It was a familiar household scene: Two girls glued to their computer screens — for hours.
But rather than Facebook, YouTube or any other time-sucking Internet dalliances of today, 16-year-old Isa Bhandary and her 11-year-old sister, Aanya, were doing some major research.
“We were surfing the web looking for projects that were manageable for us to support and bring notice to, and we ran across the Maya Universe Academy,” Isa said. “It really stood out to us and attracted our attention because what it stood for: education for all, regardless of your social status or financial status.”
The school is the first and only free educational institute in Nepal’s Tanahun District, and employs a barter system to provide high-quality and cost-free schooling to local children.
Instead of money, parents fund their children’s education by working on Maya’s farm twice a month, transitioning from actually building the school’s classrooms with local resources to now raising goats and chickens.
The whole community is invested in Maya Universe Academy’s operation, creating a unique and self-sustainable model that will not need continual financial support to keep it functioning.
“We’re mostly focused on Nepal because our whole family is from there,” Isa explained. “In order for Nepal to integrate and develop, it needs to industrialize. And in order to do that, the education and foundation needs to be there.”
The combination was undeniable — Maya Universe Academy was exactly what Isa and Aanya were looking for.
And since launching their fundraising campaign through the popular crowdfunding website, GoFundMe, on April 7, the young philanthropists are just dollars away from helping the school reach its goal of raising $4,500 toward the construction of a new building that will house nursery, lower kindergarten, upper kindergarten students and a volunteer house.
No, this isn’t work for a school project or a creative form of punishment thought up by parents, Pramode and Aradna Bhandary. This is just something the two sisters wanted to do.
“We were enthusiastic,” Pramode Bhandary said after first learning of his daughters’ plan. “Our kids here have so many advantages, and kids over there don’t even have the basics. If we can instill some of that global thinking in our kids then that will be a worthwhile thing.”
They’ve done a fantastic job up until this point — Isa and Aanya have truly taken the value of giving back to heart.
When it came time to joining a club her freshman year, the Clovis North High School student took an interest in the UNICEF High School Club program’s booth.
“Most of our clubs go to hobbies and interests, and there’s nothing that’s outside of yourself,” Isa said. “So I was open to the idea of helping other people when you have the resources and can come together.”
Both girls also helped collect second-hand clothing and food donations for Nepalese orphanages and people in need a few years back, even traveling to the south Asian country to personally assist with passing the items out.
Aanya remembers enlisting the support of school, family and friends for that project, and the two decided to tackle this one using the same method.
After contacting the founders of Maya Universe Academy (and earning their wholehearted approval), the Bhandary family decided GoFundMe was the best and most secure manner of funneling the money directly to Nepal.
Next on their agenda: getting the public involved.
Aradna contacted Aanya’s school headmaster at Carden School of Fresno, while Isa reached out to her Clovis North counselor and used the power of social media to her advantage. Within just a few days, $750 had been raised.
Then the unimaginable happened. On April 25, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal, leaving thousands of people dead and injured in its wake.
The Bhandary family and friends immediately began gathering medicines and products to send as additional aid, and the need for institutions like Maya Universe Academy became even more pronounced.
“There’s going to be so many more orphans and people in need, and they’re really going to gravitate toward this school idea,” Isa said. “It [earthquake] has really shed some light on Nepal, and it’s going to get more positive reinforcement.”
Now — with their goal nearly met — the whirlwind of it all has still allowed Isa and Aanya to learn a lot from their experience, and hopefully encourage their peers to view age as only a number.
“Age shouldn’t get in the way of anything,” Isa said, with Aanya adding: “Even my friend donated $10.”
“And to appreciate what they have,” Isa continued. “To open their minds and realize other people don’t have it as well.”
There’s no set agenda after this project, but they’d like to continue building and working on their relationship with Maya Universe Academy in the future.
To contribute to Isa and Aanya’s campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/r8c4ebs.