Can-Do Planning Leads to New Kindergarten for Village in Nepal
Case Western Reserve University Economics/Biochemistry Undergrad Zach Kloos Made Return Visit to Namuna Tole for Community’s School Celebration
CLEVELAND – Zach Kloos and friends about a year ago began a far reaching campaign. They literally adopted a can-do strategy, and as a result some children in a South Asian village are now getting a chance to experience kindergarten and begin their schooling a year sooner than had been previously possible.
The enabling idea was to collect empty aluminum beverage cans. A few cans here or there on or close to the Case Western Reserve University campus eventually became thousands of cans delivered to a metals recycler. About $500 was raised, and that sum when combined with other contributions amounted to $5,000 that has helped to fund a new school for very young boys and girls in Nepal.
Kloos, entering his senior year on a dual-degree track of economics and biochemistry, worked closely with the Nepal-based nonprofit organization Good Neighbour Service Association, or GONESA, which supports 24 other kindergartens.
“They were hoping to open a twenty-fifth, and they had identified a community in need,” Kloos said. The Italy-based philanthropy group VISPE also stepped up to help fund the school’s construction and operation.
Kloos was there in May for the opening of Namuna Tole ECD (Early Childhood Development) Center amid a joyful community celebration. Now about two dozen children have a special place where they can get ready for first grade in a nearby public school.
The new kindergarten has a classroom and a small kitchen. But that’s plenty big for Namuna Tole, near the larger town of Pokhara in central Nepal.
“It was a very warm welcome. I was very touched,” said Kloos, who has developed strong affection for the people of Nepal since living there the summer of 2009 as a research assistant for Silvia Prina, assistant professor of economics at Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management.
Prina’s research, also through GONESA, established secure savings accounts for women in villages who have not had access to such accounts, a financial service Americans tend to take for granted. It was while helping with Prina’s research that Kloos learned of GONESA’s efforts to promote early childhood education. He immediately wanted to get involved.
“I mean, there’s no reason why students at a university like Case, in a country like the U.S., can’t come up with the money to put something like this together,” he said. “So I thought that this is something that’s doable.”
He gathered friends together, forming an informal group called the Society for Nepali Development. Kloos personally took his campaign to family, friends, and community groups, including his former Boy Scout troop. He and friends also sought support from CWRU student groups. Donations flowed in.
Kloos, of Columbus, Ohio, last school year was one of two Case Western Reserve students named winners of a Goldwater Scholarship, named for the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. The scholarship recognizes outstanding potential and commitment to excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.
Although he has been recognized for academic accomplishments, Kloos doesn’t take credit for the idea to turn American cans into a Nepali schoolhouse.
“One of my friends, Ben Abbott, had the idea to collect aluminum cans, then crush them up and redeem them for cash,” he said. “He found a place in the Cleveland area that offered to pay 42 cents per pound, so we started making rounds every Sunday to collect cans. Fortunately, one of the members of our group had a basement where we could store all these cans. I’d say we collected about 30,000 cans, without a doubt.”
Anna Handorf, Ahmed Yousif, Liz Irizarry, Mary Thompson, and Lewis Yuan were also integral to the effort.
Construction of the school started this year in early April and was completed about six weeks later. On his return visit to Nepal for the school’s opening, Kloos saw more than a newly built school. He saw the smiling faces of Namuna Tole’s children. And he was especially grateful to The Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve, which supported his travel back to Nepal to be present for the school's inauguration.
After his return, this summer Kloos was far from Nepal. He was an intern in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md. and hopes that his experience there will help him be a more valuable asset to Professor Peter Zimmerman’s research team at CWRU’s Center for Global Health and Diseases.
“I’d like to go to medical school and then return to Nepal with the skills and knowledge necessary to help tackle many of the country’s health problems,” he says. “I’d like to try to extend medical care to some of the country’s more remote areas, concentrating on neglected tropical diseases, as there’s a strong link between those diseases and poverty.”