Nepali Times
Changing Nepal one girl at a time

Scholarship students at the Sri Chandra School in Bahundanda last week.

Adoctor, a businessman and a professor, who formed a unique trans-continental partnership to support education in Nepal, have proved how a little money goes a long way if it is invested in girl's education.

California professor Jeffrey Kottler first came to Nepal in 2003 to teach counseling, but saw that girls weren't going to school and decided to do something about it. Kiran Regmi is a Nepali physician and professor dedicated to improving health in rural Nepal. Digumber Piya is a businessman, philanthropist and community activist.

Together, the three set up the Madhav Ghimire Foundation, named after Kiran's father and Nepal's poet laureate.
Kottler says admiringly, "Kiran is the most accomplished woman I know, with a medical degree, masters degrees in public health and anthropology, and a doctorate."

COMMITTED TRIO: Businessman Digumber Piya, doctor Kiran Regmi and professor Jeffrey Kottler set up the Madhav Ghimire Foundation to give girls in Lamjung a head start in school. The foundation is named after Nepal's poet laureate.
Regmi's experience working with poor families in rural Nepal matched what Kottler had seen while doing research in remote areas. Six years ago in Lamjung, he met the headmaster of a school who told him that an academically gifted girl was dropping out because her family couldn't afford the fees. When he found out it was only Rs 7,000, he took out his wallet and paid for a year's support.

From that first girl in 2003, the Madhav Ghimire Foundation now supports 73 students. It plans to add 25 more this year, some of them gifted Sherpa girls whose fathers have died in climbing accidents.

Scholarship students are promised that as long as their work continues to be excellent, the foundation will pay for their education as far as they can carry it. The project has grown rapidly and the girls have started going to college. Now to meet the demand the budget will need to grow to Rs 80 million.

"We'll need big money eventually to keep the promises we have made to the families," says Piya. For now, the foundation operates on small donations and is run entirely by volunteers. Kottler brings counselors, educators, students and health professionals to Nepal each year. Participants are expected to raise funds and become "inspirational witnesses" back home for the foundation's work.

Th volunteers visit foundation schools, such as Sri Chandra school, about 30 km from the nearest road in Lamjung's Bahundanda, the birthplace of Madhav Ghimire. There are 250 children in the school in 12 classrooms, and the foundation supports scholarship students directly and also invests in improving the facilities at the schools where they study.

The payoff for the foundation's work is years away, when the girls graduate to become doctors, nurses and teachers. But, says Kiran Regmi: "It has been shown over and over again that investing in girls' education is the most cost-effective way to bring development to a society."

John Child

A costly freedom for kamalaris ISSUE # 441
Helping families afford education ISSUE # 441

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)