Known to many as the land of Mount Everest, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world: According to the World Bank, the average annual income in 2011 was only US$540, and one-quarter of all Nepalis lived on less than US$1.25 per day. There is a woeful lack of social and economic infrastructure in the country as a whole, especially in rural areas, where income levels tend to be lower than the national average. People in lower castes and marginalized ethnic minority groups in particular suffer from poverty and exclusion. Within these groups, women suffer the most. Educate the Children is committed to making a difference.
While visiting Kathmandu in 1989, Pamela Carson noticed how many street children there were. She struck up a friendship with three in particular and learned about their lives on the street. What they most wanted, they told her, was to go to school. Pamela had sold her successful business in Boston and spent time in a Zen monastery in Japan. But in meeting those boys, one of whom she eventually adopted as her own son, she found her life’s calling. Pamela arranged to put the three boys in school. Thus was born Educate the Children and its original focus on matching sponsors with disadvantaged children.
Many of Pamela’s friends (including but not limited to Barbara Cook, Freema Hillman, Sara Pines, Dan Sisler, and Ursula Ziebarth) worked closely with Pamela and her Nepali colleague Kiran Tewari on a volunteer basis, and they all put in countless hours during the early years, building the organization from the ground up. Sadly, Pamela contracted cancer in 1997 and died in 2000. However, her legacy lives on in this dedicated and effective organization.
Within a short time of the organization’s founding, ETC’s core leaders came to realize that the organization could have a much broader impact on children’s educational opportunities by also working with families (especially mothers) and entire communities. After a rigorous review of its activities and by striving to learn from the long history of development work in Nepal, it was clear that ETC’s strong commitment to education was the best place to start this transformation. Armed with a three-year start-up grant, ETC began building a women’s literacy and community development program. That original program has since evolved into ETC’s integrated community development model encompassing three components: Children’s Education, Women’s Empowerment, and Sustainable Agricultural Development.