May 22, 2002 - Worchester Telegram and Gazette: RPCV helps Nepal students make link

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 05 May 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: May 22, 2002 - Worchester Telegram and Gazette: RPCV helps Nepal students make link

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 1:03 pm: Edit Post

RPCV helps Nepal students make link

Read and comment on this story from the Worchester Telegram on students at Quabbin Regional High School students shown in the photo above who were encouraged by RPCV Peter King who came up with the idea to begin e-mail correspondence with students from the secondary school in Nepal at:

Quabbin, Nepal students make link *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Quabbin, Nepal students make link

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

By Jennifer Lucarelli Telegram & Gazette Staff

BARRE-- If Andrea Balser fails a final exam at Quabbin Regional High School, she most likely won't have to quit school and get married.

But that's what happened to her pen pal from Bandipur, Nepal, when she failed her final exam last year.“I got an e-mail from Kalpana, who is 15, and she was upset because she had failed her end-of-the-year exam,” said Ms. Balser, who's been sending e-mail to Kalpana weekly for almost three years.

“I was worried about her, but then she e-mailed me a few weeks later and said she was married and her husband, Raju, 19, was encouraging her to go back to school,” she said.

Ms. Balser, 17, met Kalpana through Project Nepal, an e-mail correspondence program that started three years ago at Quabbin Regional High School, linking students with those at Bhanu Secondary School in Bandipur.

“I had invited Peter King of Hardwick into my class to talk about his experience while he was in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, and he has been keeping in contact with friends he met in Nepal,” said Michele DiMartino, a world history teacher at the high school. “He came up with the idea to begin e-mail correspondence with students from the secondary school in Nepal.”

Peter King visited Bandipur as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1966 to 1968.

“I joined the Peace Corps when I graduated college, and I never thought the experience would be so important to me 30 years later,” said Mr. King, who is now the Far East sales manager for Northland Forest Products in New Hampshire.

“I hadn't been in contact with anyone since I left Nepal until about 10 years ago, and now I visit that region two to three times a year,” he said.

Mr. King said he hoped students at Quabbin would learn about Nepal and the Nepalese people.

“I'm hoping they learn how different our societies are, but also how similar students are in Nepal compared to (those in) the United States,” he said. “The people of Nepal who I met were some of the most humble, most respectable and most generous people I've ever met.”

Once he realized that Quabbin students were interested, he began the process of getting a computer to the school in Bandipur.

“The room we wanted to put the computer in had one bare bulb in the ceiling and no phone line at the time,” Ms. DiMartino said. “During one of Peter's trips to Bandipur, he helped set up the computer by negotiating with a local merchant to allow the students to share the phone line. And that's how it all began.”

Ms. DiMartino's class decided its first greeting would be a group e-mail and photo to the class in Nepal.

“We took the group shot with a sign that read 'Namaste,' which is translated as a warm greeting,” Ms. DiMartino said. “Then, we began to e-mail once or twice a week to the students over there.”

The correspondence involves about 50 students at each school.

“The students over there talk a lot about their family, and they always ask about ours,” said Laura Laukaitis, 16, a junior. “They learn English in their school because of the British influence.”

Some Nepalese students were amazed about the American lifestyle.

“They are very surprised to learn about how much we have,” said Elizabeth Bennett, 17, a junior. “It really shows us how much we take for granted.”

One of the first debates that developed was in farming comparisons.

“One of the (Quabbin) students got an e-mail asking what his parents did for a living, and he replied that his family were farmers,” Mr. King said. “The student from Nepal said they are able to get 1 pound of milk from water buffalo in Nepal, and the student couldn't believe a farmer in Barre could get almost 50 pounds of milk from a cow.”

Bandipur, a hilltop town overlooking the Marshyangdi river valley, has a population of about 10,000. It is 64 kilometers east of Pokhara and is replete with mountain views, artistic houses and temples, according to

During the program's first year, many Quabbin students began to ask how they could help the students in Nepal.

“We heard that a lot of people die from drinking contaminated water,” said Amy Donahue, 17, a junior. “That's when we decided to raise some money through donations to buy the school a water filtration system.”

By selling candy bars, the students at Quabbin raised about $1,000 to buy the water filtration system.

“The students in Bandipur couldn't believe that we were able to raise that much money from selling candy,” Ms. DiMartino said. “While $1,000 may not be a lot to students at this high school, the students in Bandipur had never seen so much money.”

Last year, students raised money again through donations to purchase a library for the high school in Nepal.

“There was no library before we raised money, and now the students have a library on the third floor and a collection of books,” Ms. DiMartino said. “They named the library the Bhanu-Quabbin Friendship Library, which was really great for all the students involved.”

This school year, students in Project Nepal had hoped to travel to Bandipur to visit for two weeks. But civil unrest in Katmandu -- the capital of Nepal -- after the massacre of the royal family this year put those plans on hold.

“We had already gotten the approval of the School Committee and we were planning the trip to Nepal when the School Committee decided we couldn't go because of all the problems there,” Ms. DiMartino said. “The students from Nepal were disappointed -- they kept telling us they'd protect us and not to worry.”

Now, Ms. DiMartino and her students hope to bring six to eight students from Nepal to America in the fall.

“We need to raise close to $15,000 to bring the students here,” Ms. DiMartino said. “We're not sure we'll be able to raise that much money in so little time, but I really want our students to meet their pen pals.”

Though nothing is finalized about the student visit, Ms. DiMartino said she plans to continue the program.

“I keep adding new, younger students every year to the program, so we're in it for the long haul,” she said. “And I think the students at Quabbin are helping to make the Nepal students' life just a little bit better and they're able to think beyond themselves.”

One of the most touching e-mails sent from Nepal came after Sept. 11.

“We received a lot of concerned e-mails asking if we were OK and if our families were OK,” Ms. Laukaitis said. “They probably didn't realize how far away from New York we live, but it was really special that they were concerned.”

Anyone interested in donating to Project Nepal can send checks to Project Nepal, c/o Quabbin Regional High School, 800 South St., Box 429, Barre, MA 01005.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; What RPCVs are doing; COS - Nepal



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