To Our Contributors and Other Interested Folks:
On behalf of our board, here is our yearly Himalayan Village Fund update. Forgive me if I include some familiar factual information: this message may go out to some recipients who know little about us. This is our seventh year of funding private school scholarships for Dalit (untouchable) children in Dhital and Kaskikot, two villages in the foothills below Annapurna in western Nepal. These schools, taught in English, provide a path to college for many Nepali children. Before now, such a possibility would be have been unimaginable to poor Dalit families in these villages. This year we have 57 kids on our rolls spread over seven school levels, from nursery school through grade 4. They are selected according to need by village committees, with mothers playing prominent roles. I’m including some recent photos of a few of our kids in school uniform. Pretty cute, I think you’ll agree.
Our most recent trip to Nepal was last December, just after Christmas. Two of us board members visited the villages when schools were in session. As in the past, we were greeted ceremonially–with school assemblies featuring speeches, flower garlands and a lot of that honorific red tika dust to anoint our foreheads (very touching but devilishly hard to remove). What differed this time were speeches delivered very articulately in English to welcome us by one of our little students from each village—in front of us, their classmates, and the whole assembled group of village dignitaries. Very impressive, as were reports we were shown of test scores with some of our kids not just tops in their school but in the whole region. In general, our students seemed to be flourishing, not just in school but in their relations with the upper caste children that greatly outnumber them there. (We have to admit that one of our aims in providing these scholarships is to do our bit to undermine lingering caste prejudice in these villages.) A visit or two with the often-illiterate parents of our students helped account for such strong accomplishments. They overflowed with enthusiasm about the opportunities their children are getting and were clearly determined to make sure they were not wasted. Listening to those parents was both gratifying and poignant.
So, we remain strongly committed to doing what we can for Dalit children in these two villages. From an initial list of six students in each village our first year, we have annually added others to reach our present total, of which we are quite proud. But due to rising costs (increased to about $250 per student per year) and our own fundraising inadequacies, we have had to cut back on the number of new scholarships we can offer. We are working to rectify this situation in the near future. Meanwhile, we want to thank our contributors as partners in this life-changing project. Without your help, we couldn’t have continued to honor our thirteen-year commitment to each student we select. We wish you could see in person how grateful these poor Nepalis are to all of us.
Co-Founder, Himalayan Village Fund