Time to teach: Meet Christine Stone

Features Issue 122 Jan, 2012
Text by Pat Kauba / Photo: ECS Media

Sitting with Christine Stone is like sharing moments in times pages; immersed in helping fellow man, with faith in the above; shared through a softly animated voice. Now in her 70s Christine’s slight-frame is packed with energy. She shared her extraordinary life one chilly evening as her companion Nirmaya, a Scottish Border Collie, cuddled into her lap. Around Sanepa’s streets she is known as ‘the woman with the dog in the basket’ zooming by bicycle between appointments.

“If I were to look in my planner, I can tell you I am booked for the next year”. Christine is an educator, teacher to all levels; prepares curriculums; writes children’s books; consults for government and private schools; helping just about anybody who asks. She knows Nepal like the back of her wizened hands, living here 30 years. Amazingly Christine has traversed those years without salary, only by donations and gifts—mostly from patrons of the Church of Scotland, where she is a member.

Christine has donated her life to teaching, calmly fueled by belief that it’s God’s wish. Yesterday she gave training to teachers from remote Doti District, while tomorrow she’s training at the British Council. Rich, poor, privileged or not means little; Christine comes with perspective and humor that can only come from a life lived.

Her own childhood started in Hong Kong to an army dad and loving mother before World War II. As the Japanese advanced Christine and her mother were put on a boat and dropped onto a random Australian beach. Dad was captured in Singapore in 1941, spending the war under brutal conditions, building the Bridge Over The River Kwai. When the war ended the family reunited, but soon sent Christine to a Christian girls school in Cyprus, which she detested more than any prison.

While doing her degree in Physics in Bristol University Christine was surprised to start finding a love for God and his gift of life. She became a follower and after her degree read an advertisement by the United Mission for teachers in Nepal. She applied, prayed and… got the job.

Christine first went to Gorkha District for five years at a government school, then another five in Pokhara Gandaki Boarding School. She reminisces that her best experiences were reading to students evening-time. In Nepal nobody ever read stories, but with a stack of Ladybird books Christine ignited fires. By the end she was reading classics like Les Miserables; even teachers asked her to read to them too.

In the last few years Room To Read, an INGO promoting libraries for children, has commissioned Christine to create Nepal’s first children’s books with characters like Tommy Tempo, Rishi Rickshaw and Birke Bagh. Teaching lessons like: sharing, consideration for others and winning is not everything. Presented with illustrations by artists like Ajay Thapa; a child Christine read to many years ago.

Forty years has taken Christine on various journeys: Scotland teaching troubled children; remote Tristin d’Akuna Island between South Africa and South America, where boats only came thrice a year; Ethiopia, Nepal and more than text allows.

Christine recognizes that her window to set up a life back in Scotland gets smaller, yet she comes with the buoyant outlook that she’s doing what she’s meant to; happy with her simple room, hot water bottle and loving Nirmaya for company.

Kind, humble and giving, Christine Stone’s life seems the fullest. She is a testament to the value of life lived for others.

Pat Kauba is a freelance storyteller with a love for teachers. Contact him at patkauba@gmail.com.