The other day we had lunch here in Kathmandu with Olga Murray- 89 year-old founder of Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) based out of Sausalito, California. Volunteering for NYF was my first experience in Nepal way back in 1997. I had read about Olga and NYF in an article in the Seattle Times. What a compelling article it was! It both motivated and inspired me. So I left my comfort-zone behind and called them to volunteer my photography expertise.
On that first trip Olga introduced me to Rotarian RR Pandey and thus started a cascade of interesting and engaging events, introductions and projects that have impacted tens of thousands of people with disabilities here in Nepal. With RR’s help and the help of volunteers, Rotary clubs and districts in Nepal and the USA we have accomplished many, many projects and programs – upwards of $2 million in project value!
Pictured in the group photo are sisters Nirmala and Sita Gyawali. I met Nirmala and Sita on that first trip to Nepal. They had received a loving home and education via Olga’s organization. Later in their lives, Sita became the first Nepali woman with blindness to earn a master’s degree and her younger sister Nirmala (also a woman with blindness) was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Colorado State University. Nirmala later spent 6 years as a cultural trainer for Bhutanese refugees for the IOM (International Office of Migration).
As soon as we receive final confirmation from the local government officials in Kathmandu, we will be launching a Nepali ‘sister’ organization of The Rose International Fund for Children, which will be aptly named the “Nepal Ability Development Foundation”, or NADF. Can you guess who our executive director will be? Ms. Nirmala Gyawali, of course! The same Nirmala whom I first met back in 1997 when she was 14 years old and lived at Olga’s NYF home!
This is, I think, a truly amazing story. However my hope is that this is only the beginning. As this particular circle (or ring) closes, many other rings have begun to forming, linking ring-to-ring, creating an ever-stronger chain of support to assist people with disabilities here in Nepal. My personal life-goal is to grow a chain strong enough and long enough to sustain the inevitable loss of ‘rings’ when the old ‘guard’ is replaced by the new as our lives move toward their conclusion.