Ram Chandra Subedi grew up in a small village in western Nepal. This small country, high in the mountains of Himalaya, is among the poorest and least developed in the world. Forty–two percent of Nepalese live below the poverty level, and education is inaccessible to most Nepalese children. The inability to get an education feeds the poverty, stifles success, and continues the cycle.
"My family survived only on what we were able to farm," Ram says about his life in Nepal where the unemployment rate is 47%. "I did not receive a proper education because of my family's financial situation. They couldn't afford to pay the school fees and buy the necessary books. I was also needed at home to help my parents with farming the land and taking care of the animals. Therefore, I had to drop out of school in the third grade. Ever since that day my biggest dream was to finish high school.
"When I became financially secure, in my thirties, I decided to try to finish high school. But it is very difficult to study at this level as an adult in Nepal. Therefore, when I moved to the United States I knew it was my opportunity to achieve my dream."
Like many immigrants, when Ram first arrived in America he struggled with the language, making friends, and adjusting to a new and very different culture. Then he discovered San Mateo Adult School. "I found a wonderful community of teachers, friends and staff. They not only helped me to learn English but also gave me tremendous help in passing the GED and supported me in my adjustment to a new culture. Everyone there has been extremely helpful and very friendly." Ram sees schools like San Mateo as being very important to students new to the US, and claims, "The San Mateo Adult School is one of the best schools I have experienced."
San Mateo Adult School provided training in English, job skills, and adult basic education to Ram. These three areas formed a strong foundation that he was later able to use to not only move toward his next goal, going to college, but also to help the people of his native Nepal.
Ram has never forgotten the poverty from which he came or the plight of those he left in Nepal. Employed today as an art and antique dealer, he has established the Nepal Children’s Fund. The fund’s mission is to provide mathematics, and English teachers for Nepalese schools in hopes of stemming the 80% failure rate in these subjects. Ram solicits donations, organizes fundraisers, and has established a business importing handicrafts, antiques and embroidered goods to help support the fund. The video production skills he learned are used to make presentations for the foundation. What he learned in computer application and office technologies classes has helped him be successful in both his business and his philanthropy.
Ram and his employer both provide scholarships to pay for tuition and school supplies so Nepalese children can have advantages that he didn’t. There is also a scholarship to help a deserving graduate of San Mateo Adult School continue their education at the college level.
When Ram gets to college he wants to study birds and the environment. "I would like to use my education to help protect the environment from over-development in Nepal," he says, "In my hometown there are more species of birds than all of North America. I would like to help ensure the conservation of these birds."
Ram recognizes that the opportunities provide by adult education are there for everyone. He is an outstanding example of someone who used the opportunities adult education gave him to not only achieve his goals, but also to contribute to the improvement of the lives of others.