GMIN's one-school-at-a-time movement


Himalayan News Service

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Dang is an underdeveloped district in the lowlands of the Rapti Zone where roofs, supported by feeble beams of wood, threaten schoolchildren. Frail cakes of bricks give away in forgotten corners of the school buildings while some schools, due to lack of proper infrastructure, hold their classes in the fields outside.

Stuffy classrooms that may give away any moment house school students in Dang. This is where the New-York based organization, Grassroot Movement in Nepal (GMIN), comes into play. GMIN has, till date, renovated six schools in Dang and one school in Sindupalchowk district. GMIN, unlike most other organizations, works primarily in New York, for fundraising and in rural parts of Nepal for school infrastructure development. GMIN has organized two events in New York, their first concert ‘iSkool’ featuring Ayurveda, an independent rock band and Raju Lama of the Mangolian Hearts, and their recent one with Kutumba that took place in New York on the October 1. They also raised US$600 by sponsoring three triathletes of Team GMIN at the NYC Triathlon 2011. They have also been raising funds by selling t-shirts and other merchandise to support their cause. Till date, GMIN has been able to raise upto US$50,000 in New York and an additional US$16,000 in Nepal.

GMIN, apart from renovating schools, is also working on a different project. The District Renovation Project, of which the school renovation project is a part of, is providing poor students with valuable scholarships, conducting teacher-training programs and paying teachers as well.

“We believe that education has always been the key to change and development,” says Girish Rajbhandari, one of GMIN’s directors in New York. Although, GMIN started small with a group of likeminded people who felt the need of giving back to their homeland getting together in New York in 2009, it has now expanded its connections with about 15 members working actively.

Bidhya Bajracharya, GMIN’s associate in Nepal, has been the key to its entire development works in Nepal. Vigorously working in the field, Bajracharya collects information, makes reports and sends them overseas via the Internet for the board of directors to evaluate so that they can support the school.

“I stay in touch with my colleagues through emails and Skype, but it poses as problems at times as rural parts of Nepal don’t have very good connection to the Internet,” explains Bajracharya.

After her research, she selects schools, collects local resources and starts the construction. Currently, GMIN is working on four schools in Dubichour, Khadda, Tosh, and Pata villages in Dang. GMIN also has five teachers from three different schools under their payroll in an attempt to support under-funded schools.

“The most memorable GMIN experience has been the first one in Buradabar, Dang. Since it was the first school, every single act was a new experience for me. With no experience in construction work, I headed off to Dang, unaware of what to expect in a remote district such as Dang where proper infrastructure was lax. I hadn’t even been in a village before that,” says Bajracharya.

GMIN has now expanded and has opened up new chapters in Hong Kong and the UK. With continued support and fans, a third chapter is due to start in Australia as well. With their network spread across the globe, GMIN largely depends on Internet, especially social network sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, for marketing.

“But our biggest advertisement is done through the word of mouth,” says Rajbhandari. GMIN UK has raised US$2,250 by conducting two fundraisers, one on May 29 at the Gorkha Cup in Aldershot, and another one at the Nepali Mela held on August 28 at Richmond. Similarly, many international Nepalis have rooted themselves to GMIN, as GMIN Volunteers in Minnesota State University organized a welcome party and awareness program for newcomers to the University.

When questioned why GMIN gave more importance to infrastructure building rather than investing on teachers who are said to be the easiest source to create and impact, Rajbhandari clarifies, “Infrastructure is as important as having a good teacher. GMIN was formed so we could bring change and development locally. We believe that the immediate need is providing a safe and fun environment for the children in their schools. A spacious and airy classroom inarguably contributes to better attention in class.” He further adds that GMIN will continue focusing their efforts on building structures for schools and training teachers, but has also launched Taplejung Earthquake Relief Fund in an attempt to rebuild the schools destroyed by the recent 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake.

The love for one’s country is a difficult thing to erase. This is probably why the members of GMIN are so self-motivated. Organizing events, raising money and striving to develop one’s homeland, even in countries not their own, shows the devotion that they have. GMIN has brought together international Nepalis from all across the world and has reminded them of their roots and what they owe to their country.

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(Source: Republica Nepal)