As the year winds down, it is but natural to look back on the year that was, and look forward to the coming year. In our first year in existence, just like all infants, we took our first steps, we had some falls, moments when we crawled and even moments where we cried. We have learned a lot about the problems we are trying to address, about ourselves as a team, about the challenges we will face in bringing about solutions, and about the wonderful network of humanity that has inspired and helped us to stay on track. This post attempts to list a few of the key moments in our first year, some challenges we faced and looks ahead to next year and beyond.
Eye Opening Start to the Year
The idea of creating a foundation to help underprivileged people in Nepal has been in the back of the mind of Nabin and I (co-founders of Rukmini Foundation) for a while, but we could never gather enough momentum to get it going. That changed after I visited Nepal with Nabin and got to see firsthand how amazingly beautiful yet sadly ugly Nepal was. Having been away for more than 22 years, I was too far replaced from the day-to-day issues people dealt with. After this trip, and with the inspired leadership of Nabin, we had the spark needed to create the foundation. Another officer of the foundation, Sandesh, also made a trip to Nepal, and during his trip he met with family of one of the prospective Rukmini Scholar, Deepika. Read more about his meeting here.
Once we had the momentum going, we had to do the grunt work to get incorporated and establish a presence as an official organization. We are now an established nonprofit corporation in the state of Pennsylvania, and we are diligently pursuing an IRS 501(c)(3) status, which grants us tax-exempt status, but more importantly establishes us in the eyes of potential partners and supporters. More to come on that subject in 2012.
Makings of RukminiFoundation.org
A key part of our organizational and marketing strategy is to increase awareness regarding the issues our foundation will address in Nepal. We want to engage people in the developed part of the world to demonstrate how their compassion can lead to long-lasting, grassroots development in the poorest parts of the world. A key component of this strategy was the development of our web presence (the website and our social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube). The blogs give our site an additional dimension by sharing the thoughts of our staff and board members. We would like to highlight the stories written by our Chairperson, Laxmi Sharma, who posted about her childhood and struggles she faced as a girl in 1950s Nepal. We hope that posts like these entertain, but also serve as real life examples of how education impacts the lives of those fortunate enough to attain it. Through these media, we seek to engage, educate, enable and empower.
The faces of hope in rural Nepal
By working with local leadership in Nepal, we have identified 10 girls that will be the first class to be supported by the foundation. These girls were chosen based on their desire to continue their studies and the economic situation of their families. Please check their profiles and hear a bit more about them here.
Once the girls were identified, we wanted them to understand what we were undertaking and along with school staff and local leaders, we had a meet & greet to discuss the goals of the program.
Nabin, Program Manager, presenting the program to prospective students, teachers and local leaders.
During the orientation, the three key programs of the foundation were introduced: Quality Education (Gyan pronounced gya – na), Physical Wellness (Aayush pronounced i-yoosh), Mentoring (Didi pronounced dee-dee). We believe that our holistic approach will teach these girls not only the necessary skills for life, but also provide them the confidence to reach for their dreams.
Partnering with pioneering organizations
Our programs would not be possible without the partnerships we have been able to forge with great institutions like A School for Community (ASC), Patan Hospital, and Manmohan Clinic. All of these organizations have a history of advancing the cause for social and gender equity in Nepal.
We are slowly putting the pieces in place in Nepal in order to be able to deliver on our promise of a holistic program for these girls, and in order to be able to support them, we have also been putting a strong team of board members and staff together. This team will be responsible for raising awareness about the issues these girls face, developing programs to help them become successful and raise the funds to support all efforts.
As is natural with any maturation process, we have experienced challenges and bumps in the road. When you are a US-based organization trying to do work nearly 8,000 miles away, there will be challenges like constant communication with the staff on the ground and even within our board members who are spread out all over the world. Having a program manager based in Nepal who knows the area that we serve very well has helps us alleviate a lot of these concerns, but as a growing organization we continue to look for ways to improve our communication internally and externally with our supporters and the community at large. We try to leverage technology to its fullest potential to stay connected with our team as well as with the community we are serving and the donor community that is the lifeblood of our organization.
Another huge challenge for a young organization like ours will be to raise the necessary funds to support our programs in a sustainable fashion. We have mitigated this by starting small, and by also demonstrating how even small changes can lead to a huge impact. As we mature, we will take on more programs and increase our reach within Nepal.
New Year’s Resolutions for our Foundation
- Meet fundraising targets so that the 10 girls we have selected will not have to worry about whether they will be able to afford school
- Improve the quality of education for these girls by providing training to teachers and by including computer education in the curriculum
- Keep the girls healthy by implementing a regular medical check-up program
- Start our mentoring program so that these girls have somebody to look up to and somebody to confide in with any problems
- Continue to seek partnerships with US organizations that believe in education and gender equality so that we can seek to expand our programs
- Seek to make more friends through our social media outlets so that we can expand our reach with our message of hope
We have a lot of exciting things to look forward to this coming year, and we hope that you will continue to be a big part of it. From the entire Rukmini Foundation team, we hope that you are enjoying the holidays and the new year with family and loved ones. We wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.