I hope everything is going well at home. My time in Nepal is winding down. I have less than a month left here in this amazing place, and I cannot believe how the time has flown by. In my previous emails I have talked about some of the incredible people I have had the pleasure of meeting during my time here in Pokhara, Nepal. I have found so many people making their lives count for something, working towards the betterment of others and it has been a truly inspiring experience. Of all of the incredible people I have met here, one stands out above the rest.
I met Prem Kunwar through the language lessons organized at the house I am staying in. My first impression of him was that he was a fun-loving energetic teacher who truly enjoyed his job. Prem works as an English teacher at a private school in Pokhara, and runs a language school that teaches Nepali as a side business after school hours. In just one lesson with Prem you can feel his passion for teaching and the patience that only the best in his profession possess.
In the weeks following our meeting I started to learn more about Prem. He began to tell us of the non-profit organizations he was affiliated with, namely KEEN to Learn (a scholarship program) and the Cloudbase foundation (an association of paragliding pilots giving back to the communities from which they fly). Through these organizations Prem has been able to support individual student scholarships as well as five government run schools. Not only is he working two jobs to provide for his family, and working as the Director of Charitable Projects in Nepal for the Cloudbase Foundation, Prem and his wife also house, feed, clothe, and care for five children who are not their own. These children were all scholarship winners from remote villages and hearing the testimonies of what they have endured to get an education sent shivers down my spine. Many had walked hours to school and back, toiled away in the rice fields in their poor rural communities, only to complete their homework for the next day by candle-light before starting the painfully early journey to school the next day, all in the pursuit of an education. Through the scholarships received these children are able to achieve a quality, higher education and work towards becoming productive, engaged members of society with fulfilling jobs and lives. Educating a child means educating their future family, and these scholarships have changed the shape of these children's lives for the better.
Throughout my time getting to know Prem, I found it almost comical the number of side-projects he has created to keep a steady stream of funding and resources flowing to the five schools supported by the CloudBase Foundation. He works as a liaison between a paragliding company and its clients through a company called Karma Flights, in which for each flight booked through Prem, the schools will receive 10% of the profits. Prem sells T-shirts from his language school, with all proceeds again going towards the government schools. One of the more bizarre associations Prem has managed to manufacture is between a vulture sanctuary and a community school in Gachowk, a small village outside of Pokhara. I had the pleasure of accompanying Prem to the vulture sanctuary, and afterwards to the library that had been built through the funding. For the cooperation of the community in the effort to save the endangered vulture population of Nepal, the sanctuary has agreed to help fund community resources such as the school. Finally, on weekends Prem will make trips to the remote schools he supports to provide a teacher training program to the staff. In Nepal it is not uncommon for physical punishments and verbal abuse to still be implemented in schools. Prem works towards educating teachers against these methods to foster a nurturing learning environment for students to reach their full potential.
I can convey the sheer impressive resume of Prem's work in Nepal, but what is truly inspiring is the unwavering optimism and positivity with which he approaches life. I have never met such an inspiring, tireless, motivated person such as Prem in my whole life. He is genuinely one of a kind. I have often remarked to Prem after he has discussed his busy schedule with me, "your poor wife, she must never see you!" He always responds with a smile and says "ke garne", what to do? He understands the fundamental importance of what he is doing, and makes numerous sacrifices in his personal life to continue his relentless work for the education of a future generation. Prem is a fierce champion of education for children regardless of their caste (social ranking system), gender or socioeconomic status, believing in quality education for all. He believes empowering children through education will allow them to work towards positive change in a country riddled with social inequities.
Both the education and healthcare systems in Nepal are broken down into government funded and private facilities. As I have mentioned in previous emails the government run facilities in Nepal are shockingly underfunded due to corruption and instability. In Nepal you get what you pay for, and citizens who cannot afford the private facilities are subjected to second rate medical treatment and education. Many parents of children attending the government schools are illiterate themselves. If there is one thing I cannot stress enough it is the importance of education for the future of a child. Education is the key to pulling children and their families out of the cycle of poverty and enabling them and their future families to drastically improve their quality of life.
In the five year plan for the government schools, Prem mentioned audio-visual equipment as a priority. Bringing outside ideas and influences to the education of the children can open their minds to what there is outside of the villages they live in, and allow for a well-rounded education.
I have set a goal to raise $4,500.00 Canadian in order to purchase five laptops, and five projectors, one for each school. Every little bit helps towards a goal that will give children, who have had a much tougher start in life than many of us, a chance at a higher quality of life. Education is a lasting resource that will have a ripple effect on generations to come. I am reaching out to my community back home to help make a difference in the community here in Nepal who has been so kind to me. I have included a link to my fundraising page at the bottom of this email. Thank you all again for your continued interest and support.
- Jeff & Jen Bibbings
- Lynne Ryckman
- Mary Hall
- Colleen Jordan
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