A Mother-Daughter Perspective on Poverty in Nepal

Betsy and Daughter at READ Center

This post is written by Betsy Borrelli, a READ Global Board Member, proud mother, and Senior Vice President, Reputation Management & Crisis, for the global communications agency FleishmanHillard.

I am a very proud mother of a girl that I adopted as an infant from Nepal. She is now nearly nine- years-old, and this April I brought her back to Nepal for the first time to better understand her roots. As a member of the READ Global Board of Directors, it was also an opportunity for us to experience READ’s work in my daughter’s birth country, and for her to learn about giving back.

Rural Nepal Village

I’d been to Nepal twice before this trip and already understood that it is one of the poorest countries in the world: infrastructure is insufficient, resources are scarce, and literacy is low. Schools are often inaccessible in rural areas of Nepal and have no books or computers. With limited income, parents pull their daughters out of school to help around the home with farm work and household chores. As a result, nearly half of women in Nepal can’t read.

What I did not fully appreciate until this trip, however, is how needed READ’s work is and how much the organization is genuinely and meaningfully improving the lives of the people and communities that we serve.

Village Woman with Water Buffalo

My daughter and I visited a READ Center in Nuwakot village, about a two-hour drive from Kathmandu. It was the bumpiest ride I had ever taken (imagine riding a bucking bull for more than four hours round trip). The mountain roads were dirt, narrow, very uneven, and perilously close to the steep edge. The countryside was farmland with the occasional buffalo along the way.

Women in front of Center

The READ Center was an oasis of educational resources and community empowerment in Nuwakot, where there was no public access to books before the library was established in 2012. We toured the Center and met 84-year-old Subhadra Timilsina, the respected local elder who generously donated the land for the Center. While growing up, she had no opportunity to go to school, learn to read, or gain skills to earn a living. However, she wanted future generations to be educated so she donated her family’s land to build this READ Center in her village.

Betsy and Timilsina

Seeing the difference between the resources and education that my daughter has in the US, compared to what children her age have in Nepal was an important reminder for me, and an eye-opening experience for my daughter. Demonstrating the importance of giving back, she donated some of her books from home to the Center and showed some children her computer tablet. The children crowded around wide-eyed, mesmerized by the device. The visit to the Nuwakot READ Center helped my daughter better appreciate what she has and understand the need to sensitize her generation about global inequality.

Children playing with Betsy's daughter

As I reflect back on our experience of the important work READ is doing, the term “libraries” is a huge understatement.

These community centers offer a safe place for women and children to gain knowledge, skills, self-esteem, and confidence to empower them and their communities. The Centers provide opportunities for economic empowerment, educational resources, and training programs to people of all ages and backgrounds. They inspire villagers to share what they learn with others, and to pass new skills and opportunities from parents to children – and sometimes even from children to parents.

Women's Group

My daughter and I saw firsthand that READ Centers are vehicles for social and economic transformation. It is no exaggeration to say that what we are doing with READ is making a profound and life-changing difference to people, families, communities, and countries.

But there is so much more work to be done. Thousands more villages deserve this chance to escape poverty. My daughter and I look forward to our continued involvement in the work of READ Global — and hope that we can inspire you to help as well. Please consider making a donation today to help us empower rural villagers. Any assistance is appreciated. Click here to make a donation.


About the guest author:

Elizabeth (Betsy) Borrelli, READ Global Board Member

Betsy is on the Board of Directors for READ Global and is Senior Vice President, Reputation Management & Crisis, for the global communications agency FleishmanHillard. As a corporate social responsibility executive, Betsy has more than 20 years of global cross-industry experience in issue, reputation, and crisis management. She has traveled to Asia many times to work with companies and organizations on corporate social responsibility issues.

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