Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF)

The Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF; formerly the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, NYOF) is devoted to bringing hope to the most destitute children in the beautiful but impoverished Himalayan country of Nepal. With a personal touch, we provide these children with what should be every child's birthright - education, housing, medical care, and loving support. Empowered to reach their potential, these children blossom, enriching the world we all share.
Jun 25, 2008

Progress and Expansion of the Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes

Sumitra at admission to a Nutritional Rehabilitation Home...
Sumitra at admission to a Nutritional Rehabilitation Home...

The Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes are small hospitals devoted entirely to restoring very malnourished children to health and educating their mothers in nutrition and all other aspects of child care so that the condition does not recur. Since half the children under five years of age in Nepal are malnourished and this is a leading cause of death in this age group, these centers provide a critical service. Because of the help provided by our doctors, nurses, and nutritionists, children who are admitted looking as though they cannot survive much longer, leave the NRH an average of five weeks later as bouncy, plump little kids, brimming with life. We use only food easily and inexpensively available throughout Nepal to work these miracles. After discharge, a field worker visits the children to be sure they are maintaining their weight gain.

We began this project ten years ago with a small facility in Kathmandu above a children’s clinic. Later, we moved to larger quarters, with 23 beds. At the urging of the Nepali government, we have been establishing such centers throughout the country so that children who cannot come to Kathmandu can also get help. At present, there are six NRHs in different parts of Nepal, and we are building three more, some in areas which were not possible to work in during the Maoist insurgency.

Over 3000 children have been restored to blooming good health over the years at the NRHs, and their mothers trained in the principles of child care. The average stay is five weeks, and the average cost is only $300.

Taking the Show on the Road

Last year, we began a pilot project to try to head off malnutrition by taking the tried and tested methods we have developed at the NRHs to remote areas of the country. We established free camps in rural areas, distributing leaflets in advance to the remote, roadless villages in the area, inviting children, their family members, and women of childbearing age to the free camp. Doctors, nurses, and nutritionists were in attendance, all experienced in imparting knowledge about children’s health to usually illiterate mothers. All the children who attended the camps were assessed and the mothers were taught to prepare a nourishing and easily digestible mix of locally available food. Children who were only moderately malnourished would be helped by this formula. Those who suffered from severe malnourishment were referred to the nearest NRH. Two follow-up camps will be held to assess the success of the program.

An interesting aspect of the project is that the mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law of the mothers and prospective mothers were also urged to attend. In Nepal, the tradition is that after marriage, a wife goes to live with her husband’s family. From that day onward, she is subject to the dictates of her in-laws in almost all matters, including child rearing. The ten years of experience at our NRHs has taught us that some mothers who have returned to their villages fully instructed in good child care practices, were unable to apply their knowledge because their in-laws insisted that traditional methods of nourishing children and maintaining their health be followed. Therefore, the in-laws in the family are also encouraged to attend the training sessions.

...and 53 days later
...and 53 days later

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Jun 25, 2008

Update on NYOF's Rural Scholarships

Although 70% of Nepali children enroll in primary school, many of them drop out before the fifth grade. In the rural areas where we work, the dropout rate is very high. Often, a family simply can't afford the cost of the school uniform and school supplies, or even the very small school fee.

In several rural districts in Nepal, we give scholarships to thousands of children to cover their school expenses. This is the first generation in most of these areas to receive an education. The cost—about $75 a year per child—is an incredible investment. An education will best prepare these youngsters for the very difficult future that awaits them, since an increasing number of the next generation in Nepal's overpopulated hills will inherit no land and will have no choice but to find their fortune in the cities.

We've seen some interesting ripple effects from this program. Our scholarships motivate parents other than those whose children we support to send their children to school, too. There is social pressure in the village when some kids go to school and others do not. (Keeping up with the Joneses, Nepali style.) Some parents hope that their children will also be sponsored if they start school. The headmaster at one school told us that there was a noticeable rise in general attendance at his school after our scholarship program began.

NYOF’s field worker visits the schools regularly to check on the children and to see how the school is functioning. To do the job, he walks the mountain paths of isolated rural areas, sometimes ten hours a day, stopping at various village schools along the way to survey the situation and discuss problems with the headmasters and students.

A super-generous donor is supporting the education of 400 girls in rural areas of Nepal for five years. Most of these are from the Dalit (untouchable) community. The members of these low castes are among the most downtrodden people in the world. A few of these girls have already graduated from high school, and there is a NYOF college schoolarship waiting for them.

We have asked some of the girls we support in rural schools to write about their lives and ambitions. Pushpa, a student in class five writes, “Despite the …adversities, I am not hopeless….I am studying hard because I am determined to become a nurse and take care of the poor.” Kamala, who is in the 8th grade says: “After getting this scholarship I have been able to go to school regularly and keep myself neat and clean.” And Menuka writes, “I am happy that this scholarship has provided an opportunity for us to get education on an equitable basis with other rich and high class people. We can also become a renowned person if we get equal access of education.”

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Apr 2, 2008

Letter from NYOF and our project on PBS's NOW

Here is a letter from Olga Murray to the generous supporters of NYOF. Also, be sure to watch PBS' program featuring this project and Olga’s work. This program is scheduled to appear on PBS’s NOW series in early April (April 4 for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area). For your local broadcasting dates and times, please visit the link below. Also see the attached document for some pictures and more details on the PBS program.

Dear Friends,

Spring has sprung here in Kathmandu, I am glad to say. It’s been a cold and messy winter, with shortages of petrol, cooking gas, and eight hours of electricity cutoff a day. The lines at the gas stations are literally miles long; I am astonished, as always, at the patience and good spirits of the Nepali people, who carry on cheerfully against all odds.

But not all is bad news. In west Nepal in January, we had a big celebration to mark the almost-eradication in the Dang District of the inhumane custom of bonding little girls away to work as servants for families in distant cities. We have been working in Dang since January 2000 to stamp out this terrible practice, and as many of you know, we have devised an ingenious method to do so. The not-so-secret weapons in this battle are a baby piglet and girl power.

Each family that agrees to allow its daughter to remain at home and not bond her away receives a piglet or a goat that they can sell at the end of the year for about the same amount as they received for their daughter’s labor. NYOF enrolls the girls in school and pays all their education-related expenses. Simultaneously, we operate a vigorous awareness program to turn the community against this well-established practice. It is the liberated girls who are the most energetic and passionate in spreading the word against the custom and convincing parents not to send their daughters away.

On January 15, the festival day on which the girls are bonded away, more than 2300 girls liberated by NYOF marched in a demonstration in opposition to the bonding practice, and to celebrate their freedom and the virtual eradication of the practice in Dang. I was among them, marching and chanting, with more enthusiasm than comprehension. True, a small number of girls are still bonded away, but this is done under the table and with a sense of shame. Our crusade has been so successful that labor contractors, who used to flood the villages on the festival day, no longer come openly to “buy” the girls. And politicians who used to arrange the bondage of a family’s daughters for a few dollars as a favor to a constituent now do just the opposite –they offer to reunite the family and enroll their daughter in NYOF’s program. As a result, whereas in prior years, in the Dang District, thousands of girls were sent off each year to the homes of strangers to work as virtual slaves, some of them weeping openly at the impending departure from their homes and families, now only a few are clandestinely contracted away.

Much of the credit goes to the liberated girls themselves, who have formed clubs, created and acted in street plays, and distributed posters and flyers to turn the community against the practice. Shiva, one of the first girls rescued under NYOF’s program, is now a freshman in college and a leader in her community against the bonding custom. She and other girls previously returned have created a “forum” to combat the custom. While I was in Dang in January for the celebration, they invited me to a meeting. I was given a rousing reception - covered with garlands and red paste on my forehead – the sign of welcome and respect in Nepal. I asked each of the girls to tell me their stories; the description of their suffering filled me with anger and pity in equal proportions. Their most emotional moments came when, their voices quavering, they expressed their resolve that their younger sisters would never, ever, be subjected to the same ordeal as they were.

But the job of eradicating this custom is far from done in spite of our great success in Dang. About 10-15,000 girls, some as young as six or seven, are bonded away annually in five districts in west Nepal. In January, at the same time we were celebrating in Dang, we took the show onthe road and started our eradication campaign in the adjoining district of Bardiya, where we estimate that about 2000 girls are indentured annually. We need your help. Our goal is nothing more or less than to eradicate this appalling practice from Nepal, once and forever.

We have the know-how, experienced local staff, and the zeal to make this happen. All we need is the financial support of people like you. It costs only $100 to rescue a girl, bring her home to live with her family, provide them with incentives to make up for her lost wages, pay her school expenses for a year, and conduct our super-effective awareness campaign to turn the community against the practice.

Watch the PBS documentary, and you will see, live and in color, the stories of the children who are victims of this practice, hear their parents’ heart-breaking reasons for sending them away, and learn how NYOF is working to make a better life for them.

Warm regards,

Olga

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