The Amazon rainforest isn't the only place where youth lack opportunity and options.
Throughout the developing world - where more than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day - young people face incredible challenges. Rural Nepal is one place that exemplifies how difficult it can be to break out of the cycle of poverty. Villages are often extremely isolated and lack many of the things we take for granted, such as electricity, running water, grocery stores, and banks. In many cases, the nearest sizable town is many days away on foot. Most families scrape by through subsistence agriculture, living much as they have for hundreds of years. It is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet solely through farming, and in many villages most of the working-age men have left for the cities in search of jobs.
Young people who migrate to the cities in search of work don't have any easy time, however. For kids growing up in Nepal, education is a luxury that many families cannot afford. Over half of the population over age 15 is illiterate - including 74 percent of women - and this, of course, considerably lowers many young people's job prospects. Even for those lucky enough to have attended school, things are still difficult. Unemployment hovers around 42 percent and competition for jobs is fierce.
Faced with these daunting realities, hundreds of young people leave Nepal every day to look for work in other countries, armed only with the hope that one day they will be able to send money home and help their families break out of the cycle of poverty. Tulsi Giri is a determined young man from the village of Pokhara who is working to change these conditions, starting in his own district. He is lucky to have found a good job with Youth Action Nepal in Kathmandu. Although Tulsi's work takes him away from home, it has helped him learn many of the skills and access the resources he needs to start building a better future for youth in Pokhara.
Tulsi and few other enthusiastic Nepali youth founded USSHA (Underprivileged Societal Service and Helping Action) Foundation, a development foundation (a non-profit organization), who's acronym means hope. This organization focuses on giving youth the training and resources they need to take an active role in social development. Tulsi wants to engage the youth in his village in meaningful, self-directed development projects that will enable them to earn a livelihood without migrating elsewhere.
USSHA's first project is a work camp that will gather approximately 26 urban and rural youth in the Pokhara district to spend five days learning intensively about social development, as well as gain experience through hands-on projects. By the end of the camp, the youth will develop a project of their own design that they will continue work on in their communities after the camp. Tulsi discovered CEN's website and, noting the similarity between our mission and his, contacted CEN. Bob and several CEN volunteers provide mentoring, advice and support as Tulsi sets up USSHA and writeshis first project and funding proposals.
Our relationship with Tulsi has given us valuable insight in our own work as well. As we support Tulsi in his work, we have taken note of his experiences, which has helped us clarify our mission and goals and consider how to expand CEN's work.
In April, CEN held a fund raiser to benefit Tulsi's organization and fund the work camp. It was a great success, and CEN was able to provide financial support that will cover about 75% the costs of the first work camp. The rest of the funds will come from participant fees. Nepal-based NGO, Youth Action Nepal, is also supporting the project through ideas and technical support. CEN is delighted to be able to support the work of USSHA in Nepal, and hopes to maintain to have a positive and constructive relationship.