Nirmala Gyawali is, like many other Colorado State University students, overwhelmed and excited by the prospect of graduating this May. But unlike other students, Gyawali’s road to a degree here in the United States has been paved with great obstacles and even greater achievements.
Gyawali comes from a rural village outside of Katmandu in Nepal. She is one of five children and one of three of those five born blind.
"People who are disabled are looked down on in Nepal. Many think that being disabled is a punishment for sins in a past life," said Gyawali.
The stigma attached to being disabled in Nepal has prevented many people from getting an education or using their skills. Gyawali was fortunate to be one of the children taken in and provided for by the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation.
The NYOF is a United States based non-profit organization that provides education, housing, medical care and support to destitute children in Nepal.
"If it weren’t for the NYOF I would be begging in the streets now instead of getting my second undergraduate degree at Colorado State," said Gyawali.
The education Gyawali received as a child in Nepal aided her in competing with fully-sighted students for a Fulbright Scholarship and the opportunity to study in the United States. She stood out as a distinguished applicant who had accomplished great things already — such as hosting a community radio program in Nepal that was the first to address issues facing the physically challenged.
Gyawali is getting her second bachelor’s degree in sociology at Colorado State University. She hopes to use her degree to help provide access to education and job training for people in Nepal with disabilities. After graduating in the United States and returning home, Gyawali plans to pursue social work.
"I want to help people like me because I know how it is. I could have studied law or medicine, but I had to be practical because in Nepal we don’t have the things I would need to help my people with those degrees. I want to work in the development field for people with disabilities that is why I am interested in social work," said Gyawali.