Founded in 1998 by Trevor Patzer and Usha Acharya, the Little Sisters Fund started with a gift of education planted in the United States that is now blooming in the country of Nepal.
When Trevor was 13 or 14 a family friend offered that if he was accepted to one of the top boarding schools in the USA, St. Paul’s School, the friend would financially support Trevor’s education there. In the spring of 1989 Trevor was accepted and true to his word, the family friend paid for Trevor’s St. Paul’s schooling giving Trevor first-hand experience of how life altering the gift of education is. Trevor did not know it at the time, but the seeds for the Little Sisters Fund were planted through this generous gift of education years before the first girl received a scholarship in Nepal.
Leaping forward 10 years, Trevor had an opportunity to travel to Nepal and to trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest. While in Nepal he saw the poor state of the Nepalese educational system and when he returned to Kathmandu, he asked his friend and mentor, Usha Acharya if there was a child he could help get an education. Usha replied that there was not a child, but a girl and she introduced Trevor to the plight of women and girls in Nepal and to the challenges girls face just to go to school. She also introduced Trevor to Bindhaya, a young girl not in school and therefore at-risk of child labor, child marriage and child trafficking.
This introduction changed Trevor’s life and was the spark that ignited what is now the Little Sisters Fund. Trevor asked what he could do and Usha suggested that he could pay Bindhaya’s tuition, book, supply and uniform expenses and in doing so, provide her with safety, opportunity and hope through the gift of an education. On-the-spot Trevor committed to support Bindhaya’s education, the first Little Sister. Today she is a highly successful nurse at one of Nepal’s best hospitals. She is a School Coordinator and mentors a group of 15 younger Little Sisters and in her spare time, she continues to pursue her Masters In Education. Perhaps most importantly, Bindhaya is “paying it forward” by choosing to personally finance the education of a younger Little Sister.
Back in the USA
When Trevor returned to the US after his trip, family and friends would ask him what his favorite experience was from Nepal. They expected him to say watching the sunrise between Everest and Lhotse from the top of Kala Pattar… and when Trevor would answer that his most rewarding experience was meeting Bindhaya and explained the state of female education in Nepal and that he was supporting Bindhaya’s future education, people would ask how they could help and wanted to support the education of other girls. This is when the seeds of the Little Sisters Fund, planted a decade before by the gift of education that Trevor had received, took root resulting in the birth of the Little Sisters Fund.
Little did Trevor know at the time that Usha was a world expert on the rights of women and girls in South Asia and had led teams at both the Asia Foundation and at Save the Children UK and had written and published numerous books and articles on the state of the Nepalese educational system. Trevor explains that, “Usha is it when it comes to education and female rights in Nepal. She is hands-down the most knowledgeable, respected and compassionate person in the field of Nepalese female education.”
In 1998 the Little Sisters Fund supported one girl, Bindhaya. In 1999, there were 17 Little Sisters. In 2000 the Fund had grown to support 35 girls… and today there are over 1,500 Little Sisters on long-term scholarships doing amazingly well both individually and collectively.
Trevor and Usha are both still integrally involved in the Little Sisters Fund. Trevor leads Little Sisters Fund efforts in the USA while Usha leads the extremely talented and committed team in Nepal and both report to a uniquely skilled and knowledgeable Board of Directors.
Thousands of people in Nepal call Usha “didi”, a term of endearment and respect for “older sister”. Usha and the Nepalese team combined with the support of our donors are saving and changing lives, one girl at a time, in Nepal.
“We know that there is no tool for progress more powerful than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.” Kofi Annan, 2003