Philanthropist’s vision hits a stumbling blockFormer Korean ambassador to Nepal Ryu Si-ya, 57, says he cannot forget what he saw in Matatirta, near Katmandu, Nepal in 2000, when he was first assigned to the region. Children of the lowest caste in Nepal’s system lived in barns and suffered from hard labor day and night.
“Their situation was no better than that of beasts,” Mr. Ryu said. “I only wished that these children could receive some kind of education so that they would have an opportunity to get away and lead a better life.”
Mr. Ryu tried appealing to the Nepal government, but to no avail. So he then decided he would have to set up a school himself. He used some $33,000 of his own and relatives’ money, and received some assistance from the Food For The Hungry: World Crisis Network and the Korea International Cooperation Agency.
Construction of the Matatirta Vision School was started in 2003, and it was the first school in Nepal for lower caste children established by a foreigner. The school opened in March 2004, enrolling 400 boys and girls at no charge.
However, the school soon faced a stumbling block. Mr. Ryu formed a group of 30 sponsors for the school after he returned to Korea in June 2003 after finishing his service, but it was still difficult to come up with the more than $3,000 needed to run the school every month.
“The urgent task is to raise the number of sponsors up to 80 by finding more philanthropists so that the school can provide middle and high school-level education,” Mr. Ryu said.
The current principal of the school plans to leave the post soon and so it is also urgent to find a replacement.
“In the past, Korea received a lot of assistance from developed countries after the Korean War,” Mr. Ryu said. “As an OECD member, it is time for Korea to give back.”
by Shin Ye-ri