Sunita Gurung was born in Lingam, a small village in the Sankhuwasabha District of Eastern Nepal with breathtaking views of green hills, icy mountains, and the beautiful Arun River. Her family has been living there for 7 generations. Her childhood was challenging to say the least. She was part of a big family of eight including three brothers and two sisters. They had a small house made out of rocks and clay with only a single room and a single bed that the entire family had to share. As a result, most of the time she lived in a cowshed with her father and spent her early days grazing and tending cattle. She started going to school when she was 6 years old, but had to walk for almost five hours to and from school every day! She spent her entire childhood in one set of clothing and did not have a single pair of shoes until she was 15 years old! The educational resources she had were extremely limited - never enough books, copies, and pencils nor enough time to study.
Despite all the hardships she faced, she persevered and was lucky enough to get a scholarship to complete her education. She finished school in 2003, then went on to earn her bachelor's and eventually secure a masters degree in Sociology. Unfortunately, soon after, the organization that had provided the scholarship collapsed. She realized so many other underprivileged girls like her would no longer be able to get the educational opportunities that she had received. She felt a strong sense of responsibility towards those girls and realized that the greatest gift she could give back to her hometown is education.
Growing up, she had always dreamed of becoming a teacher. From a very young age, she understood the importance of education and wanted to help in the development of her village by providing that opportunity to every single child in the village. As luck would have it, around that time, she met Mark and Rand from Ten Friends and she shared her vision of providing free education to underprivileged girls from rural areas. With their help, and the help of many others, she was able to establish the Himalayan Education Center (HEC). We are so fortunate to have Sunita working at HEC since 2009 as the Program Coordinator.
Dinesh Khakurel lives in Kathmandu with his family - his mother, wife, daughter and son. Dinesh acts as Ten Friends' representative in Nepal. He was born in Nuwakot, in the NW hills of the Kathmandu Valley. His parents were farmers and they owned a small plot of land to grow food for the family. They used to grow rice, maize, wheat, millet and seasonal vegetables plus the family had cows and goats. There were 8 members in his family then, including a grandfather, parents, an older sister, 2 younger brothers and a younger sister. All children helped the parents on the farm.
He went to primary school in his village which was nearby the family house. His parents sent the children to school even though they were both illiterate because they knew the value/promise of education and a better life for their children. After completing primary school (through grade 5), Dinesh went to another school which was one hour away on foot. There were no roads, hotels, hospitals, or shops in his village and the first time he saw cars was in Kathmandu when he was 15! After finishing regular school education (grade 10), he came to Kathmandu for higher education. Life was very tough as he started to work in a shop as delivery boy and went to college in the evening shifts. While training as a waiter in a big hotel, Dinesh met a couple from London who wanted to help an orphanage. He contacted the orphanage where Gopini Wosti and Pandey (another founder of the Hopeful Home Orphanage) worked and arranged for a visit. The couple took many photos of the children, made a small donation of food, and pledged to raise funds. They made another visit the following year and gave a good donation.
After some time, Gopini and Pandey started a new orphanage - Hopeful Home Orphanage (HHO). They were running the orphanage asking for donations door-to-door and they asked Dinesh to help make connections with tourists. He made a flyer for the orphanage and started an international volunteer program and began working there part time, helping the children with English language, good civilization, and raising funds. He met Rand and Mark in the orphanage (HHO) and talked with them about donations from Ten Friends and other specific projects like sponsoring students. Dinesh works primarily for HHO and on behalf of Ten Friends. He sometimes also works in hotels and restaurants to earn extra money for his family. As Dinesh puts it "I feel proud to work in HHO that my time and strength has gone for children. But running the orphanage is not easy job because we don’t get any support from government and we are always dependent on donations."
Gopini Wosti is a co-founder and house manager of the Hopeful Home Orphanage. She is a 50 year old woman who was born and raised in a remote village in Nepal. Because her family was poor, she didn’t have the opportunity to get a quality education and had to drop out of school at a very young age. After getting married, her real struggles began. Working in the field and at home 24/7 was her life and she had her first child when she was only 17 years old. After a few years of marriage, Gopini decided to come to Kathmandu and got work in an orphanage. She would cook, clean and look after orphan children and that’s when Gopini began to feel the connection. Seeing those children and living with them every day made her feel more responsible towards them. That’s how Gopini got the inspiration to establish her own home where she could give shelter and love and support to many more children who had lost their parents. Unfortunately, at that time, she had zero money in my pocket so Gopini started asking for help from Nepali people. Going from one house to another asking for help. she met so many kind people and some who were very rude. Little by little, she managed to raise enough money to rent a small house that could hold 10 children. That’s how her journey (and the journey of Hopeful Home Orphanage) began. It’s been a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs in this 20 year journey, but she couldn’t be more proud and very thankful to each and every one who helped her in bringing this dream into reality.
In her own words, "I really want to thank Mark and the Ten Friends family for the biggest support throughout this journey. So many children in Nepal are orphans and are not able to get a good education. The Government of Nepal is also not capable of helping those children. I am forever grateful to your team since you play such a big, big role in our lives. It was not and won’t be possible without your support. Lots of love and many, many greetings to you all."