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Professors help alum rebuild school after Nepal quake

imaeg of Gyan Jyoti school

The Gyan Jyoti school suffered severe damage in the Nepal earthquakes.

Hearing about the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, Distinguished Professor of English Roberta Trites contacted one of her former doctoral students, knowing Hari Adhikari’s family was from the nation’s Gorkha district.

“Last I heard he had been teaching in Hong Kong, so I was shocked to discover he was in Kathmandu when the quakes struck,” said Trites of the Illinois State alumnus who earned a doctorate in 2012. “He had been doing what he always did—training teachers. He believes so wholly in children’s education.”

Although Adhikari and his immediate family were not hurt in the earthquakes, they—like many others—have been living outside for fear of buildings collapsing. Trying to make his way to his home village of Hansapur, Adhikari found the conditions deplorable. “As the center of the quake was very close to our birth place, the condition of the villagers is pathetic. Schools, community health posts, and everything with structure is gone,” wrote Adhikari, who began coordinating trucks of food and tents to be sent to the village.

image of Hari Adhikari

Hari Adhikari

While Adhikari turned to family members living in the United States for medical supplies, it was Trites and the English faculty that he asked for help to rebuild the local secondary school called Gyan Jyoti. “I am thinking of doing something that can help children to go to school,” he wrote. “That will include support to build a school-house.”

Trites recruited her colleagues, Professors of English Jan Susina and Karen Coats, who was a co-director of Adhikari’s doctoral thesis. The trio established a crowdfunding page on Indiegogo to raise money for Gyan Jyoti. With imagery designed by Trites’ daughter, a recent University High School graduate, the page has pulled in nearly $2,000 so far.

“Even to be asked to help a passionate and gentle soul like Hari is humbling,” said Trites. “He has dedicated his life to education and training teachers. He was training teachers in a building when the earthquake struck, and the ceiling fell. Yet his first thought is for the children.”

The Indiegogo page will be live until July 5, with funds sent to Hansapur for building supplies.

“This is what we do at Illinois State, what we have always done,” said Trites. “We connect young people with education. Yet this time it feels more deeply personal and emotional than it has ever been.”