The Himanchal Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that exists to promote and advance Mahabir Pun’s vision for extended educational opportunities in rural Nepal.
With the support of local residents and international friends, HEF originally was founded to support growth of the Nangi school. The school exists through grade 12 with plans to add a college by 2015. HEF also supports economically sustainable business opportunities and a computer network in Nangi and surrounding villages. Our goal remains to improve the health and life situations for villagers in rural Nepal.
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I would like to update you on of the progress of the projects I did with the Myagdi district community members and supporters.
1. With donations from around the world and HEF; HEF helped rebuild four classrooms in Shree Kanyadevi Lower Secondary School in Pokhari village of Gorkha district that was completely damaged by the earthquake at the cost of about $32,000.
2. Two new classrooms were added to Himanchal High School with funds from the U.S., the Nepal government and contributions from the communities.
3. A new two bedroom solar heated building was added in Nangi with financial and technical support of Engineers Without Borders Group of Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology for about $7,500.
4. Construction has begun on a 50 KW hydropower station near Khopra ridge. It will provide power for cooking, heating, lighting and washing in four community-owned lodges. Our plan is to convert four lodges in the region as “Zero Carbon Emission Lodges”. The total project cost is approximately $175,000. To date we have received a $75,000 grant from Asian Development Bank, $17,500 from Huguenin Rallapalli Foundation California, and $25,000 from other sources. Nepal Tourism Board had committed $40,000.
5. Kathmandu Model Hospital which is managed by the Public Health Concern Trust received a grant to upgrade the clinics in Nangi, Tikot, Paudwar and Aula villages. A model for resilience health care programs in sparsely populated regions like Nangi will be implemented. A surgery room and patient check-in room will be added in the existing Nangi clinic. Two medical doctors will reside in the village permanently to provide health services and move from village to village depending upon the needs. All the clinics will also be connected to each other and to Kathmandu Model Hospital for regular consultation through high-speed Internet. The grant supporting this is available for one year only, then additional funds will be needed.
6. In September, Nepali Communities in the U.S. held the Himanchal Open Golf Tournament in Dallas, Texas to help raise fund for HEF. Thanks to Ajay Rai, Bhim Rai and Madhav Silwal for their efforts which raised $2,900.
7. I have started a nationwide fundraising campaign for the establishment of an innovation center in Nepal. I am seeking help and support from all Nepalese. The goal is to raise $5 million in one year and invest the fund in building a 10 MW hydro power station. The total cost for building this station is $15 million. This 10 MW hydropower station will provide an income of $3.5 million income per year through the sale of power to the government. The income from the hydropower project will be used to run the innovation center.
Thank you very much for your support through Himanchal High School and Nangi village projects. We appreciate it so much.
Mahabir Pun on behalf of the Himanchal Education Foundation
Ajay has been fundraising for HEF through a golf tournament over the last few years. He recently visited Nangi and shared this email with the BOD:
“Greetings to you all the way from Nepal. I’m in Kathmandu at the moment and will be flying back to the US in few days. Wanted to share with you the amazing experience I had while visiting Nangi village and the school last week. It was so wonderful to have received such a warm welcome by the entire school on my arrival there. The day started with an assembly gathering of all the students and teachers in the morning where I was introduced to everyone as HEF rep from the US. The headmaster Mr. Raman Pun talked to the students about the friendship between HEF, the school, and the village. I had the chance to inform everyone about the work HEF does for the school and about myself and my role in how I help. A special meeting was held in the afternoon between myself and all the teachers. We talked about lots of stuff regarding the school, its financials, and the future goals. We discussed how HEF and the school and the village could form better communications and create better bondings. All the teachers were very grateful for the help they receive from HEF. They were happy to meet me in person and be able to hold this meeting.
I stayed in the community lodge run by the villagers. I really had a wonderful stay in the lodge. I was amazed to see the harmony between the villagers where they cater to the trekkers who trek through that region and the profit made is donated to the school. The ladies from the village run some small handicraft businesses whose profit again goes back to the school. It was wonderful to see villagers working so diligently for the improvement of the school and their village.
I felt my trip was very productive and am proud to be representing HEF. Like said earlier, the students, villagers, and the entire school staffs are very appreciative of the support they receive from HEF. I will share with you all the details of our meeting in next HEF board meeting. I encourage other HEF members to visit the school and the village if they can. You can learn so much and have a wonderful time there.”
Toya is a teacher at Himanchal School for Higher Education. He supervises the School Inside English learning classes givien long distance by native English speakers all over the world and connected via Skype to students and adults in Nangi. (The last post was written by one of those teachers and described her experience.)
“I think The long distance teaching is very fruitful and useful to students and teachers. Students and teachers are very interested to take lessons. They eagerly await their turn. They really enjoy the lessons. The teachers are really qualified,dynamic ,energetic and friendly. They have been teaching and creating child friendly environment according to students and teachers needs. We really appropriate their great contribution. Presently 20 students and 6 teachers are involved in lessons. Except the internet, which is unreliable, other things are good. Sometime internet is not working good during the lesson, but we are trying make it better. We love and happy to continue this Skype class.”
Whilst working at a summer school in Europe this summer I learned about ‘The School Inside’. It is a voluntary run online school that connects with learners through Skype to give English classes with fluent speakers of the language. These either supplement the lessons they already receive or are the students’ sole access to English instruction. One of the teachers I was working with has been volunteering with them for quite a while and shared some of her experiences, which all sounded really special. I had been searching for volunteer work which fits in with my current timetable and The School Inside sounded perfect so I applied.
Prior to this I had already planned to visit Nepal in 2017. It has been a lifelong dream to visit this mountainous country. I am a keen hiker and feel completely at home in the mountains, which has fuelled my desire to visit. I always feel that people make a place and I know I would not get to know Nepal properly as a tourist so I had planned to do some voluntary teaching whilst there.
So when The School Inside as me how I would feel about teaching a class of school children in Nepal I jumped at the chance. Through this organisation I learned about The Himanchal Education Foundation and the opportunities to volunteer teach in person in Nangi and I plan to visit and teach there towards the end of 2017.
The School Inside gives classes every day to the students in Nangi and a different teacher teaches each day. Tuesday is my day and I really look forward to it. The lesson I teach is 45 minutes long the students attend after their school day. The students are not always the same and numbers can vary but they are always all very enthusiastic and happy to have an English class. There is always a teacher with them to help with the Skype connection which we usually need to reconnect a few times during each lesson.
I usually decide on a theme for the lesson for example – animals, clothing or weather – which are some of the topics we have studied recently. We start off with some vocabulary games, using the screen share facility on Skype and learn or review the words connected with the theme. I tend to use games which have been made on PowerPoint or some online language learning sites such as Quizlet. We review the vocabulary through these activities and build up to making sentences, reading online story books and freer conversation. I was really keen to introduce songs to the lesson and then disappointed to work out that you cannot share sound over the Skype screen share facility. My tech expert cousin was on hand with reasons and a solution so the children can have music and lyrics – not just my voice! I show them a YouTube video, on my screen and then I play the same video on my phone with a speaker attached so they can get the full benefit of the songs. And they really enjoy it. They sing, clap and move around to the songs – it’s really lovely and adds a nice atmosphere to the lesson.
Then of course, as with any lesson plan – you do not always end up teaching it as the students bring different things to the class. During my last lesson one of the students asked me if it was my birthday today. I said no, not today and asked if it was one of their birthdays and it was! So the lesson plan was pushed aside and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, clapped and talked about birthdays in Nepal. This was quite special as the children have been a little shy up to now and it was cool to see that one of them felt confident enough to ask me a question. I really feel that their confidence is growing as is our rapport and it is amazing to be about to build that up now before I go there to volunteer teach.
Sharone visited Nangi for the first time in 2000 as a volunteer. She recently returned and shared her experience with Dr. Mahabir Pun in a letter.
“I hope your travels are off to a good start. Keep me posted on your New York plans and if it works, would be lovely to visit.
Here are my brief impressions to share with HEF:
In the spring of 2000 I had the honor and joy of spending 7 weeks in Nangi, volunteering in the school and tree nursery. Over the past 16 years, every month that passed brought memories and thoughts of the village, the faces and hearts that make up this strong community. This November I finally visited this special place that has meant so much to me.
I was eager to see familiar faces and to see the developments in the village. Everything I saw and experienced exceeded my expectations! I am overwhelmed with the impressive changes and hard work that is clearly a labor of love – the community lodge , the infrastructure for local trekking, and the technological developments. In addition to these great feats, I was most excited to see the dormitories built for high school students. What a clear and productive way to help foster stronger educational goals! I am thinking both about the amount of time saved in daily travel but also the opportunity for these students to be more fully immersed in their school environment and with one another. Finally, I am also so pleased to see the paper, book, and bag making projects. The dedication for supporting one another’s needs and improving their health and wellbeing, together as a community, from the ground up is inspiring and I know I will continue to do my best to help in any way I can. I certainly will be back again! And if a lodge, wifi, a dormitory and paper and bag making project are some developments in 16 years, I smile to think of whats ahead.”
A long time supporter of HEF, Sherwood, describes how he first heard about HEF and met Mahabir Pun.
When did you first hear about or meet Dr. Mahabir Pun?
My wife and I met Mahabir in Nangi Village in 1995, when our Annapurna trek was washed out by torrential rains, and we took refuge in several classrooms of the Nangi school, where Mahabir taught…serendipitous. We stayed several days to dry out, then finished our trek up to Kopra Ridge. While in Nangi, Mahabir expounded on his plans for the village. We thought that he had more simultaneous ideas than most people could consider in a lifetime. After we returned to the USA we contacted Leonard Skov, HEF’s then-president, and learned more about Mahabir and HEF. We have supported the organization ever since…over 20 years.
What was your first impression of him?
I first thought that he was a totally crazy man. He was remarkable, singular among the people we met on our travels, and we have met some pretty enterprising folks. Mahabir was a cut above. It wasn’t just that he had a plethora of ideas, but he knew how he would put them into effect. I came to realize that although he was educated in the West, and could have had a successful career there, he was brilliant in adapting first world information into local solutions for rural Nepal. How many people of his intelligence and skills actually return home and apply that information where it is most needed? Not just his compatriots in Nepal, but my life as well, is enriched for having met him.
Do you recall the projects he was working on at that time? If yes, which one left an impression on you personally?
Mahabir understood the importance of local ownership and enterprise. We discussed with him, his plans for a yak and cow breeding/hybridization program, which we eventually supported by donating the money to purchase the herd of cows. He emailed us pictures of Nepalese villagers driving the catttle up to Nangi…what a treat!
What present projects of Dr. Pun’s do you think are sustainable and important to the development of Nepal?
First and foremost is the development of the school system. Also of significance are the village cottage industry projects such as papermaking, the meat and dairy program etc., and then the promotion of tourism.
Why do you continue to support HEF and Dr. Pun?
Why not? I prefer to donate to small projects, rather than large charities. I try to assess where the money is going, and how it will be utilized. HEF is an organization which uses effectively every dollar donated, without chewing up the money in overhead, and the result is the emergence of locally sustainable enterprise.
Do you have advice for people who want to support a non-profit organization such as HEF about how to choose and commit their resources?
We used to donate anonymously, but we don’t do that anymore. We have learned to lead from the front, and not to be embarrassed by putting our names out in public, as caring about a project.
Zachary, from North Carolina, USA, volunteered in June 2016 in Nangi village. He taught wilderness medicine skills to guides, porters, community trek lodge staff, students and local healthcare providers. He shares a meditative page from his journal:
21 June 2016
“Today has been one of the most incredible of my life. It started out fine, woke up and got ready to teach. The day was rainy and crappy all day, but at sunset, it cleared. Completely, totally cleared with the sun and clouds in the lower elevations. Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Annapurna south and Annapurna were all visible together in an unbroken line. It was an incredible sight. I was running to the round house to pick up milk for rice pudding and I saw what was happening with the weather. I couldn’t contain myself. I ran to the roundhouse, got the milk, and was doing parkour moves all the way back down. I dropped it off with Pokmaya and ran to the highest place in Nangi and stayed there until dark.
The mountains were so large and imposing that their black rocks looked slightly blue due to the atmosphere refracting the sunlight. The sun was setting and casting colors all over their sides. The clouds were in the valleys and ravines below Nangi, so it was as if I was flying through the clouds and up to the peaks above. The sun cast its dying light first on Dhaulagiri then Nilgiri, causing snowdrifts to blow off their peaks. Lenticulars were swirling around the Dhaulagiri range. Annapurna was basked in shadow but still completely imposing looking over Nangi. Eventually, the sun started to pass behind the mountains and cast its last alpenglow across the range.
I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s been 20 years since I first learned about the Himalaya in elementary school, and to think that I’ve finally arrived after all this time is humbling. My time here is wrapping up – 4 days left in Nangi. It’s bittersweet, as always. I want to get back to school and my family. But at the same time, I want to continue teaching these people and continue learning from them. They are the hardiest, friendly, caring, and giving people I have ever met. My work in Haiti comes close in comparison, but this is slightly different. They are resourceful, extremely giving, always sharing and offering. The Haitian people are very similar, however, they live in more abject poverty and have received assistance for many decades. These people, with their mountain lifestyle, the work, views, the community…that’s what is incredible – the community. They work together on everything. School, finances, projects, childcare. Anything to help the community and the people who live in it.
I am glad I emailed and reached out to the organization to get this started, even if it was on the whim of seeing a youtube video. I continue to be amazed by the power and beauty of nature. As I left the lodge, after eating rice pudding and daal baht with Pokmaya and Ramaya, I left to find the solstice moon full and casting its light on Annapurna. Incredible. I walked back by moonlight. Tomorrow I should either be teaching students or traveling to Ramche to teach the health workers there. Either way, I know it will be another great adventure.”
I received an email from Tejendra Magar who is a teacher and community leader in Khani Gaun. He told me about the school he started in this remote district. This is not a HEF project, but I wanted to share his story. He tells a compelling story of how one person can make a difference. He is looking for volunteers to teach in the school and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Khani Gaun is most remote village -5 of Adhikarichaur village Development Committee (VDC) Baglung district of Nepal, inhabitant of an ethnic group (Magar). Their primary profession is agriculture and livestock, there is not a school and children are not in access of education. They go to school in another village at the age of 9, 10 and during the rainy season, they cannot go to school because of landslide and flood. There are 45 household and total number of below 10 years’ children are 49 (boys 28, girls 31). They play with dust; some children go to look after livestock instead of school. Community people are backward in terms of socio-economic, not access in the government schemes and benefits due to lack of awareness and illiteracy.
II. Community Involvement
With an initiation of Tejendra Budha Magar, and involvement of community people started a preprimary school building construction in this village, it was very challenging because it took almost a year and people had to go for house work and need to contribute for building construction. In between due to rainy season and people should look after their livestock so we postponed some months and resumed again. There were 45 households and contributed 155 days per house and land was contributed by ex-Indian army Jhag Bahadur Budha Magar, it was amazing labor contribution and highly appreciated by government personnel too. It was officially opened on 1 Jestha 2073 or 14 May 2016.
III. Outcome or progress
33 students have already enrolled and some children are coming from another village too, People are very excited to send their children at this school. Started early child development (ECD) class, nursery and LKG. Using English medium curriculum (English, Math, Nepali, drawing, sports) endorsed by curriculum development center (CDC) Government of Nepal.
This is an impact of education, Mr. Tejendra, who only pass university education from this village and he also went to school at age of 9. He had no way for higher education and left the village during Maoist insurgency in Nepal, struggled a lot for study in capital city. In meant time, he accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior and rejected from his family, he studied his university education by the support from Church. Now he is working with United mission to Nepal as a cluster team leader and initiated to stablish school in his village by understanding importance of education.
Short term: Presently, paying to three teachers’ salary by the support of a church and Tejendra Budha Magar family (Husband and wife by allocating tithe).
Long term: already got the permission from district education office and processing for permanent registration, will be handed over to government in the future for the sustainability and has to take ownership by Government. Technical support will be regular as per my expertise and resource availability.
In the future looking for: Empower the local community as follows
Tap the local resources: community forest, Herbs, different plants, fruits.
Entrepreneur: small cottage industry, Allo: knead handicraft, Dhatelo: for oil, woodfactory, potentiality of Japanese trout fish and local fishpond.
Livestock: hybrid birth by artificial insemination
Agriculture: introducing with improved seed and soil testing, if it is possibledistribute soil health card.
Education: establish good foundation by different teaching methods to children andfocus for technical and vocational education in higher level by providing scholarship or linkage with resources like government schemes. Mobilization of volunteers for learning and sharing on basis of their capability from around globe.
The school building construction of Shree Kanyadevi Lower Secondary School in Pokhari village, Barpak of Gorakha district is almost complete. The school was destroyed by the earthquake. The roof has been placed and the cement plaster of the floor of the rooms and walls are also complete. The villagers completed the work just before the start of the monsoon season. Now the villagers will start the inside work and furnish the rooms. Thank you to the many people who donated funds. You have changed lives.
Over the last few months, Nangi students, guided by their teacher Toya, have been working with an organization called The School Inside. Read about their extraordinary journey to improved English skills through internet learning here.