At KSC, a Nepalese woman details efforts to provide higher education to thousands

A woman who has led more than 3,500 young women from her homeland to higher education shared her story at Keene State College on Wednesday, which four of her students called a second home.

In an evening lecture in the Alumni Hall, Usha Acharya, a Nepalese woman and co-founder of the Little Sisters Fund, spoke about her background and why she created the fund, a scholarship program intended to fund undergraduate education for Nepalese students in institutions. in the United States and other countries. Ken State is one of four US colleges to facilitate the program.

Jyaraj Acharya, Usha’s husband, made comments. Jayaraj is a lecturer at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal, and a former professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and served as Nepal’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1991-1994.

“We started with a friend, Trevor Batzer, in late 1998 with some girls,” Osha said before Wednesday’s lecture. “There are now more than 3,500 girls [that] Share. We choose poor and disadvantaged girls, who cannot go to school because of poverty and cruelty.”

Usha said she grew up in a remote mountainous farming village in Nepal. She said that many of her friends got married before they were 10, and that after her siblings died, her parents blamed “badly positioned planets” and wanted to get rid of her.

Usha’s cousin and wife received her at the age of nine, when she had the opportunity to enter public school.

“That was when I first saw the English alphabet,” Usha said in her lecture. “I struggled a lot in school, but passed all the exams and eventually graduated from high school, which amazed everyone around me. I wanted to become a teacher; that was my only ambition that motivated me to study.”

After receiving her BA in Economics in 1968, she was awarded a scholarship by the Government of India to study for a master’s degree in Delhi. In 1981, she married Jayaraj, arranged by the couple’s families, and the two moved back and forth from Nepal to the United States

In the 1990s, Usha said she became involved in the social activism of young women and children in Nepal and reported on child labor in the country and trafficking issues of girls to the International Labor Organization.

“Although I found the research and project work to be valuable, its impact on human life was more indirect than I would have liked,” Osha told the audience. “…I decided to start my third professional career focusing on the education of Nepalese girls. My American friend, Trevor Batzer, was visiting Nepal at the time and offered to pay a fee for a Nepalese girl to go to school. His enthusiasm and energy, along with my knowledge of Nepalese culture And the girls’ issues, led us to start the Little Sisters Fund.”

Osha said the students selected for the program attend public and private schools in 22 districts of Nepal and are supervised by 28 program alumni coordinators. She said there have been more than 1,000 alumni since the founding of Little Sisters with degrees in nursing, education, engineering, and a variety of other fields. The program is funded by individuals and institutions, and some of its income is generated from profits and interest. In 2021, Little Sisters fund total income of just over $800,000, with 59 percent of that coming from foundations, 36 percent from individual donors, and 5 percent from profits and interest, according to an annual report.

Two little sisters had a lecture on Wednesday.

Nirmala Tamang, 20, from Sindhupalchowk District in Nepal, is a sophomore at Keene State studying computer science. She said her involvement as a student with the fund is “…a story of gratitude,” coming from an area she said is among the most notorious for trafficked girls.

“The little sisters have been the backbone of who I am now,” Tamang said before Osha’s lecture. “Since I started second grade [on]With the help of the fund, I completed my secondary education.

Tamang said she attended a community college in Nepal for a business degree, but jumped at the chance to study in Kane State, where she discovered her current program after exposure to a wide range of degrees.

“Nepal is a very male-dominated society, and we [women] Certainly deprived of a lot of opportunities compared to men. That’s what this fund is all about: empowering women through education. I would say it’s not just a box, it’s a family.”

Lynne Fleischer, a retired Kane State education professor, helped connect Osha to the college after her home country was devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in April 2015. Fleischer said he recalled meeting Acharya in Nepal during that time.

“It was a desperate situation in every way including education, because there were almost 10,000 schools completely flattened in that earthquake,” he said. “We talked about the possibility of creating something with Keene State and a partnership to give talented and deserving students like Nirmala the opportunity to study in the United States.”

Fleischer said that thanks to working with former Kane President Anne Hoot and current President Melinda Treadwell, the program has come to fruition.

Silisha Tuladhar, 22, from Kathmandu, is the other student supported by the Little Sisters in Kane State. She is an undergraduate student pursuing dual degrees in architecture and product design as well as a minor in business studies. As the third child of her parents, Tuladhar said her family could not afford her higher education, but with the help of her school head she learned about the Little Sisters Fund.

“Even if they can’t afford to get us into school, I’m pretty sure [my parents] It would have pushed us more aggressively into getting an education,” she said. They were so excited to have this opportunity. ”

Toladhar said her support from Little Sisters Fund helped her channel her passion for creativity into a degree program that suited her, given that her brothers’ computer science and logistics paths weren’t what she was looking for.

“If I were to identify one career that I would like when I graduate, it would be to travel the world creating buildings, but also creating spaces for a cause, for bigger problems,” she said. “I am back [to Nepal] Last winter and… the monuments, buildings, and structures that are there are very different from what I was learning on campus. “

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