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Benefit Feb. 19 will support remote schools in Nepal
Sanam Bhaila
Antelope Staff
Courtesy photo
Dr. Mahabir Pun walks in the streets of Kathmandu to attend CAN Info-Tech, that was organized to exhibit all the latest computer technology of late. It is one of the biggest technological exhibition shows expecting more than 400,000 visitors.

This letter to the editor was submitted by recent December graduate and former Antelope photographer Sanam Bhaila asking for help for the projects in Nepal of another UNK graduate Dr. Mahabir Pun.

What would you do if your Internet were disconnected at home? Call the Internet Service provider? Use one of the campus computers labs, hit the e-mail counter or connect your laptop to the UNK Wi-Fi using your student account?

None of these were an option for Dr. Mahabir Pun, an alumnus of UNK from Nepal who has worked tirelessly to connect isolated areas of his homeland to needed education and services. Pun’s amazing story and his dedication have inspired many. Now the Nepalese Student Association at Kearney (NESAK) is organizing a fundraising program jointly with Himanchal Education Foundation (HEF) and Rotary Club of Kearney on Feb. 19 at the Student Union Ponderosa Room. These organizations want to help Dr. Pun help others.

“It is open to all, and we expect as many people as possible,” said Sanjog Pathak, president of NESAK. Pathak adds, “I remember Dr. Pun telling me once to extend your hands with care and be respectful to people, and you will always find help.”

Pun’s amazing story:

Pun was born in Nangi village, Myagdi district, in western Nepal more a seven-hour climb from the nearest road. He grew up there grazing cattle. Pun would walk, once a month, for hours down the hills to the nearest city, Pokhara, just to check his e-mail.

Pun studied from grade one to seven in the local Himanchal High School (HHS). In this school, he used pencils and paper for the first time when he was in the seventh grade and textbooks only a year letter. Before that, Pun read only the words written with soft marble stone stones on the school wall painted black with charcoal to serve as a blackboard. This very school— where he later taught students— would become his first Wi-Fi site.

In one of his interviews Pun said his primary goal was to provide a better education and health facilities for his fellow villagers in the hills. He wanted to make sure that the newer generations would have an easier time than he had. Later he realized that communication was indispensable for his goal. He began working on the wireless technology in1997 though this was never originally his objective.

Introducing Wi-Fi into the highest hills in the world was never an easy job. He began by helping his first school upgrade to a high school level. Meanwhile, with the help of several organizations and friends, he also started activities that generated some income in the village.

Once his strong entrepreneurship took hold in 1997, he sought help through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and the Himachal High School received a donation of four sets of computers form Billanook College in Melbourne, Australia. His struggle was not over until he collected enough equipment to make that connection to the Internet. He used tall trees on the cliffs as his antenna towers, obtained enough technical know-how to face several failed tests and finally presented the magical Internet connection to the pupils of HHS. Those pupils who once got their education by reading handwritten lessons on charcoal polished walls went online with the help of volunteers from around the world who heard Pun through the BBC.

With continuous help like this, Dr. Pun has managed to help over 42 villages in several districts. Three villages out of 42 villages are now able to conduct a tele-medicine facility from Model Hospital in the capital Kathmandu. Now the villagers communicate with their friends and family near and abroad, sell goods and local products, e-mail and also talk using local VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system. Before the Internet, the villagers walked for days across the villages for these things.

Later, in 2007, Pun was recognized with the Magsaysay Award, considered the Nobel Prize of Asia. He still works to include many more villages hidden under the hills of Himalayas. “These successes were all possible because of the help that Mahabir received from all parts of the world,” said Vani Kotcherlakota, College of Business and Technology professor and a member Himanchal Education Foundation. 

Please join together to help Feb. 19.




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