In May of 2016 I had visited my close friend Niisha’s village in Nepal and gotten to know the people there. During my visit I felt a desire to help the children attending the local school and Niisha and I talked about helping more of the students and people as much as we could. One of the discussions was possibly helping well performing studentsthat didn’t have the financial means to attend the local University. One young woman in particular, Srijana, is a Daughter of a man in Niisha’s village who is deaf and mute. Because of this he struggled to make enough money to support his family, and was unable to pay for Srijana to attend the University she so desperately wanted to. While Niisha mentioned many other students that are doing well in school, but who’s families struggle to pay for their basic needs (such as notebooks, pencils, etc) Srijana’s story stuck with me the most. I’m not quite sure why, but perhaps it had something to do with the benefits I would get as a United States citizen if a member of my family suffered from a similar disability. The United States has many programs to help those that suffer from such a disability, in addition to many programs from non-profits that are equally (if not more) helpful with resources available that other countries cannot provide. There is the discussion of corruptness that Westerners talk about when it comes to countries like Nepal, but it is much more than that. A country who has suffered civil war that has been so recent that people who visited just years ago still have stories of soldiers escorting them while they trekked the mountains, who more recently (2015) suffered a devastating 7.8 earthquake that killed nearly 5,000 people, and who soon after faced a fuel crisis from their India neighbors does not simply have the financial means to be able to provide aid to those with disabilities or their families. Srijana wants to eventually become a banker and give back to her family in the future; in order for her to do that she must attend a University and obtain the education she needs to do so.
One year of University in Nepal can cost just $250 – $300 with the addition of school supplies and living costs is such a reasonable amount it is difficult to say “no” to. When Niisha and I talked about expanding the help we are giving to the young students of Nepal with school supplies to provide a scholarship program I expressed some concerns I wanted to address. I wanted to see that they have a goal in place that when they finish school they put their education to use. When it comes to the women of Nepal, many girls are married off at a young age and unable to finish their schooling as their time is spent tending to their family and Husband. I don’t want to start supporting young girls only to see them get married off before they get a chance to graduate, or to graduate and simply not have the time to pursue the career path they have worked so hard for. Of course, there are no guarantees and the culture of Nepal is so different that the one I grew up in, so to expect this of them is not realistic, however, I can do my best (with Niisha’s help) to find those that have the drive and want to follow-through with their plans. Srijana is just one of the examples of those that we could help.
“Jenn, I Want to Help”
That very same month my friend Jim reached out to me in email and mentioned that he had been reading my Facebook posts and wanted to help me out in my travels. Jim is a CEO of a very successful Internet Marketing company that provides SEO services to large corporations. I worked for him briefly many years ago, and later became very close friends shortly before my departure from the industry and my volunteering in 2015 began. Jim is an adventurer himself, having traveled the US National Parks for many years of his youth and strives to give back whenever he can. His own company has hosted charitable parties throughout the years such as the Charity Party in conjunction with SMX in NY in 2008 in which the company covered all expenses and donated proceeds for the event to the Ronald McDonald House Charity; and the Pubcon Charity Party in 2012 in which all proceeds went to the World Wildlife Fund to support Pandas and Penguins (if you are an SEO you understand the reasoning). The company and it’s employees are always finding ways to support the community around them and giving back where they can. So, you can see why Jim follows what I do and supports my efforts.
Shortly following the email from Jim I received $500 in my PayPal account. I was beside myself at the amount sent over by Jim. I had not asked for such a contribution, and have never once expected Jim (or anyone) to be so generous. I held the money for safe keeping while Niisha and I discussed where, and who, it should go to.
In July of 2016 I had flown back to the US and was working an advertising agency in Seattle, WA in a short term contract when Niisha messaged me on Facebook that Srijana wanted to start her time at the University in Pokhara, Nepal. I had put quite a lot of thought into how the scholarship would be structured, and what the expectations of the Srijana would be in order to qualify. I pooled what I had learned during my time with my former Husband who was (is) a High School Teacher working with students in obtaining financial aid and qualifying for scholarships in the US along with the guidelines my parents use in their scholarship they fund to the graduating students on Vashon Island. I also added a few of my own as I am learning the culture of Nepal and it’s people and how they differentiate from the people of the US.
I asked Niisha to have Srijana write me a letter (a form of an Essay as required by most scholarship applicants in the US) and explain why she would like to attend a University. She was to tell me what her plans were once she receives her degree, how she would be putting it to use when finished, and what her struggles are financially so that I could understand how great the need for support is. Niisha also needed to validate that Srijana is a good student, and understands she is to continue to perform well or she will not receive another year of support.
Since I was in the US and Niisha and Srijana were in Nepal, Niisha had to do all of the leg work in guiding Srijana on what I needed from her and also pay for the schooling. I wanted them to provide photos of the receipts for the payment to the University and for the purchase of Srijana’s school supplies.
Niisha sent me all of the documentation to me in Facebook messenger and I promptly saved it all to my Google Drive. When I return to Nepal I will go over everything with Niisha and collect the documents to keep for my records. I also plan on meeting with Srijana and checking in on how well she is doing in school.
A Scholarship Program is Born
Jim had no idea where his money was going to when he sent it over, and was extremely happy when I told him of it’s use. Many people ask me what I do when I go to Nepal and this is one of the things I list off when I explain my purpose there. Most of the responses I get are those wanting to help, which is a great feeling to see that so many others want to help out when they can.
I still have some kinks to work out in our system of who qualifies for scholarships and the logistics of it all, but all in all I am happy with the first student. Niisha and I will will continue to stay in touch with Srijana and ensure she is doing well in school, on the right path, and has everything she needs. Next in line is Niisha’s Sister who wants to become a teacher and is finishing up her schooling , soon ready to attend a University. Niisha’s family has been very supportive of the village, and provide support for me when I stay even though they don’t necessarily have the means to do so. I like to support those that don’t ask for it, and put others before themselves even when they may not have much to give.
As for donors to the program, I hope that there are more people like Jim to help with the students and the many other projects I am working on. I have set aside some money to cover a few more students myself from the money I earned over the summer. While I do get quite a lot of positive feedback and a desire to help, it was nice to receive the support when I least expected it and wanted nothing in return for it.
Thank you Jim!