Local Heroes: Food, Shelter, and Giving Back

Filling stomachs and placing orphans in homes are the result of one hero’s actions – both locally and on the other side of the world. Shrawan Nepali, who is 51, was almost left alone as a child in Nepal when his parents were unable to stay married because of objections to their inter-caste marriage. He was brought up in an orphanage from the ages of 8 to 16, and later attended a public college for two years.

With the help and dedication of others, he was able to leave Nepal and earn a scholarship in North Carolina with a major in international business. He then moved to San Francisco where a friend from the Peace Corps helped him settle. Shrawan then earned his master’s degree and was something of a corporate mogul for five years. In his words, those five years were spent achieving what most know as the American Dream. However, he says that even before he moved to the United States, he had ambitions that went further than just an education and a well-paying job. He wanted to give back to the world because of all that it had provided him. With that in mind, Ama Ghar was established in Kathmandu, Nepal, in August 2001.

In Nepalese, Ama Ghar literally translates to “Mother House,” which is exactly what Shrawan wanted to offer to underprivileged orphans: a motherly environment. He struggled in the beginning, as he needed a location, not to mention the funding, to support a home for 40 children. He recognizes it as a small price to pay for all the good that it has done. The purpose of Ama Ghar is to house 40 underprivileged, orphaned children through high school and at least four years of higher education. When asked why he was so adamant about including a college education, Shrawan recall that it was difficult for him to adjust from the orphanage to his own college. He wants to support others in the same place as he was. If someone leaves after completing his or her education, another person comes in, keeping a quiet consistency. Shrawan fondly recalls little miracles and success stories that motivate him. Recently, several high school students took the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam, which is equivalent to the SAT in the United States, he said. Seven of these students passed with first division distinction, similar to honor roll in the U. S. – and extremely good news for the students, as academic distinction opens windows of employment opportunity. All this ensures their success for the future, as in one young lady’s case who now works as a nurse in a government-owned hospital.

Shrawan says that the main focus of Ama Ghar is on young girls. Because the social and political environment in Nepal is still developing, it is difficult for females to obtain a job, and even more so when they have no family or experience. But Shrawan’s mission with Ama Ghar is to take girls like these and ensure that they are given opportunities they would not otherwise receive. The orphanage was built into a permanent home last September through funds and donations, which he says were provided by “Nepal lovers,” his name for a general group of people who have helped support Ama Ghar in any way they can.

In December 2006, Shrawan put another plan he had in mind into action: He began serving hot, wholesome Nepali foods on the streets of San Francisco at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday. He started out sitting on the ground in front of the UN Plaza, calling it Curry Without Worry, and serving a grand total of six people on his first day. After five years, crowds of up to 300 now congregate each Tuesday for a hot, authentic meal that is made by Shrawan  and volunteers in a church kitchen in the Castro District. Curry Without Worry so far has served over 26,000 meals with the help of around 7,000 volunteers. The mission of Curry Without Worry is simple: to not only provide a meal to hungry people, but to bring friends and family together as a diverse community. Shrawan estimates that about 60 percent of the people who come to eat every Tuesday evening are needy, and the other 40 percent are university students, retired individuals, tourists and even city workers. On average, they serve about 250 people in an evening.

The colossal success of the program led to the opening of a chapter in Kathmandu, Nepal, the birthplace of Shrawan as well as quite a few regular volunteers at Curry Without Worry. The chapter, which opened in November 2010, attracts 300 people to Durbar Square of Kathmandu on an average Tuesday.

Shrawan says that most of the charitable things he started were all planned even before he gave up his corporate life. The reason he chose to do them is because they have a greater impact than his work in the corporate world. For a time, Shrawan owned a restaurant on Lombard Street in San Francisco, but realized that traditional business was not how he wanted to spend the rest of life. He closed it to aim for loftier goals. When asked about the reason for putting together not one but two organizations that help people, Shrawan says that he wants to show his thanks for everyone that helped him. He mentions numerous names, including people from his childhood, such as his maternal grandmother and the support she provided him when he was young. He says that she used to own a tea shop, which is where he learned about healthy eating and some basic cooking skills. He was a needy kid and the people who helped him were inspirations. He’s grateful to have been able to go to university, and Curry Without Worry is his way of giving back to the city of San Francisco.

Shrawan does not consider himself a hero, but feels lucky because of all the heroes he’s had in his life who helped him and made him realize that he also could help others – such as his godmother, who supported him as a child and inspired him to achieve. He also adds that the familial environment of both organizations will help them succeed.

As a child, Shrawan accepted the help of so many others. As an adult, he has returned the favor to the rest of the world in more ways than anyone could think possible.

This entry was posted in Student Writing Gallery.

Comments are closed.