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|From Intention to Action - Page 3|
Even as I was caught up in the feelings of that moment, I realized that a single impulsive gesture wasn't going to make much of a difference for the thousands of young girls being sold. What would it take not only to save the lives of lower-caste girls who wouldn't otherwise attend school, but introduce role models and opportunities that would expand the possibilities for their lives?
I didn't know the first thing about starting and running a charitable organization, and most of what I did know was discouraging. Among the largest charities, the majority of donations go to pay for buildings, staff, expenses, overhead, and travel. Once corruption enters the picture in developing countries, as it often does, a minuscule amount of money filters down to those who need help. I'd seen representatives of most charities and foundations staying in four-star hotels in Kathmandu, driving around in Range Rovers. Besides, I understood enough about systemic change to know that throwing money at problems is unlikely to make a lasting difference. I'd seen libraries built by well-meaning governments that had no books, although they had gorgeous exotic wood shelves. I once visited a cancer hospital built by a philanthropic organization where the doctors had no drugs to treat the patients.
I decided early on that I needed to use what I knew as a family therapist, respect the children's culture and family context, and build an organization that would become self-sustaining. Kiran and I, plus a Nepalese businessman, Digumber Piya, and several therapist-friends, put our heads together to find a way to help the most-neglected girls in Nepal, those from the poorest, most marginalized regions. We envisioned an organization made up entirely of volunteers—no overhead, no salaries, everyone paying their own expenses; all donations would go directly to the children's education. But we were far from having a road map. Who would volunteer? How would we spread the word? Where would we find our hypothetical, idealized "volunteers"?
At this point, we realized that we'd have to find a way to provide not only resources for the children, but also ongoing mentor relationships for them, especially with women role models. My feeling from years of experience teaching and doing therapy was that even big donations wouldn't amount to much if they weren't followed by ongoing supportive and constructive alliances. But how were we to go from an idea in our heads into a reality on the ground?