Leaving a Legacy the story of Nepal Annapurna Womens
Subatra Raj Kanikar (who just turned 50 in April) and
Nani Maya Lama (who thinks she is 60, but isnt sure) are
two Nepalese ladies of a certain age. One is Newari, the
other Tamang (two of Nepals ethnic groups, called
Janajati) and they live in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their
children are grown up, they have grandchildren and they
are neighbours in the neighbourhood in which we have
lived for the past 15 years.
Subatra has a sweet shop and some houses that she rents
out, so she is relatively well off. She has 3 sons and a
daughter whom are all married. She has her own money.
Nani Maya is also married and has one daughter who is
married and Nani Maya also has her own income.
The whole thing started when they wanted to help other
women who had not had the advantages they had. They ran
classes on literacy (Nepal having a literacy rate of
roughly 35% and 17% for women), income generation and
provided micro-finance. In the beginning, this meant
that they provided a guarantee to the bank for a loan
(which poor people cannot provide) of any amount between
5,000 and 40,000 Nepali Rupees (50-400). They collect 10
Rupees fee every month (10p) which helps to cover the
costs. If someone cant afford the 10 Rupees, they give
what they can. This helps everyone to keep their dignity
this way they made a point that all of the women coming
to get their support also learn to contribute themselves
and are proud to do so.
Then they were sent an old lady (they just called her
Aama which means mother) from the street who didnt have
anywhere to go. She had no relations and no one to look
after her. So Nani Maya and Subatra decided to look
after her, and then perhaps to look after some other old
people. When Aama died (not long afterwards) they
performed all the proper rituals.
Then they had a rethink what ought they to do? They both
wanted to do something to help others, but hadnt a clue
as to what the best thing was. They had noticed that
there were many street children the civil war in Nepal
meant that there were many orphans or children sent to
Kathmandu for safety with no one to look after them. So
they decided to set up an orphanage to look after these
children. At the time, they didnt have a formal set up
or charity, they just started looking after the
children. That was five years ago. People heard about
them and brought them children, but also, through their
own networks, they supported the children. The money to
support the work (which included the non-formal
education for women) came from Nani Maya and Subatra
themselves and from the local people who believed in
them and their work. Eventually three years ago - they
set up an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation which is
equal to a charity here), so they are regulated and can
qualify for possible government funding if and when
Nepal gets a proper and good government.
We asked why Nani Maya and Subatra would do this they
have busy lives, werent they due a rest? They looked at
us in surprise. No one had ever asked them this before.
We have our own children and grandchildren now. We like
looking after children and we had some time free. We
wanted to help. If we didnt do it, who else would? What
else could we do? And it makes us happy, we feel useful.
We came away with the idea that they felt this was their
At present they have a license for 20 children, but they
only have six because they can only support that many.
They take in families, so there are two Tamang brothers
and two Newari children (brother and a sister) and a
Gurung and another Tamang child. There is also a child
that lives with his older sister, but his school is paid
for by N.A.W.S. and they look after him during the day
while the sister is working.
The children are welcome to stay until they marry,
unlike the national orphanage which releases their
children at the age of 16 (consequently many of the
girls end up in brothels). We asked what would happen if
a child didnt marry. The ladies giggled, Why, then we
could pass this work on to them! We wont always be here.
Neighbours donate food, clothes and give small
donations. The two ladies also pay for much of it (the
rent included) themselves.
Until recently they had nine children, but had to send a
family of three back to their village because they could
not support them. They are hoping that as soon as they
have enough money, they can bring the children back to
Kathmandu as there is no school in their village
(Dhading, near to Ghorka) and their relatives find it
difficult to support them. It was because of this that
Nani Maya came to us. They had heard of our work and
knew that we did not offer funding. Nor did they ask for
funds. They asked us to help them by having a
Conversation for Generating Possibility with them and
being a thinking partner.
It got us thinking. What if we did what we had often
discussed? What if we set up an NGO in Nepal (The Bishnu
Maya Pakhrin Foundation in honour of our late Nepali
mother) to provide small amounts of funding directly to
local organisations to help them over a tough patch?
What would it mean? And what if we dont do it?
Setting up an NGO in Nepal is relatively
straightforward, requiring 7 trustees, all of whom must
be Nepali. We spoke to some friends, colleagues and
family and gently planted a seed. The NGO will provide a
thinking partnership and perhaps some small funds. We
are not sure where the funds will come from yet, we
expect that the trustees will gather funds themselves,
or perhaps that those who have been helped might like to
make a donation themselves when things go a bit better.
No one will take a salary. It will have a virtual
office. It will exist to help people to help themselves.
In Nepal they have a saying, Afno gouw, afne benaune
which means Its our village, lets build it ourselves.
Our partner organisation in Nepal, Pragya and LASA
Development will have the Foundation as one of our
charities for the year. If we want to make the world a
better place, we need to start with ourselves. And if we
can encourage and magnify what others who are helping
themselves are doing, then we can multiply the benefits.
�Patricia Lustig, 2008