Masala Chiya…Nepalese milk tea. The aroma of cardamom, cloves and other spices invites you in. The smooth, creamy taste of just the right amount of milk and tea makes you want to stay forever.  Warm, inviting, like the Nepali people.

These four little cups of tea symbolize our journey.  In the early morning light, we sat together wrapped in blankets, no longer strangers but rather friends with a deep love for each other and this place. And as the sun lazily tried to make its way through the early morning chill and fog, we sipped our tea in silence, listening.

We could hear the valley come to life, the birds, the vehicles, and the people. We began to talk about the things that mattered, our time together and the memories we had made in our short time here. We laughed and talked softly, as if our voices might somehow wake us from what felt like a dream.
Back home now, I start each day with my own version of Masala Chiya. And I always have it in a little white cup. As I sip slowly, the memories come gently rushing back and I am reminded. I sit quietly and simply listen…to the echoes of Nepal.  

Shannan Chapman
BMKF Board Member
Seattle, USA
From Neema’s Desk
This March marked three BIG reasons to celebrate in Nepal. First, the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation was celebrating its 14th Anniversary. Second, BMKF founder herself Sonnia J. Karlsson was visiting Nepal after 4 years accompanied by US board member Shannan Chapman. Third, it was International Women’s Day, a day to press for progress. With all these reasons to celebrate, the luncheon drew nearly three dozen women – including BMKF scholars, alumni, staff, founder and board members – to the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal. Fun, Felicitation and Food were the three key facets of the day. 
The program kicked off with getting to know each other through funny icebreaker questions. Everyone present briefly introduced themselves and picked up a slip of paper with an interesting question that they had to answer spontaneously. By the end of the session, participants learned one unique thing about each other that varied from dream country for travel, dream job, some crazy memories, fantasies, preferences, hidden talents and wishful thinking.  After breaking the ice, it was time for everybody to come closer and acknowledge the main reason for this special gathering: the 14th Anniversary Celebration of BMKF and the heartfelt welcoming of our Sonnia Didi back to Nepal. Nepal Board President Bimala Manandhar presented Founder/Executive Director Sonnia J. Karlsson with a Certificate of Honor and extended her gratitude on behalf of all Nepalese women for her vision to empower young Nepalese women through higher education and her strong determination and continued self-less work for the past 14 years.
BMKF has always strived to implement innovative approaches to support young women in Nepal. As a part of this approach, a few months back Sonnia Didi initiated a Laptop Donation Drive for the scholars without any access to computers. Scholar Pooja Yadav (Nursing) received a laptop on January 1st from a local donor in Nepal. Likewise, scholar Shanta Bhat (Business) was presented with a donated laptop from a US donor during the luncheon in March. BMKF staff Rama Poudel received the third donated laptop on the office’s behalf which will be kept in inventory for scholars who might need a laptop for their study in days to come. As a final note, Nepal board member Bimala Manandhar urged all the alumni to give back to the organization by donating every year on the day BMKF was founded. In the next ten minutes of the appeal, a total of Rs11,870 ($120.00) was collected from donations given by alumni and board members. 
A fulfilling lunch was all one could ask to replenish the energy after all the laughter, high-spirited interactions, lively conversations, and cheerful celebration. Thus, everybody enjoyed delicious Nepali thali set (Rice, lentil, vegetable, curry, chicken, pickle and curd) followed by choco-vanilla Anniversary celebration cake.    

Perhaps it was the peaceful eyes of Boudhanath Stupa right next to rooftop of the restaurant where the gathering was held, or the brighter, warmer sun of early spring, or the union and reunion of scholars and alumni with Sonnia Didi in person, but the atmosphere was full of incredibly happy high spirits. Alumni and board members were delighted to reunite again with Sonnia Didi after 4 years, and the 11 scholars’ first meeting in person with her left them exuberant the whole day. 
Neema Sherpa
BMKF Program Coordinator
Kathmandu, Nepal
Two Weeks In Nepal
By Shannan Chapman
That first night, I dreamed about the scholars. Nothing profound. They just appeared here and there in other stories, silent, like Hollywood extras, filling out the scene. But I noticed them. I saw them. And I woke to wonder how I could possibly do their stories justice. How can I allow others to see what I saw, to hear what I heard and to feel what I still feel? It’s as if an honor has been bestowed upon me and I am fearful I am not worthy and that I will fail.
People have asked me since I’ve been back, “what was the best part of the trip?” And I have to really think about it. Because no one day was better than any other. No single memory stands above another. But of course, there were many highlights:

• It all began as we made our way through customs and immigration.  We were met at the Kathmandu airport by Sarita and Babita, sisters, scholarship recipients, graduates who are now successful women in a country where opportunities for women are hard fought and won. They greeted us with silk khatas, a heartfelt welcome and homecoming for Sonnia.
• The next day, we met the scholars, board and alumni. A beautiful, warm day in Kathmandu, I expected the kind of shyness that happens when you meet someone for the first time. Someone from thousands of miles away. But instead, we were greeted with smiles and squeals of delight.  “Namaste” “Welcome to Nepal” “Sonnia didi!!” I watched in awe as even the scholars, many of them having just met, were like sisters, encouraging each other, giggling as we did our introductions over a silly icebreaker. I was immediately put at ease, welcomed into this beautiful family.
• As we did our interviews and took pictures over the next week, I learned about each one of them. Stories of hardship, challenges and perseverance. Stories of success. Stories that spoke to the incredible difference that the scholarships have made in their lives. They spoke of long days, weeks and months, focused solely on their studies, because failure is not an option. Because their families and communities are looking at them, watching. It seems they all have something to prove, to themselves and to the world. And they do not disappoint.  

• We saw firsthand just what an amazing Board and staff we have in Nepal. Neema Sherpa and Rama Poudel coordinated the visit with precision, not an easy task given that activities for over 32 scholars had to be coordinated!

• So many other people in Nepal helped to make our journey special. From the hospitality at Dwarika’s, a lovely oasis in the heart of Kathmandu, appointed with beautiful and historic architecture and artifacts. Our friend Nirdosh Shahi and the staff made sure the scholars were treated as well as their celebrity guests. And the friendship of Hem Ratna Sakhya and Rajman Bajracharya, who welcomed us into their homes and despite Sonnia’s insistence that they not cook for us, of course they did. And Chadani, one of our scholars, proudly taking us to meet her father at the ice cream factory where he has worked most of her life. Our driver Thapa, safely weaving through the crowded and chaotic streets of Kathmandu. Our hosts at Thamel Eco Resort, carrying our bags, serving us delicious food and chiya masala, taking personal responsibility for our comfort.  Special thanks to Nikita and Sandeep Sakya of Nepal Mandala Travels for making all the travel arrangements, including a wonderful city tour and visit to Pokhara for Shannan.
• One of our amazing sponsors, Mats Peterstrom even flew in from the Philippines to meet with the scholars for the first time. In his own words: “I finally visited Nepal in March. I spent a few days in Kathmandu exploring some nice ancient buildings and parks while enjoying the warm hospitality and a wide array of tasty dishes, like MoMo. The highlight of my trip was meeting current scholarship holders who all seemed to be very happy with the great support from the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation. My next visit is planned for the 20-year anniversary of BMKF. Then I also would like to explore more of the geographical diversity in Nepal."

How does one even start to tell the story of a journey that began long before Sonnia and I set off across the globe to visit these strong and amazing women in Kathmandu? How is it possible in just two short weeks to go from stranger to family and know that these bonds we formed will stay with us forever?  

If you ever wonder why we do what we do, why this work matters, look no further than the women we serve. The scholarships they receive have changed their lives and they love us for this. Back home, as I think about the time in Nepal, I am as fiercely determined as these young women to ensure that I do not fail them, that we do not fail them.  They have given us everything…their trust, their friendship, their love. They consider all of us family, whether you have visited them in person or not. Let us continue…
In Their Own Words
During Sonnia’s and Shannan’s visit to Kathmandu last month, four outings where scheduled in Bkaktapur, Dhulikhel, Dwarika’s, and Gokarna. Smaller groups of scholars and alumnae attended each outing which consisted of personal interviews, photoshoots, and lunch. The main purpose of these smaller, more intimate get-togethers was to learn in depth about our young women in a more relaxed, casual atmosphere. Scholars Nimiska Pandey, Chadani Shrestha, Saniya Giri, and Anisha Gautam captured these moments in their own words here:

Nimiska Pandey

On any other day, voices hollering my name from a taxi window might have alarmed me, but on this day I was so happy and excited to see the faces inside the taxi that without hesitation, I jumped in!

Continue reading here..... 

Chadani Shrestha

How does it feel to take a weekend getaway when you have been following the same tedious routine? Good, doesn’t it? Well, I was ecstatic. I was looking forward to the day when I, along with another Bo M. Karlsson Foundation scholar, Mandira didi, was going to accompany Sonnia auntie and Shannan—who at the time were visiting Nepal .......

Continue reading here..... 

Saniya Giri

I always used to pass through Gaushala-Old Baneswor lane. Each time I passed by this lane, I would see those well-designed, painstakingly handcrafted walls and windows and fascinating brick buildings. The architectural designs speak of Nepal’s rich cultural Newari heritage and the splendors of the Malla period. 

Continue reading here..... 

Anisha Gautam

The 14 March 2018 was a day filled with joy and special moments. That morning, we, the scholars of the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation, eagerly awaited spending time with our very kind, supportive, loving and motherly natured Sonnia auntie and Shannan didi, and our special guest from Sweden, Mats. 

Continue reading here..... 


On May 9th, for the Seattle Foundation's last GiveBIG, we celebrate Shanta Bhat and focus on raising funds for her final stretch of business school.  The goal is to raise $3,000 which will fulfill Shanta's scholarship until graduation. This year, the board members will also match the first $500 of the giving!  
Shanta has dealt with challenges in life from a young age. As a child, Shanta says her father, a farmer, did not care about her education or offer any encouragement.  Early on in life, she contracted polio, which left her physically disabled. Today, she walks with crutches.
Although her parents brought her to a hospital in Kathmandu, treatment for Shanta was not financially possible. Fortunately, they inquired about organizations for children with disabilities.  At age 12, Shanta became a resident at a large home for disabled children. She says that living with other disabled students made her feel stable, stronger and more hopeful about the future.

“The new organization was really a dream land and good environment for me”, Shanta says. “Everyone in the world has some kind of dream. Some will be able to fulfill their dream, while some don’t. I too have a dream to be successful in my BBS study."

Shanta is the youngest in her family and the only one in college. Her goal is to complete a business studies degree and become a bank manager. That way, she says, she will be able to support and empower other people with disabilities.

“Then my family and society can learn that a disabled person can do something,” she says. “And other disabled women can take (a) lesson that we can pursue an education.”

During a recent interview, Shanta told us that her family, despite not supporting her education at first, is now very proud of her. And so are we!

Please consider giving to Shanta's scholarship to help her realize her educational dream. Much gratitude for all donations of any size supporting Shanta!  
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