In a classic case of paying it forward, a USC academic born to poor illiterate parents in Nepal is helping a young boy from his village achieve his dream of becoming a doctor.
“It is about giving opportunities and when I first saw this young impoverished boy in the village I grew up in I knew I wanted to help change his life through education,” said Fraser Coast-based Lecturer in Accounting Ratna Paudyal.
Mr Paudyal met Uttam Ghimire after returning home to one of Nepal’s poorest areas after the devastating 2015 earthquake and has supported his schooling since then.
This year Mr Paudyal also sponsored Uttam to complete the final semester of Year 10 at Tasmania’s Huonville State High School as part of a Rotary Youth Exchange program.
“His childhood was very similar to mine and I immediately recognised myself in him as a young boy,” Mr Paudyal said.
“Uttam was in a local youth group that was helping children displaced by the earthquake and I was struck by his desire to assist others and saw a keenness in him to better his life.”
Mr Paudyal and his family will continue to support Uttam to finish high school and pursue plans to study medicine at university in Nepal.
“My dream is to be a doctor and eventually a heart surgeon,” said Uttam, now 15.
“In Nepal we have many families who do not have good health services and I want to change that. I want to develop health facilities in poor villages and improve people’s lives.”
“I was just a child when I first met Ratna and was so surprised when he said that if I worked hard and got good results he would give me the opportunity to fulfil this wish.”
Uttam, who will spend the next week visiting Mr Paudyal and his family at their home in Hervey Bay, has managed to tick off several experiences during his Australian visit, including his first swim in the ocean and first ride in a motorcar.
The keen soccer player was also chosen to represent Huon Valley Soccer Club in the 2018 Ultra Football Hobart Cup, and scored the winning goal to take out the Under 14 championships.
It was a remarkable experience for Uttam, who played soccer with a wooden ball until he was eight-years-old.
“Growing up, my family was poor and we used to play soccer in our farm field with the small lambs. The wooden ball made our legs bleed but we didn’t care. It was exciting when we started to play with a real soccer ball.”
Uttam is the same age that Mr Paudyal was when he moved from his village to live by himself in Kathmandu and worked to support himself through senior studies and university.
He gained Master qualifications in Nepal before moving to Australia to work as a lecturer and is completing a PhD.
“My experience has inspired me to do what I can to give young people like Uttam educational opportunities and build aspirations,” he said.
“Rather than being a commitment or a burden, it is my passion. It is about using education to make a difference.”
With the support of academic colleagues and Rotary Hervey Bay City, Mr Paudyal is involved in projects to support educational scholarships and exchange opportunities for other future leaders like Uttam.
“We want to work with them, inspire them, create a future for them and see what good they can bring back to their villages in 10 years.”
— Clare McKay
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