The mission of Empower Nepali Girls since 2001 has been to support girls’ education in Nepal. In the aftermath of the Gorkha earthquake the charity has opened a special fund to assist in ways far beyond their original scope. Four volunteers spent a week here recently running medical camps at the schools they support in Kathmandu and the Mount Everest region. A second team arrives next week.
Dr. Jeffrey Kottler, founder of Empower Nepali Girls, led the medical team, which saw more than 770 patients during their week in Nepal. A former Special Operations medic, a hospital administrator, and another volunteer, along with several Nepali nurses and social work students, handled maladies ranging from a broken arm and festering wounds to respiratory infections. Kottler counseled over 150 patients suffering from trauma and shock.
Kottler is a professor of counseling at California State University, Fullerton in the U.S. and author of over 90 books about psychology and counseling. He came to Nepal to teach health professionals about counseling, but the trek he took after those lectures changed his life forever.
In one village he visited during the trek he met the headmaster of a school who told him that an academically gifted girl was leaving school because her family couldn’t afford the fees. Kottler asked what the fees cost, and when told how little it was he impulsively took out his wallet and paid for a year’s support.
When he told this story to Dr. Kiran Regmi, a Nepali friend, she said to him, “Do you realize what you’ve done?” Regmi pointed out that the girl would need more than one year of support to ensure her an education. “And what about all the other girls who need help?” she asked.
Empower Nepali Girls was Kottler’s answer.
The charity provides scholarships for over 300 girls from preschool students to those studying medicine and pursuing other professional degrees. ENG is non-profit and completely volunteer driven; they have no office or paid staff in the U.S.
Many of Kottler’s graduate students, themselves from poor families or children of immigrants, are among the most active in soliciting donations. Donors raise money in many ways, from bake sales and parties featuring Nepali food to more extreme methods: An ENG member was climbing Mount Everest this spring to raise funds and to plant the charity’s flag at the peak to raise awareness for their mission. She was trapped on the mountain by an avalanche for three days before being rescued by helicopter.
Every year up to 20 volunteers come with Kottler to mentor the scholarship girls in more than a dozen schools. The volunteers run career days, mentor the children, and spend time in the schools. They also visit the girls’ homes. Kottler says that involving families and communities is a critical part of keeping the girls in school and safe from trafficking and other dangers.
The charity has widened its support beyond the educational mission since Nepal’s April 25th earthquake. In the immediate aftermath the local staff and volunteers distributed tarps, blankets, and food to children and families in places where their students were affected.
Kottler and his team arrived a few days later with over 400 pounds of medicines and medical supplies in nine huge duffel bags. Much of that had been donated, and by then cash donations had started coming into the earthquake fund from the charity’s donors.
Next week more volunteers will arrive to provide emotional support and to distribute tents, solar lights, and hygiene kits. The local team and volunteers will also plan for subsequent support. Kottler says that rebuilding schools and homes in their scholarship students’ communities is the next mission.
“Whereas previously our goal was solely to provide educational support for girls who would otherwise not be able to attend school, there is now a commitment on the part of ENG and other NGOs to help the courageous and resilient Nepali people recover and rebuilt their lives,” says Kottler.
“Since many of the schools have been destroyed, and many of the families that ENG supports are now living outside, the priority has changed to provide basic support of shelter, food, and sanitation. It has been very difficult for many of our children to concentrate on their studies or ultimate professional goals when they experience such suffering and deprivation all around them.”
The educational mission that started because of Kottler’s life changing experience in Nepal has changed the lives of hundreds of Nepali. Now their work will support entire communities as well.
You can learn more about Empower Nepali Girls at www.empowernepaligirls.org