To our donors:
In line with our intention to stay as directly and personally involved with our projects as possible, two HVF board members, Greg Thoma and I, made a trip in December 2015  to Nepal to take a close look at our scholarship programs in the two villages there. (We traveled at our own expense).

We never could have foreseen what we encountered in Dhital and Kaskikot, the two villages where HVF provides private school scholarships for a total of 36 Dalit (untouchable caste) children. Each village school had prepared an elaborate, somewhat ceremonial, but thoroughly heartwarming reception for us. They treated us, as representatives of HVF and its donors, like heroes. In each case, the entire school was brought out into the schoolyard, where the neatly uniformed students sat in orderly rows on the grass, with principals, a few school patrons and the ‘heroic’ Westerners in chairs up front.

The Dhital School Yard
The Dhital School Yard. Annapurna (left) and Machapuchare (FishTail, right) in the background.
Dhital school children listening to Milton
Dhital school children listening to Milton

Milton and Greg receiving garlands, scarves and tikka

Though various speeches were given, a highlight for us was certainly our anointment. In keeping with Nepali customs, particularly in poorer villages, visitors-to-be-honored are thoroughly garlanded and have red tikka powder deposited on their foreheads. In our case, since principals, teachers, parents and even some of the kids walked up to administer the powder, forehead powder soon spilled over onto noses, temples, cheeks, chins and clothing. That had its comic side, as some of the photos show. But realizing that these poor Nepalis were honoring our organization’s efforts using the only means they could afford, we found the situation in both cases quite moving.

Meeting with the Kaskikot Principal

Then in each village we had private meetings with school principals and with the parents of those students we are sponsoring. To a person, we found them excited about and grateful for what our organization is doing for them and their villages. It was especially touching to see how enthusiastic the parents, many of them illiterate, were about the education their kids are receiving. Since hope must not be a commodity in very high supply among the lower castes in such poor villages in a very poor country, it was satisfying to realize that HVF has become, in part, a distributor of hope for better futures in these two small villages.

We came away from these visits with our faith in the worth of our scholarship programs not just confirmed but greatly enhanced.  Principals, parents, teachers and villagers are our strong supporters. Of course, it’s a little hard to know what the kids themselves think, since they are only 4-6 years old, but they certainly seemed to be happy little campers at school the days we were there. And by the numbers–Nepali schools have rank-in-class figures even for 4-year-olds in the nursery class–our kids are doing very well. Quite a few are at or near the top of their class.

Kaskikot student
Distracted during the speeches

Both village committees are keeping very detailed expenditure records–to satisfy not only us but the Nepali government, which reserves the right to review the financial operations of any foreign non-profits operating in Nepal. Every rupee we spend in Nepal is accounted for there, down to the cost of very specific classroom materials. Greg and I left there confident that HVF is honoring its pledge to spend your money very carefully.

April’s start of a new school year in Nepal will also begin our fifth year of scholarship funding in Dhital and Kaskikot. In 2015, we added 5 new four-year-olds to our rolls in each village; This year (2016) we will add 8 new students, and our estimated total cost for 54 students between the two schools will average $200 per student due to a favorable exchange rate with the dollar. Our initial class of students will be entering 2nd grade this year (2016). These accomplishments (of which we are most proud, especially after our visit) would of course not have been possible without your generous help. We’ve all done it together.

 None of us board members at HVF is well-suited to aggressive fundraising, but we have been encouraged to start an Indegogo campaign to raise awareness and funds for the 2016 school year which begins in April.  We want to thank you on behalf of the students and their families for the opportunity that your support has provided them. And we want to assure you that anything you contribute will be used directly and entirely to provide scholarships for these extremely endearing underclass Nepali children.