This project has evolved a great deal since it’s stirrings as a small, successful, and enterprising project launched by a small group of people in Canada, USA, and Nepal in 1997. The key inspirations and true founders of this project are third grade children from schools in the USA and Nepal, and inspirational teachers involved from both sides. The efforts of these children happened a decade before the birth of CFFN; however, in 2007 CFFN took up the cause of catching up to the spirit involved and re-awakening the entire team that was instrumental in the past success of this project. CFFN also took up the cause of building collaboration with educational institutions. Today, its scope is far wider, looking to enrich the lives in both North America and Nepal through sharing and building education and experiences.
- All the experiences that we’ve built through developing radio programs combine with the spirit that UHSA and the Rural Education Nepal project has brought to CFFN in order to continue to spread content in and create content for Nepal.
- The Open University of Nepal Initiative breaks away from the development of USHA and the Rural Education Nepal project and takes a life all of its own. Non-resident Nepalis all over Canada, the USA, and the world show their interest and commitment to see an open and distance system in Nepal
- Long time CFFN member and Nepal enthusiast Ben Wood travels to Nepal for the first time. His 2-month stay have him a whole new perspective on Nepal that will surely affect how he leads USHA in the future.
- Project Rural Education Nepal merges with a new initiative, Ushering Shared Aspirations, or USHA, as CFFN focuses its efforts on four major initiatives. An USHA logo is created – it represents sharing knowledge universally through experiences.
2008: The year of promise
- Ninth breakthrough: Leslie Park Public School (LPPS) of Ottawa, Canada and CFFN team up to establish a sister-school program between Grade 3-4 students of Sarkuwa and LPPS. Ms. Carol Gage, Ms. Sadhana Lad, Ms. Geeta Thapa, Dr. Pramod Dhakal, and the Grade 3-4 students of LPSS launch the program on April 08, 2008 in Ottawa.
- Eighth breakthrough (There comes a Computer Lab): Young engineers Rajan Pandey, Gyanendra Suwal, and Udhyan Timilsina reach Sarkuwa. Train local teachers and together they setup computer lab consisting of eight computers in March 22, 2007. The progress of the month of March as corresponded between the school and CFFN is captured in a separate page. Click here to read how this process evolved.
- A Key Milestone: Dr. Pierre Beaudet, Chair of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa, and Dr. Dave Irvine-Halliday, Founder of Light Up the World Foundation and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Ray Folkins, President of P4VenturePartners join Project: Rural Nepal advisory board.
- Seventh breakthrough: The Faculty of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa teams up with Canada Forum for Nepal for taking capacity building endeavors to Dalit and illiterate women of the area. Project gets submitted to Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Even if this project does not materialize, all the technical foundations created so far and the good will created so far seem to point tremendous success for the project.
- Sixth breakthrough: Young graduates of Kantipur Engineering College come to the fore to help network the computers that have remained disconnected at the moment. They inspire volunteer spirit among Nepalese youth who are eager to be useful to the causes of Nepal’s rural communities.
- Fifth breakthrough: Principals of two Ottawa area schools agree to team up with CFFN to connect with these rural schools of Nepal. Prospect for collaborations between educational institutions in Canada and Nepal becomes ever stronger.
- Volunteers Reports: Our returning volunteers, Geeta and Smita, write report of their experience in the form of memoirs. Please click here for the memoir of Geeta and click here for the memoir of Smita. You will find these memoirs insightful.
- Fourth technical breakthrough: Emails stop coming. Teachers say some new window not seen before appeared. They could not know what to do. Training becomes urgent. Pramod talks to Geeta from Ottawa and she happily takes up the challenge to volunteer. She arrives in Kathmandu in February but Nepal get hit by fuel shortage and subsequent transportation shutdown and could not leave for the village. Finally in the late February, Geeta and Smita reach the village and successfully train the people. Email start flowing again. Staff not comfortable in English write emails in Romanized Nepali. The fourth and fifth volunteers return in early March. Geeta arrives in Ottawa, Canada in March 15, 2008.
- School acquires computers: Janata HSS had purchased 5 used computers from a NGO in Kathmandu using the fund setup during 1997-99 phase. The computers finally arrive 15 months after the payment made for them. However, no technical expertise exists in the school to network them with the server.
- A phase of assurance: Kelsey goes back to the villages and finds that the computers in all four locations are in proper order. He sends the last round of email and memoir to the team. Emails arrive from Sarkuwa, Shanti HS School, GCI, and Madi before Kelsey leaves. However, there was not sufficient time to provide technical training.
2007: The year of awakening
- Third technical breakthrough: Kelsey reaches Nepal, while Pramod donates four computers with ample capacity to make servers. Kelsey reaches Sarkuwa in mid December and gives the following capabilities in four different locations using those computers:
- Off-line Internet connectivity through local backup
- Ability to read and write emails during the day and send and receive them in the night when telephone signals are strong
- Educational websites and webcontent, including that of Wikipedia, to be stored in the hard-drives
- Ability to read today’s major news tomorrow through pulling of the information in the night
- Ability to access the server content from local computers if and when school scan get
Due to lack of equipment the networking capability was given to Sarkuwa only using the laptops taken there by David and Zach.
- Every problem has a solution: Meanwhile Pramod goes in search of solution to reliability problem. He comes across Larry, President of Wizzy Digital through Dr. Suvedi of UMichigam. Pramod and Larry connect and assess the possibility of strengthening the technical problem. Larry agrees to send Kelsey to Sarkuwa to fix the technical problem in December 2007.
- Second Technical Breakthrough: David and Zack become successful in teaching Megh Raj Sharma on how to send emails. Megh Raj’s email comes to the team in December days before the volunteers depart. A new wave of optimism builds for the communication to continue well into the future.
- Nothing dampens the inspired spirit: Whereas the Internet connectivity for sending and receiving emails was successfully established, the poor reliability of power supply and telephone lines meant that the use was not to be encouraging for the novice villagers. Determined to make a change David and Zach did not get discouraged by the poor reliability and kept on sending emails to all in the team. They kept on explaining the technical problems and Tom and Roy kept on sending solutions through the emails.
- Tom and Donna in Ottawa: Canada Forum for Nepal organized its Second Annual Himalayan Heartbeat program in Ottawa on October 6, 2007. There Donna and Tom gave an inspirational speech on how far simple acts of volunteerism could take people. Pramod presented a vision for harnessing the power of telecommunication technology to transform the public education sector in Nepal.
- First Technical Breakthrough: Zach and David cross all technical hurdles and successfully send the first ever email to be sent out of Sarkuwa on October 5, 2007. This opens a whole new avenue of communication to connect to Sarkuwa.
- Soaring Up of Interest: One ofter another people join hand to help this endeavor. As project team grows, a mailing list gets created at cffn.ca specifically dedicated to team members of this project. Ann creates a blog site to record the progress of this endeavor. Meanwhile Tom, Donna, and Pramod work on developing a vision to expand the reach of this project.
- Tom and Donna on the Move: Tom and Donna seek volunteers to go to Nepal. Zachary and David of Illinois take up the challenge, while Tom and Donna raise $4000 to send the volunteerand to establish an Internet connection to the school. Many people come on board to help this endeavor. In September 2007, Zach and David become the first ever foreign volunteers to reach Sarkuwa. They work in solving the problem of Internet connectivity and Dr. Campbell of UIUC becomes our greatest technical consultant. They go with some electronic gear and two laptops for the school.
- Pramod in Nepal: Pramod visits 1997-99 project team of Nepal in June 2007. School staffs and parents become encouraged to hear about the possible revival of the project. A new team gets formed by a parent and staff meeting.
- CFFN Embraces Education Project: CFFN searches new avenues to help Nepal in a changed context where preoccupation for peace became secondary. No more flow of arms from outside. Most problem remaining in Nepal became problem for Nepalese to solve from within. CFFN decides to plunge into educational project. Pramod Dhakal, Donna, and Tom decide that it is time to revive the art learned a decade ago. The team of three connects back to the movers and shakers of the old project for a larger project. However, they want to utilize the recently arrived telephone technology to their advantage.
- Tom in Sarkuwa: In December 2006, Tom, Donna and their entire family members visit Kathmandu. Donna’s health does not cooperate but Tom reaches Sarkuwa in January 2007. There, Tom receives a hero’s welcome on Donna’s behalf and becomes overwhelmed by the positive memories and effects left by the project and how well the fund was managed. Meanwhile he identifies that English and Math education as being the greatest impediment to the school. Tome becomes the first Westerner to be welcomed in Sarkuwa. He returns promising volunteer teachers to help the school.
2000-06: The years of hibernation
- Nepal Embraces Peace: In April 2006, Nepal returns back to peace after a decade of armed conflict. Tom and Donna make plan to go back to Sarkuwa where the seed was planted in 1997 to see for themselves what went with the work the children Fisher and Donna did years ago. Pramod re-connects to Sarkuwa. Telephony reaches the school in Nepal. Pramod ends up forming Canada Forum for Nepal to be useful to Nepal.
- Effect Sustains: Meanwhile Donna retires from teaching in 2000. Pramod and Donna keep modest touch with the school. However, project continues running bringing small but positive outcomes. The trust-fund keeps on growing while infrastructure and scholarship projects keep on running all under the local management. Donna and her husband Tom, a retired teacher himself, keep on going to Kathmandu but not to the remote village where the project was implemented.
1998-99: The years of execution
- Project is Suspended: Meanwhile war intensifies and Baglung becomes one of those early districts to be affected. People’s mobility decreases. The team decides to suspend the bi-lateral work. Janata School locally manages the fund and provide services from the fund.
- Trust Fund is Created: The Grade 4 (later Grade 5) students of Fisher raise US$8000 during 1997-98 that gets transferred to Sarkuwa in a trust fund. Tom and Donna go to Kathmandu and handover the money to Narayan Paudel and Megh Raj Sharma in a ceremony held in Kathmandu. A number of infrastructure projects are carried out in Sarkuwa, scholarships are provided for bright children from poor families with special emphasis on girls and Dalit children.
- Interaction Flourishes: Grade 3 (and later 4) students of Janata School of Sarkuwa, Baglung, Nepal and Fisher Grade School, Illinois, USA start exchanging their class works. A series of projects are done by Donna Lea and Fisher students to raise fund to supplement educational material and infrastructure for the students of Nepal.
1996-97: The year of genesis
- Project Takes Off: Janata School of Sarkuwa, Baglung, Nepal and Fisher Grade School, Illinois, USA become sister school. The Grade 3 students of both school, teachers, and volunteers form a team to execute the project. These children become the primary executioner of the entire project.
- Link to Baglung: Donna starts locating a rural school where she could contribute to successful education for a few more children that would otherwise not have had the chance. She comes in contact with Pramod Dhakal, a graduate of a very rural school in the Baglung District of Nepal. They form a team.
- Donna Goes to Nepal: Donna gets invitation to visit Kathmandu. As she visits Nepal, she falls in love with Nepal but also gets struck by the poverty among children. She returns home determined to do something for the children of Nepal deprived of educational opportunities.
- Link to Kathmandu: Donna connects to a businessman, BJ Shrestha, in Kathmandu. He agreed to receive all questions from Donna’s Grade 3 students and answer them through email. This satisfies the “teaching technology” aspect of the project. Project becomes a tremendous success and wins the heart of the community.
- The Lure of Nepal: For multiple reasons, Donna Lea ended up selecting a country, Nepal, that had no computers in classrooms. Further Nepal, one of the least developed countries, spreading along the Himalayan mountains was passing through an armed rebellion, and facing increasing political instability. Herself having anxiety for using computer, Donna announced her choice to the principal by sailing a paper airplane into Principal’s office and bypassing the computer.
- A Step to Embracing Technology: Donna Lea, a veteran teacher of Fisher Grade School, Illinois, USA, with 33 years of experience in a traditional classroom setting, dreams to make her Grade 3 students catch up with the technological advances that was quickly sweeping her country. Four teachers had written a proposal and obtained grant designed to put computers in all classrooms to bring computer literacy in the school and the classrooms. To facilitate that goal, teachers were asked to select a school, in a foreign country, that had classrooms equipped with computers. The idea was, we would spend the year exchanging information via the computer with the children of the other country and learn more about each other’s cultures. The year would culminate in a school wide World’s Fair where students will share the information learned about another country to the people in the community using the computers. It was a two-fold assignment: developing computer literacy and learn about another country.