Maya Universe Academy

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards competition.

Maya Universe Academy is the first completely free education institution in Nepal. It currently operates in three different rural districts of Nepal. Our model is unique amongst schools in Nepal: parents volunteer two days per month on the school’s farm in exchange for their children’s education.

About You

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About You

First Name

Surya

Last Name

Karki

About Your Project

Organization Name

Maya Universe Academy

Organization Country

Nepal, GA, Tanahun Sur, Jaipate and Chisapani

Country where this project is creating social impact

Nepal, SA, Tanahun Sur, Jaipate and Chisapani

Select the stage that best applies to your project

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Is your organization a

Hybrid

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Your Solution

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Project Name

Maya Universe Academy

Elevator Pitch: Share a concise summary. This will be the introductory text about this pitch that viewers will see.

Maya Universe Academy is the first completely free education institution in Nepal. It currently operates in three different rural districts of Nepal. Our model is unique amongst schools in Nepal: parents volunteer two days per month on the school’s farm in exchange for their children’s education.

Problem: What problem does your solution address?

World bank says,only seven out of ten Nepali children enrolled in first grade will reach the fifth grade, and more than half of them quit school before reaching the lower secondary level. At an average, there are 480,990 youth leaving Nepal for foreign employment in the Gulf, Malaysia and Middle East. Because of this migration, the wonderfully fertile land has been left untouched and the problem of dire educational situation has gripped Nepal.

Solution: What is the proposed solution?

The current status of education and economy suggests that a new community centered approach is required. With a view to provide an alternative to public schooling in Nepal, and provide quality education to rural poor of Nepal, Maya Universe Academy was established in 2011 with 45 students in a village called Udhin Dhunga of Tanahun district. We work with the local communities, providing employment and encouraging first hand leadership in community development. Maya Farms have provided vocational training and micro loans to 1200 farmers, thus encouraging the creation of a local economy based on sustainable food production. Maya has an aim to establish a agriculture produce collection center in every district to foster a sustainable community

Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

People across the world have responded to unfair and oppressive regimes, either by picking up arms to rebel against the regime or by putting up a slogan on a piece of paper and walking down the road to seek change. We tend to move past these choices and bring an alternative on the table.You can only change the things that you perceive are wrong by stepping on the ground and doing a better job of being the change that you want to see.

We resolved to challenge the government by showing that the quality of education provided to children, especially in rural areas of Nepal, is abysmal and that we can do better with little or no resources. It was then in 2011 we established our first classes and farms literally from inside a tent.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact

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Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how your solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Maya Universe Academy works to engage the local community in direct conversation about the needs and concerns of the village. Collaboration on upcoming projects to solve questions about enhancing local amenities, infrastructure among others. Part of an innovative and sustainable initiative to provide solar alternatives to energy, MUA is raising funds, researching designs, and reaching out to our community and supporters to finance and build technologies that can be locally implemented and maintained.

We are developing a solar powered UV rainwater filter to provide clean, accessible drinking water for the village. We have integrated our school with low-tech, localized energy production as demonstrated by the SolarFire.org project.

Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Rural communities of Nepal, small scale farmers, underprivileged kids and youth are our customers. Our recipients have been overlooked by the government, international development agencies and non governmental organizations due to which migration has increased.

The introduction of Maya Universe Academy in the local communities has allowed farmers to educate their children by becoming parent volunteers, bartering their time for knowledge. MUA educates and trains farmers, and creates employment.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

More than 1,200 farmers have benefitted from Maya Farm vocational training program. 253 farmers currently benefit from the small scale loans provided by MUA. In the first year we started with 45 students. Currently there are 142 children aged 4-14 receiving free education who otherwise would have been overlooked. We currently provide employment to 17 young professionals. Many Nepali youth have found their way to MUA to carry out projects, help in the national development, and receive professional experience through internships and volunteering work.

Maya Universe Academy has a vision for one school one Maya farm in each of the 75 districts in Nepal by 2020. While we will be increase our student body by 15 per year per school, we also have an aim to facilitate vocational training to at least 400 farmers every year. We will provide small scale loans to 120 farmers every year from 2013.

Growth, Finance & Leadership

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Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem and how does the proposed solution differ from these approaches?

Several Non-Governmental Organizations are involved in helping deprived communities in Nepal apart from Maya Universe Academy. We do it differently by living and working hand in hand with the communities to solve their problems. The community fully understands the importance of working together with MUA,as every school and Maya Farm have been established under a 50-50% ownership model.In this model, the community provides MUA with communal land on a lease for a minimum of 24 years to start operations of its schools and farms, and MUA shares the profit for community development projects.

Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

By August of 2014 we will bring into operation the fourth MUA campus and Maya Farm in Rautahat, which is considered to be the most illiterate & dangerous districts of Nepal, with 20 students. We have already talked to the community members of Rautahat who have agreed to support MUA fully with providing us land for our farms. We will initially provide training to 80 farmers. Also by September of 2014, on a 15 acre land we will start "the cheapest boarding school in Nepal".

Each year student body will increase by 15 per campus, and small scale loan receivers by 120 farmers. We hope to sustain every school with its school farm production by 2018. In ten years our first batch, the third-graders, will have been graduates for two years.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

The community,parents and fertile land are our resources. We have 142 parents working 2 days a month, which is 284 a month. In 2013 we acquired 15 acres of land in Udayapur to house kids from far away to attend MUA. Our investment in acres:11 of Cardamom,4 of organic coffee,2 of oranges,1 of banana & pineapple,250 indigenous chickens,17 pigs,MUA Bracelet & briquette production unit. In 2012 we generated $12000 & we expect to increase in 2013.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Prior to MUA, during his time as a high school student I had been involved with several student led projects, and had fundraising experience. I started “Educating Nepal”, established a library in Bhojpur district of Nepal, and was a volunteer coordinator for “Minimally Invasive Education Nepal”. During my associate degree education in agriculture in Venezuela I worked as a consultant to a farm in Ecuador and led the school student council.

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30 weeks ago Surya Karki submitted this idea.