In 1984, sixty-year-old Olga Murray – a lawyer at the California Supreme Court – visited Nepal as a tourist to go trekking. An inveterate traveler, Olga had a tendency to “fall in love with countries,” but Nepal was special.
Olga Murray crossing a bridge in the Himalaya
“When I first went to Nepal,” Olga later wrote to friends, “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape and the exotic surroundings, but most of all by the children I encountered there. They were poor beyond anything I had experienced before, dressed in rags, very dirty, poorly nourished and mostly unschooled, but with an amazing capacity for joy. I thought to myself that for the price of a good haircut back in the States, I could make a significant difference in their lives. I returned home determined, somehow, to find a way to help.”
The next year, she was back in Kathmandu. She met a friend who was working as a volunteer English teacher at a boys’ orphanage (the first in Kathmandu) called Paropakar. The orphanage, which housed 45 boys from 5 to 16 years old, was located in one of the most crowded, noisy, polluted areas of the city, on the banks of a filthy river. The toilet area was putrid, and there was no running hot water. The boys slept in one room, had only a small play space, and seldom left the premises except to go to school across the street.
Olga having coffee with Himalaya in background
But the boys were bright and eager. They actually felt fortunate to have at least some food, shelter, and education, which was better than the thousands of Nepali kids who had nowhere to live but the streets. Unfortunately, those same streets awaited a Paropakar boy once he turned 16 (finishing 10th grade, the end of high school in Nepal). At that point, he had to leave the orphanage, totally unprepared for life outside its walls. Family connections mean everything in Nepal, but these boys had no relatives to help them.
Many of these boys would have done very well in college, and Olga offered college scholarships to any boy who left Paropakar Orphanage at the end of 10th grade and passed the college entrance exams. That first year, five boys from Paropakar passed their exams and earned scholarships from Olga. (Since then, through the generosity of NYF’s donors, many Paropakar boys have received scholarships from NYF.)
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