Ama Chhori Foundation of Hope:
Who We Are and How We Started
Nepal. When I think of it, I am struck anew by the beauty of the land and the happiness of its people. I hear the sweet music of the sitars and flutes, even in the Villages. And I imagine once again the sky that seems to go on forever, especially at night after the sun disappears over a forever horizon.
Nepal is like no other place on earth.
I was introduced to Nepal in March, 1985 when I arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer after college. I stepped off the plane thousands of miles from home and instantly felt … well, home. We were there to fulfill the Peace Corps Mission to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
While I was there, I focused on Rural Income Generation, helping men and women purchase goats and chickens with low-interest loans from the Bank of Nepal.
Living among the Nepali people was transformative. It’s one of the happiest places I’ve ever been privileged to live; families open their doors to everyone and share everything they have. They appreciate visitors coming to their country to learn about their culture. And they have been doing so since Nepal first opened its doors to the world in 1950.
The Ama Chhori Foundation of Hope is about paying the goodness of Nepal forward. Nine months after my arrival in 1985, I fell gravely ill with giardia and amoebic dysentery. The Gurkha soldiers transported me from one end of the country to the other – to Katmandu. I was sent to a hospital in Thailand for a week before returning stateside to fully recover. Once I was well, I traveled back to Nepal and stayed for another year.
Many years later, I returned in 2015 after the April earthquake. I worked with former Peace Corps trainers and Habitat for Humanity to help people recover from the devastation, which took the country’s development back in time 40 years. Many areas were without electricity, running water, and roads. In addition to raising funds to help the Nepali people cope with their damaged infrastructure, I also brought school supplies and filter straws for drinking water with me. The cash funded temporary housing, paid a family’s rent for a year, and bought protein treats (eggs) for one of the children’s schools for a month.
I continued to raise money after coming home, and by 2017 traveled back yet again with enough funds to build a Women’s Training Center; and begin construction on a second one. These training centers teach women how to sustain themselves and their families. Knowledge makes them powerful and resilient, deepening the foundations of the country itself.
And so, the Ama Chhori Foundation of Hope was born of our commitment to the Nepali people.
In Nepali, Ama Chhori means “mother daughter.” Because women and children are at the heart of humanity. They are the teachers AND the next generation of citizens. We are dedicated to empowering them so that they become independent and strong. Education will ensure they can sustain themselves financially so that their families – and Nepal – thrive once more.
Maria Santangelo, Founder