Over the next five years, she built and grew the Kopila Valley Children's Home in Surkhet, Nepal and aunched the BlinkNow Foundation, "a grass-roots organization working to empower young people to become pioneers in developing their own solutions to world poverty." Now, at (still) only 24-years old, she is the caretaker of 40 children and created a primary school next door, serving over 230 children.
Yes- she is someone I am completely in awe of and inspired by, so I thought she would be the perfect individual to include in this series. I literally got goose bumps after watching this video, where she shares her story and following her heart:
What did you need to do to get your parents to let you travel the world instead of going to college?
My parents actually thought that taking a gap year was a really good idea and fit for me. I worked really hard in high school and we all agreed that it might be smart for me to step out of the classroom and into the world for a bit. They trusted me throughout the process and when I made the decision to defer from college for a year they supported me with it.
Did you immediately connect with Nepal- could you have imagined years later you would be living there and heading up an entire home and responsible for the well being of all these children?
Yes, I connected with the country and the people right away. Mainly, I fell in love with the children and their big bright beautiful eyes and smiles. Something definitely hit home for me here. That being said, 5 years ago I had no idea that I'd be doing what I'm doing now. You never know where your life is going to take you, do you?
What was the moment that inspired you to do all of this?
A few children who I met through my travels in Nepal were really the ones who inspired me. There were a few girls sitting by a dry riverbed breaking rocks every day to earn an income for their families. They were not being given the opportunity to go to school. I watched them day in and day out and wondered how their lives would change if they were just given one small opportunity, if they were given their right to at least a primary level education. Then I decided to take it on myself and enroll them into school. Then I met orphan children without anyone to care for them. I decided to purchase a piece of land and construct a home with the local community, Iand a family of refugees returning to the country to resettle. The civil war in Nepal had just ended and I decided it was a good way to start fresh and create hope, by building a home.
What was your parent's reaction when they found out?
My parents got a phone call from Nepal late one evening with the news. I requested them to send me over my $5,000 life savings of babysitting money for my initial land purchase. They were shocked and surprised to say the very least but they asked me questions and they listened. In the end, they agreed to wire me over my savings for the land purchase.
What was the process of putting together the Kopila Valley Children's home?
Gosh, the whole project has taken me 5 years now. My initial idea for Kopila Valley Children's Home was to build just that, a HOME and to create a family for children who didn't have one. I initially didn't have any funds but I had good ideas and a very clear vision of what I wanted to create. I did a lot of reading and talked to a lot of people working in the field of orphan care. I returned to my hometown and began to share my story and vision with my hometown and community and they began pitching in a donating for my cause. After 6 months I had raised over 40,000$ and moved back to Nepal to construct the home with my Nepalese team. We started as a small family with just 4 or 5 children and now have nearly 40 children living with us. With each addition of a child to the family things change a bit but the premise of how we live is the same. We eat and prepare meals together, do our chores together, love, care, and respect one another.
You've also recently created a primary school. Can you talk about that?
In 2009 I won a 100,000$ grant from DoSomething.org and used the money to construct a school made primarily out of bamboo and other local materials. Kopila Valley is a co-educational primary school running from Nursery Class up to 6th grade. The students in our program come from poor circumstances, with either a single mother or father, or no parents at all. Others have parents who are handicapped, blind or disabled. The kids we choose all come from poor or illiterate families and all fall into what we consider a "high risk" category for ending up on the streets, begging, being married off at a young age, or sold as a domestic servant. Some of our students have to work in hotels or by dry riverbeds in order to earn a living for their family. The 220 students all show great potential and desire to learn in our school. They are the first of their generation to be educated and literate. At school everyday they receive a nutritious meal and medical treatment.
How did you get people to donate and join the cause?
I have a blog (blinknow.org) that I update regularly and post photos and stories from our life here in Kopila Valley. Visitors come and follow the story, donate, or sponsor individual children in the home and school. Fortunately for us, a little bit of money goes a long way over here and people have been extremely generous in supporting our cause.
Describe a day in your life.
I have a one-year-old right now who sleeps in my bed. He came in last month and it's been a hard adjustment for all of us being that he is so young. There are no cribs, no baby monitors, or strollers here. He is my alarm clock these days. I get up, change him and pass him off to play with some of the older kids. Then I get myself ready for the day and then help get the rest of the kids ready for school. We all walk over to our school (across the street) where we spend our days. I personally teach and look over the overall management and running of the school, teachers, students and staff. The job requires a lot of multi-tasking between medical emergencies coming up, family and personal issues with the students, and the every day running and management of our home and school. We come home, have dinner together and then sit by the fire or in a big circle in the living room for a family meeting, sing songs, dance, do homework and then get ready for bed.
Is it a culture shock going back home now?
Sometimes, like when I'm in the grocery store or the middle of New York City and I feel like I've landed on another planet. I wonder how in the world can life be so much the same, and yet so different. I've gotten better about bouncing from one reality to the next, but yes, culture shock both ways.
Do you have any mentors?
I've been blessed to have many people in my life who have taught me many lessons and guided me along the way and a core group of people who I talk to for advice. Being a young social entrepreneur, I know I don't have all the answers and have to seek out the people who have them and ask.
What's a quote or motto you live by?
If you don't like the way things are, change them! You're not a tree.
The Inspired Nation is a weekly series profiling people changing the world and inspiring all of us to do the same.