By Sari Gold
On Friday, March 1st, Finland Center will host a special fundraiser in collaboration with the Empower Nepali Girls Foundation, which supports the education of girls in rural Nepalese villages. The organization was begun more than a decade ago by Dr. Jeffrey Kottler, and provides education to nearly 200 girls all around Nepal. It only costs about $125 to provide a full year of education for one girl.
I’m an active member of the ENG, and this past Christmas, after several months of intensive fundraising, I took my first trip to Nepal as part of an annual delegation. We connected with families, village elders, schoolteachers and administrators to encourage cultural exchange and appreciation towards educating girls. Our motivation was running high as the alternative is unthinkable: early marriage to servitude, or even worse, ending up as victims of sex trafficking that takes over 12,000 young girls away from their families annually.
Below are a couple of entries from the diary I kept during our trip.
“We got up early to enjoy one last look at the view from Bandipur hilltop campsite down to the partially cloud-covered valley. We then hiked downhill to the village, bid everyone farewell and hopped onto a bus towards Bullbhule. Several hours later some of us switched to another bus, while some took the option of hiking uphill to a mountain village for the next school visit. Us hikers walked nearly halfway up, but it was such slow going that we had to ride the bus the rest of the way. At the top, we were greeted by the teachers and students, and proceeded to award multiple scholarships to smiling faces and outstretched hands. This particular village is so remote it has not received visitors in at least two years. Later we engaged in games and songs with the children and shared information with parents and teachers.”
“After a break we walked over to the Bahundanda village school for our last ceremony and the awarding of scholarships. Long speeches were given as usual, but today was special. This time the scholarships and gifts were given out by an all-female team, either by graduates of the program who are now in college, or by the very capable Babita Gurung, the general secretary of ENG. What wonderful role models these young, articulate women were!”
Our trip was unforgettable. The new friendships that were formed and the amazing experiences of meeting countless warm and lovely people are forever with us. We are excited to continue our work to help as many young girls as possible to reach their dreams and become the new leaders in their communities.