Chapter 8 – Volunteers (cont.)

In the 1990s Mahabir Pun became known to small groups of people around the world. It really started in a grassroots fashion. First his supporters in Kearney, then as each new person came to volunteer in Nangi they would tell someone else and the word spread. Mahabir and other volunteers would meet world travelers in the tourist district of Kathmandu, called Thamel. Travelers with loose itineraries and time would go to Nangi and stay for a few weeks teaching at the school or planting trees. They would often stop back in Nangi to volunteer after their world travels and bring others with them. New projects, such as reforestation programs, brought students mostly from Asian universities to plant trees. All these volunteers spread like a web of underground cables to pass the word of one man’s dream.

Students in Nangi wait for the opening of boxes containing the first computers. Photo courtesy of Janita.

The late 1990s and early 2000 saw a few volunteers bringing computers and components. But it was a trickle of support and Mahabir was soon to see a landslide of publicity which opened the door to fund his dream. Mahabir’s big break came from a BBC news article that appeared October 22, 2001 entitled “Village in the clouds embraces computers.” A second article that followed the next day was titled “Praise for ‘inspirational’ web pioneer“, and written due to the hundreds of readers who responded to the first article. This put Mahabir Pun and his initiatives in the world’s eye. Volunteers from all over the world wanted to help him. It was the kickoff for the wireless network described in the previous chapter.

If you have been a volunteer with Himanchal Education Foundation or Nepal Wireless or simply met Mahabir, share your story with my readers. Join me next week for more stories about the early volunteers and how Mahabir’s influence shaped some of their career choices.


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