When you arrive in Chitwan, the first thing you witness after the plain roads and mustard fields are people up and about their daily lives, commuting in bicycles or rickshaws - a sight contrast to the commuting style in most metropolitan cities including Kathmandu. Chitwan is in the plain Terai region, extended over the Southern foothills of Nepal, a home to the Tharu people, an ethnic group indigenous to the area.
Even though bicycles are the most common mode of transportation in this area, the cost per bicycle maybe be expensive particularly for those from marginalized families. When families in villages are unable to afford bicycles for each member of the family, priorities go to the head of the family then to the men in the much patriarchal society. This is main reason for school dropouts, a main reason for students especially girls to miss school as it becomes a daunting task to walk long hours each day to and from school.
The ‘Bicycle for Girls Project’ is an initiative started by Dharma Adventures in recognition to this problem. Under this project, we contribute bicycles to girl students living outside the Chitwan National Park, so they can save about 90 minutes daily commute to school. The girls that benefit from this project are all from marginalized families who live in the villages of Chitwan. While any help is appreciated in this part of the community, we realize that in the long run, buying bicycles to go to school and providing school materials is the most sustainable and impactful choice for the community.
Over the years, we donated many bicycles, but our biggest contribution so far would be in 2018 where we successfully donated 12 bicycles to girl students from this community. We were able to make this project successful in collaboration with one of our agents, Bamboo Travel where we matched 100% of their contribution to this project. After a thorough research, candidates were selected, and bicycles were bought. A small handover program ensured lots of happy faces.
This is an experience of giving back something meaningful to the community. If you feel this may be an experience worth sharing, a difference worth making or organizing for your guests, we are more than happy to pave the path.