My Early School Days
It would be a long story if I write about my early school days.
Therefore I would like to make it very brief. I went to the school
in my village from grades one through seven. We didn't have any
paper, pencils to write with, or textbooks to read. Each of the
students had a wooden board blackened with charcoal, and a soft
marble stone from a nearby cliff to write with. Our teachers were
the retired soldiers of the Second World War who had never been
to schools themselves. I got pencils and paper to write with for
the first time when I was in the seventh grade, and text books
in the eighth grade.
As a school boy in my village I had never thought of going to
high school. I had no ideas about high schools and colleges because
nobody had told me about it. I remember two exciting events from
my childhood. One event was when I heard about "walking in the
air" and the other when I looked into a "talking and singing box".
A soldier who was on leave had told a story in our class that
some people from a country called America (I didn't know where
America was) flew in a "rocket" high above the earth, came out
of the rocket and walked in the "air". I didn't know what a rocket
was but the "walking in the air" part of the story made me excited.
Another soldier had brought a box-like thing called a "radio"
that talked and sang. One day when nobody was around, I sneaked
into his room and looked into the talking and singing box to see
the "people inside".
My father: A Man with a Great Vision
I don't know why my father was so serious about sending me to
school at a time when people in my village and other villages
around had almost no concern for the education of their children.
My father was a retired soldier of the British Army, and could
read and write only Romanized Nepali. I remember that he knew
only simple arithmetic: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing
(because he taught me).
I now consider him as the man with great vision. His vision had
created so much trouble for me ( I thought so) in those early
years of my life. Let me tell in one sentence what he did for
me. He suffered himself and made the family suffer so much for
sending me to school in the years that followed.
My Journey to the Future Hasn't Ended Yet
My childhood along with all the enjoyments of grazing sheep and
cattle (with my grandfather), playing with friends and running
up and down the slopes had ended when my father took me down to
a middle school one day on foot. That was the beginning of my
journey to the future that had taught me how to survive in the
most unfavorable situations of life. The journey hasn't ended
We migrated from the village to the southern plain of Nepal for
my schooling. By the time I finished my high school, my father
had finished all his savings and sold all the things he had except
for a small piece of land for the family. He had encouraged me
to continue my school but I decided not to continue because I
knew the economic condition of my family.
I started working as a teacher in a school. I taught about 12
years in four schools helping my brothers and sisters go to school.
In 1989, I was able to come to the University of Nebraska at Kearney,
U.S.A. to the surprise of the people in my village and my friends.
You can say the opportunity was God's plan, or a miracle, or a
chance, or whatever.
It was at the University I thought about going back on a mission
to help my mountain villagers of whom I had retained vague mental
pictures. To tell in a sentence how I got the vision to go for
this mission, I say that my dream a long time ago to go to a university
was shattered due to financial restraints, and this created another
dream to provide educational opportunities for the rural children
so that they should not have to go through all the pain and struggle
I went through. I have a first hand experience of how much it
hurts to go through that kind of pain.
My Mission Back Home
After I graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1992, I
went back to my village in the mountains. That was twenty-four
years after we migrated from the village. Nobody recognized me
in the village by face, nor did they know about my mission. I
introduced myself to my relatives and villagers. It was before
I arrived they had decided to start a high school in the village.
For a couple of months the villagers thought I was having a vacation
because I didn't say anything. I was trying to find ways I could
help them. When I told them I would help them to teach in the
school they couldn't believe it. However, my activities that followed
for helping finally made them believe I was serious. You can read
the story as what we did in my village in the last three years
under the Himanchal High School section of this home page. You
can also read the long-term plans I made together with the villagers.
Two Simple Observations on Rural Development and Environment
Conservation From 1993 to 1996, I have spent much of my time observing
different organizations, both national and international, trying
to help people to do rural development, and trying to educate
people about nature conservation in the rural areas. I found that
many research projects have been done, many papers have been published,
many things have been tried, and huge amounts of money have been
spent for rural development and nature conservation in Nepal.
In some places significant progresses have been made. What I saw
as my first simple observation, however, was that most of the
remote areas of Nepal have been forgotten just because nobody
ever thought about the place and the people living there. On the
other hand the people living in the remote areas have no ideas
how to seek for help, or whether any help is available.
My second simple observation is about approach for environment
conservation. Many environmental organizations are approaching
villagers through awareness programs by distributing printed materials,
broadcasting from radio, conducting seminars, organizing short
term training and taking villagers for educational tours.
My villagers also have seen a great deal of literature and have
listened to many "development preachers" from cities working for
city-based organizations. They have also attended several short
term training on sustainable development. Accepting the literature
thankfully, and listening to them patiently are our ways of respecting
visitors, but applying what they asked to do is a different thing
which is hard to apply in practical life. For example I haven't
yet found any ways to convince my villagers that tigers should
be preserved. During the past three years the villagers killed
two tigers. The only question they have is; "Why should preserve
something that kills our cattle?" For them cattle are more important
than tigers because cattle give dung which is used for making
No matter what a person says, the problem of filling hungry stomachs
comes before implementing the ethics taught in literature or seminars.
I found that the short term awareness programs for sustainable
development and nature conservation have had only superficial
impacts on those people who are entirely dependent on natural
resources for living. Our village can be taken as an example.
What I feel is that the teaching of environmental ethics would
be so nice and would work best if accompanied with programs to
help villagers make resources for bringing food for them to live.
Emphasis to establish local economy must be given along with awareness
My Approach and Role
I believe that no rural development programs and nature conservation
activities will be able to reach its goal if we approach it from
the urban areas, or the people from the cities try to do it for
humanitarian reasons. The mountain environment and villages belong
to the villagers who constitute over 80% of Nepal's population.
Therefore, the efforts for solving their problems should be tried
by themselves from the very area. Most of the programs that have
been started in the urban areas will not help much for the people
living in the mountains.
The only thing outsiders can do is help them from behind the
scene, encouraging the villagers to move forward and holding them
from "falling". Helps to move them forward and support to hold
them from falling are what they need most. If these kinds of helping
hands are available for a certain period of time, any rural areas
will be able to help themselves.
My role in the future will be that of an outsider. I went to
my village not to be a leader but to work as a volunteer. Even
in the coming years I have no intention to lead them. This is
how I want to approach nature conservation and rural development.
I have decided to take this approach based on the conclusion I
made from the two simple observations above it.
My Request to All Brothers and Sisters Around the World
It is my humble request to all brothers and sisters around the
world for your comments and suggestions for the approach I am
taking to help people in the mountain region of Nepal. I need
your help to make the approach work. Your comments will keep my
efforts and time going from astray.
Many people have spent so much money and taken so much risk to
perform many stunts just to attract others' attention. I feel
that all the activities which I and villagers are trying to do
in the remote village is far more than just a stunt in the history
of community development, and we are actors on an important stage,
far more than just stunt men. You can also take a part in our
development by supporting this project or getting involved in
several ways. It will be worthwhile. I would like to invite you
to take an active part or perhaps be an observer.
Here is how you can be an actor in our development and help this
Request for Help
You can provide your assistance for the school and rural development
programs in two ways;
- You can help to start income generating programs:
- sponsoring men and women from our village to take training
on sewing, carpet making, knitting, handicrafts, embroidery,
carpentry. It cost about US$60 a month to sponsor a person
for taking training on these trades in Nepal.
- buying sewing machines, looms, small machines and tools
needed for the programs as mentioned above.
- helping to establish jam making, paper making, poultry
farming and a green house for tomato growing on smaller
- helping to start tourism business such as trekking agency,
travel and tour company to bring tourists in our area.
- You can help the high school project:
- contributing small amount of money as one time or monthly
basis donation. The money will be spent to pay for the teacher.
Right now we are short of about US $500 a month for paying
- providing teaching materials, game materials, learning
materials and musical instruments.
- providing money to buy text books for students which would
be about US $10 per student for a year. You can also provide
books for the library.
- sponsoring poor students to go to school. A student needs
US $8 to pay for tuition and to buy stationery for one month.
- sending stationery suplies like paper, pencils, pens and
- providing audio-visual equipment like slide projectors,
used computers, over-head projectors and laboratory equipment.
- providing your voluntary service as a school teacher,
health worker, or vocational trainer for short time.
You can make an online tax deductible contribution using our contribute section. Or,
you can mail a check to:
Himanchal Educational Foundation
c/o Dr. Leonard Skov,
5610 Avenue N
Kearney, NE 68847
Phone Number: (308) 234-1243
You will get a receipt from the Foundation. The foundation will
directly transfer your contribution to the school's bank account
in Myagdi, Nepal.