Friday, March 20, 2009

Nepali Student earns grant to establish program in Nepal

Student earns grant to establish program in Nepal

By Kari VanDerVeen
March 20, 2009

A grant from the Davis Projects for Peace initiative will enable St. Olaf student Subhash Ghimire '10 to return to the remote village in western Nepal where he was born to organize a six-week summer camp for children impacted by the country's caste system and decade-long civil war. 

Subhash Ghimire '10
Ghimire recently received a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, an initiative that funds student plans for grassroots projects promoting peace. The program accepts applications from students at partner schools in the Davis United World College Scholars Program that St. Olaf was selected to join last year. 

The day camp that Ghimire plans to establish will provide a wide array of activities for 45 children in Arupokhari, a village in the Gorkha district of Nepal. He hopes the camp will support community peace building by helping children from the lowest caste groups and those affected by Nepal's civil war "reclaim their playfulness, passion and joy." Ghimire, a political science major, is counting on the camp's lively atmosphere to make children feel comfortable studying, playing and eating together regardless of their caste. He also has recruited a child psychologist from Kathmandu and other child education experts to observe campers and help develop specialized activities and counseling sessions. 

"With compassion and care, I believe that children can heal and become healers within their communities," Ghimire says, adding that he believes the best way to build and perpetuate peace is by educating young people. 

Nepal's civil war displaced thousands of people and left many children orphans. Arupokhari has no electricity, roads or communication facilities and is nearly eight hours walking distance from the nearest city. The physical inaccessibility of the village, coupled with its deeply rooted caste system, has hindered the recovery and development of the community, Ghimire says. "I am aware that changing a culture is difficult and requires a lot of time, but someone has to make the first move," he says. 

To increase the impact of the camp, he will give each participant a $50 scholarship that will be enough to pay for a year of schooling. Local media in Nepal will also publicize the project, and Ghimire will deliver a presentation to St. Olaf community members when he returns. The executive committee of Arupokhari and the local secondary school have committed to support the camp and organize it annually if the model proves successful. 

Ghimire says the grant has given him the opportunity to make a difference in his homeland. "I felt like I could contribute, in a small way, to the ongoing peace process in the country," he says. "We all want Nepal to come together and move forward." 

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