My Life: Dr. Usha Maharjan Wall,
Founder and Director of Eternal Hope Nepal
I also served 18 months as a missionary in the U.K. After receiving my degree as a doctor, I studied in India and earned a master’s degree in Hospital Administration. Returning to my home country, and with a little help from a dear friend, I was awarded a prestigious job as chief executive of a 750-bed teaching hospital in Chitwan, with 2,000 students to train. This is perhaps the very first time a woman was chosen to be a senior hospital administrator in Nepal.
Each day on my way to and from work, I would walk past the slums and notice the children. Many were dirty and no matter how cold, hot or rainy it was they would be playing outside. As I passed by them some would call out “Doctor Miss!” as I smiled and waved. Something stirred deep inside of me and I wondered what I could do to help them.
I developed many close friendships with the doctors and nurses at the hospital and often we would get together at my apartment, talking about the things that friends often talk about.
We represented three different religious traditions –Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian -- but respected each others’ views and were eager to learn from one another. My colleagues found Christianity to be a new and curious thing to them. One day, while talking about the slum children, one of the nurses suddenly spoke up and said “we have learned about Christ’s service, when are we going to do something to help others?”
At that moment Eternal Hope Nepal was born. Here we were – seven health professionals and one teacher – with three different religious faiths coming together with a unified desire to bring hope to the children in Nepal’s slums. It was electric, a moment I will never forget. When I think of the serious problems facing the world and this country, I often look back to that day in my apartment as a reminder of what people of good will and good intentions can to do to make a difference.
There are more than 50,000 charities in Nepal -- some good and some not so good. Few of them teach the people self-reliance or how to become responsible members of society. We discussed what would be best, such as providing clothing and food, and concluded the best thing we could provide was hope. We decided that the primary mission of Eternal Hope Nepal would be to give individuals and families the education and skills needed to break the cycle of extreme poverty. To give them hope beyond the slums.
Months went by as we tried to put our lofty goals into action. Each time I passed the slums it weighed on me and I felt I wasn’t doing enough. Finally, I decided to resign my position at the hospital. My family and colleagues were shocked and thought I was crazy, but I felt in my heart it was the right thing to do. With the money I had saved, I started working full time for the charity. Compared to Americans, doctors in Nepal make very little, often starting out at less than $1,000 per month. Although we started with very few funds, we were determined to succeed.
What is Nepal like and what are its problems?
Nepal is an amazing country. Located mostly in the mountains between Tibet and India, it has more than 100 ethnic groups. Nepal features the eight tallest mountains in the world. Even though it’s the size of Oregon with a population of 30 million people, it never feels crowded. They say if you flatten out Nepal, it would be larger than the entire United States.
Nepal is rich in culture, history, and heritage but is also the 12th poorest country in the world. It is famous for Mt. Everest, ancient temples, the birth place of Buddha, tigers, elephants, and rhinos, but also the most dangerous airports and roads on the planet. Infrastructure is sub-standard or non-existent in many places.
While it has great natural beauty, Nepal also has great challenges. The caste system has been outlawed for years, yet still exists in many parts of the country. In India, Gandhi called low caste people Hari Vishnu “the children of God,” but in Nepal we call them Dalits which means "the oppressed” and they truly are.
There are many cases today of low caste children and adults being beaten for something as simple as drinking water from a public drinking fountain in a high caste area because they were thirsty.
One young mother of an Eternal Hope Nepal student was assaulted and boiling oil was poured on her just because of her caste. The police did nothing.
Though child marriage is illegal, the police will not enforce that among the low caste Dalits. It is not uncommon for girls as young as nine years old to be “married”.
Only one in three women in Nepal or about 35% can read and write. That figure often drops to less than 10% in Dalit or indigenous communities. This means that these families are often living on a few dollars a day with five to 10 people in a room, eating rice as their main food.
Here in the U.S., they have tracked starvation for almost 70 years and during that period not one child has starved to death in this great country. Yet in Nepal, 50,000 children die each year from malnutrition. Out of those who survive, 66% are stunted from lack of vitamins and proper nourishment.
What we are doing: We establish schools
Sponsorship: Eternal Hope International in partnership with World Link Partners establishes schools through sponsorship. "Schools" mean the establishment of a class. School sponsorship pays the teacher's salary. Schools are both in-doors and out-of-doors, primarily in remote isolated and underserved areas but also in the inner-city slums. Public schools or the community provide the classrooms. The schools are for children at high risk either because of isolation or poverty. Slum children are not often welcome in public schools. Their parents don’t have enough money to pay for uniforms, books, writing paper, or the few dollars it takes for quarterly exam fees. These parents are also uneducated and can’t overcome the barriers that keep their children from gaining access to schools. As a result, poor and low caste children are left behind in the slums or due to isolation. Our top priority to break the cycle of poverty is education. Currently EHN is providing education for 220 children.
Education: 95% of sponsorship funding goes directly to establishing schools and providing education.
Our goal is to bring these children up to grade level in all core subjects – reading, writing, English, and math – and then enroll them into public schools that have a genuine interest in working with them. We remain committed to them as long as they maintain grades.
We enroll them in public schools: School sponsors sponsor a school/class. Sponsorship of students pays for uniforms, school fees, and school supplies. We ask the family to contribute something towards the cost. This empowers them to feel a part of their children’s education and gives them pride and dignity and shows they are committed.
We tutor and mentor. Once we enroll them in school we continue to mentor and tutor them after school and on weekends to help them succeed.
We increase awareness: In early childhood marriages, caste/discrimination, and menstruation, taboos exist. Girls may be “married” as young as 9 years old. One reason is poverty, another is cultural. But this keeps the cycle of poverty going and these marriages are seldom happy for the children. We try to show the families how harmful it is to their children. We also work with police and government authorities to gain their support.
We have frequent interaction with teachers and principals and are vigilant caretakers. We demand that the schools treat our children with kindness. Being an all Nepali NGO we also have frequent interaction and influence with local and international government.
In the process of mainstreaming slum children into the school system, we have learned many hard lessons. Students were beaten for showing up without a uniform or touching the lunch tray of a higher caste student. In one case a father complained to the school about the treatment his son received. The teachers beat the father as well. This, despite the fact that discrimination is against the law.
We provide school supplies to EHN students and other underfunded schools in need. A notebook may seem like a simple thing to an American student. But in Nepal poor schools don’t have writing paper. This means the teacher talks and the students have to memorize what is said.
Women’s Literacy: In 2018, we opened a women’s literacy center in Kathmandu where women are trained to read and write. Many mothers were sitting in on the classes because they wanted to learn. Their desire is “to be able to read signs.”
Skills Training and Apprenticeships: At Eternal Hope Nepal we have our own computer lab where students can develop internet skills. Apprenticeships are also part of training for those interested or needing immediate employment.
Family Outreach and support: Because the families of these impoverished children face complex challenges, an important part of our work involves frequent visits to assess their needs. These visits involve educating them about how to handle money, work together, and create a future.
Immediate needs: This past December more than 300 quilts were distributed to our children’s families, primarily the poor and elderly. We reached those who were most vulnerable during the cold winter months.
Eternal Hope Nepal was founded with strong ties to doctors, nurses and hospitals. Through these associations, we provide two to three health camps each year. As many as 400 children and their families are diagnosed and treated. Most of the supplies are donated as well, and the doctors volunteer their time.
In 2018, we sponsored our first dental camp. Dermatologists and other specialists also attended to do blood work, conduct screenings, and offer treatment.
To combat poor nutrition and stunted growth our team of 18 volunteers brought more than 400 pounds of vitamins to Nepal. Additionally, protein drinks were generously donated by a local Utah company with a big heart named 4-Life.
Needs and goals
World Link Partners primary goals in 2021 is in two areas:
Establishment of 4 more schools: We have established 6 schools since Jan. 2021 and currently have 4 more schools awaiting sponsorship.
Cost $208/mo.= $2500/yr.
Emergency and Sponsorships for families: Costs vary depending on the emergency, and the family need..
All EHI administrative staff are volunteers
I was born in Kathmandu, the youngest of three sisters. Both of my parents were illiterate farm workers who struggled every day performing heavy manual labor. Our situation suddenly changed when the king passed a law requiring land owners to give 50% of their land to their workers. Overnight, my parents became rich.
Even though they had money, they couldn’t read signs or simple texts, and were unable to take advantage of the benefits they had received. This taught me to value education. With the help of my sisters, I studied hard, was advanced two years in my classes and won a scholarship to medical school. I was selected from thousands of applicants who were several years older than me.
Open air classrooms and Indoor classrooms:
Eternal Hope Nepal establishes classes both in-doors and out-of-doors; in the inner city slums and isolated villages. We use Montessori methods, kindness, and a lot of love to motivate the children. Our goal is to get the children up to level and into public schools.
These children are eager to learn and when our teachers visit the slums, the children come running to be taught. It is not uncommon for parents to also be sitting nearby and also trying to learn.
Hungry kids make poor learners, so we provide meals or snacks and nutritional supplements. For just a few cents we can give them high calorie food and supplements that they don’t receive at home.