We’ve been proud to support the Nepal Library Foundation (NLF) for over 5 years by supplying them with donations of our journals, which are then sold at fundraising events and provide vital financial support for many of their initiatives. The money raised by selling Paperbanks is the main source of NLF funds and goes entirely to support their programs.
Nepal is a member the bottom billion, a group of countries whose problems defy traditional approaches to resolving poverty. Countries designated as being in the bottom billion are often key areas of unrest and instability, corruption and war. They also hold the lowest literacy rates in the world. The younger, more educated generation often leave Nepal in search of a better life – education, for them, is a means of escape – and one of the largest sources of income is from Nepalis working abroad and sending money home.
The NLF is a non-profit organization whose goal is to raise the literacy rate in Nepal to foster educational opportunities and in the long-term help Nepal’s socio-economic development.
The organization was founded six years ago in Vancouver, Canada, by Naresh Koirala, a Nepali who left his country over 30 years ago and became a geotechnical engineer, Suresh Bhatta, a senior managing engineer, Dr. Ramjee Parajulee, a professor of political science, and Canadians Paul and Alison Bird. All founding members believe that Nepal’s lack of educational opportunities, access to information and undeveloped critical thinking skills amongst its population are at the core of the country’s problems.
As Naresh Koirala puts it, “Even to this day the traditional mode of learning in Nepal is through rote learning of government prescribed curriculum. This mode of learning does not encourage expansion of knowledge base and development of critical thinking skills.”
The focus of NLF’s work in the last six years has been to upgrade existing rural and urban libraries and to resurrect dormant libraries by providing them with books and computers. The organization also trains librarians and teachers in computer operations and helps develop reading habits of the community through establishment of book clubs in the libraries. In addition, the NLF has established an open access digital library and is lobbying the Nepalese government to legislate a nation-wide library development policy.
“The creative ideas that flow, the inspiration and the wish to give back,” are a few of the reasons why founding members Paul and Alison Bird work closely with the NLF. As they describe it, “Perhaps we can make a small difference in this country where the literacy rates are among the lowest in the world, especially for women, and where 31% of the population live below the locally defined poverty level.”
We asked other members of the NLF what positive changes they have witnessed over the years they’ve been involved, and here are a few of their responses:
I grew up in a lower middle class family in Nepal. My mother was illiterate for all practical purposes and my father did not even have a high school diploma. But they valued education and were determined to give us the best education they could. Unlike my parents, my cousins were, in Nepali context, relatively well educated and were fond of talking about all subjects of human interest: philosophy; history; national and international politics; environment and all. We are six brothers and loved discussing all kinds of subject under the sun in our family room after dinner. Even in my childhood I was excited by new knowledge and was eager to learn new things and experience the world beyond my immediacy. Encouraged by some of my elder cousins, at the age of nine I was involved in setting up a “Children’s Reading Room” in our locale in Kathmandu. As I grew up, I came in close contact with another cousin of mine who was extremely curious and well read. His astounding depth and breadth of knowledge inspired me to read and learn.
I left Nepal in 1975 to work abroad and every time I returned to Nepal and wanted to read, I realized that this country of 28 million people did not have one decent library. Also I convinced myself that the root of much of Nepal’s problem lies in the lack of learning opportunities to its people. I wanted to do what I could to give young Nepali people what I had (educational opportunity) and encourage them to enjoy learning and be excited with knowledge. I wanted to start a library and here I am.
My long term vision (which may not be fulfilled in my lifetime) is to develop a library system in Nepal in which all rural libraries are connected to a world class Central Library in Kathmandu. I want the rural libraries to develop adult literacy and female education programs geared towards domestic hygiene; child rearing and entrepreneurship. Needless to say, I want the Government of Nepal to be involved in this process. My dream will be realized if some day I could find myself in a huge library complex in Kathmandu which acts as the center of extracurricular learning and research and rural libraries connected to this library acting as the hub of learning and communal activities across the nation.