November 30, 2012

Nepal Homecoming

Marilyn Mitchell
BMKF Board President (2013-2015)

Each year in Nepal, the Hindu holiday of Diwali, also known as Tihar, is celebrated over five days. Tihar is also known as the celebration of lights, and for one night, the entire city of Kathmandu lights up in festivity with thousands of strings of lights and candles allowing the city to glow. Lorrie and I landed in Kathmandu just in time to savor this festive occasion.

I should right away extend a huge thank you to Lorrie McKay, BMKF donor and volunteer photographer for this trip to Nepal. For her effort in capturing so many incredible moments and candid shots of all the wonderful people we met, along with all the support provided in completing the goals of the trip, I am extremely grateful.

After a couple of days of acclimation and sleep, I met with BMKF scholarship recipients, Bindu Shrestha and Sharada K.C, two women who are living successful journeys into their careers. Bindu, who was our very first recipient, is now a nurse in Kathmandu and continues to add to her education with an additional Nursing degree. Sharada has completed the first part of her medical schooling and will be continuing her studies while choosing a specialty as a physician. Both ladies have proved to be shining examples of the vision we hold for girls in Nepal, given the opportunity of higher education.

I also had the opportunity to spend some time with our new director in Nepal, Daya Rimal. After my first in-person meeting with Daya, I was jubilant in my enthusiasm for the direction we are taking with her in a leadership position within the borders of Nepal. Daya’s advocacy, intellect and passion for supporting our mission are already proving to be indelible strengths. Currently, Daya is working hard to set up a local office for us in Kathmandu, including a not-for-profit status within Nepal, and has already sought out potential board members.

One subject we have begun discussing at length is expanding our visibility within Nepal. Our goal is to have advisors and volunteers covering all regions so we can find those girls in the remote villages who wouldn’t otherwise hear about us. We know there are many young women who have a dedication to their education, though they lack resources, who would be exceptional candidates to receive a scholarship from the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation. We want to find those girls and introduce them to new opportunities. This will continue to be a focus as we establish ourselves as a professional organization in Nepal. As a growing foundation always looking to improve upon itself, we have certainly found a dedicated, energetic leader to create positive impacts. I look forward to continuing to work with Daya.

Another inspiring person I had the opportunity to meet was Dorji Sherpa. In 2010, Dorji’s daughter, Sarah, passed away as the aircraft she was a flight attendant on crashed into the remote area of Shikharpur, Nepal. Dorji, along with the fathers of two other young ladies from that flight, started a memorial foundation benefitting the village where the crash occurred. I encourage everyone to read about all of the wonderful work they are doing at the SKY Memorial Foundation.

Dorji and I met at his request, as he is hoping to connect with BMKF to introduce the local girls from the Shikharpur area to opportunities of furthering their education, something that is very rare in that area. As it is, the nearest high school is a two hour walk away. There are some dedicated young women who make that trek every day, and they could thrive with options for attending college and pursuing their professional dreams. As we continue our conversation, I look forward to introducing this and other opportunities of connecting locally in Nepal.

One of the most exciting days on this visit to Kathmandu was getting to spend an afternoon with current and former scholarship recipients at a lovely luncheon at Dwarika’s Hotel. A big “Thank You” to Nirdosh Shahi of Dwarika’s Hotels, for helping us set this up! Dwarika’s itself is a sanctuary within the city. It provided a wonderful atmosphere for getting to know one another. A few of the current scholarship recipients traveled to Kathmandu for the event, including Srijana Thapa, who rode a bus for 7 hours to join in the event. Attendees also included Meera Tamang, who is pursuing a career in Management, Sarita Sharma, one of the very few female Engineering students in Nepal, and Sabita Ghising, studying Business Administration.

Living so far away in Seattle, it can be difficult to feel the full extent of the impact we are making with each of these young ladies, but being privileged enough to hear Srijana talk to me about how happy she is, how appreciative she is and how motivated she is, makes every ounce of work worthwhile.

Throughout the afternoon, Daya and I heard feedback about the process from all of the recipients. I also introduced a new “Buddy System” that will connect each Seattle board member with one or two scholarship recipients to communicate with throughout their studies and beyond. We are looking for ways to have more interaction with the women we are supporting and believe this will be an exceptional opportunity for that. Also discussed was a new BMKF Alumni Group where current and past recipients can get to know and interact with each other, also incorporating a mentoring system within this group. This is in the process of being made and will most likely find its way to being its own Facebook page. Overall, it was a sunny afternoon filled with smiles and momos, and I’m so thrilled to have had the occasion for face-to-face interaction.

This journey to Nepal, my fourth time being in the country that I have come to love so much, was inspiring. I feel so fortunate to have been introduced into the lives of these bright and motivated young women of the Himalayan Kingdom. I hope one day that anyone who is reading this blog gets the privilege of visiting such a lovely country with such phenomenal people.