.  I would bring the article with me and show friends and tell them to donate...". So, we need to make it easier for people to explain to their friends why this appeal deserves their attention.
  • Many people aren't happy making paying via the web. For several friends we took payment by cash or ETC transfer, than paid through the web on their behalf. We should have made that option clear from the start.
  • There are a lot of generous people out there!

Now, what happens to the money?

We've emailed Room to Read to say we've got all the money to build a library. Their auto-reply says they are dealing with a heavy load of inquiries and to be patient. We'll let you know as soon as we hear more.

Regards, MrB & Mr Tall

Grand total raised: US$17,362

It's the end of the month, and with your help we've raised US$17,362.

It's enough to build and stock a standalone library plus two reading rooms. So that's three communities whose children will have a real chance at literacy. Then what's left will be enough for Room to Read to purchase another 1,362 books. I hope you'll agree it's great value for money.

Thank you to the latest group of individual donors: Phoebe, Gweipo, Boots & Engee, and Bauhinia Girl. Thanks also to corporate sponsor Saffron Cruises. And a final thank you to everyone that helped us reach and pass the target.

Regards, MrB

PS We're still waiting further details on exactly where in Nepal the money will be used. We'll keep you updated.

Please also keep us updated

Please also keep us updated on Geoexpat.

It is a shame that so many people are reluctant to use credit cards online - I really don't understand that: there is no rational reason for it - the is far more credit card fraud from manual copies of card swipes than there is from online "hacking", and in any case one's liability in the case of fraudulent use is very limited.

Nepal library - progress update

We've had the following updates from Room to Read on where the funds you've raised will be used:

Library construction project.

All the projects for 2007 are currently underway, so we've been asigned a project for 2008.

Their team in Nepal will let us know the exact location in Q1 of 2008. The full project can take around one year to complete, so they expect we'll receive the final report and pictures of the finished building around February-March 2009.

We get to choose the text for a plaque that will be fixed on the completed building. We've asked them to use:

This library was established through the cooperation of
the local community, Room to Read, and supporters from
Hong Kong listed at

We hope that by including a link to this website, someone from the school may be able to contact us in future and let us know how the library is being used.

Two reading rooms

These will be completed in 2007. Room to Read don't give out as much information about these, but we've asked them to send us whetever information they can.

For these we are just able to display a single donor's name on a group plaque, so we've asked them to use:

Hong Kong's readers

Other news

  • Thanks to everyone who joined us for lunch yesterday, and to Shri from for making it possible.
  • Thanks also to additional donors Ernest & Cyrus, and Stew, who've brought the total up to $17,562.
  • There is a 15-minute PBS video which looks at Room to Read's work in Nepal. The section from 5:25 to 6:30 shows what a finished reading room looks like. If you watch the rest of the video, you'll also see examples of their scholarships for girls, and how they are also building whole schools. Good ideas for our 2008 appeal!

Nepal library - progress update

The Jan 26th issue of The Economist had a couple of articles that caught my eye. First their briefing on 'The World's silver lining' mentions:

The long march to literacy is nearing an end: three-quarters of people aged 15-25 were literate in 1975; now the rate is nearly nine-tenths.

Then a few pages later a piece on tourism in Nepal, 'From treks to sex', describes Nepal's growing sex industry: Nepali women are trafficked to India, and work in the massage parlours and "dance bars" that are sprouting in Kathmandu's tourist area.

Nepal's literacy rate is still below the 1975 rate quoted above, so has plenty of room to improve. And though I'm not naive enough to think that improved literacy will mean the end of the sex industry, it can be one of the steps towards reversing the recent growth of that industry.

Here's the latest news from Room to Read:

Library construction project.

They are still working on identifying the villages that will have libraries built in 2008. We'll learn the location of the library we all funded in Q2, rather than Q1 as originally stated.

Two reading rooms

The group plaque mentioned previously will be fixed to the reading room at the Shree Birendra Secondary School, located in Parbat, Nepal. And in fact we shall get a completion report for this project, so we'll post that up as soon as we get it.

I ran a search on Google, and I think that the Parbat region is about where the red marker is below:

Javascript is required to view this map.

Nepal library - progress update

Here's the latest news from Room to Read:

Library construction project.

Progress on the report:

Regarding the 2008 constructed library in Nepal, our in-country teams have just switched to our new SalesForce database system and the transition is causing a few delays in data collection. It looks like the reports will be available around the end of July or early August. I do apologize for that delay but our teams are working feverishly on finishing up site selections and drafting MOUs with the partnering communities.

We'll let you know as soon as we hear more from them.

Two reading rooms

Better news here - we've received a copy of the promised completion report for this project. On page 3 of the report, the Challenge grant shows the contributions from the local community, and those from Room to Read (ie your donations):


1. Room color
2. Room preparation
3. Room carpeting
4. Part time librarian and teacher
5. Transportation of furniture and books

• 150 English books
• 900 Nepali books
• Educational posters
• Dictionaries and atlas
• Educational wooden materials
• Two days of initial library training for 2 teachers
• Regular follow up and monitoring
• Furniture
      3 book racks
      2 display racks
      4 tables
      8 benches
      1 teacher’s table
      1 teacher’s chair
      1 catalogue card box
      1 white board
      1 soft board

You can read the full report and see photos of the finished reading room here.

Nepal Library is complete

Some good news - at the start of this month we received the completion report for the new library we all contributed too. However, I got a bit of a surprise when I read it, as the school named in the completion report ('Shree Panchamuni Dev Secondary School' - click to download the completion report) was different from the school mentioned in the application report we received last year.

I asked Room to Read to check into it, and now we have received the correct details. I'll attach my questions and their answers below.

It's certainly taken a lot longer than we expected, but it's great to see the finished library in place at last. Thanks again for your support.

Q. Please can you explain why the school in the completion report is different from the school in the application report we received earlier?

A. For the past year or so, our programs teams have been transitioning to a new, Salesforce database under which to house all of our projects. In working through this data and communicating it back to the Global Office, the wrong application report was assigned to you. As you’ll recall, the application report outlines the community that the school is in, the number of students, and other information about the project. In transitioning the data from the in-country teams in Nepal to the new database, you were assigned to and then sent the incorrect application report.

The completion report you recently received from me has been the school that has received your funding and for which you are the supporter for the library. The correct application report for the correct school is attached to this email (click to download the application report). I do want to apologize for this discrepancy and the confusion it may have caused your donors.

Q. The completion report says that there are 702 students in the school, but in the next section it says the region has a population of 630. Please can you explain the difference?

A. You’ll see that in this report the number of students also exceeds the number in the community. This is because there are families that come from farther reaches of the region to utilize the school. The population number reflects those that live in the community directly but does not include those on the outskirts of the area and the children who travel these longer distances to school (because they live outside the town and don’t have access to a school).

Q. Finally it says that the 'Date established" for the new school is March 15, 2009. Can I explain that by saying that the library opened in March, but due to the reporting problems you described earlier, the completion reports were delayed until October?

A. There is always a delay in the “date established” and the date we send the final completion reports. The date established according to our in-country teams is the date that the materials have arrived and been placed in the school. These include the books and chairs and other items. However, we do also work on providing training for the teachers and /or the librarian and there is often a delay from when this happens and students begin to fully utilize the library.

We wait to do the final completion report once the librarian is trained and the school fully operates the library with the children engaged and utilizing the new resource! In Nepal this year, the delay between date of establishment and when final completion reports were completed was more significant than normal due to the political unrest and the difficulty our teams had in visiting and gathering final information on all of our projects. Road closures and intermittent electricity were just some of the challenges the team faced that contributed to the delay in getting all the information for the final report, sending it to our office, editing it, and sending it out to you. This was also in addition to the teams working on transitioning to the Salesforce database.

Again, I want to thank-you for your patience in this process. I know a couple of snags got in the way of getting a more timely and accurate set of reports to you – some of which we couldn’t control but some which were confusing errors – and I very much appreciate your understanding.