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Student earns scholarship, celebrates success of summer camp in Nepal

By Kari VanDerVeen
October 2, 2009

St. Olaf student Subhash Ghimire ’10 set out this summer to establish a camp in rural Nepal for children impacted by the country’s decade-long civil war, but he didn’t stop there. In addition to managing a 16-member team and 42 children during a successful six-week camp, he created a scholarship fund, established a library, and launched a foundation to support youth movements.

It was the experience of a lifetime, he says, that was topped off by a letter he received shortly after returning to the United States informing him that he had received a scholarship from the Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation for Peace and Justice. He’ll use part of the $3,000 award to attend law school, but is putting a portion of it toward the scholarship fund he established for Nepalese schoolchildren.

“To be able to help the people who needed it the most was the best part of the camp,” Ghimire says. “I could see in people’s eyes how thankful they were.”

Ghimire will discuss his experiences at the European Summit for Global Transformation in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at the end of November.

Ghimire (second from right), assisted by volunteers, tells students the plan for one day during the six-week camp.

A summer success
Ghimire established a summer camp in Arupokhari — the remote village in western Nepal where he was born — using a $10,000 grant he received from Davis Projects for Peace, an initiative that funds student plans for grassroots projects that promote peace. Half of the camp’s 42 children were under age 10, all were under age 14, and most had lost one or both parents during the war.

Using traditional song, dance, theatre, and other teaching aids, the Fulbari Summer Camp worked to help children overcome the scars of war and the country’s caste system. The children, many of whom had witnessed their parents’ murders or lost siblings as well during the war, began to open up throughout the camp and play with new friends, Ghimire says. “The children no longer sketch guns, and instead draw books and birds. To me, that was the biggest achievement of the summer camp,” he says.

Villagers also embraced the camp, holding a welcome ceremony for program leaders and hosting them each day for meals. “I also think that the camp helped galvanize the community to share its painful past and realize that everyone went through difficult times,” Ghimire says. “It was an excellent opportunity for the villagers to reflect and pledge to come together in trying times.”

A ceremony put on by local villagers to welcome Ghimire's staff and students included songs and dances performed by local children.

Small efforts, sea of change
In addition to the camp, Ghimire established the Sarswati Memorial Library in honor of his mother, who died when he was a child. He collected and brought 1,600 books and two computers for the library, which is located in the same school where he began his education. He also established a scholarship fund, and all of the children who attended the camp received enough money to attend school this year. With that accomplished, he pledged to increase the scholarship fund in coming years in order to ensure that more children in the village have access to an education.

Ghimire also established the Sarswati Foundation in his mother’s memory. Youth are Nepal’s only hope for a better future, he says, and the foundation aims to help the country’s young people lead movements in health, education, democracy, and human rights.

If he’s able to pull together more resources in the future, Ghimire says he’s like to run the camp again. The summer project, he says, made him realize the importance of education and further appreciate the opportunities he’s receiving in the United States. “I have learned how our small efforts can bring about a sea of change in many people’s lives,” he says. “It isn’t hard to make our world a wonderful place to live.”

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or