The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Investing in Nepal's Most Vulnerable Children

Grant Information
Categories Education
Location International
Cycle Year 2020
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Sunsar Maya
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Jehan Seirafi
Phone 949-933-8380
1457 Jefferson St.
San Francisco
Additional Information
Used for A grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will provide funding for our SuMa After-School program, which supports the academic, physical, and mental well-being of 120 orphaned and disadvantaged children in Nepal. The Foundation generously supported SuMa After-School in 2019. This 2020 grant would be used to fund teacher salaries and activity supplies, both of which directly impact our ability to provide the holistic care and support to children most in need.
Benefits The work of SuMa After-School is about changing the trajectory of our students' lives–helping them build brighter futures for themselves, their families, and their communities. Funding from the Foundation will support this effort by providing the educational enrichment and wraparound services our students need to achieve academically, and as they grow, become self-sufficient. Long-term, this individual improvement will lead to stronger, healthier communities that have broken cycles of poverty.
Proposal Description The Challenge:
Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries. Following years of political and civil unrest, nearly 40% of the population lives on less than $3.20 a day (World Bank, 2019). The combination of widespread poverty, high illiteracy rates, and unplanned pregnancies has led to increasing numbers of women and children living in extreme poverty.

Children living in extreme poverty are at risk of being forced into child labor, working in the drug trade, being sold as an indentured servant or into the commercial sex trade. It is estimated that 20,000 children are trafficked from Nepal each year, and 200,000 Nepali girls are believed to be working in Indian brothels. Furthermore, studies indicate that the number of children trafficked increased 40% following the devastating earthquakes of 2015.

Education provides a barrier to trafficking, and a pathway out of poverty, but orphaned and vulnerable children are in need of more assistance than other students. They tend to lag behind their peers in cognitive development, language comprehension, social skills, and self-esteem; and most lack access to regular medical care and receive only minimum levels of nutrition.

Sunsar Maya’s SuMa After School programs are located in the communities of Jorpati and Mahalaxmi, Nepal. These are communities where individuals struggle to earn living wages and where poverty is generational in its reach. In Jorpati, the community is made up mostly of working families, as well as orphanages, where several of our students live. Mahalaxmi is an impoverished community. Many of the adults make their living working in brick factories, enduring back-breaking and dangerous work. Here, men and women must often borrow from their employer to make ends meet, which leads to inescapable debt and a vicious cycle of exploitative work and poverty. The depressed situation has resulted in elevated rates of alcoholism and domestic abuse in the community, making the situation worse.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, children who were already living on the margins face even greater challenges. Families, who are barely able to survive under normal circumstances, are under even more distress. Though it's too soon to understand the full magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on the extremely poor, recent reports from UNICEF Nepal paint a dire picture. According to one report, more than half the families polled reported a loss of jobs or earnings, and this resulted in one-third of the households facing shortages of food, medicines and other necessities. Other reports indicate an increase in child marriages across the country (Nepali Times, May 2020). Further, we know from United Nations reports that at least 24 million children worldwide will be forced to drop out of school and into the labor market to help their families survive. This fate will befall thousands of children in Nepal as well.

Now, more than ever, our SuMa After School program is needed to ensure that children with limited opportunities and options are given the support they need for healthy development, and the tools and skills that allows them to build their own pathways out of poverty.

Our Approach:
SuMa After School is a holistic, community-based, academic enrichment program designed to address the immediate health and educational needs of 120 children, ages 3-17, living in extreme poverty in Nepal. The program’s topline goal is to provide vulnerable children with the essential foundation that will increase their chances of becoming healthy and financially self-sufficient adults. This foundation consists of nutrition, physical safety, access to healthcare, academic support and child-directed learning, mentorship and peer support, and a caring environment that fosters self-esteem and celebrates achievements. We evaluate the impact of the program annually through student self- and teacher evaluations, and track medical visits and vaccinations.

Typically, our program utilizes an experiential curriculum that promotes literacy, numeracy, problem solving, STEM literacy, and creative thinking through hands-on, developmentally-appropriate activities. Daily nutritious meals, physical recreation, twice-annual medical/dental checkups, and mental health therapy sessions round out our holistic approach to caring for students.

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have shifted our approach and, temporarily, expanded our program’s scope. While much of the country remains closed, we have pivoted to bring SuMa After-School to our students’ homes. Our teachers make weekly check-in calls to ensure students and families have sufficient food and supplies, as well as provide emotional support. Our mental health therapist has continued essential therapy sessions via phone. Our teachers have also coordinated the bi-annual medical check-ups. Additionally, since schools remain shuttered, and virtual learning is not an option because students lack access to technology and the internet, our teachers are preparing at-home learning kits for students. These kits provide a month’s worth of age appropriate activities to students (i.e puzzles, project ideas, crafts, books) with a focus on activities that can be done with items found in most homes. Packets also include stories, journals, and writing prompts to help students process the emotional impact of the crisis. Our aim is to facilitate learning and provide stability during this difficult period.

Further, our staff is distributing emergency support to our communities. Since April, we have provided relief packages of food and supplies to more than 1,600 people in Mahalaxmi, Jorpati, and Chapagaun. Our plan is to continue emergency food distributions through December, when we expect the need to decrease, and to provide learning kits through the end of the Nepali school year (March 2021). We hope to welcome students back to our centers at the start of the new school year in April, but will continue distributing learning kits if it is not possible to return to in-person learning at that time.

We'd like to share a story of one of our students, Bihana, during lockdown. Bihana is a regular at SuMa After-School. She loves learning through group projects she can work on with friends. The lockdown has meant that Bihana has had to embrace learning on her own at home. It was difficult at first, but she's carried on. She's built her self-confidence, as she's learned she can persevere, even in the face of great challenge.

"I have developed a skill in me and I want to thank everyone for helping me learn during the tough time and taking care of my family." - Bihana

Our request:
While the coronavirus has necessitated shifts in the way in which we support our students and their communities, our mission to support Nepal’s most vulnerable has remained the same. This is a critical time for the organization, and now more than ever we need our partners to sustain our work. We respectfully request a grant of $10,000 in support of our SuMa After-School program. The grant will support teacher salaries and activity supplies.