Those living in urban and suburban areas can usually pursue whatever it is they are interested in. We also have the choice of experimenting with a bunch of subjects and fields before we actually settle on one as our ultimate career or profession choice. But that is not the case for most Nepali kids who either live in rural regions or cannot afford such privilege due to their families’ financial situation. Changing Stories is working to equalize this playing field.
Changing Stories was established in December 2016 with the intention of providing children all the necessary skills to direct them towards becoming lifelong learners. René Joehnke, founder and CEO of Changing Stories, believes that everyone should grow up with an opportunity to figure out what it is that makes them great. He calls Changing Stories remedial courses a learning initiative to help struggling students catch up.
“The least we can do is give these kids enough resources to help them spend their lives doing what they love,” he says adding that he himself was a part of an education system that took care of kids who would rather be out on the football field than in the classroom. Joehnke believes that if he could find meaning in his life then so can other kids. And through Changing Stories he is working on helping them do just that.
Joehnke’s first visit to Nepal was about three years ago because he felt his life at the time did not really make sense. He was living in Denmark, supposedly one of the happiest countries on earth, but ironically he wasn’t all that happy. He decided to leave his country in pursuit of finding that one thing that would set things right, if there were such a thing to begin with. His photography professor at university, Sarah, who had lived in Nepal for a while, suggested that he make a trip here. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Now Changing Stories hires a number of fellows who are trained to teach and lead the classes. These highly motivated youths act as role models and support for the kids. Joehnke mentions that the most important part for students when they are building confidence and an interest in learning is to have a teacher who can facilitate that and create an environment where it can occur. These fellows guide the students rather than just instruct them and deliver the curriculum Changing Stories has come up with to help them improve academically. They also go for home visits and parent-teacher meetings where they advise the parents on how to support their kids.
The selection of students for the remedial courses is very rigorous. They approach public schools and grade all students in class three and four with a literacy and numeracy assessment. The 15 lowest-performing students are then selected by the Changing Stories team and then enrolled in the remedial course. These students are tested again before the courses start, midway during the course, and once all classes are over to closely track the learning progress of the students and the overall impact of the project. These classes are conducted over 72 sessions and each of these sessions is two hours long and the entire course usually takes four months. Right now, Changing Stories is only focused on teaching Nepali and Maths as these are the basics kids should know to order to advance in other subjects.
Changing Stories have partnered with the Nepalis NGO, Institution for Suitable Actions for Prosperity (ISAP), and they are the ones implementing Changing Stories’ projects in Nepal. Besides Joehnke, Sunil Pokhrel and Dipendra Bhatta are also actively involved in Changing Stories.