Kiran: Top Left, Me: Bottom Left
Kiran was one of my Nepalese language trainers when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal (1990-1992). In fact, for one part our training, she and I shared living quarters. Kiran was my age, fresh out of university, and as excited about this new experience as I had been. At that time all the Nepali language trainers seemed exotic and so very different than me, yet I experienced my first connection transcendent of culture with Kiran: both of us missed our families and we would talk about this and about being homesick. These conversations were my first baby steps toward developing one of my strongest tenets--that people of all cultures have more in common than not.
first meeting, Kiran and I have both found our life calling. I spent ten years living overseas and
now spend my days teaching students of other cultures, writing novels, and
singing. Kiran’s story—I’ve always
thought—is much more interesting than mine, and I’ve come to appreciate her strength. She scrapped together a
dream through shear determination and guts. Over the years I’ve been following Kiran, waiting for a time when I could help.
When I began writing Only Ghosts, I knew that I wanted to use this book to help support her school. In fact, there is an intellectual, forward-thinking character in my novel who is named Kiran. I chose the name as a placeholder in the beginning, but the name fit so well, and then as I began to reconnect with my own “Kiran,” I realized that this name was a lovely tribute to her.
Kiran has embraced our collaboration; so much so that she offered to have her students make our production’s Lakhe masks. The masks our percussionists wear are modeled after a traditional Newari festival masks.
I am so interested in Kiran’s story, that I thought it would be helpful for her to share it with you. Below is Kiran’s story.
Since my childhood, I have been very hard working in my studies. My father always regretted that I was born a daughter. He always wanted to have sons. So I tried my best to be a son for him and tried my best to prove myself so he may not feel sorry that his first child was a daughter.
Yet my parents were unable to provide me better opportunities. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if only they could have spent some money on me but, well, they gave up after I finished my high schooling. I had to work while going to college. I always used to run from my college to my job. I made my own way to get the opportunities I’ve had. My mother was against my interest in studying. She wanted me to be involved in household work. Sometimes she would even abuse me for not finishing household work on time. It was a funny situation, trying to be like a son for my father, doing all the household work to make my mother happy, while also working to continue my college. After I completed my masters, I had amazing confidence and energy to better myself. It was a wonderful opportunity to get a job as a language trainer in the Peace Corps, which is where I met Carrie-Ann. I was one of her Nepali language trainers. My father was against my decision to join the Peace Corps, so, because of this, I always feel sorry for those who work hard but do not find any support from their parents.
After the Peace Corps, I established the Educational Environment Boarding School and it became my greatest dream and desire. There were only eight students in the beginning of my school and I remember all the harassment from my family, relatives and community. One of my aunts told me that it was not under my capacity because running a school was the work of a man. A friend, Sapana, visited my school and commented that it was quite crazy to think to run a school with just eight students. There are nearly seventy-five students now.
My father was D.E.O before his retirement. He has been so unsatisfied with my choices that he has never given me any support in his whole life, not even moral support. He has always said that my education level and career do not run in a parallel way. Being a principal of a small school is somehow disappointing for him. I feel lucky that at least I have a sister who stands by my side and understands me so well. And I feel lucky to have so many friends who have become part of my dream.
Most of my students’ parents are illiterate and they feel I am doing this all for fun and cannot see my deep devotion to create better Nepali citizens for the future. Education is a long term devotion and who has such patience? But I am glad some examples are showing up slowly. Some of my students’ living standards have changed because they are going to college. Without an education, they would be washing dishes or doing the laundry for rich people. It’s not that easy to give a better life to people, but it’s not that impossible either.
I have a funny story on this matter. During the winter season, my students come to school with less warm clothing and keep on shivering in the classroom. There is a proverb that cold eats at children like goats. I requested some friends to send some warm clothes for my students. When I gave them free my students’ parents thought I was insulting them because they were poor, so I told them that I would sell the clothes for a few rupees. All were eager to buy the items, even those who could afford warm clothes from shopping centers. Ever since I tell my students to fix the rates themselves and all money goes to their children’s clubs called SOE Or FAG.(Save our environment and First aid group).There are many more stories like this in EEBS.
All of the students who completed seven grade from EEBS have passed their school board exam. None of them have used drugs nor smoked. None of them have ever been pointed for misbehavior. When they graduate from EEBS, they make me proud by participating other extra curricular activities in their new schools. The first batch of EEBS are now in twelfth grade.
EEBS has been running for fifteen years. EEBS wants to produce such students who will be useful for their family and their community and their country. We focus on civic duty and environmental concerns. As anyone who has ever visited Nepal knows, this type of education is essential for our country.
I fund the school by students’ parents education fee and by sponsorship by foreigners. Five of my parents do not pay anything because they are under privileged. However, at this time about sixty-percent of our student population is from a lo Donation help cover student tuition, teachers’ salary, facility costs, and extra curricular activities.
Carrie-Ann wants me to talk about the fact that I am a female principal. This is not usual in Nepal. In the entire country there are not many. There is a cultural perception that women cannot take on leadership roles. When I think of fifty schools, I can think of only one female principal. The fact that I established EEBS, is even more rare. In Nepal, perhaps fewer than hundred schools have been established by individuals.
EEBS is in the heart of Kathmandu, located in the lap of the Bijeswori Temple, a nearly 200 meters walk east of the famous Buddhist temple,
Your donations allow me to support the poorest children in my community. This is important to our school’s mission. Friends support the school. Today most of my sponsors are returned Peace Corps volunteers and some German friends because they believe I am producing the better citizens for the country. EEBS would like to be able to support more students.
This link will take you to a Paypal donation site. Please note that EEBS is a Nepali school and so not a U.S. nonprofit.