Sorority Life in Rural Nepal (Part 1)

Utraman at the hostel

Utraman at the hostel

Utraman Rai has got to be one of the bravest men that I have met. For the past year and a half, he and his wife have been living in a facility with 42 teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 18. No matter where you are in the world, teenage girls are teenage girls, and that can be a lot of emotions to handle. I don’t know many people that would willingly take on that role. But he does it with a wide, genuine smile – knowing that he is helping to make a profound difference in these girls’ lives.

Built near Salleri in the lower region of the Solukhumbu district in Nepal, this girls hostel is one of the first of its kind in the country. Edge of Seven partnered with The Small World to introduce the project to the local Nepali population in early 2010. After a couple volunteer groups helped with the construction of the 3 campus buildings, it was completed in March 2011. But these buildings are so much more than mere shelter for the girls; they are an opportunity for education, growth and a chance to help their families.

In Nepal, as is the case in many developing countries, girls often are not able to receive an education. This happens for a wide variety of reasons, but largely because females are given a majority of the household responsibilities and big portion of agriculture work while they’re undervalued as contributing members of the community and given less priority than sons and males. Rural communities in the Solukhumbu, specifically, are spread out over the mountainous terrain and often require supplies, such as water, to be transported for hours everyday. Women and girls pick up a lot of this burden and, in turn, are not afforded the time or resources to attend school. Additionally, the closest school can still be days away and the cost of living away from home can be a deal breaker. This is where the hostel comes in.

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Some of the girls that live in the hostel.

The Salleri hostel is set up to house 42 exceptionally driven girls—those committed to the education, expanding their opportunities and returning to help their communities, but that come from families that could not financially afford to send them away. Those selected girls not only get the chance to go to college, but they get free housing and a supportive community that helps with supplies and meals. In the first year alone, TSW received approximately 100 applications, having to turn away over half of those that were interested. What an amazing success! These girls are from all over the area—anywhere between three hours and three days walking from the hostel. The majority of the them are now studying in one of three fields: education, business and science.

When I spoke with Utraman, I was so curious to hear what his experience was like. I honestly expected him to be exhausted and overwhelmed. He wasn’t. It was so easy to see why he was chosen for the position; his excitement to help and play an important role for these girls was obvious. It was also easy to see why that excitement was there—these girls were so motivated and eager to take advantage of this opportunity. There is no way to live in a place like the Salleri’s girls hostel and not have a smile on your face

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Featured Profile: Dawa Sherpa

Written by Tamara Arredondo

A smile is worth 1,000 words. While that may not be how the colloquialism normally goes, it is so true. A good, genuine smile is definitely enough to brighten anyone’s day. Especially when it comes from Dawa Sherpa, perhaps one of the nicest individuals that I have ever had the chance to meet.

This fall I had the pleasure spending two full months in Nepal, getting to know the country, the culture and seeing Edge of Seven’s work up close. The trip began with me participating in the group’s first ever Trek With A Purpose. And it was fantastic—filled with extraordinary mountains, beautiful traditions, lots of dal baht and generous Nepali people.

One of these people was Dawa. As one of our guides throughout the two-week duration of the trek and my personal guide as I stayed in the Solukhumbu region for an extra week, I got to know Dawa fairly well and developed a great deal of respect for him. He has been very closely involved with Edge of Seven through his organization, The Small World. As an original staff member of TSW, Dawa spends the majority of his time assessing the needs of communities in the area and being the on-site lead for these (mostly construction) projects. He has been a huge asset for Edge of Seven’s and TSW’s projects, but more than that, Dawa is just an incredibly inspirational and motivating man to be around.

Dawa comes from a traditional background. He grew up in the Everest region of Nepal. His village, Nunthala, is typical of the area with a fairly low and spread-out population, one school up to grade 10 and an amazing sense of community. Like many others in the region, Dawa stopped school after grade five and became involved in the trekking industry early on. He got his first porter gig at age 13, eventually became a guide then a chef for Everest expeditions. At the time he was in school, English wasn’t part of the required curriculum. Dawa picked up it by listening to the trekkers as he worked—and he helped me immensely when I wasn’t able to communicate with my 20 words of Nepali. Now Dawa lives with his wife, Meya, and four children on their family farm in Nunthala. He travels constantly for his job—often months at a time away from his family. But believes in improving his community and country so much that he doesn’t complain.

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More than his dedication to the organization though is his overwhelming sense of generosity. It’s the little things Dawa does that impressed me. You can see the kindness in his eyes and feel the warmth in his smile. On the trek, there were some times that our bodies ached or we just wanted to complain, but when Dawa flashed that smile at us, it was the most encouragement we could have asked for. When him and I wandered the villages together, it seemed that everyone knew Dawa’s face and wanted him to come join them for a cup of tea. (We teased him that he was running for political office—always shaking hands, waving and kissing babies.) He always has a moment to help out a villager. On one particular day, we were walking to a friend’s house for dinner and came across an old woman trying to run a water tube across a pathway. Dawa asked me if we could stop for a moment and proceeded to find a pickax, dig out a little trench and connect the tube from one house to the other in the underground track. He declined her offer for tea, smiled and we continued onto to our destination. Dawa is the definition of a “Good Samaritan”.

Overall, the people of Nepal stunned me with their kindness. Dawa exemplified the values of the country. I think we need more Dawa Sherpa’s in this world.

Check out our partner organization, The Small World, at http://www.thesmallworld.org/