Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mahabir Pun of Myagdi, Nepal bags prestigious Magsaysay award

Mahabir Pun of Myagdi bags prestigious Magsaysay award

Mahabir Pun: 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Community Leadership.

Mahabir Pun of Myagdi, western Nepal, has bagged the prestigious Raman Magsaysay Awards, for Community Leadership.

The Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) Tuesday announced that seven Asians bagged this year's Raman Magsaysay Awards, the Asian Equivalent of Nobel Prize.

Pun is among three Chinese, a Korean, an Indian and a Pilipino to receive the coveted award.

According to the RMAF, Pun, 52, is “recognised for his innovative application of wireless computer technology in Nepal, bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village”.

Pun is the fourth Nepali to receive the Magsaysay award. He will receive the award amid a ceremony in Manila on August 31.

Here is Pun's profile:

Nangi Village, where Mahabir Pun was born, rests high in the Himalayan foothills of western Nepal. Here and in surrounding Myagdi District live the Pun Magar, whose men have soldiered for generations across the globe as Gurkhas. Yet, their worldly careers have done little to change their sleepy homeland, so far from the traffic patterns that knit together the rest of the world. Indeed, Nangi is seven hours' hard climb from the nearest road. No telephone lines have ever reached it. Despite this, these days the people of Nangi are definitely connected to the world outside. Wireless Internet technology has made this possible. Mahabir Pun has made it happen.

Pun passed his boyhood grazing cattle and sheep in mountain pastures and attending a village school that had no paper or pencils or books. Wanting more for his son, Pun's father moved the family to Nepal's lowlands, where, in Chitwan, Pun finished high school and became a teacher, working for twelve years to help his younger siblings through school. Finally, a timely scholarship led him to a bachelor's degree at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Then, in 1992, after more than twenty years away, Pun returned home to Nangi, determined to make things easier for other youths than they had been for him.

Nangi's leaders were busy establishing a village high school. Pun eagerly joined in. Once a month, he made the two-day trip to the nearest major town of Pokhara to check his e-mail and maintain his links to friends abroad. This led, in 1997, to the donation of four used computers from Australia. Powering them with hydro generators in a nearby stream, Pun began teaching computer classes at the high school. More computers followed, but it proved impossible to get a telephone connection to Pokhara and the Internet.

Pun e-mailed the British Broadcasting Corporation, asking for ideas. In 2001, the BBC publicized his dilemma and within a year volunteers from Europe and the United States were helping him rig a wireless connection between Nangi and the neighboring village of Ramche, using TV dish antennas mounted in trees. Some small grants soon led to the construction of improvised mountaintop relay stations and a link to Pokhara. By 2003, Nangi was online.

As word of Pun's project bounced around the World Wide Web, backpacking volunteers carried more and more donated computers, parts, and equipment into the hills. Meanwhile, Pun expanded the wireless network to embrace twelve villages-distributing a hundred computers to local schools, connecting them to the Internet, teaching teachers how to use them, and then tinkering and troubleshooting until everything worked.

Today, connectivity is changing Myagdi. Using the district's "tele-teaching" network, good teachers in one school now instruct students in others. Doctorless villagers use Wi-Fi to consult specialists in Pokhara. Village students surf the Net and are learning globe-savvy skills. Pun himself is using the Web to e-market local products such as honey, teas, and jams and to draw paying trekkers to campsites that he has outfitted with solar-powered hot showers. In parallel projects, villagers in Nangi have themselves added a library, a health clinic, and new classrooms for the high school.

Pun, now fifty-two, is both self-effacing and charismatic. "I'm not in charge of anything," he says. Yet, he seems to be the driving force of much around him. Eventually, he says, the people of Myagdi District will have to carry on for themselves. In the meantime, he hopes to play his unique role indefinitely. "As long as I can walk," Pun says happily, "I can do this."

In electing Mahabir Pun to receive the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his innovative application of wireless computer technology in Nepal, bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village.

(Source: Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation) mk/ia July 31 07


jasraj rai said...

I am Jas Rai living in Tanzania from last 10 years. When i read about Mahabir, i really proud of him. Actually i would like to do the same in my home town at Dicktel but i do not have technical knowledge except i can finance such project to facilitate internet service to community.

I would appriciate if any one could provide me his contact numbers either telephone or mail.

Jas Rai

HimalayanUniverse said...

Dear Jasraj ji,

we will post Mahadev's contacts as soon as we find. thanks for your interest to support in the development of nepali communities. Nothing happens by itself, persons like you can be catalysts.

jasraj rai said...

Dear Friend,

Millions thanks for response to my concern. I should be grateful if you contact me on the following address:

Jasraj Rai
Stanley Mining Services (T) Ltd
P.O. Box 2372, Pasiansi - Mwanza
Cell: +255 784 499 997 or alternative private

Best regards,
Jasraj Rai

Binod Mali said...

Sir Namaste,
I m from Nepalgunj. I m too much happy to know about U. I m interested to join in your planning. I m the permanent resident of Mahakali Zone, Dadeldhura District. I knew your coming plan is running in Far-West-Region. If possible I wanna to join and dedicate myself to your plan.
Sir , If possible Contanct me in :9848084606 or

Thnx Sir.

Kumar Luitel said...

Dear Sir,

I need contact no. of Mahavir Pun. Thanks

HimalayanUniverse said...

Dear Kumar,

we will post you the contacts as soon as we can find. we have tried to meet him but have had no luck so far. He is on the move all the time and no one knows his phone and place of residence. BBC reported recently how his wife and two smal daughters are left alone in Pokhara because of Mahadev's focus and attention on rural development.