Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and a ten-year civil war that ended in 2006 stalled development and left many people there uncertain and afraid. Now a series of massive earthquakes has killed thousands and created a huge swath of destruction.
Nepal needs the Giraffe message of hope, courage and service. Nepal needs to know of, and be inspired by, those brave and compassionate citizens who are standing tall to heal the wounds of war, and no to help their communities rebuild after the massive quakes.
Giraffe Heroes Nepal (GHN) was launched in October 2011 during a ten-day visit to the country by GHI Director John Graham, working there with GHN’s leader, Dr. Sushil Koirala, already honored as a Giraffe Hero for his courageous work with Peace for Nepal (PN), an NGO he founded in 2004 to help end the bloody civil war.
When the war did end, PN helped promote the election of a Constitutional Assembly and then, after the elections, organized programs in villages and towns collecting peoples' opinions, suggestions and concerns for drafting the Constitution that ended the monarchy and launched Nepal as a new democracy. Since then, PN has expanded its activities and focus both within Nepal and abroad, promoting programs that build peace, support development, combat injustice and protect the environment.
Under Dr. Koirala’s direction, GHN will find the brave men, women and children who are already making a difference in Nepal, and get their stories told to the nation, energizing others to move into action themselves. GHN speeches, trainings and other tools in civic engagement will help activists succeed. And GHN schools materials will help young people build lives as courageous and compassionate citizens.
Over ten days in September and October 2011, John Graham and Dr. Koirala met with key people in government, major donor organizations, NGOs, schools and especially media organizations. All were impressed with the idea of Giraffe Heroes Nepal and all enthusiastically agreed to help launch it. Graham was on Nepal's version of The Today Show, talking about Giraffe Heroes Nepal to a national audience, or at least to its many English speakers. Dr. Koirala and Graham also talked at length to Nepalese language media executives.
Graham and Dr. Koirala also spent a half-day at Tilingatar, the largest high school in Kathmandu, talking to groups of students about the adventure of serving one’s community and nation. They strategized with the school's leaders on how stories of Giraffe Heroes, combined with Giraffe coaching in civic engagement and community service, could help young people make a difference in their communities. It was also apparent that these stories would be a great tool for teaching English. GHN’s plan—once a robust program is launched at this initial high school—is to use this model to spread Giraffe schools' programs to other schools in the Kathmandu Valley and then elsewhere in the country.
Graham and Dr. Koirala also took GHN to the rural areas, spending three full days in small towns and villages deep in the foothills of the Himalayas. In one poor village,the two spoke to a group of teenagers who had formed a club to help the village solve its problems, including providing safe drinking water. What the kids were doing was great—and could be even more effective with a small amount of Giraffe training and materials.
Nepal faces significant challenges including continuing conflicts, rebuilding after the earthquakes, poverty, disease, threats to the environment and corruption. But it’s also clear that there are many brave and committed Nepalese already making progress in all these areas. When GHN tells their stories, others will be led to follow their leads. And GHN training programs will help them succeed.