Sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll have neighbors who you like, or if you’re even more fortunate you might even have neighbors to be friends with.
But I must be one of the most blessed people around because I have neighbours who inspire me.
Liesel and Rosemarie Briggs, are a mother and daughter team who have formed their own non-profit society that has them doing more than just acting locally and thinking globally. It has them acting globally with the help of locals.
The Briggs team are the founders of Hands of Hope, a grass-roots Canadian organization that assists underprivileged children and adults in India and Nepal develop independence and self-reliance.
Hands of Hope recognizes that education is central in helping individuals and communities gain self-reliance and rise above poverty and with this understanding they create libraries, build classrooms, fund post-secondary education for orphans and sponsor refugee families.
While travelling between Delhi, India and Kathmandu, Nepal, on vacation just less than a decade ago, Liesel and Rosemarie saw children unable to get an education and too poor to even have enough food to eat, and this pulled at their hearts.
They were told accounts of countless school children who were crammed together trying to diligently learn but without the resources that we take for granted in the west.
Liesel and Rosemarie wondered what they might be able to do to help the children and teachers in Nepal and India provide better educational opportunities, as they are both educators themselves, and hence know the meaning of a quality education.
So, what the mother-daughter team has done is to diligently fundraise money in their own community that they then use to help both children and adults back in India and Nepal.
Rosemarie and Liesel go on the radio, write articles and have articles written about their organization in the local newspaper and host fundraising events in order to raise the funds needed to buy books, build libraries and financially support orphans.
And they don’t take any of the money for themselves, always paying their own airfare and accommodations on their yearly trips to Nepal and India and taking no salary from this work. They have been very successful building four classrooms and ten libraries over the years, sponsoring many refugee elders and children, plus feeding, clothing and supporting orphans.
But now the Briggs have taken on an even bigger challenge.
And just like all of their other work their dedication comes from their desire to help, but it also comes from their ability to form relationships that support and encourage the children and orphans they connect with to grow and become the best people they can be.
I went over to the Briggs house recently to visit and see photos of their recent trip to Nepal and India. Liesel was home, but Rosemarie had stayed behind in Nepal, as she does every year, to meditate at an Ashram for four months.
When Liesel and I sat down to chat, what she wanted to tell me about was Rohit Malla, a 20-year-old young man from the village of Rudrapur, in the south of Nepal.
“At the age of seven or eight years old Rohit’s father died,” Liesel told me. “Rohit described it as his father just never woke up.”
Liesel went on to describe a family who was already poor and now without a father was desperate.
“No longer could the mother feed her sons and Rohit and his two brothers became orphans. And it was a dangerous time to be in the villages, Rohit told me how the Maoists would slit people’s throats and throw the dead bodies on the side of the road.”
But luckily Rohit and his brothers were taken to an orphanage that Hands of Hope started to help. Hands of Hope assisted all the orphans with living expenses and up to eight with post secondary education costs.
“Rohit ended up being a shining student,” Liesel told me, her eyes glowing like a proud Grandma (which is what the orphans call her). “In high school he studied hard, made good marks and earned a little extra money tutoring other students in math. People also told us about his sketches. He is also an exceptional artist—self taught.”
Liesel and Rosemarie have been supporting Rohit for the last two years with his living and education expenses as he attends a special preparation academy in Kathmandhu.
But unfortunately because of a bureaucratic error Rohit is at a disadvantage.
“Rohit is from a very poor background and lowest caste,” Liesel explained to me. “But a mistake in paperwork registered him as a higher caste. It was good fortune to go to an orphanage and be sent to a private school, but bad fortune because now he is ineligible for receiving government preference, based on being a brilliant government school graduate. To make his situation even more challenging, though he is Dalit, the lowest caste, he is registered as a higher caste, so he can’t receive government assistance for exceptional low caste students. And Rohit so badly wants to be a doctor.”
To become a doctor Rohit needs about $50,000, Liesel told me, but she is worried that such a little organization like Hands of Hope won’t be able to pull together this kind of money.
“But we have to find a way,” she says. “We can’t let the dreams of such a motivated and bright boy crumble and come to nothing. Somehow, some way this money has to come together because we know he will become a doctor and help so many people, because that’s his aspiration. He’s seen suffering and wants to alleviate pain.”
And you know what? Somehow I just know that this mother-daughter team will meet this challenge of raising the money for Rohit’s education. That is what you have to think when you are inspired by people as I am with Liesel and Rosemarie, because with their perseverance, dedication and love, dreams have to come true.
Liesel and Rosemarie Briggs are the super mother-daughter team behind the organization Hands of Hope. They live in Northern Canada but spend time every year in Nepal and India, meeting with refugees who have Canadian sponsors, building classrooms for schools, setting up libraries, teaching literacy skills and meeting with the orphans they support.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Renee Picard