Westminster College student gets funding to empower women, children in Nepal

Apr 22, 2013

A Westminster College student is one of only nine students in the country to receive funding for the Clinton Global Initiative.

When Sahadev Yangmali Rai visited Bhojpur, a town in his home country of Nepal, he knew he had to do something.

“They don’t have electricity," Rai said. "They don’t have phone service. They don’t have a toilet, they don’t have drinking water. Literally, they don’t have anything.”

A civil war has upturned this Eastern Nepal town, leaving its citizens impoverished and the land overridden by a government that, according to Rai, is doing nothing.

After his visit, Rai immediately began planning to help his native people. He specifically wanted to empower the women and children victims by teaching them ways to overcome poverty.

“I can show those people that there is someone who cares about them," Rai said. "And we can make a change if we work together."

But, he didn’t have the funding to turn his dream into a reality.

That all changed when a fellow student at Westminster College, also from Nepal, told him about the Clinton Global Initiative – a challenge that awards students the funding needed for innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

With more than 600 applicants, representing all 50 states and 75 different countries, Rai didn’t think he had a chance.

But, when Chelsea Clinton announced his name at a special ceremony in St. Louis, Rai realized he had beat out 150 other semi-finalists and was ecstatic.

“When she called my name, it was beyond my happiness," Rai said. "I was thrilled. My plan is to start a gradual movement. If I don’t do it, who will do it? I want to show these young  people that you can make a change.”
Rai will visit Nepal for over two months this summer to start his project.

Hannah Michow-Proffitt, with Westminster’s Service Learning Department, says this project is only one example of Rai’s ambition.

“He is just going to do amazing things in this world," MichowProffitt said. "This project is just one example of what Yang is capable of, and we look forward to seeing what he will do next.”

With the $9,000 from the Clinton Initiative, Rai plans to employ Nepalese women at the local level to produce cash crops that can be sold.

The profits generated from their work will be invested in improving education and starting a library and computer lab.