Finding her way to Nepal
USACS Dr. Sapana Adhikari first visited the land of her parents’ youth – Nepal – as a 19-year-old college student volunteer. She was fluent in the Nepali language, but in the days before the World Wide Web, finding a service opportunity wasn’t easy.
“I probably sent 20 different letters just saying that I was a college student and I wanted to volunteer,” said Adhikari.
Eventually, Oklahoma-based World Neighbors offered her a volunteer spot at a health post in rural Manthali. Adhikari fell in love with the beautiful village and vowed to return someday.
Nearly 20 years later – after completing medical education and starting a family – she made good on that promise, and has returned many times since. Initially, she spent most of her time in the hospital, treating patients and educating staff. But eventually, Adhikari turned her attention to outside the hospital doors. And now, she’s founder and Co-CEO of a nonprofit she started called smartketi that does development projects in Nepal.
Adhikari began bringing her three children, now ages 16, 13, and 10, to volunteer with her in Manthali to get a taste of their heritage and foster a love of service. On one of those trips, the eldest, Simona, taught English at a local school and also came up with the idea to teach girls how to make wrap bracelets from local materials.
“They used fishing line from a local village as the string, interest grew, and before long they were selling the smartbracelets at Nepali conventions back in the U.S.,” said Adhikari. “They raised $4,000 from that initial burst of entrepreneurial activity, and thus was born smartketi, which roughly translates to ‘smart girl.’ ”
Last year, smartketi won a $15,000 entrepreneurship award sponsored by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy in Boston. Smartketi used the funds to set up “smartbakery,” which nourishes a poorly resourced Nepali school.
In addition to dramatically improving the nutrition of the food eaten by the students, smartbakery has turned into a self-sustaining business, providing work and income for local women and using all locally-sourced ingredients and traditional methods of baking.
In addition to smartbakery and smartbracelets (which now have raised more than $7,000), Adhikari’s organization also has started a smartlibrary, smarthosiery, and is at work to identify other opportunities. The common thread, Adhikari said, is creating businesses that will be sustainable long-term.
Smartbracelet took on a life of its own, with local Nepali women fulfilling annual orders and managing all aspects of accounting, production, and distribution. Smartketi Simona has presented business throughout the United States and manages social media for the entire smartketi organization.
Smartbakery, too, is wildly successful and is fulfilling daily orders for neighborhood schools, and nearby villages are replicating the project.
Learn more – or get involved – at www.smartketi.com. There, you can purchase a smartbracelet for just $12, with 100% of the proceeds supporting Nepal.
About Dr. Adhikari
Dr. Adhikari is a practicing Emergency Medicine physician based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Throughout her career, she has been involved with many projects related to Nepal. In 2015, she was the medical director for the US-based Team Rubicon’s disaster response, Operation Tenzin, after the devastating earthquake. She was involved in a project with We Care Solar, setting up a Solar Suitcase for Tamakoshi Cooperative Hospital. She also supports Sunapati Bhwasa Charity Medical Center in Bethan, Ramecchap and distributes medical supplies donated by Americares.
Dr. Adhikari is also spends a lot of time painting. She has donated art to the charity Musa Masala, to raise money for the Wongchu Sherpa Memorial hospital near Everst base camp. Her artwork has also been featured in the Frederic Jameson Gallery at Duke University and at The National Academy of Medicine.
She loves the beautiful village of Manthali and invite anyone interested in visiting to join her.