Friday, April 25, 2008

Heights of education reach girls

Trek in Nepal will aid Little Sisters Fund


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Clockwise, Trevor Patzer with his sister Hilary (right), his aunt Gigi Siegrist (bottom left) and mother, Midge Patzer, in Bhutan in 2006. Photo by

Two years ago as Ketchum resident Midge Patzer stepped out of a car at the Noble Academy in Katmandu, Nepal, a strange little girl ran up to her.

"She was saying, 'Mama, Mama, I'm Hari. I'm your daughter,'" Patzer said. "This beautiful little face was looking at me."

This is the moment for which anybody who has sponsored a child in any part of the world dreams. Patzer's sponsorship of Hari began when she learned of the orphaned girl through the Little Sisters Fund. At the time Patzer began to sponsor her, Hari walked to school and lived eight hours outside of Kathmandu. She has now graduated.

In 1998, her son, Trevor Patzer, co-founded the Little Sisters Fund with Usha Acharya, author and wife of a former Nepalese ambassador to the United Nations. While trekking after college, he had met a girl and decided to foot the expenses of her education.

"It started with one little girl and then people were literally throwing money at him," Midge Patzer said. "He runs it full time now. He's a fund-raiser. "

The fund is a scholarship and mentoring program for motivated South Asian girls living in extreme poverty. Without fund support, these girls might be forced to discontinue school, and would be susceptible to child labor, child marriage and child trafficking (including the international sex industry).

On May 1, Midge Patzer, a counselor, author and former teacher, will fly to Katmandu to join Trevor, Jack Hetherington of Sun Valley and Twin Falls, Phil Wiltse of Seattle and Kacie Wallace of Durham, N.C. A documentary filmmaking team from NonFiction Media of Scott Squire and Amy Benson of Seattle will also join the group. They will spend a week in country before the others arrive, filming at the school and around Kathmandu.

The group will spend a day at the Noble Academy before embarking on a trek up Mera Peak, the highest non-technical climb in Nepal at 21,247 feet. The summit encompasses awe-inspiring views of Kanchenjunga and Makalu to the east, Everest and Lhotse to the north, and Ama Dablam and Cho Oyu to the west.

Patzer is only slightly wary. After all, she said, "I'm at an age where I say 'Let's go to a spa."

So how did she end up in this predicament?

"Trevor called me and said, 'I know what I want for Christmas and my birthday and Christmas after that," Midge said. "I want you to go on this climb.' It's a month. It's expensive for me—everyone has to raise money between $5 to $10,000 each to go. I fought it for awhile and finally said okay. It's the trip of a lifetime."

Trevor Patzer is hoping to raise $125,000 from the climb, which would pay for 1,000 years of a girl's education in Nepal. It takes $2,500 to fund one girl's entire education. Currently there are more than 500 girls on long-term scholarships, with another 200 expected to be enrolled by the end of this year. Of the 16 girls who have graduated from the program, eight are teachers, two have graduated from nursing school, two are working at Save the Children and four are working in the private sector.

"People love to support this," Midge said. "When they find out the money goes to the girls, they are very excited to give."

One sponsor is offering a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution up to $30,000 raised between now and the departure date of May 1.

When the team returns to Kathmandu around May 23, the Little Sisters will present a cultural show for them. The school plans it to coincide with Trevor's visits.

"What he's doing is just amazing and he does it with such integrity," Midge said. "It's the way he lives his life. You can see it in Nepal. He's so respected. What's interesting is that the girls all know the names of their sponsors. It's not about the money. It's about education."

To make a donation to the Little Sisters Fund or contribute to the Mera Peak Fundraising Climb, send a check to Trevor Patzer, Little Sisters Fund, Box 715, Ketchum, ID 83340, or go to littlesistersfund.org.




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