When most students hear the words “study abroad,” they picture train rides through Europe, snorkeling in Australia, and backpacking through Chile. For Miya Sommers, a second-year global studies and cultural anthropology major at UCSB, her abroad experience will focus on improving education for war-afflicted children in Nepal.
This summer, UCSB and UC Davis students are making a big difference through their Nourish International chapters with plans to travel to Nepal to help improve a Gorkha school. (Gorkha is the term for one of the country’s indigenous peoples, as well as a district in western Nepal.)
The students will be paired with fundraisers from the Sarswati Foundation and Inspire the Child to raise money to build classrooms, a library, a computer lab, and teachers’ quarters to a school in the village of Arupokhari-1. Sommers found the opportunity unique because it focuses on community participation. “We would be working with communities instead of telling them what to do,” she said. “Students initiate the changes and raise the money themselves, so no large corporation has one input.”
Arupokhari-1 is a small village in Gorkha without running water or electricity that has been directly affected by Nepal’s 10-year civil war. Most of the towns around it are also without schools, hospitals, or paved roads. The passionate Sommers elaborated on the trip: “We want to improve the village’s education system to serve war-afflicted children and give them a sense of normalcy. The school’s focus is not just on retention of material but would also incorporate creativity, athletics, and the arts into the students’ curriculum.”
One of the project’s main goals is to encourage sustainable development. The UC students will help build an eco-friendly soccer field that won’t require a lot of upkeep and that will utilize energy from tech-savvy soccer balls. The balls are able to harness kinetic energy from play and be used as a portable LED light for three hours, allowing students to provide their homes with light and the opportunity to continue with schoolwork after dark.
“We’re looking to create an educational system that celebrates diversity, that allows the students to be motivated beyond the caste systems that still define them after the war,” said Sommers. “It’s super exciting because a lot of students here [in California] feel ineffectual with everything going on with budget cuts and things happening in Sacramento. This is an opportunity for students to identify a problem and work toward actively fixing it. As college students we have so much knowledge to inspire and mentor students around the world to pursue higher education.”