Nepali Times
Barry aka Bir Bahadur


I SHALL RETURN: Barry Bialek is greeted by his old friends on return to Ilam
The 61-year-old surgeon from Colorado, has visited Nepal more than 30 times. He is fluent in Nepali, familiar with Nepal's social, cultural and political affairs, wears the traditional Nepali 'dhaka topi' regularly and prefers to be called Bir Bahadur Subba.

After completing his BA 40 years ago, he had two alternatives: work in the mountain states of the US or volunteer in a developing country half way across the world. After serious deliberation he chose the latter, joining the Peace Corps where he was assigned to teach science at a school here in Namsaling of Ilam district.

Bialek recalls the initial difficulties he had while learning Nepali, his frustration at not being able to speak the language for the first six months and the inaccuracies he found in translated texts used in science modules such as: the 'Sun revolves around the Earth'.

When Bialek realised his students had no textbooks, he taught science classes using examples from daily life and put together a science laboratory in the school.

He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1973 .

Fellow teacher Homnath Adhikari recalls Bialek was well-liked by Namsaling residents. Adhikari himself was inspired when Bialek once asked his class to write an essay on where they wanted Ilam and Nepal to be in 100 years.

"That essay completely opened my mind," says Adhikari, who went to set up the Namsaling Comminuty Development Center (NCDC).

Bialek went home after two years to become a teacher in America. He frequently met classmates from George Washington University to discuss ways to implement long-term development projects. Eventually, Bialek decided to dedicate his life to sustainable development in Nepal and returned in 1983 to help launch NCDC with Adhikari. Bialek is now involved with the organisation, Engineers Without Borders which helps projects in developing countries.

NCDC works with VDCs throughout Ilam and across Nepal in environment, agriculture, hydroelectricity, and biodiversity projects. Bialek has set up the Nepal Community Development Foundation in North America to raise money for his work in Nepal. During this recent visit to Nepal Bialek was advising Ilam Municipality on how to turn itself into a 'green town'.

Read also:
'Nepali le maya maryo', SINGHA BAHADUR BASNYAT

Corps values

BATCH of 70: Peace Corps volunteers from mid 1970s gather for a group photo. Barry Bialek is seated in second row, first from the right
In September 1962, Nepal welcomed the inaugral batch 68 Peace Corps volunteers, becoming one of the first countries in the world to host a program pioneered by president John F Kennedy.

The next 40 years saw at least 4,000 American graduates and professionals serve in Nepal. It was a different, roadless, tvless, phoneless and internetless Nepal in those days, yet the volunteers taught in schools and colleges, trained teachers, assisted at health posts and helped out with agricultural programs. In return they gained valuable experiences living and working in a developing county and forged lifelong friendships. Many volunteers continued working in Nepal as diplomats or in the development and education sector.

The Peace Corps was closed down in September 2004 after the Maoists set off a minor explosion at the American Information Centre in Gyaneswor. Initially the withdrawal was meant to last six months, but as the security condition worsened, the Peace Corps suspended its Nepal program indefinitely.

The move to return the Peace Corps was initiated by Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari during his visit to Washington last year. He made a written request to the US government, and an exploratory American mission visited Kathmandu earlier this year. Sandra Wagner, who once headed the Peace Corps Asian department, has been appointed director of Peace Corps Nepal. the budget for the revived Peace Corps comes from the USAID's health outlay, sources say. Wagner is expected in Kathmandu in January to prepare the logistics for opening the new office.

The news of resumption of the Peace Corps program has delighted alumnae and friends of Nepal around the world.
Barry Bialek, a volunteer stationed in Ilam in the early 1970s says: "My Peace Corps experience in Nepal opened my heart and mind in ways I had never imagined. I'm very glad the Peace Corps are coming back to Nepal, both for the new volunteers and for Nepal."

1. gyanu
Is Barry a surgeon or an engineer?

2. ranju thami
doctor ho - medical doctor. 

3. Sunil Sakya
Peace Corps Program has been certainly one of the best programs of the US government, something that gave a real insight in the life of the Nepalese and these US volunteers and life changing experience for them. People like Dr. Barry Bailek has been able to build strong bridge and real ties between US and Nepal relations on people to people level.

4. Hari Doz

Peace Corps is one of the best programs launced by US to assist developing countries in education and community development. Unfortunately during the Maoist revolution they were driven away with anti American sentiments. We also need to remember that Nepal also had wonderful programs like NDS, National Development Service, where students prior to graduation had to go the villages to teach in school. In fact this program was recognised by the World. Another one was Back to the Village Campaign during the Panchayat era where the empoyees had to visit the villages for development activities. Why cannot we revive these wonderful programs initiated by ourselves.

5. Barry Bialek
One point: the article is inaccurate about the origin of NCDC.

The truth is not a one-day school lesson in imagining the future.  Rather, I spent four years (1980 - 84) studying best practices in sustainable community development (SCD) with a group of colleagues in health, education, anthropology, appropriate technology, architecture, etc.  Then, as a senior medical student in 1984 - 85, I travelled to Nepal and trekked the hills of Mechi and Koshi Zones, in search of a site for our pilot SCD program.

After returning to Ilam and Namsaling in December 1984, I led the village elders (including Hom Nath Adhikari) in creating their vision of the future - 100 years into the future.  This became the 1st Namsaling Development Plan and led directly (2 days later) to the establishment of NCDC as the vehicle to carry the plan forward.

Hom Nath has been involved since the beginning, first as Treasurer of NCDC and then as CEO for 20+ years.

There is more to the story, like my singing "Nakalilai" on Radio Nepal before I hiked out east.

Dr Barry

6. Jay Gurung
This is wonderful. As a Nepali and Ilameli( Ilam resident), I feel very grateful toward Mr. Bialek for doing all these amazing things in Ilam. His help and contributions are much appreciated. 

I think peace corps is a terrific program that allows Americans to go to developing countries and see and experience things that they probably never dreamed of. 

Thanks for your time and help Mr.Bialek.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)