Guest Blogger: Steve Lustig ’93

As they approached graduation, Omprakash Gnawali ’01 , SM ’02 and Hesky Fisher ’02 talked about starting a non-profit organization to help out children in Omprakash’s native Nepal. With the help of a social worker in Nepal and some other interested friends at MIT, the Nepalese Children’s Education Fund (NCEF) was born. As Omprakash explains, “We gathered a group of students who wanted to stop talking and start doing.”

Volunteers distribute educational materials.

Volunteers distribute educational materials.

Today NCEF is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop the potential of disadvantaged Nepalese children through education. NCEF identifies children unable to pursue education because of the economic situation of their families. Students are provided with tuition, textbooks and supplies to enroll in school. Our dedicated network of volunteers in Nepal meet regularly with the children and their parents to monitor the progress of the student through school. We dedicate our resources to each child until they complete their high school education. NCEF is sponsoring over 60 students this year, making a major impact on their lives and those of their families. Why focus on education, when there are a variety of needs waiting to be met? Omprakash comments, “Most people that I know who have been successful in leading a life with some basic human dignity have been able to do so through education.”

As MIT students, the first thing they did was set up a website for the charity. At the time they laughed that this was a very nerdy way to start a charity. However, it very quickly began to pay off. While they recruited and raised funds among friends and family and even found a board member by posting in the Tech Review, it was through the web site that most people found NCEF. It didn’t take long before they started getting contacted by people across the U.S. and the world wanting to get involved.

As the founding members of NCEF were graduating and moved far from each other, it became clear that the organization existed as a distributed entity with the web site at its center. Most records are kept directly on the web site—transparency is an important aspect. Members collaborate over email and phone conferences as there is no paid staff or office, which allows more of the money to be spent directly on funding the childrens’ education. Many members…

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Many members have worked together for years before ever meeting in person, although they do make an effort to meet when visiting cities where other members live.

Co-founder, board member, and current MIT student Atul Pokharel PhD ’12 considers the effort to be worthwhile and successful: “First, an increasing number of children are applying for NCEF scholarships. This shows that what we are offering is still needed. Second, donors continue to support us. This shows that our supporters are still interested in what we are doing. It also shows that they trust us. Third, we are trying our approach in new areas. This indicates that we are still eager to help more children. Most importantly, inspiring new members are still joining our teams in Nepal and here [in the U.S.] . We are attracting talent.”

MIT alumni continue to play a significant role in the organization. Past board members include John Leffingwell ’01, Christopher Blanc ’93, Susan Buchman ’01, and Owen Ozier ’99, SM ’99. Current NCEF board member Steven Lustig ’93 first learned about NCEF through a short mention of the organization in Technology Review’s classnotes several years ago. MIT alumni Amrit Pant ’98, SM ‘98 and John Perry SM ’01, PhD ’07 currently also serve as board members for the organization. Jay Shrestha ’03 is actively involved as well. NCEF is always looking for people who share a similar passion for education and development. There are many ways to get involved: volunteering the time on planning, operation, logistics, fundraising activities as well as financially supporting the organization. We would love to hear from you. For more information, visit NCEF online.