(Rah’ mish Neo’-pawn-ee), International Student Association (ISA), 305.766.4488 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mahabir Pun, the 2007 Magsaysay Award recipient and a University of Nebraska at Kearney graduate, will speak at “Journey to the Top of the World,” Nepali cultural night, on Sunday, Feb 26, on the UNK campus.
In addition to Pun’s presentation, authentic Nepali dishes will be served at the event, which will take place from 5-7 p.m. in the Nebraskan Student Union Office of Multicultural Affairs. The Office of Multicultural Affairs is located on the first floor, east end, of the union.
In 1997, Pun set a goal to get Internet connection in his village in Nepal for the first time. He started an organization called Nepal Wireless, which now supplies wireless Internet to more than 30 villages in Nepal.
“Every year, the Nepalese Student Association of Kearney (NESAK) does some sort of program at UNK to show our culture and values to UNK and the Kearney community,” said Ramesh Neupane, student adviser for the UNK International Student Association. “We were planning for it this year, and when we heard that Mahabir Pun was going to be here, we decided to organize an event at that time.
“Having him as a speaker, and letting him speak about his work, will help his projects, as well as be beneficial to people in the Kearney community to learn about Nepal and his work,” Neupane said. Also, the Nepali and United States national anthems will be sung, and there will be various group and solo performances by Nepalese students.
Pun began his mission to bring Internet to his community in 1997, despite the fact that there was not a single phone line in the village. After years of research and experiments, he was able to get five villages connected to the Internet by 2003. Currently, 22 villages in the Myagdi, Kaski and Parbat districts are connected. A similar wireless network was build in the Makawanpur district, which connects seven villages, and in the Palpa district, which connects four villages.
All of the work to bring Internet to the Nepali people was done illegally, as the group had not received a license required by the government of Nepal. Because of political unrest in Nepal at the time, they risked being killed or tortured if they were caught.
“The biggest challenge until September 2006 for this project was to find ways to work in the absence of flexible government law,” Pun said “It was almost impossible to import Wi-Fi equipment from abroad. We smuggled all the wireless equipment from Singapore and the U.S.”
He was elected Ashoka Fellow in 2002 by the Ashoka Foundation, which is a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. The foundation recognizes people from around the globe who have “innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society.”
Pun was the recipient of the 2004 Overall Social Innovations Award from the Global Ideas Bank, and in 2007, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. The Magsaysay Award is considered to be the Asian equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize. Also, Pun was the featured speaker for the 2007 UNK winter commencement, during which he was awarded an honorary degree, the doctorate of humane letters, for his outstanding work in Nepal.
The event is sponsored by the NESAK, Registered Student Organization Catering Fund, International Student Services, UNK Multicultural Office and the Himachal Project.