To escape poverty, my father left his village to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal. I was taking a similar leap when I departed my country for the first time to attend Oberlin College. So, he gave me his only advice: never be afraid to reach out. Three years from down the road, I now understand what he meant.
Start of Fall 2017 marked one year of organizing for Maya Universe Academy. With the support of numerous mentors, friends, and community, we raised $22,000, built classrooms, initiated a sustainable chicken project, secured computers to increase computer literacy, and sent seven Oberlin students halfway around the world. Sprinkled within these achievements were ten-year-old Apshara’s smile when she read for the first time, the wonder of 15 village kids to explore Nepal, and the excitement of 13-year-old Buddap to finally getting a bike.
The progress continued during the fall semester. The Oberlin students that joined me over the summer were very active after their return. I delegated most of my recruiting work, and my teammates were flourishing in their role. The group brought in speakers, organized momo nights, wrote grants, brought eight more students for the winter term trip. One of my teammates even stepped up to be the trip leader. To say I was happy would be an understatement because this movement was taking a life of its own. However, the joy was also coupled with unease.
I was in my third year of college and my post-graduation plans did not feel distant anymore. I was especially alert because my recently graduated friends emphasized the importance of early planning. My passion has been youth empowerment through education access, but I clueless about the career that directed into those goals. This exploration was especially tricky because none of my friends were taking the path of social entrepreneurship I wanted to pursue.
After some reflection, I got back to my father’s advice on reaching out. Organizing myself with other's support during my first two years, I had acquired unexpected skills like chicken farming, website development, and volunteer recruitment. So, I figured to do the same with career exploration. Luckily Wisr, an online interface connecting students and Alumni, was introduced in the Fall. I researched numerous potential paths and communicated with Obies to understand what those paths entailed. From life in China to attending business school, every conversation was opening a different world and providing a greater sense of my fit. Most importantly, the comfort of having a community that cared was empowering the belief in my vision of education reform. Then the universe tested this belief.
I was participating in LaunchU, Oberlin’s business incubator, during winter term to scale Maya Country Chicken further. The program was one of the main reasons I came to Oberlin and finally being involved felt like the manifestation of all my work. However, the night before its start, I was notified that the safety of the eight Oberlin students we had sent to Nepal over winter term was undermined. I was in shock; building this partnership between Oberlin and the school in Nepal had been my college career. Since the sustainability of each project relied on a flow of Oberlin students, I was heartbroken to suspend all the work because of the concern. As I was ensuring everyone’s safety, I did not know how to feel.
Luckily, reaching out had been instinctive at this point. So I contacted a mentor that was facilitating a workshop later that week. She told me to trust everything is going to work out as it is intended to. Her words reminded me of my larger goals and gave me the courage to carry on with LaunchU. I held on to those goals for the next few weeks to formulate Nepali Dreamers. (The pitch on the left) Despite a few errors, I was very proud of my performance and resilience.
I am glad my father gave me his advice. I have continued to reach out, and every conversation has given me strength, and different lens to the world. Now I am utilizing this strength to take my next steps.
I am continuing my work by founding a college access program in Nepali Dreamers. My teammates and I are testing the market and searching for personnel to provide feedback on our program.
I am also shifting my energy to Get with the Program, a 501©3 that focuses on STEM literacy among elementary school and middle school children in Lorain. This program has expanded by 200% in the past two years and is impacting numerous lives. Working with the founder, we are trying to find sustainable ways to move forward.
As an alum pointed out, I am tackling problems that no one has solved. So, taking time to understand the issues of youth empowerment in developing countries is essential. I am networking and researching to explore paths to maximize learning.