From a tremendous adventure to a lasting impact
A high adventure in 1960 by three undergraduates to fly from Cambridge to Kathmandu, a meeting between John Brown and Father Moran, a Jesuit priest; together these events developed a relationship that was to have a lasting impact on the students of St Xavier’s School, Godavari.
This is John’s story
After completing their RAF flying training in Canada during their National Service, John and two of his close friends vowed to do something really exciting before going to Oxbridge as undergraduates.
They decided that flying a single engine light aircraft 6,000 miles from the UK to Nepal and back again would not only gain a world record but might even give some recognition to the tragic plight of some 20,000 Tibetan refugees fleeing from Tibet to Nepal to escape China’s tyranny. This was front-page news at the time.
So, on 5 September 1960 the three young men in a hired Auster Alpine, with a range of about 350 miles, left Cambridge airfield for Kathmandu. David Lomax as Captain and 1st pilot, Dermot Boyle as navigator and John Brown as co-pilot and business manager. The route: Cambridge, Dijon, Marseille, Cyprus, Damascus, Bagdad, Basra, Bahrain, Jask, Karachi, Jodhpur, Gorakhpur and eventually Kathmandu. On 19 September 1960, they arrived in Kathmandu, with no damage or injury to man or aircraft, despite a bumpy landing. The men claimed two world records – one for the first ever flight from the UK to Nepal in a light aircraft, the second for landing the smallest plane in Kathmandu airport.
In Nepal – September 1960
In Kathmandu they visited all six organisations purporting to bring financial aid to the refugees. They then flew to Pokhara (Nepal’s second largest city) and interviewed dozens of Tibetans living in makeshift shelters. The conclusion being, the only aid to have reached the Tibetans had been supplied by the International Refugee Organisation led by Father Moran.
Of significant importance during that visit was a meeting between John and Father Moran, the first Jesuit to work in Nepal as the Chairman of the Tibetan Refugee Organisation. The Nepalese government was anxious to use the Jesuits to raise the educational standards in the country. Father Moran soon persuaded the King of Nepal to give one of his summer palaces as the centre of the first Jesuit School in Nepal which opened in 1951 with 65 male students.
The Jesuits subsequently set up a further eight schools – providing primary and secondary education as well as further education colleges. Today they are accommodating nearly 8,000 students. One of these schools is St Xavier’s School in Godavari, a southern town in the Lalitpur District, about 15 km form Kathmandu. This is the school at the heart of the JMB Educational Fund. St Xavier’s has a fabulous reputation in Nepal and Asia for both academic excellence as well as providing the students with a solid foundation of moral values.
1999 – Sponsor a Child in Nepal was founded
Having retired from a career in the Chemical Industry, working in the UK & overseas, John & his wife Diana embarked on an adventurous trekking trip to Nepal. Inspired by their visit they decided to set up the charity ‘Sponsor a Child in Nepal’ focusing their efforts on the School that Father Moran founded, St Xavier’s School. The Principal at this time, Father Mathews, was delighted by the decision. Girls were now accepted into the School, although only few in number. The Charity encouraged the School to increase the proportion of girls and so today this stands at 45% of the intake.
2007- Sponsoring Further Education Students
As the sponsored students advanced in their education and reached Year 10, it became evident that the Sponsorship Programme was not sufficient for those that are able to progress into further education and college.
In addition, the parents of certain students asked for the Charity to continue its involvement with their childrens’ education and so in 2007 the Further Education Fund was created to fund students from deprived backgrounds to continue in Years 11 and 12 and beyond.
2015 – Name Change & Charitable Status
By 2015 the Charity sponsorship had grown to 91 students (from 3 in 1999) and the funding base had expanded from not just individual sponsors but to other charitable trusts.
John came to the realisation that the Charity’s strategy needed to be refreshed, moving it from a family charity to a more formal footing. Charitable status would strengthen the reputation and reach of the Charity and so attract more funders. Consequently, the name of the Charity was changed to JMB Educational Fund, charitable status was applied for and granted on 5 November 2015 and two new Trustees (Russell Inman and Diane Hickey) who are non-family memebers with different skills and backgrounds were appointed to the Trustee Board in August 2015.
2017- New Team Members
John believes that a change of leadership is essential in progressing forward in any organisation and so in 2017 after running the Charity for 18 years John decided to step down in favour of his two daughters, Fiona and Louise.
In the second half of 2017, the Trustees appointed two young ambassadors to the team to promote awareness of the Charity in Nepal and in the UK and to promote communication through social media.
In October 2017, the Trustees appointed June Corpuz as Trustee bringing finance and risk management skills to the Board.
In early 2018, the Trustees decided to re-designate the Charity Board into a Trustee & Management Board to better reflect the function that the members perform.
A note from John:
“On a personal note, the transformation of hundreds of young people’s lives has been one of the most satisfying things I have done in my life and I would highly recommend becoming involved.”