Dristy Shrestha ’11 has brought together her struggling country’s youth and brought hydropower to the people through her two Projects for Peace (2010 and 2009).
A decade of bloody unrest resulted in abolishment of Nepal’s monarchy in 2008. The country is still struggling to establish a constitution, rule of law, and civil institutions. Meanwhile, what Dristy believes is one of Nepal’s strengths—its great ethnic diversity—is being undermined by Maoist leaders whose efforts to splinter the tiny country into autonomous ethnic regions are causing competition for privileges based on majority status.
“It saddens me to see the present situation of my country, which ideally should have been focusing on development but is being distracted by issues like ethnic tension. As a psychology major looking at the social psychology of these divisive actions, I know they have potential to become much worse.”
Dristy turned to the Nepal Scouts, a politically neutral organization that had helped shape her own pride in Nepal’s diversity. She knew from experience how Scouts, who range from 12 to 16 years old, developed friendships across caste and ethnic lines. “One of the Scout laws I remembered was, ‘We are brothers and sisters to all other Scouts.’ That summed it up for me. “
Fortunately, Dristy’s former Scoutmaster is now Nepal Scouts’ national commissioner. “I called him and said, ‘there’s this grant…’ I wanted to do something big for Nepali identity, available to the entire country. The Scouts know how to organize events, and my Scoutmaster supported it. They would never have been able to do something this big without the grant, and they added some money to it.”
The president of Nepal inaugurated the 4-day camping event, which almost 800 Scouts and Scoutmasters attended. Dristy was the official director of the camp, dressed in the green uniform worn by Scout leaders. The camp’s activities were based on peace and unity, and Scouts and leaders from all over Nepal gave speeches on that topic.
“It was so beautiful to see all these people talk. These are kids who don’t travel and who’d never been to the capital. We had a climbing wall, campfires, music and dances representing different regions, which Nepalis normally don’t get to see. It was an historic event for everyone.”
Meanwhile, as a result of Dristy’s 2009 Project for Peace, 63 households in two rural Nepal villages now have 24-hour electricity from microhydropower she helped develop. The villages are using the power for grain-grinding machines and other profitable projects. “The villagers now have control over it, and it’ll run as long as there’s water in the river,” says Dristy.