FONAI was founded in 2013 by a small group of friends who wanted to help raise money to build a school in Nepal. In 2014, the group developed an education scholarship program which focused on funding education for underprivileged children aged from 5-12 years to attend this and other local schools. The school was built on-site of a group home for under privileged children. In 2016 We achieved official registered charity status.
In 2016, FONAI members visiting Nepal to monitor the program, became aware of the lack of post Year 10, known in Nepal as 10+2, options for the older children in the Education Scholarship Program. Year 10 is the highest level of education achieved by most Nepali people.
Although official Nepali government policy is for free education to year 12, the majority of the government schools have not been upgraded due to the lack of funds and resources to the 10+2 level, Year 12 level. Students who wish to continue post Year 10 must attend private schools if they wish to receive an education of an acceptable standard.
We quickly realised that it was almost impossible for our older scholarship students, many of whom were excellent students, to access either Higher Secondary level, (years 1+2) or beyond without considerable future funding support from FONAI.
The students had been living in the group home in Kathmandu from an early age, far from their villages and from families whom most could barely remember and rarely visited. After completing Year 10 they faced uncertain futures, having to leave the group home and stop their education.
FONAI members decided to change the focus of our program to enable us to support these students. In recognition that this was a long term commitment, the Education Scholarship program was limited to funding Post Year 10 students to complete Years 1+2 and/or post secondary vocational or graduate programs only. This program was launched in 2016.
Students require funding for all living and course costs and/or vocational training to help them secure part time work during their studies. Medical and clothing expenses are also funded. Graduates also often require transition scholarships as they enter unpaid internships to complete course requirements.
To make the program sustainable, FONAI has had to cap the total number of students to10.
FONAI has been very fortunate in securing a partnership with the Children’s Future Fund in Germany who have committed to long term funding support of course fees for 4 of our students. This has made it possible for students to enter 4 and 5 year Bachelor programs which FONAI could not sustain alone.
Other wonderful support has come from the Rotary movement, particularly the Rotary clubs of Blackwood. This consistent support and encouragement have been key to the success of our small group.
Without our support, and that of our donor partners, these young people would not be able to continue their studies and would face bleak futures. Gaining educational and/or vocational training qualifications enables them to live independently and give back to their country. It breaks the cycle of poverty of their birth.
Working in partnership with The Child Development Society in Nepal.
In 2017 FONAI members participating in an Education Scholarship Program monitoring trip were invited by a friend and the treasurer of Child Development Society, Surendra Dhakal, to visit their organisation. Little did we realise how this trip would not only impact us all personally, but lead FONAI into a new area of service and program support.
Surendra shared with us the rationale which has been applied by the Child Development Society (CDS), a pioneer NGO for children’s rights, in the selection, implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation of it’s programs. He discussed four key initiatives of the many offered by CDS, developed to improve marginalised and vulnerable communities in Nepal and promote an awareness and adherence to the United Nations charter document Universal Rights of the Child.
During this trip we visited these 4 key programs.
Formal School Sponsorship Project (FFSP) (Started 1998)
Day Care and Day Meal program (Started 1990) (DCDM)
Health Education Program – (Started 1991)
Self Education and Employment Program (SEEP) (Started 2008)
Let’s talk about the SEEP program!
Surendra clearly articulated the rationale that has lead CDS to conclude that the SEEP program was the most successful of it’s programs in achieving goals of improving lives of marginalised and vulnerable families and communities and promoting the rights of children to an education. His reasons were simple!
‘To improve the life of a child, first improve the life of the mother!’
He explained that school attendance in marginalised communities remained sporadic despite FFSP sponsorship support. This was because older children were forced to stay home to look after younger siblings while parents worked.
The Day Care Day Meal program helped because parents now had somewhere safe to leave their younger children while they worked, and children were fed, and older siblings could attend school.
However, these changes were short lived, as the communities where families lived are very poor and the only source of income is seasonal, agricultural or in brick kiln factories. The itinerant nature of the work forced families to leave their homes and migrate to the factory district, removing their children both from school and the day care programs for up to 6 months. Children became labours alongside their parents and were exposed to many health risks die to workplace accidents, dust and pollution.
Determined to break this cycle, and focus on their mission, to protect the rights of the child, CDS developed the SEEP program.
The program is successful for many reasons.
Community involvement and engagement from the start! Training staff are recruited from the local community. Formal local government partnerships and community involvement programs set up at the start of the program ensure it is supported for the duration and beyond.
Empowerment of vulnerable and illiterate women, giving them not only weekly literacy and numeracy skills, but basic business training as well. These women had not received an education because they were girls! How remarkable it was to witness their development on our return visit in 2018! Not one woman had missed a weekly class! How they valued this opportunity and could see how important education was for their children and their daughters, was clear to see.
A combination of self saving and CDS seed money, business and financial training gives the women skills and knowledge to choose, operate and sustain businesses that guarantee incomes so they can afford to stay in the area and send their children to school.
Heath education – As part of the program CDS conducts education programs about hygiene, nutrition, women’s health, sanitation and child rights all of which empower women in a this primary patriarchal society. On our 2017 visit we carried Days for Gilrs Nepal menstruation kits and one of our members, Ainsley, who was trained in their use, demonstrated them to the women. Another hilarious and heart warming experience!
Sustainability- The groups are registered with the government which means they are entitled to ongoing funding. CDS assist with linking groups to related government services.
To find out more about the SEEP program, please follow the link below.
Self Employment through Education Program Child Development Society Documentary in English 2015
A visit to the SEEP groups, one of which had been established for 10 years and still met weekly, a visit to the impoverished Kavre region, where poverty, child labour, enslavement and trafficking were prevalent, and CDS was seeking funding to establish groups, convinced us of the need for FONAI to expand it’s work and support CDS SEEP program.
SEEP GROUP VISIT
In the group we visited, which was still operational after 10 years, the members spoke proudly of their literacy, their businesses, the friendships they had made, the skills and knowledge they had developed, and the difference the program had made to their lives and those of their families. They told us how proud they were to be able provide an income for their families and an education for their children, some of whom were at university! We visited some of their businesses, a ‘corner store’, a craft shop and a tailoring shop amongst them, all operating for 10 years. The groups were still contributing stipends to loan to members to grow their businesses. The informal links to CDS were very strong.
KAVRE DISTRICT VISIT
The trip to Kavre exposed members to the extreme poverty, vulnerability and marginalisation in the region. This impact is felt not only in infrastructure, the terrible ‘roads’ and the impoverished schools, but in the life choices, as families have to migrate to industries where exploitation is rife, for seasonal work to survive. High iIlliteracy rates and limited itinerant employment opportunities, especially for women, perpetuate the cycle. CDS was desperate to implement the SEEP program ASAP to address these issues.
MEMBERS REPORT TO GROUP AND STAKEHOLDERS
On our return to Australia, FONAI members discussed the SEEP program with it’s members and the wider community. A decision was made to pursue funding support for the establishment of SEEP programs in the Kavre district by CDS.
Surendra had provided us with a budget of approximately $5,000 US to set up a SEEP group, provide the training over a 12 month period, and informally monitor it for a minimum of 6 months after training was completed. We realised that to support this program we would need private donors.
FONAI PROGRAM EXPANSION
In October 2017 we entered into a 3 year partnership with CDS to facilitate funding disbursement on behalf of a private donor, for the establishment of 3 new SEEP groups in Kavre district, Nepal.
PRIORITISING WOMEN AND GIRLS
In January 2018 at our annual strategic planning meeting, FONAI members voted to priortise the education of women in all of it’s programs. We decided that any new 2018/19 scholarships would be offered to young women first, as our experience with CDS and SEEP has convinced us that educating women is a powerful way of addressing economic and social inequality in Nepal.
We decided to actively pursue more funding to establish new SEEP groups in 2018/19 through grants and/or philanthropic or service clubs donations, in addition to allocating funds from FONAI’s activities where possible. This process is ongoing and a FONAI sub committee has been formed to priortise sourcing funding options more SEEP groups and the Day Care Day Meals program.
We applied for a philanthropic grant in early 2018, but unfortunately were unsuccessful. We are currently actively pursuing other grant opportunities in collaboration with CDS and our stakeholders.
Wish us luck!
2018 FONAI PROGRAM MONITORING VISIT
In 2018 on a FONAI program monitoring visit to Nepal, FONAI visited the 3 SEEP funded groups established in October 2017. The groups had completed Phase 1 of the program. We were present on the day CDS seed money was handed to the groups and school material supplies were handed to children who had previously missed school as they were labouring in brick kilns.
With CDS board members Surendra and Kaji acting as translators, we heard the women’s stories of hope, excitement, pride and empowerment. Two groups reported profits from their ‘buffalo business,’ buying, raising and selling buffaloes for slaughter, and another talked about the pros and cons of starting a tailoring business. The group was exploring long term viability as only one member could sew and sewing machines were unreliable and difficult to repair. On hearing about the small profit the first group reported, the president was going to advise changing to a buffalo business as well. It was difficult to comprehend that just 6 months ago these same confident women were illiterate and disempowered. We were honoured to present CDS seed money to the presidents and treasurers of the groups. All groups receive training in roles and responsibilities of office bearers and group members. Group members were also able to present the school supplies to children and the school principal discussed the raised attendance numbers since the program was initiated. The local mayor was also involved in the celebration which seemed to involve the whole local community in this rural district north of Kathmandu.
DAY CARE AND DAY MEALS PROGRAM
CDS reported a funding shortfall in this program. It is estimated that 50-100 children at two Centres require this service at a cost of about $100 US per child per year. The children attending are from families living in extreme poverty. Sometimes the meal provided may be the only one they get. In both our 2017 and 2018 visits we carried private donations and knitted goods for distribution to these children.
In July 2018 FONAI members voted to donate the proceeds of our popular Heads and Tails game at our Annual Fundraising Gala Dinner to this program. In August our treasurer transferred $200US to CDS.
This is a short term solution to address the immediate funding shortfall and FONAI is currently working with the International Director of Rotary Club of Brownhill Creek for a more sustainable sponsorship program. We hope to have something in place in late 2018.
FORMAL SCHOOL SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
CDS reported that the Formal school sponsorship program is currently well subscribed locally and internationally.
The Heath Camps require ongoing support and we will continue to work with local Rotary and Service Clubs to help out here. We have facilitated funding of $2,000 from the Rotary Club of Blackwood for this program over the past 2 years.
FONAI has undertaken a strong commitment to continue to work in partnership with CDS to support their programs. The reporting monitoring and evaluation of the programs gives us great confidence in the success of this collaboration.
We would love your help in our work. We welcome your tax deductible donation to any of these programs.