Ursula Ziebarth (1934-2019)
by Linda Farthing, former ETC Executive Director and current ETC Advisory Council member
The woman who so many of us knew as Ursula didi (big sister in Nepali) died on January 30thin Bremen, Germany. “She will remain in my heart for forever as my loving sister,” said ETC’s Director Mira Rana who organized a puja (prayer service) with 108 candles in her memory at Shoyamabhu temple in Kathmandu. Some 15 present and former ETC staff, as well as ETC Nepal Board members,participated.
A close friend of Ursula’s and an early ETC collaborator, Mr. Kiran Dutta Tewari, told those gathered about her valuable contribution in founding ETC’s Women’s Empowerment Program andGirls’ Scholarship Program which together gave birth to ETC’s Integrated Community Development model. “She made a huge contribution,” added Mira.
Kiran later wrote about the ceremony that, “We all gathered in heavy icy rain under umbrellas, to pay respect to the wonderful woman who travelled from such a long distance to bring joy, pride and help young women and girls.” Mira told those assembled that Ursula was radiant when they walked together through dozens of rural villages, pleased by the opportunity of spending time with women in their fields.
Ursula Ziebarth was born on January 2, 1934 and spent many years teaching German as a second language to international students. She first went to Nepal in the early 1990s, where she met Pamela Carson, and soon dedicated a large part of every year to helping to develop ETC Nepal’s program and raise funds for ETC’s work in Germany. Her daughter Nadja Ziebarth remembers, “My mother loved Nepal; it was for many years her second (maybe even nearly first) home. ETC and the people who worked with it were her dear friends. With all her love, knowledge and big heart, she became a big part of the ETC family.”
Former ETC director Colleen Thapalia reflects that “Ursula’s contribution to ETC was so deep and so constant.”Mira reiterated this, “Ursula was such an important support to me, and she taught me so much. I consider her my elder sister.”
I couldn’t agree more. When I was ETC director (1997-2000) Ursula didi was a constant sounding board for the challenges of running a small non-profit organization in one of the world’s poorest countries. She was wise, compassionate and intelligent, characteristics that all of us who worked with her very much relied on. Just like Pamela Carson, Barbara Cook and Dan Sisler, all of whom were critical in making ETC what it is today, Ursula’s legacy lives on in every woman who learns to read and write, every girl who stays in school and every family whose life has improved because of ETC.
(If you would like to make a donation to ETC in Ursula’s memory, please visit https://www.etc-nepal.org/donate and click the “Donate” button, or mail a check to P.O. Box 414, Ithaca, NY 14851. Please indicate that it is a memorial gift so that we may notify her family.)