World Pathfinder Children's Fund
January 17, 2010
Taipei County, Taiwan
After 66 hours of perpetual travel, cancelled flights, rejected visas, lost luggage, and minimal sleep, I was permitted on a flight to Nepal. After these pleasantries, I believe I earned my visit. After arriving 36 hours behind schedule, I exited the airport into one of the poorest countries in the world (Central Intelligence Agency, 2010). I fought my way through the touts, and was greeted by my dear friend, business partner, and co-founder of Pathfinder Nepal, Basanta Poudyal. We quickly found a taxi and drove through the decrepit streets of Kathmandu to the bus depot.
I consider Kathmandu both filthy and beautiful. In this city, I have seen sights one would never see in either the developed world or even in other developing nations. Wild dogs, monkeys, goats, people, and cows eating garbage on the side of the road are the norm. People burning rubbish for warmth on the side of the dusty, potholed covered streets are a staple in Kathmandu. Cars, people, abandoned vehicles, buses, bicycles, animals, and motorcycles are everywhere. Chaos, minimal formal regulations, and common sense are used to control society. As part of the culture, people travel to the edge of the holy yet polluted river to burn the bodies of their deceased loved ones. After, some bathe in the debris soaked water. Although dirty on the exterior, every time I visit, I leave transmogrified by the mystique and beauty of the soul of Kathmandu.
After the 25 minute taxi ride, we arrived to the bus depot on the outskirts of the city. We paid the $1.50 fare, and found our local bus to Pokhara, which is approximately 200 kilometers East of Kathmandu. We board the makeshift bus, which has no resemblance to a bus from either the developed world or any bus from the developing world I have seen. In Nepal, most of the local buses do not follow a schedule; they leave when they are full and most are not owned or operated by either private or public entities. Our bus to Pokhara is at least two decades old and is operated by a Nepali family who appear to live in the front seat. As originally stated, the country follows a system of chaos; however, it is an organized chaos.
After travelling six hours in the darkness of the mountains through winding and narrow roads hitting peak speeds of 90 km/hour, our crowded 12-seat vehicle arrived to Pokhara. Upon arrival at Basanta’s house, his mother served us dhal bhat (lentils, curried cauliflower, and rice), which is a staple food in Nepal. Most Nepalese people can only afford to eat twice a day, and they eat the exact same food, dhal bhat. In addition, most Nepalese people possess no refrigerators, tables, chairs, or utensils. They eat fresh food, which is typically purchased the day of consumption, and they eat on the floors of their kitchens with their hands. However, thanks to education, Basanta’s family is now the exception.
The Story of Basanta Poudyal
Basanta grew up as an impoverished child in the Himalayan village of Dhampus. Although Basanta’s parents are intelligent, they are illiterate; however, through hard-work, determination, and a bit of luck, Basanta’s parents were able to afford his schooling. After his secondary-level education, Basanta worked as a local guide and helped in his parents’ shop. Through the money his family earned, and from the help of his friends from the developed world, Basanta was able to attend university, and subsequently, earned a master’s degree in English Literature. Currently, Basanta sustains a position as a professor at Pokhara University. Because of his education, Basanta can afford to feed his family three times a day, purchase appliances, furnishings, pay the university tuition of his two brothers, invest in his parents’ retirement fund, and incorporate a nonprofit organization. In addition, through his personal finances, Basanta assists six children in the village of Hemja through Pathfinder Nepal. Conversely, if Basanta was not provided the gift of education, the Poudyal Family would be in a similar position as the majority, impoverished and uneducated.
The Village of Hemja
After a much needed rest, I awoke early the next morning and was eager to visit the village of Hemja. The Hemja Valley is nestled below the Annapurna Himalayan Range and is 20 kilometers from Basanta’s home in Pokhara. The population of Hemja is approximately 20,000 people; the economy is primitive and focused purely on agriculture. Generally, the people are illiterate, uneducated, and severely impoverished. The village sustains 12 schools, and each school educates approximately 350 students between the ages of 5 and 16. The schools operate 10 classrooms with pathetic library facilities; the library resources are donated by teachers, staff members, and students. The Government of Nepal does not fund library resources, and as of this writing, there are no other nongovernment organizations (NGOs) operating in the Hemja Valley focused on education.
Shree Ambika Secondary School
During my day in Hemja, we visited the Shree Ambika Secondary School and interviewed the administrative staff. During the interview, I learned startling statistics about the students and the educational system in Nepal. The majority of students are impoverished, and the institute experiences approximately three to four dropouts per month, which are caused by the parents’ inability to finance the annual tuition of $50. In reference to the other annual expenditures for schooling, uniforms are $30, books are $20, and medical expenses are $20. Although $120 per annum is desirable to assist a child, a child can continue attending classes for $50. In addition to the educational expenses, the average annual food expenditures for a child are $500.
After learning three students recently dropped out-of-school, and through the generous donations collected by World Pathfinder Children’s Fund, we possessed enough resources to pay their tuitions. Unlike other NGOs, the Pathfinder organizations are operated solely through volunteers. Our entities pay no salaries; sustain no overhead expenditures, and all the donations we receive are provided to the children.
After leaving the school, we visited one of the families receiving support through Pathfinder Nepal. The family lives in a typical one-room hut with all family members sleeping on the same dirt floor. The only room is used as a kitchen, bedroom, living room, and stable for chickens and goats. The huts have no electricity or running water, and the meals are cooked over a fire. Although similar to the children in the advertisements we have been bombarded with for the past decades, these children also have flies on their faces, live in squalor, can only afford to bathe once a week, and are hungry for food and knowledge. However, the children I met do not appear as pitiable as the children from the commercials. The children I met are extremely happy. Although they have nothing, the children are strong-willed, intelligent, humorous, kind-hearted, and always smiling. I have never seen so many smiling faces in one place.
The People of Nepal
In general, the people of Nepal are a mélange of Hindu migrants from India, and Buddhist immigrants living in exile from Tibet. Based on this combination of people, the country sustains a remarkable culture centered on peace, friendship, community, and spirituality. In addition, the nation boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world (U.S. Department of State, 2010), and if the people of Nepal had equal access to education, the amount of good coming from this small, landlocked country could be insurmountable. As an example, one needs to not look further than Basanta Poudyal.
Even though the people of Nepal are kind-hearted, they are frustrated, and are beginning to reject the unfair distribution of wealth inflicted on them. The people of Nepal and the people of the developing world in general are continuously exploited; their poverty can be directly correlated to the wealth of the developed world (Clark, 2002). Because of their mistreatment, the country is encountering human rights issues (CountryWatch Inc, 2010), which is contributing to the social unrest across Nepal, and other developing countries. Based on these issues and many others, the people of Nepal are participating in organized strikes on an increasingly frequent basis. In fact, during my six-day visit, the entire country was on a three-day strike. The strikes are becoming a regular occurrence, and are not only transpiring in Nepal; rumours are stating similar strikes are spreading to other developing countries experiencing comparable atrocities.
If properly organized throughout the impoverished nations of the world, perhaps these demonstrations will temporarily halt the manufacturing sectors, which could have an adverse effect on the global economy, and ultimately could result in change. But more realistically, these strikes will continue to go unnoticed, uncovered by the majority of media outlets throughout the globe, and have no long-term affect on the issues facing the forgotten people of the developing world. However, through proper exposure and coordination of efforts, change might occur.
Regardless of the outcome, the World Pathfinder Children’s Fund and Pathfinder Nepal are focused on assisting the children of the developing world through educational subsidies. Moreover, the World Pathfinder Children’s Fund will report on the micro-level progress of our organizations, and we will create awareness of the macro-level developments throughout the impoverished nations of the world. Perhaps, through the tandem efforts of our donors, volunteers, and media articles, we can assist in eradicating global poverty.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2010). CIA – The world factbook – Nepal. Retrieved January 7, 2010 from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/np.html
Clark, C.M.A. (2002). Wealth and poverty: On the social creation of scarcity. Journal of Economic Issues, 36(2), Retrieved July 21, 2009 from ProQuest database.
CountryWatch Inc. (2010). Country review – Overview of human rights in Nepal. Retrieved January 7, 2010 from http://www.countrywatch.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/cw_topic.aspx?type=text&vcou
U.S. Department of State. (2010). Nepal country specific information. Retrieved January 7, 2010 from http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_980.html