One day our oldest son Maximilian, a student of Bonn’s Collegium Josephinum, came home and enthusiastically told us about a possible student exchange to Bangkok (Thailand). Eight students from his year group were to be given the opportunity to visit a school in Thailand for a total of 14 days.
In the fall of 2017, after the completion of an intensive selection process, the eight students who would be granted the opportunity to spend time in Bangkok were determined. Unfortunately, Maximilian was not selected.
The then 13-year-old came home disappointed and told of the cancellation. After all the efforts Maximilian had made and his clearly noticeable interest, it was immediately clear to me that I would like to enable my son to go to school abroad. So I started thinking about how we could realize Maximilian’s wish after all, if necessary.
It was somehow clear to me that I wanted to try to make it possible for him to attend a school at least as exotic as the one in Thailand might have become. Due to my father’s profession, I myself lived abroad for many years as a child and still maintain close contact with many of my classmates from that time.
One of them is Lars Etzinger, who is now working in the diplomatic service in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. I contacted him and after overcoming several hurdles, it was decided that Maximilian would attend a school in Kathmandu for ten days.
Due to the great distance and complete strangeness, Maximilian was very happy when I accompanied him on the journey of several hours to Kathmandu to spend the first four days together with him on site before he was to attend school in Kathmandu for another ten days under the care of Lars Ertzinger.
Already during our time together, we quickly became aware that Nepal is characterized not only by dreamlike landscapes, beautiful nature and exceptionally friendly and helpful people, but also by a lot of poverty and suffering, not least due to the devastating earthquake in 2015.
The 10-year civil war, which only ended in 2006 and left more than 15,000 dead, has also left its mark. Shortly before our evening prayer together, Maximilian told me about the poverty he had registered and how children his age could not even afford a pencil. After a pause for thought, Maximilian asked if we could not also help in Nepal, as we have been doing for many years in various regions and countries.
That was the beginning of a journey that even for me was unbelievable at the time and which, God willing, is far from over.