Every once in a while you meet someone who changes your life. This is what happened when I met Nawaraj Baskota from Kathmandu, Nepal. We met briefly in the Netherlands at an IEARN (International Education and Resource Network) Conference and then again in 2007 at the IEARN Natural Disasters Youth Summit Project Conference in Aichi, Japan. After this conference Nawaraj contacted me to find out if it would be possible to visit the U.S. as this was always a dream of his. I told him anything was possible.
|Nawaraj & Chris at Mijar Village School (taken by another teacher with my camera)|
After discussing this with my principal, Mrs. Black, she approved his visit to McConnell Elementary. I arranged the necessary paperwork for his VISA, organized school visits to 12 schools in Chattanooga, TN, and exposed Nawaraj to a variety of cultural experiences during his visit in October 2008.
I realized that a teacher who would give up a month’s vacation to come to the U.S. on a scholarship from his school, Nobel Academy, to learn new teaching strategies and gain an understanding of another culture was someone I would be glad to befriend.
During this visit I had learned about the school system in Nepal. There had been a very large drain on public schools and they are in deplorable shape. This began in the 1980’s. Prior to this the public schools around the country provided a good education. Nawaraj attended public school in his remote village as a youth and attended college in Kathmandu, Nepal. Anyone who had influence and sufficient funds removed their children from public schools and placed them in private schools.
|Mijar Village School (taken by me during visit to Mijar Village)|
Nawaraj began his teaching career in the public schools similar to those in his remote village. He realized that he had limited opportunities and was very concerned about his own two boys as they were nearing school age. Nawaraj pursued an opportunity to teach at Nobel Academy in Kathmandu. Nobel is a well known Private School. His sons, Aanav who is now in 5th grade and Tabeen now in 7th grade were able to have a good education at Nobel Academy while his father taught there and later became a school administrator. His wife, Bishnu was the librarian at Nobel Academy and serves in this capacity at Kavya School. He was working at this school when we met. His goal was to create a school that would embrace other cultures and as a school service project be able to help improve the remote village schools at the same time.
While Nawaraj was in Chattanooga, I shared the book, Three Cups of Tea, written by Greg Mortenson, with him. We began to think about a way that we could help to improve the education of students in the remote village schools. We thought that we could create non-profits to raise funds to help a remote village school for the “Untouchables” Mijar Village children. The 80 children were in grades 1-3 and had no desks, no paper, no paper, no textbooks, nothing at all to help them learn. The school has no electricity, no running water and no toilets. Nawaraj established an NGO (Non-governmental organization) non-profit in Nepal and I established Nickels For Nepal a 501c3 non-profit in Tennessee.
Nickels For Nepal raises money to enable Nawaraj to buy supplies in Kathmandu, Nepal because it is much less expensive than sending materials from the U.S. Nawaraj, his teachers, and members of his staff make arrangements to deliver the supplies to the remote village by Trekking up the mountain with porters. This trip takes a full day as it is a 3 hour drive to an area to begin the Trek up the mountain. The mountain Trek takes 2-3 hours and the visit is another 2-3 hours. Then there is the 3-hour drive back to Kathmandu. In October 2010 I was fortunate and privileged to be able to make this Trek to the remote Mijar Village School with Nawaraj and 15 other adventurous teachers and staff from his new school, Kavya School, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal. Nawaraj and I have delivered over $1500.00 worth of school supplies to this remote school and we plan to continue our work to include scholarships to enable deserving students from this village school to attend Kavya School in Kathmandu. The scholarships will include tuition, supplies, meals, transportation, and lodging. In addition, Nawaraj is negotiating with local businesses in Kathmandu to obtain school uniforms and shoes for the children.
Nawaraj is a wonderfully compassionate man who is deeply concerned about his students and those in the remote villages who do not have access to a quality education to improve their lives. While we were on our very difficult Trek up the mountain to the village school there were many times when I wondered why I chose to make this difficult trip. All the while Nawaraj stayed by my side encouraging me to keep on going, it’s just a little bit more.