Seven years ago when Hari Man Lama took a group of Japanese trekkers to Daneshwor village in Kabhre, his clients were apalled by the state of the local primary school. Hari convinced them some seed money may remedy the situation. With the Rs 150,000 he collected, Daneshwor got it's first proper school building.
Since then, there has been no looking back for this astute Kathmandu-based trekking entrepreneur who has used his business acumen and considerable charm to go on a school-building spree across Nepal. He has persuaded individual donors and philanthropic associations like the Asia Friendship Network and various Lion Clubs to contribute help in building 15 schools in eight mid-hill districts. So far, he has collected assistance worth Rs 10 million to benefit more than 5,000 school-going children. "This is completely satisfying both for me and for the donors," he says modestly.
The schools come with no strings attached. Once construction is over, it becomes public property and is managed by the village school committees. The Maoist insurgency put a spanner in the works and since 2000 Hari's attempts to take this initiative to other districts was severely restricted. But since the January ceasefire, Hari's work is about to start again.
There is lots to do. Hari grew up in Kabhre's Madankudari village, and has seen how deprivation wastes the talents of Nepali children. He is keen to expand into building rural health posts to help women and children. "Health and education are related: educated children are more careful about their health and good health ensures better education," he tells us. He believes it is the average Nepali's self-defeatist and cynical attitude that keeps the country down. "Too often we give up even before trying because of imagined obstacles. I am convinced we can change and tourism can be aligned to social work." Enough said, Hari himself is living proof that this idea works.