IN his well-worn all-weather jacket, old jeans, shoes that have not seen polish, and several days’ stubble on his ever-smiling face, Uttan Sanjet looks more like a sherpa than the miracle-worker he unquestionably is.

Inspirational is not too strong a description for this 35-year-old Bachelor of Political Science who, in eight years, has built five schools catering for a total of 13,000 children, many of then orphaned or abandoned.

And there are plans for more – at least one in each of the 75 districts of this beautiful mountainous country of Nepal.

I am at Samata School in Kathmandu, the fascinating capital, for a month with two other volunteers (three more are working in a toddlers’ orphanage down the road) helping them to learn English, a language essential if they are to make any mark in life.

The school has about 3,500 pupils, of which more than 200 are orphans. Its compound, measuring little more than an acre, is in the less-than-prosperous suburb of Jopati, where Uttan was born and brought up. Around its perimeter are more than 50 bamboo rooms, all with their own distinctive front-exterior designs in bamboo that turn them from huts into classrooms and, in some cases, homes. Building is constantly taking place using the most simple of materials because money is scarce.

This is hardly surprising as fees, where fees are paid, are 100 rupees a month – less than 90p.

But Uttan’s vision is about children, his love for all children and his determination to see they get a fair ride on the wheel of life.

“No money – no matter,” he says.

Not all the children are from Kathmandu. The school's fame has reached the far corners of the country.

Some children have walked for days to reach the ever-welcoming arms of Samata – which is the Nepali word for 'equality'. Some have families waiting for their return – but many do not. Some stories are horrific.

Take Pooja, a sad, black-eyed girl of three-and-a-half. She was born in a remote east Nepal village. Her grandmother, who looked after her, was branded a witch. Pooja, at the age of two, was accused of being possessed by demons and was subjected to the most appalling physical abuse.

Uttan travelled for several days to rescue the child and now, along with a score of other small orphans, lives as one of his children in one of the school's two-storey bamboo buildings.

“They are all my children,” he says, waving his hand across what passes as a courtyard and playground where the children stand in lines for their daily cross-faith assembly. “I have 13,000 children? Who is more blessed than me?” he says with undisguised pride.

It is not surprising that Pooja is still withdrawn, but in the few days we have been at Samata, she has fleetingly emerged from her self-protecting shell.

My colleagues, Rosemary and Janet, grandparents like me, reckon she has adopted me as she takes my hand and silently leads me to my next class.

No-one dwells on sadness at Samata. There is joy in living and learning. We three not only feel privileged to be trying to help but also are assured by the children both in word and action that they enjoy having us there.

‘Namaste’, the universal word of greeting and thanks with hands held together as in prayer, meets us hundreds of times a day, accompanied by the broadest smiles that not even the finest toothpaste advertisements can match.

Mind you, I have to admit my questionable influence has introduced the words: “How are you doing?” to which the reply is: “Fine, thanks,” followed by a thumbs up and broad smile. It started among the older lads but was quickly taken up by the girls and the younger children.

Am I enjoying the experience? What do you think?

Since sending this article a couple of days ago, the situation in Kathmandu has taken an unfortunate – if not sinister - turn.

Two students were found dead early on Wednesday. Pro-Maoists Young Communist League members were the chief suspects and this led to demonstrations across the city. It is virtually impossible to say who is demonstrating against whom, but in this country where the multi-coalition government is anything but united, any faction is fully capable of turning on another.

On Wednesday we were unable to reach the school at Samata even though our driver made a valiant attempt and we ended up working with our colleagues in the children's home – itself a damp and dangerous experience as inadequate nappies proved just how inadequate they were, and plastic toys were hurled, albeit in fun, with surprising accuracy by excited toddlers.

Since yesterday we have been locked in our hotel behind stout, solid metal gates topped with unfriendly-looking wire and spikes. The chances of going anywhere are low.

There is no public transport. Instead there is a strange silence in the streets normally pouring with thousands of people and the roar of traffic and their over-used horns. Only the occasional police siren can be heard followed by the sound of crowds shouting and jeering.

It is all a bit frustrating not being able to get on with the work I've crossed half the world to do.

But it would be untrue to say that this old reporter isn't finding it all rather interesting...