Founder’s Day 2022 – Thanks for Celebrating with Us!

Founder’s Day 2022 – Thanks for Celebrating with Us!

Founder’s Day 2022 – held over Zoom on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022 – was a tremendous success!

Thank you to everyone who signed in live to commemorate another remarkable year of transformative impact in Nepal! Our global team deeply appreciates your many messages of congratulations and support. Olga is touched by the well-wishes in celebration of her life and work.

The team in Nepal, led by Som Paneru, was so delighted to see everyone’s excitement during the event—and deeply gratified by the warmth and loving encouragement our community shared with guest speakers Jeena Maharjan and Bishnu Chaudhary. If you were unable to attend Founder’s Day in person (or if you would like to share the celebration with a friend or over social media), the full event is now available through our YouTube channel.

It was so wonderful to see our remarkable community of loving supporters from across the world, current and former staff members (especially those in Nepal!), and program graduates. Meeting together in this way is such a joy—and we are so grateful you joined in the fun.

Thank you to everyone who registered, attended, participated, and donated. Thanks, too, to anyone who invited a friend or spread the word on social media. A very special thank you goes to co-hosts Shrijana Singh Yonjan and Dr. Angela Pal; videographers Roy Cox and Robin Mortarotti; and guest speakers Jeena Maharjan and Bishnu Chaudhary for helping shape the inspiring presentations; author and philanthropist Isabel Allende for her beautiful birthday wish; to the volunteers, board members, advisory board members, and staff working behind the scenes; and of course, to Olga Murray and Som Paneru for giving us so much to celebrate!

Olga’s 97th Birthday Goal

We are so excited to share that, including donations, pledges, and auction items, we exceeded our Founder’s Day 2022 fundraising goal of $97,000 in honor of Olga’s 97th birthday!

Thank you to each wonderful supporter who donated in honor of Founder’s Day 2022! Early gifts carried us over halfway to our goal, and the remarkable generosity during our event carried us well over our goal amount. Your gifts will make a transformative difference providing Education, Health, Shelter, and Freedom to children in Nepal!

NYF’s global team is truly humbled by the warmth, love, and kindness of our incredible community. Perhaps most of all, we are humbled by the trust you place in us with each thoughtful contribution to the causes we share.

A gallery screengrab from the Founder's Day 2022 Zoom call, with multiple people (Nepal staff members) highlighted with an orange border.
Did you spot the Nepal team at Founder’s Day 2022? Many of our remarkable staff were present! Highlighted above in orange boxes (top to bottom, left to right), we celebrated with Som Paneru, Sanjoj Maharjan, Bhim Shrestha (and several senior Olgapuri girls!), Rajan Pandit, Laxmi Ghimire (social worker and VECC manager of marketing & placement), Sumitra Dhakal, Chhori Laxmi, Navin Timalsina (Olgapuri program officer), Man Bahadur Chhetri, Riswo Gorkhali, Hem Shrestha (and several senior Olgapuri boys!), Lalit Gahatraj, Anjita Parajuli, Raju Dhamala, Umesh Regmi, volunteer extraordinaire Sajani Amatya, and Sarita Neupane! Click their names to learn more about each of these devoted experts!

Thank you for helping our global team transform lives every day in Nepal. Whether your focus is nutrition programming, girls’ education, vocational and entrepreneurship training for young adults, childhood mental health, or safe housing for kids, YOUR SUPPORT makes a tangible, positive difference in the lives we touch.

Thank you for joining us in daring to tackle some of the toughest, most entrenched challenges facing the children we serve.

Your love is providing Education, Health, Shelter, and Freedom to Nepal’s newest generation – and graduates from our programs are proving that your #LoveWorks. Dhanyabad!

If you have not yet fulfilled your Founder’s Day pledge, or if you would like to make another thoughtful gift, please do so here.


Lucky Winners

Our U.S. team is contacting auction winners and pledge raffle winners. If you have any questions about this process, please reach out to us by emailing info@nepalyouthfoundation.org.


The Caste Equality Project & Educating Dalit Lawyers

A highlight of Founder’s Day 2022 was our announcement of our ambitious new program, the Caste Equality Project!

A Zoom screenshot of a presentation highlight. The text says "The Caste Equality Project is NYF's new initiative" and the main photo is of a community of Musahar Dalits in eastern Nepal speaking to NYF president Som Paneru while he listens intently. A thin bar of 9 random Founder's Day attendees are visible at the right of the image.

Phase 1: Educating Dalit Lawyers launches the summer of 2022, with the first group of 15 students entering Kathmandu law schools at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year. Olga is ecstatic about the potential these young people have to change their world for the better, and Som and his team are eager to scale our work in the coming years.

Program pages for these exciting projects are now live (linked above) and we will be sharing photos, stories, and information about our progress as this information becomes available.

Please keep an eye out for updates right here on our blog about all our programs—we’re so excited to share more with you soon about the impact your support is having on the lives of so many!

A Zoom screenshot from a video presentation during Founder's Day 2022. A caption along the bottom says, "and to create conditions for social justice". The image is of a group of eight young Nepali women grinning at the camera while standing together with a friendly, familiar energy between them. Their clothes are office casual and blend elements of western and Nepali styles.
NYF is committed to helping children, young adults, and families in Nepal’s Dalit communities to overcome the systemic barriers that have held them back for centuries. Step one is to empower passionate members of these communities to lead the charge!

Dhanyabad!

A photo banner featuring side-by-side Zoom screenshots of Olga Murray and Som Paneru, alongside a gallery Zoom screenshot of 35 random viewers holding their hands up in a heart shape. "Thank you for a successful Founder's Day!" is written across the top.

Remembering Alison Wright (1961-2022)

Remembering Alison Wright (1961-2022)

Written by: NYF Founder Olga Murray

I am so saddened by the death of my old friend Alison Wright, who died in mid March in Portugal while on a scuba diving expedition in the Azores. Alison was the most adventurous, fearless person I have ever known, with a passion to use her superb photographic talents to better the world.

She traveled to countries I had never heard of and packed more into her life than I thought was possible. From photographing nomads hunting with falcons in Mongolia to living with sex workers in Mumbai to gain their trust before photographing them, to camping out with a pygmy tribe in the Kalahari desert, she seemed impervious to the hardships which would have given pause to an ordinary human being.

Alison Wright and NYF President Som Paneru at the construction site of Olgapuri Children’s Village. Photo by Roy Cox and Robin Mortarotti.

But above all, she was passionate about using her incredible talents to better the human condition. She conducted workshops in using photography to effect social change and started her own foundation to provide health care to a village in Laos where she almost died after a truck rammed into a bus in which she was a passenger. She was a great friend of NYF and took some of the most beautiful and impactful pictures of our projects and our children.

We met more than 30 years ago in Nepal; she visited me there many times, and we had a deep and loving friendship. I will always keep in my heart her love of life and contagious, generous spirit.


Below is a video Alison Wright made for me as a birthday gift, which was presented to me at my 95th birthday celebration.

NYF’s partnership with One Day’s Wages: A successful Vocational Education project!

NYF’s partnership with One Day’s Wages: A successful Vocational Education project!

In late 2019, NYF launched a matching campaign with One Day’s Wages to fund 52 students in our Vocational Education & Career Counseling program. Thanks to support from friends like you, we were able to meet our fundraising goal— and we received a generous matching grant from One Day’s Wages to complete this project in 2020.

Though the pandemic caused a delay in starting and completing this vocational education project, we are happy to finally share how successful it ended up being. We are also incredibly grateful for the One Day’s Wages team for being so patient, flexible, and encouraging while working with us on this project as we navigated COVID-19.

The Vocational Education Training Course

This project funded a 12-week training course for 52 students in our Olgapuri Vocational School training program. 31 of these students graduated from the electrical course in Barbardiya Municipality, and 21 from the plumbing course in Bhanu Municipality.

Our original plans were to invite our students from multiple regions in Nepal to Olgapuri Vocational School in Kathmandu. However, the program was shifted to a satellite model due to COVID-19. In this new set-up, our incredible teachers transported their equipment to villages in Barbardiya and Bhanu Municipalities to self-isolate before teaching the twelve-week course to local young adults. These satellite trainings were successful and eagerly received by individual students and communities. As a result, we are working to identify ways to make them a part of our regular programming.

During the training, our students received hands-on instruction and practice (approximately 80% of class time) as well as theoretical material (20% of class time). Theoretical elements included relevant course reading, as well as health, first-aid, and safety training. It also included entrepreneurship development, and life skills components like goal setting and decision making, communication, basic computer use, and job search skills.

In July 2021, our 52 students graduated.

Alt=””
31 students in Barbardiya Municipality show off their electrical certificates during their vocational education graduation ceremony.

As we come up on one year since the vocational education courses began, we’re thrilled to share the positive impact this project had on its students, their families, and their communities.

Community Impact

Much to the benefit of their communities, the majority of our electrical program graduates have decided to work in their hometowns.

Before this program, electricians and their labor were very expensive. That made electricity unreliable at best (and thus more of a luxury than a real utility), and dangerous at worst (in the event someone decided to attempt repairs on their own, without training). NYF’s electrical graduates discovered quickly that there was plentiful work available for them close to home.

Local construction businesses can now take on new projects with greater confidence, since now they know there are skilled, trusted technicians nearby to accomplish this work. This, plus the affordability of services, has increased the demand for construction projects in the community. This is already resulting in an economy where local money continues to support local businesses. Even as the COVID crisis drags on, the standard of living is on the rise in the areas that have received these training courses.

Community members, too, soon learned that they can now receive prompt, affordable, high-quality electrical services from local young people who share their dialect.

Some of the plumbers and electricians in these two courses have already established their own small businesses. They’ve taken on apprentices from among the local young adults — creating new jobs and new experts.

We’re also proud that local governments and construction companies in nearby areas are requesting more opportunities for vocational education trainings. Even with this increase of new skilled workers, there is still enormous demand for exactly these kinds of experts. Nepal’s infrastructure is developing rapidly, and empowering local young people with the skills they need to provide these services will do tremendous good across the country.

One House, One Tap: Bhanu Municipality

One House, One Tap” is a country-wide government project that provides municipalities in Nepal with the funds to install running water in each household. This project had been of interest to local officials of Bhanu Municipality for a long time. However, there were not enough skilled plumbers in their region to provide the required labor. Thanks to this campaign, the region now has plenty of new plumbers. This has allowed Bhanu Municipality to finally take advantage of the One House, One Tap project!

We’re thrilled to share that our plumbing graduates are involved in installing running water to 55 households in Yansing Village and 32 households in Chokot. By February 2022, 12 graduates had installed and fitted the main underground pipeline to one of the villages. Two entire water reservoirs had also been built nearly to completion.

Until this time, Yansing Village in Bhanu Municipality only contained 7 taps total, which had been connected to a small natural spring at the top of a nearby hill (rather than to larger-scale infrastructure, as the new ones are). Individuals—most of whom live about 15 minutes from the nearest tap on foot—fetched water from these public taps on a rotating basis. Since it is so difficult to bring this water home, most families reserved it mostly for cooking and drinking purposes only, with hygiene being neglected.

The arrival of plumbers in this region is having a near-immediate, widespread public health impact. With tap water available in each household, families will be better able to maintain far better personal hygiene. This will help slow the spread of disease and increase their available time and energy for other tasks.

Alt=””
Manisha Gurung and Hema Gurung recently graduated from OVS’s program and have leapt into business. They are showing girls in their village that women can do the same work men can do. Here, they are installing an overhead tank to allow gravity to provide water pressure for the plumbing below.

Individual Impact

Upendra G.

Upendra is a village social worker in Bhanu Municipality. He was enthusiastically involved in bringing the NYF training to the area. During the training period, he provided snacks for the trainees.

Upendra was one of the first people to hire the training graduates. He asked four of them to construct a full bathroom at his home. This included a sink, a toilet, a shower, drainage, and tiles, plus a tap for washing muddy feet.

Upendra’s bathroom is in a standalone building near his fields and is attached to a 1,000-liter water tank. His is now one of the best restrooms in the entire village. Soon after construction was completed, Upendra invited the local mayor to view this restroom.

“The mayor was surprised to see such a good toilet in the village,” Upendra said happily. “I shared how thorough and excellent the NYF training is, and how it has helped transform the youth with strong skills. NYF’s training has really been transformative for the entire village.”

Girija G.

Girija is a young NYF plumbing course graduate from Vanu Municipality. He lives with his family of lifelong subsistence farmers. When he married last year, he started searching for an additional livelihood to ensure the growing family could improve their self-sufficiency. He worried he might have to leave the village, or even the country, to find work.

Following the NYF plumbing course, Girija has good-paying work here in his own village and in villages nearby. This means that his family has the benefit of both his income and his presence. He is currently balancing plumbing work with farming to maximize the effectiveness on his family’s farm. This is an enormous gift to his parents, who are aging, and to his wife and their future children. Even working part-time, Girija is bringing in about 20,000 Nepalese rupees per month ($172), which is over 50% more than minimum wage for a full-time job in Nepal.

Alt=””
Girija (and fellow graduate Somil) installs PVC piping in the walls of Upendra’s new standalone bathroom.

Girija’s parents are bursting with pride at their son’s accomplishments. He has become a huge credit to the village and is providing for the family in ways they only dreamed possible—everything a parent in Nepal dreams of. Meanwhile, Girija’s wife is happy about the family’s increased stability, even in this time of uncertainty with the COVID pandemic.

With this money, Girija and his family are excited about future possibilities. A potential full bathroom of their own, for example, which would immediately improve their family’s health. They may use some funds to purchase meat, dairy, or other staples to supplement their home-grown diets. They may upgrade some farming equipment, invest in other housing upgrades, or begin saving for schooling for their future children. This vocational education course has opened future possibilities for them all.


From all of us at NYF, thank you and dhanyabad!

The continuing economic impacts of this pandemic in Nepal cannot be overstated. Now more than ever, the youth of Nepal need viable job readiness training and career investment to allow the country to recover. Your loving support makes such a difference for these young adults and their communities!

Presidential Medal of Freedom: Help Nominate Olga!

Presidential Medal of Freedom: Help Nominate Olga!

Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the United States. It is bestowed by the President on individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

A smiling Olga Murray is seated as Medal of Freedom recipient Isabel Allende stands behind her, lovingly embracing Olga's shoulders.

Recipients of the award include artists, scientists, inventors, activists, writers, diplomats, pioneering figures, politicians, athletes, journalists, philanthropists, and more – including beloved friend of NYF Isabel Allende!

In early March, Isabel reached out to Congress to tell them about Olga’s incredible work in Nepal and to recommend her for this special honor.

Isabel thinks Olga deserves the Medal as well – and so do we!

National Recognition

Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are honored as individuals, but the celebration also shines a national spotlight on the work they have done and continue to do.

NYF’s work is unique in so many ways—and our long-term, committed approach could inspire many more organizations doing similar work in other countries. We hope that by bestowing this much-deserved honor on Olga and her work, President Biden will also draw valuable attention to NYF. This will not only allow us to expand our own work more effectively, but will also allow other child-focused organizations around the world to borrow ideas from our transformative community-centered programs.

What You Can Do

There is no official nomination procedure for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and each White House administration handles the process differently. Recipients are selected by the President of the United States, either on the President’s own initiative or based on recommendations.

We are taking a broad approach by letting our senators know about Olga’s incredible story and requesting that they recommend her name to President Joe Biden as a candidate for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

If you are a US citizen or resident and agree that Olga deserves this prestigious award, please write to your senators to tell them so! If you choose to participate in our campaign to nominate Olga, please let us know so we can notify you of any response we receive.

Instructions to Nominate Olga

We have prepared this template letter to make the process as simple as possible. If you use this letter, submitting this request to your senator should only take a few moments.

If you have more time and would like to craft your own letter, we encourage this as well! Letters from the heart can have a tremendous impact. Please feel free to adjust our template as much or as little as you wish.

(1) Visit https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm to find the contact information for your senators. Once you have selected your state, mailing addresses are available for each senator.

  • Senators often prefer to receive correspondence over the web (and receive it more quickly this way). You can find your senators’ preferences by clicking on their photo, which will take you to their official webpage. Clicking “Contact” will bring up details about reaching your senator.

(2) Download our template letter by clicking here.

  • If you are planning to mail your letter in hard copy:
    • Add your address to the top right corner so your senators know you are one of their constituents. Add the date and your senator’s address. Include your senator’s name to the salutation.
    • If desired, make any personal adjustments to the letter.
    • Type your name at the bottom of the letter, then print, sign, and send.
  •  If you will send your letter as an email:
    • If your senator’s contact page prompts you to fill out a form, please follow the instructions on the form. You can copy/paste from the letter where appropriate. This form may indicate a word or character limit. If it does, please click here to download a condensed version of our letter.
    • If you are prompted to send an email from your personal email account, be sure to add a sentence to the letter indicating that you live in the state that senator represents.
    • Type your name at the bottom of the letter, then print, sign, and send.
    • Don’t forget to add your name to the bottom of the letter.

(3) We want to thank you! If you nominate Olga, please let us know once you have sent your letter(s). You may let us know below, or email us at info@nepalyouthfoundation.org or call us at 415-331-8585.

Next Steps

If you would like to write directly to President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris with a recommendation to nominate Olga, you may certainly do so!

Contact information for the White House is available here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/write-or-call/

The White House’s online form has a character limit, so please use our condensed letter as a guide.

If you happen to personally know someone who works in the White House or in a similarly-connected position, they may also be able to provide a recommendation. Please let us know if there is anything our team can do to help you share Olga’s remarkable work with these connections.

NYF’s partnership with Pasang: In the Shadow of Everst

NYF’s partnership with Pasang: In the Shadow of Everst

We are so excited to announce that NYF is a nonprofit partner of the documentary film PASANG: IN THE SHADOW OF EVEREST! The film, which is featured in an article on The Wrap, first premiered at the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival on March 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest brings to life the untold and inspiring story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. She is the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest. In her quest, Pasang awakened her country to the entrenched inequalities confronted and endured by women and in Nepal.

As an uneducated, indigenous woman and a Buddhist in a Hindu kingdom, Pasang’s dream to scale the legendary mountain pit her against family, foreign climbers, her own government, and nature itself. The film follows Pasang as she works tirelessly to pull together the financial and structural support to try for Everest. It additionally reveals the ensuing obstacles and disappointments she had to face and overcome along the way.

As told by the Nepalis who knew her, by some of the world’s most notable alpinists, and by Pasang herself, the film reveals the intransigence of the forces who opposed her, and the great burdens and personal costs she endured to gain her rightful chance to try for Everest.

Many congratulations to director Nancy Svendsen and her film crew for bringing this historic story to life. NYF is so proud be a nonprofit partner! You can view the trailer of this documentary film here.

You can also follow @pasangmovie on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Learn more about NYF’s other partnerships.

Maximize the impact of your 2021 gift!

Maximize the impact of your 2021 gift!

With so many ways to give this holiday season, we at the Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) are excited to share some of our best tips to make the most out of your generous gifts. Maximize the impact of your support and ensure your #LoveWorks in 2022!

1. Give loved ones the gift of impact.

This holiday season, share the joy of giving with your loved ones by making a donation in their name. Your loved one will receive a special holiday eCard notifying them of this remarkable gift. You can choose between three beautiful eCard designs and include a personal note.

What a meaningful way to share the warmth and love of the season with anyone on your list. Visit https://nyf.news/holiday-ecard to make a holiday gift to NYF today!

2. Extended CARES Act Benefit

In 2021, an individual U.S. taxpayer can deduct up to $300 of charitable giving without itemizing! Similarly, married couples may deduct up to $600. This includes donations made by cash, check, credit card or debit card. However, it does not include securities, household items, or other property.

Click here to learn more.

3. Shop through AmazonSmile!

If you shop on Amazon.com, you’ve likely heard of AmazonSmile — a separate portal from Amazon’s main site. AmazonSmile mostly offers the same prices and items, but the benefit is that when you use AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of your purchase to a charity of your choice — at no cost to you.

To select Nepal Youth Foundation as your designated charity on AmazonSmile, click here. You should then be able to search and select Nepal Youth Foundation as your choice of charity. After that, your holiday purchases through AmazonSmile can benefit NYF!

You may want to bookmark AmazonSmile on your browser because only items purchased through AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

4. Qualified Charitable Distribution

If you are over 70.5 years old and have an IRA, Required Minimum Distributions are back this year. Making a Qualified Charitable Distribution directly from your IRA to the nonprofit of your choice is one way to satisfy this legal requirement.

Click here to learn more and be sure to speak with your financial advisor to see if this option is a good fit for you!

5. Get your donations matched by your company!

Many workplaces have corporate giving programs through which they will “double” or “triple” the charitable contributions made by their employees. As a result of these programs, you can easily maximize the impact of your support.

78% of match-eligible donors are unaware that their company offers a matching gift program. If this sounds like you, we recommend asking your employer. Most times, all you have to do is submit a request after you’ve made your gift. Check out this list of the Top 20 Matching Gift Companies, or see below for companies that already make matching gifts to NYF!

6. Gifts of stock, IRA distributions, and Donor-Advised Fund grants

Gifts of stock, IRA distributions, and Donor Advised Fund grants are most definitely high-impact options for charitable giving. Ask your financial advisor about these tax-savvy options!

Click here for NYF’s stock donation form.

7. Federal employees may give through the Combined Federal Campaign.

If you are a state or government employee and would like to support NYF, please find us using our nonprofit code #84267. Your workplace donation will help make a transformational difference for children in Nepal!

8. Join NYF’s Legacy Circle by including a gift as part of your estate plan.

NYF’s Legacy Circle is a group of donors who planned gifts ensuring secure, long-term funding and loving support for children in Nepal for many years to come. Click here to learn more about how to join, or to expand your membership.

For questions, please contact our U.S. Executive Director, Eric, at 415-331-8585. You can also email eric@nepalyouthfoundation.org. NYF’s Federal Tax ID Number is 68-0224596

A letter of gratitude from Olga

A letter of gratitude from Olga

Happy Holidays from NYF’s founder Olga Murray!

Dear Friends,

As I enter my 97th year, I am more and more aware of the kind of legacy I will leave behind. One of the greatest joys of my long life has been the satisfaction of working with the children in Nepal and witnessing, for over 35 years, the tremendous changes NYF has been able to make in the lives of our children.

I have been particularly close over the years to the children of Olgapuri Children’s Village (formerly J and K House), watching them transform from frightened, sometimes traumatized, little kids when they come to live with us to boisterous, funny, smart, and ambitious teenagers, to what they are now – healthy, well-adjusted, educated, gainfully employed parents of young children, and good citizens of Nepal.

Every year, when I am in Nepal, I invite dozens of former Olgapuri girls over for dinner – they range from kids who have just left Olgapuri to attend college and are a bit frightened about leaving the only home they remember – to girls who left 15 or more years ago, are pursuing careers, and are married with children. It is touching to watch them interact – the older ones providing wisdom, advice, sympathy, and support to their younger sisters, and all of them expressing so much affection for each other and appreciation for their upbringing.

Above: Children at Olgapuri Children’s Village (photo taken by Lena Stein)

One of the important satisfactions of parenthood, I believe, is raising children who love and support each other after they have left the nest. On this score, Olgapuri kids get an A plus. They stay in close touch, reminisce often about their times growing up, celebrate their birthdays together, and if any of them is in trouble, their Olgapuri sisters gather around like the most caring of families. Whether it is a personal or medical issue, they are there for each other. Recently, one of them contracted Covid – it was a serious case and required a long hospitalization. She could not afford the medical cost, so the former K House sisters took up a collection and helped with the payment. Another former K House girl needed extensive financial help for chemotherapy treatments, and again – her K House sisters stepped in to help.

So I have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. And so have a lot of children in Nepal – the hundreds NYF has trained for work in the construction trades who are now gainfully employed, the thousands of children and families we helped during the pandemic with food, education, and counseling, and the many thousands of malnourished children who have been restored to blooming good health at our Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes.

None of this would have been possible without your help. It is hard for me to put into words the gratitude I feel to all of you, our loyal and generous donors, whose generosity throughout the years has made such a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Nepali children.

With love and gratitude,

Olga

AIDS Awareness Month & NYF’s New Life Center

AIDS Awareness Month & NYF’s New Life Center

AIDS Awareness Month

AIDS Awareness Month occurs each October, and is an opportunity to share science-based, factual, and clear information about the disease – as well as ways members of the public can help those impacted.

Today, over 37 million people live with HIV worldwide. An estimated 50,200 of these people live in Nepal. Some of those infected are children.

The first case of HIV in Nepal was diagnosed in 1988. Within that same year, the Nepalese government launched its first response – the National AIDS Prevention and Control Program, led by committees based in both the national and local governments and health services.

But since the beginning, the strongest groups addressing HIV in the country have been community-based organizations working to ensure government resources reach the individuals who need them.

Please note: Due to the extreme level of stigma associated with HIV in Nepal, we take special care to preserve the privacy of our New Life Center children and families. The faces of these individuals are blurred throughout this article. The stories shared below are true, though we have changed all names and some identifying details. Children pictured are not the children from these stories.)

New Life Center nurses (in white) and two patient families pose in front of our beautiful facility at discharge. The New Life Center is located in Lalitpur, just outside of Kathmandu.

The New Life Center

NYF first joined the fight against HIV in 2006, stepping into the network of community organizations to serve a vital role delivering special care to children living with this formidable virus.

NYF established the New Life Center (NLC) to provide specialized, supportive care to Nepalese children living with HIV, restoring their bodies to health and making their lives not just longer, but more joyful. The NLC also benefits the caregivers of these children, educating them on hygienic practices, nutrition, and the effective management of HIV, and providing group and individual therapeutic interventions in partnership with Ankur Counseling Center. After discharge, families unable to access the free medicine provided by the Nepalese government benefit from delivery services by NLC staff.

New Life Center staff members include cooks, nurses, a nutritionist, a driver, and more, with hospital-based pediatricians visiting at least once a month during non-pandemic times. (We shared stories about our remarkable New Life Center nurses in 2020. Read more here!)

AIDS Awareness Month New Life Center Nepal Youth Foundation

(Ragav*, 10, was diagnosed with HIV soon after his mother passed away due to AIDS six years ago. His father brought him to a Kathmandu Hospital for treatment after a series of regular childhood scrapes refused to heal – and was dismayed to discover how sick his son truly was. The two were referred to the New Life Center by the hospital once Ragav’s treatment plan was in place, and during his stay, Ragav regained his strength and energy, lowered his viral load, made friends with other children, and began catching up on his schoolwork.

Treatment at the NLC

Capable of treating up to 18 child-mother pairs on-site at a time, the NLC strives to provide holistic residential care to between 50 and 60 children living with HIV each year (often alongside their mothers, who are often also living with HIV). A few children who have lost their parents and have no other options for guardianship remain in NYF care on a permanent basis. One-week residential services are provided to an additional 20 children during their routine follow-up visits to Kathmandu. Besides medical care at the NLC, patients also receive psychological support provided in partnership with NYF’s Ankur Counseling Center. For discharged patients unable to access antiretroviral medication refills, NLC staff members deliver government-provided medication to remote villages throughout Nepal, taking 180 such trips via motorbike in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

AIDS Awareness Means Knowing the Challenges

People living with HIV/AIDS in Nepal face social isolation, medical neglect, and physical and emotional abandonment. Though the Nepalese government offers HIV medication and other treatment programs free of charge, these services are difficult to access for patients in remote villages. Some hospitals still refuse care to affected people. Many children are only diagnosed after their fathers, and sometimes both parents, have died of the disease. Tragically, low diagnosis rates have resulted in some mothers unknowingly passing the virus to multiple children.

These children are at extremely high risk. HIV/AIDS is one of the most stigmatized illnesses in Nepal. Schools shut their doors. Non-infected children won’t play with them, and they’re banned from village activities. As kids living with HIV/AIDS become desperately sick with opportunistic diseases and feel brutally ostracized, their quality of life plummets.

(No child enjoys taking medicine – but the kids at the New Life Center quickly learn how much better they feel when they are up to date on their antiretroviral medication.

Problems related specifically to HIV/AIDS in Nepal – in particular where children are concerned – include: (1) scarce specialized programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, (2) limited access to available programs and resources, particularly for families in geographically remote villages, (3) cultural stigma and superstition around HIV/AIDS status, (4) low and late diagnosis rates, especially for rural communities, (5) parental death leaving behind orphan children unable to access care, (6) large families prioritizing uninfected children, (7) necessarily-long hospital stays for children receiving care, and (8) endemic malnutrition throughout the country. Pediatric malnutrition, the focus of many of NYF’s programs, is a systemic issue impacting children throughout Nepal, but it poses a special threat to immunocompromised children like those living with HIV/AIDS.

NYF works closely with many other local organizations serving communities living with HIV to respond to these problems as effectively as possible.


AIDS Awareness in a Developing Nation

In developing nations like Nepal, there is often a sharp divide between urban areas (which are beginning to access and enjoy the technological and economic advances available in industrialized nations) and the rural areas (where infrastructure – like roads, running water, electrical connectivity, and internet access – does not yet exist to allow those advances to spread equitably).

Parents and caregivers for children living with HIV/AIDS in remote Nepal face heartbreaking dilemmas. True subsistence farming – an economic model that has been nearly forgotten in the developed world – is still the reality for many throughout Nepal. Subsistence farmers grow food crops not to sell in marketplaces, but to feed themselves and their families throughout the year with little, if any, surplus. Many of Nepal’s subsistence farmers struggle to produce enough food throughout the year, and a family’s level of wealth or poverty is measured in part on how many months of the year they can achieve self-sufficiency.

AIDS Awareness Month Nepal Youth Foundation New Life Center
(Raghavi*, 12, lost both parents to AIDS. Her grandmother is providing every opportunity possible to ensure Raghavi can keep healthy and receive a good education. The two live frugally off of Raghavi’s grandmother’s modest pension, and earn a bit of extra money here and there raising goats. They were staying at the NLC in March 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdowns began, and had to return to their home village before our staff members would prefer. During the lockdown, NLC staff members stayed in close contact with Raghavi’s grandmother, giving the best advice they could. When restrictions loosened a bit in December 2020, the two returned to complete their stay, and the 7th grader’s health was finally stabilized.)

All family members must participate in farming as much as possible – ideally managing to produce more in crop yields than he or she consumes. Failing to do so may result in months of hunger for the entire family. In families wherein a father has passed away, and in which a mother of young children has learned (having become extremely sick herself) that she is now living with HIV/AIDS, the illness itself is only a piece of the greater extended family’s dilemma – especially if accurate information about HIV is not available in the community. The situation is worse still if children have also been infected. 

For many, the choice of whether an adult should travel hundreds of miles to Kathmandu to find hospital care for one of their children – even care that is provided free of charge – is the impossible choice between healthcare for one family member versus food for them all. Once the trip is made and the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is confirmed, often not only for the child but for the parent as well, these caregivers must weigh the prognosis as they understand it culturally. They must bear in mind the stigma to come, the impact it will have on the entire family, and the seeming impossibility of stable, long-term medical care for a family living many rugged miles from the nearest provider.

Families who try to manage their child’s illness often struggle, and many fail, in a system without a safety net. This is no one’s fault. The challenge of pediatric HIV, within already-demanding circumstances, is devastating.


Pediatric AIDS Awareness

The children who visit the New Life Center are referred to NYF either through the Nepalese hospital system (when a child arrives terribly sick and their HIV status is discovered) or through local HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations for adults (who are approached by caregivers searching for resources). Because pediatric HIV/AIDS requires specialized care, these groups know to send these children to us. Nepal Youth Foundation is highly trusted within the network of HIV resources in Nepal.

(On-site tutors and child development experts ensure the children at the New Life Center receive opportunities for creativity, learning, stimulation, and play. If a stay coincides with a festival, the children enjoy as much fun as their health will allow! NYF is determined to make the New Life Center a safe, home-like environment for those recovering here – ensuring that even times of poor health are as comfortable and “normal” as possible.)

An average initial stay at the New Life Center lasts for three months, and families served here return fairly regularly for support. Because children’s immune systems are not fully developed, children living with HIV get much sicker than adults–and they do so more often as well. These children are exposed to all the same illnesses as other children, but even when their HIV is well-managed, their weakened immune systems struggle to fight effectively against common ailments like the flu, the common cold, urinary tract infections, and more. Tuberculosis and pneumonia are special dangers for Nepalese children living with HIV.

(Relaxing in the sunshine in a New Life Center courtyard is an enjoyable, healthy activity. Vadish*, 15, first came to the New Life Center when he was diagnosed with HIV at age 4. His mother was diagnosed at the same time, and spent months in the hospital before passing away from tuberculosis and meningitis – infections that raged out of control due to AIDS. Gentle, playful Vadish responded well to treatment and was taken in by relatives once his health had stabilized. When he was 9 years old, he had another health scare and spent another several months at the New Life Center. Staff members were delighted to see how much he had grown and learned – when his health was strong, he generally achieved top marks in his classes! His personality had not changed, and as his health improved, he began taking younger NLC children under his wing, comforting them and giving them encouragement. Now that is is 15, his care will shift to a group providing HIV resources for adults. Staff members hope he keeps in touch – but they are thrilled with how far he has come.)

Getting a child living with HIV safely through their younger years and across the age-15 threshold is a tremendous undertaking – but it is extremely worthwhile to see these children regain their health, engage with their educational opportunities, and chase their dreams. For many families, the New Life Center is an absolutely crucial piece of their journey with HIV, and our role in their lives lasts for years. When each of these children reaches the milestone of their 15th birthday, they are considered adults in HIV-treatment terms, and NYF facilitates connections with their local organizations for adults, ensuring seamless, continued support for the duration of their lifetime. These young people are full of promise and opportunity, having learned important skills for maintaining their health and having found confidence in their own worth as human beings, in spite of intense cultural stigma.

Through extensive awareness campaigns and other interventions, Nepal’s government has made remarkable progress in lowering the rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Far fewer cases of pediatric HIV are being diagnosed in recent years, and resources for these individuals are easier to access.

Unfortunately, many families are still unable to reach the care available in Nepal – including the significant time investment required to visit the New Life Center. This reality has been a challenge the New Life Center has grappled with in recent years, in the hopes of expanding our reach into more remote regions of Nepal. Since early 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus on this challenge has sharpened.

AIDS Awareness During COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were forced to send the New Life Center patients to their home villages, realizing that they would be safer in rural isolation than they would be in Kathmandu. Only a few children remained at the NLC – those living completely under NYF’s care.

We focused our efforts on maintaining contact with families over the telephone, often scheduling times when caregivers could visit a location with a stable phone connection. Caregivers would share information on their child’s health status, and our staff members in turn provided them with practical advice and encouragement – including advice to visit the nearest hospital when necessary, and the financial assistance necessary to do so.

In early 2021, the New Life Center staff organized a massive nutritional relief delivery trip, using as much care as possible and coordinating with four community-based NGOs working on HIV. Deliveries were made in seven different districts across Nepal. Altogether, 167 families of children living with HIV received nutrition relief packages containing rice, legumes, oil, eggs, and other essential food items, plus a special hygiene kit to protect against COVID-19.

As we coordinated this care and pivoted other NYF programs, staff members and leaders at the New Life Center began to see new solutions to old problems.


Expanding Access with Home-Based Care

In 2021, the New Life Center is beginning a new phase of development, incorporating lessons learned during the pandemic into an expanded program beyond the walls of our dedicated facility.

Residential treatment will remain a valuable piece of the New Life Center’s work. However, using our connections to other grassroots organizations, we are expanding our outreach capabilities.

New elements for the program will include more regular nutritional delivery visits, wrapped into our existing medication deliveries. These visits will now involve check-ups for the children. Our hope is that this will allow NLC staff members to catch warning signs early, making return trips to the New Life Center unnecessary. Home visits will also allow our staff members to make more personalized recommendations to families. These may include advice ranging from thoughts on hygiene best-practices to reasonably-simple garden additions that may vastly improve family nutritional health.

Mothers in need of income generation help will also become eligible for some of our programs aimed at small business start-ups.

(The New Life Center will continue serving as an important residential care facility, as well as the base of operations for the expanded programming.)

Ankur Counseling Center’s role in this work will grow. Previously, counseling services have focused on those currently staying in the New Life Center. Now, counseling will be available to children and caregivers over the telephone – allowing for a stable, sustained counseling experience which will help families cope with day-to-day challenges.

In coordination with our hospital friends and grassroots partners, NYF will expand our AIDS Awareness campaign efforts, in the hopes of alleviating cultural stigma by sharing accurate information about the illness with rural communities – including information about preventing the spread of HIV.

Besides all this, we will provide a telephone helpline for those hoping to keep their status private, as well as producing and distributing Nepali-language educational resources for caregivers.

Our hope is that by expanding our reach in this way, we can save and enrich many more lives – and help Nepal continue its progress in addressing this global challenge.


Spread Awareness!

To help us commemorate AIDS Awareness Month at Nepal Youth Foundation, please share our message on your social media, including the hashtags #AIDSAwarenessMonth and #LoveWorks.

Do you know anyone interested in supporting causes like global health or pediatric HIV healthcare? Take a moment this month to reach out and share our story. We would love to connect!

Updates from NYF President Som Paneru

Updates from NYF President Som Paneru

Dear NYF Community,

I hope you are all continuing to stay safe and healthy. Earlier this month, the Nepal government made an announcement to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Among other things, this included the physical re-opening of schools and public spaces. This decision has several impacts on our programs at NYF, and I am delighted to share these new updates with all of you.


COVID-19 Updates & Response Programs

NYF’s COVID Isolation Center at our flagship Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) ran until September 16, 2021. Since its opening, we’ve admitted and treated more than 240 COVID-positive patients at our facilities. Following this recent government decision to re-open public spaces, NYF suspended isolation center services on September 17th to fully resume our regular NRH programming. We are continuing to produce Lito, our homemade “super” flour, at the NRH and are still distributing them to communities in need via the Lito for Life program. For more updates and information about our COVID-19 response, visit NYF’s COVID Timeline.


Education

Until now, schools and colleges nationwide have been closed. Out of the 643 scholarship students NYF currently supports, 70% have been attending online classes run by their schools and colleges. After this most recent decision, most NYF children will likely be able to return to in-person classes later this fall. Additionally, after a massive COVID-related delay, the long-awaited examinations for grade 12 students finally took place on September 15, 2021. About 40 NYF students took the exam.


Vocational Education & Career Counseling

As you may recall, most of our vocational training programs were put on hold earlier this year.  We are happy to announce that NYF has safely resumed some training programs in the electrical, welding, carpentry and plumbing trades. Effective last week, we have 4 vocational training satellite courses currently running. NYF is also preparing to complete 2 more Sustainable Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Trainings (SAAET) by the end of the year.


Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes (NRH) & Nutrition Camps

There are currently 8 children being treated at the NRH for malnourishment. We are expecting an increase in the number of admissions as we resume our regular services and programming. Our NYF nutrition staff is also busy strategizing how to safely conduct our regular nutrition camps this year.


New Life Center (NLC)

Due to travel restrictions brought about by COVID-19, patients had a difficult time traveling to the New Life Center in Kathmandu Valley to receive treatment. In order to increase access to supportive care for children living with HIV/AIDS in rural communities, NYF has redesigned the NLC program.

The aim of this redesign is to bring New Life Center resources to a larger population of children. To do so, we’ve moved beyond the “residential-treatment only” approach to an expanded “outreach and community-based” approach. According to the new plan, the NLC will cater residential services to approximately 20 children, while all the other services will be completed in rural communities via community outreach. These community outreach programs include awareness and advocacy, food and essentials delivery, financial support for caretakers, and tele-counseling services.

While this program will still be run from the NLC office in Kathmandu, we are excited to partner with a number of grassroots organizations — all doing incredible work in the communities we plan to serve.


Olgapuri Children’s Village

First and foremost, all 71 children (and house parents!) at Olgapuri remain safe and healthy. This year, nine students will soon be moving out after graduating high school. We are so proud of each graduate, and look forward to seeing them go on to do incredible things!


Thank you for your support.

Friends, we are deeply grateful for your continued love and support for the children, young adults, and families in our care. Thank you, also, to our staff on the ground in Nepal and for their incredible work. As always, if you have any questions about these updates or would like more information about our programs in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@nepalyouthfoundation.org.


With gratitude,

Som Paneru
NYF President