Bikalpa Baniya is a second-year student and Bonner Scholar at Oberlin College. The question that unites all of Bikalpa's community engagement is "How can I support access to education?" Already motivated by challenges he experienced in his schooling in Nepal and the barriers he witnessed others overcome to receive education, the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal solidified Bikalpa's commitments to addressing education inequality. Through his coursework and his organizing he is building a long-term partnership between Oberlin and a grassroots school in Nepal to promote cultural exchange and advance new models of education and problem solving. Simultaneously, Bikalpa serves with programs in Oberlin that support college access and STEM education.
The 2015 Gorkha Earthquake had devastated thousands of lives in Nepal. So to provide any assistance I could, I went to the Sindupalchowk, the hardest hit district, in the January of 2016. My experiences teaching for the two years prior to the earthquake had taught me that the condition of education in Nepal was bad. However, that January made things personal, because it put faces to those problems. After I came back to Oberlin, I organized myself and reached out to Maya Universe Academy, Nepal's first free private school. Inspired by the people's dedication at the school, I gathered resources from Oberlin to assist Maya. Through various events and fundraisers, I raised $7104 to build new classrooms, secured laptops to introduce computers for the youth in this remote school, and recruited volunteers from Oberlin for trips to Maya. In addition, I have founded an organization on campus, Students United for Nepal, to initiate dialogue on the various difficulties disadvantaged youth face to attain education.