Giving back to the community

By C M Nirola

Father Amalraj was the Executive Director of the Bhutanese Refugee Education Programme (BREP) administered by Caritas Nepal. “Almost six to seven thousand Bhutanese will remain in the refugee camps,” he said in 2010 during a monthly briefing to the staff. He then added, ‘I believe it a moral obligation to support the education system of refugee camps by the individual resettled Bhutanese, business leaders, organisations and community stakeholders.’

As I heard him, I was highly impressed. However, I was certainly not sure of how this can be achieved or to what scale such support is possible.

In this article, I will try to uncover the numerous examples in which the individuals, community leaders, and other institutions from among the resettled Bhutanese are giving back not merely to the education systems in the refugee camp but in women empowerment and other social advocates related projects to the vulnerable populations in Nepal, Africa, and some other lower-middle-income nations. There is an array of not-for-profit and for-profit organisations giving back to improve the educational system of the refugee camp, including other underserved populations from Nepal.

Global Bhutanese Organisation (GBO), Punya Foundation (PF), International Welfare Foundation, Global Bhutanese Hindu Organisation (GBHO), Pokhrel Enterprises and Krishna and Tika Mishra are a few collective and individual efforts to mention here.

The GBO has been recently recognised for providing the supplies and other funding essential to support education for children living in the Bhutanese Refugee Camps. Caritas Nepal ended its involvement in the BREP in 2020. Following their exit, children from camps were sent to the local Nepalese schools. Schools in the camps were closed. Since then, GBO is taking the responsibility.

D. B. Rai, a founding member of GBO in a tele conversation, said there are 220 children under the age of 6 in Beldangi and 60 in Pathri who cannot travel to local governmental schools. His organisation is working to ensure no child is left behind and deprived of education.

There are 17 teaching and non-teaching staff in Beldangi and five in Pathri. Funders are intending to add a project coordinator for both camp and teaching staffs in Beldangi. Rai said, ‘We are here now because someone funded our education, and I became educated. So, I believe that it is time to give back to our community.’

This is a five-year project. GBO and camp management agreed to continue the education system in camp through an exchange of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The PF is helping Bhutanese refugee children and Nepalese children living in orphanages. The foundation runs similar programme in Africa (Ethiopia) – to engaged and empower women who are tortured or are survivors of domestic and sexual violence. In this project, they currently support six poor and vulnerable children continuing their education.

The foundation provides financial support to Nepalese children who have lost either or both parents. Begun in 2010, a total of 132 children have received such support by 2019. In 2022, the foundation aims to provide support 62 orphan children in Nepal.

Foundation’s US chapter president Sudip Adhikari said that any family willing to support this project are welcome. He said the most children receiving support are in grade 8 and the donor must commit to fund their education until completing higher education – 4 years of commitment for US$350-500 per year.

GBHO is a faith-based not-for -profit organisation that initiated donating to the Gorakhnath Vedic Gurukul in Nepal to promote Sanskrit education based on the classical Hindu tradition and culture. They intend to expand this mission in US to hire a Sanskrit teacher so that interested Bhutanese Hindus in the US can deepen their knowledge in Vedic Sanatan Dharma.

The Pokhrel Enterprise is a for-profit organisation that sponsors 32 children in Paradise English Boarding School in Sindhuli (Nepal) on top of donating computers to the school for IT education. These are poor and vulnerable children. Hari Pokhrel, the CEO of the company said they would sponsor other six children who have lost their parents, this year.

On top of the collective efforts, there are individuals who have contributed with open heart. Tika and Krishna Mishra currently live in Alaska. Due to poor health conditions and financial status, Krishna may reduce his contribution by Tika, 62, will continue. He can’t read but his mission is to support for causes that reduce illiteracy.

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