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« Paul Graf - Smithtown Elementary's Principal Retires | Main | FEMA To Reimburse Smithtown $4,296,115.57 »
Monday
Jun182012

Amanda Daflos SHS Class of '96 - Building A School And A Future For Children In Nepal

Former Smithtown resident aims to construct school in impoverished Nepal

By Chad Kushins

Photos courtesy of Amanda Daflos and the Nepal Maure Village School Project

 

Amanda Daflos with a school class in KathmanduWhen Amanda Daflos graduated from Smithtown High School in 1996, she had no idea that her college years would lead to a passion that would inspire the next decade and a half of her life. 

Attending Hamilton College in Upstate New York, Daflos opted to study abroad for seven months, her adventure finally leading her to the village of Kopan, located in Nepal.  There, she lived with a local native family, and not only learned to read and write Nepali, but also to witness, first-hand, the economic and social obstacles that all but dominate areas of the third-world.  It was a harsh lesson that she never forgot.  While attaining her master’s degree at the University of Colorado, Amanda stayed in contact with her friends in Nepal, putting into motion an ambitious project that will finally see a launch date this month.

“I had originally studied in [the village of Kopan] as a student,” Daflos told Smithtown Matters, “and I’ve felt very connected to there since that time.  I made a lot of friends there and it’s a very rich, interesting culture … I’ve worked on and organized a number of different projects and charities for that area, and it’s been a great way to stay connected.”

Eventually settling down in Colorado, Amanda founded Aleigh Productions, a public relations and event consulting firm specializing in work with non-profit organizations and also became the Director of Programs for the International Mountain Explorers Connection [IMEC], a non-profit organization focusing on assisting people who live in developing mountain regions throughout the world.* Now a manager for Deloitte Consulting, Amanda’s experiences shaped a career-path of unique insight into what would become her Nepal school construction project.

“Staying connected, the idea came out of being in contact with friends and the families I know there,” Daflos said of the earliest concepts to build a school in the area and how she could uniquely help from her place in the Children in Maure VillageU.S.  “I thought to myself, ‘How can I not do this?  It’s in my power to help in this way, and I have the background for it … Partnerships have been really important, and I’ve gotten a lot of inside help to get this off the ground.  And that partnership exists, where [the villagers] really want this school to happen and many people involved want to see it done for them.”

Joined in her crusade by business partner John Oliva, Amanda co-founded Nepal Trek and Trail Run, aiming to Amanda Daflos (right) and Nima Dorje Lama who are the project founders for the Nepal Maure Village School Build Project introduce to others the beautiful, culture, and unfortunate economic strife within Nepal and its surrounding country.  On a continuing basis, both Daflos and Oliva take tourists, who sign up for a ten-day hike and run through Katmandu and the Annapurna Mountains with a portion of the proceeds used to support other organizations working in that region.  

The plot of land that will soon to be leveled, paving the way for the new village high school.In November of last year, Amanda visited the home of close friend, former mayor of the village of Maure, Jagat Man Lama.  On that trip, she quickly learned the current woes of the village, particularly those affecting the local schools and young students.  In Maure, the 35-year-old middle school not only had fallen into a certain amount of disrepair, but students older than the seventh-grade level are forced to make a three-hour round trip walk to school every day because of the village’s lack of a proper high school.  With the extreme difficulty of having to make such a daily journey, many students opt to quit school prior to attending high school, finding it easier to work within the agricultural community, conducting work in the fields or in other local areas that require manual labor.  In the end, these students don’t really have a choice.

Daflos explained, “It’s a very challenged place and a still-evolving country.  It’s very, very rural – almost like A traditional native woman of Maure village.  the side of a mountain – and so, it’s also very agricultural.  With their current situation, all students in the village, after grade seven, have to walk if they want to continue their education – and many decide that it’s just too much and settle into a job without the means to advance further.

“Knowing those numbers,” added Daflos, “it was the real reason that we want to fix up the standing middle school and add a brand new high school.”

Amanda and her team have found that for $30,000, the local middle school in Maure can be repaired and enough land can be acquired to build a much-needed high school and playground.  In order to logistically commence the project, each step for the school was broken down into phases, the first of which would see much-needed repairs made to the standing middle school as the high school’s land acquisition continues, leading up to its construction. 

An ambitious project, yes, but Daflos is passionate that the goal can be met – with the right amount of help.

“Our goal is still to raise that initial $30,000 by the end of this month,” Daflos added.  “The entire project is set into phases, and that sum will go very far in the first stage…”

According to Daflos, not only does she plan to make frequent visits to Maure while the project is underway – even planning a trip in July for the launch of the construction’s first phase – but is also in talks with local school districts to get students involved in raising additional funds to benefit the cause. 

Daflos believes that with the right attitude and social education, many high schoolers might become very inspired in learning about the diverse cultures and the disadvantages that students their own ages face in other countries – and how just a little understanding and support can lead to tremendous advances in the quality of life for someone else.

Who knows?  Amanda was once just a Smithtown High School student looking to help out, too.

Additional information about Amanda Daflos’ ongoing project to aid the village of Maure’s school construction, or about the many other concurrent initiatives to benefit that region, visit www.nepalschool.wix.com/project or www.cureblindness.org.

*This article has been amended 

 

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