Group launches campaign to fundraise for Nepali school

Madeline Fox, Reporter

A nonprofit with ties to the Heartwood Center, an Evanston holistic health center, kicked off an Indiegogo campaign Sunday for a Nepali medical school, earning half of their 30-day goal in the first day.

Acupuncturist Mark Sobralske of the Heartwood Center, along with fellow Heartwood acupuncturist Lori Howell and other professionals in the Chicago area, started The Himalaya Project in 2011. They created it to build the Dolpo School of Tibetan Medicine in Dolpo, Nepal.

Sobralske and the rest of the Himalaya Project board launched the Indiegogo campaign to raise $30,000, half of their total goal, in 30 days. If they succeed, they will be able to open the school within two years, Sobralske said.

“There’s a real problem because there wasn’t a new generation of doctors of Tibetan medicine being trained in the [Dolpo] region,” Sobralske said. “There’s a gap left, and the public healthcare needs are not being met.”

The proposed school will consist of a five-year intensive program in Tibetan medicine for students from seven mountain villages in Nepal. With their total goal of $60,000, the project can cover all the costs of the school, from teachers’ salaries to food and housing, Sobralske said.

“With a comparatively little bit of money here, you can do a lot of good in a place like Nepal,” he said.

The Heartwood Center and its founder, Nancy Floy, are supportive of the project, offering up Heartwood after hours for the Himalaya Project to film their campaign video. Many members of the Heartwood attended a kickoff party on Sunday, with some volunteering at the event.

“For Heartwood, we believe that the work that we do includes giving back locally and internationally,” Floy said. “We this community of working together, and giving back is always a part of our work because it creates a climate here of generosity and compassion.”

The Heartwood Center also works to give back through local programs, including free acupuncture through the clinic for low-income cancer victims as well as their advocacy for Curt’s Cafe, a local restaurant employing formerly incarcerated youths.

Sobralske said he credits the supportive environment of the Heartwood Center for helping him get his project off the ground.

“Being surrounded by so many like-minded and idealistic individuals was a great initial sounding board,” Sobralske said.

Lori Howell, a former instructor of Sobralske’s who helped him draft his proposal and later joined the board of the Himalaya Project, also attended the event.

Howell said the school fills a lot of gaps in the Dolpo region.

“In Nepal, education should be provided by the Nepalese government, and in theory it is, but when you get to these remote regions, it doesn’t really happen,” Howell said. “With healthcare, it’s the same story.”

The Dolpo School would extend education and a livelihood to its 14 five-year students while also providing traditional healthcare to their communities, which Howell said would be better suited to the region than Western medicine.

“The type of healthcare that we want to provide is the type of healthcare that they know, that they trust,” Howell said. “Since it’s based on their culture and their traditions, it would be cost effective and well-utilized.”

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