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9 Modern Nepali Heroes

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9 Notable and famous Nepali people from modern times

Every so often, a person comes along and commits their life to achieving something truly remarkable. From feats of extreme endurance to ground-breaking innovations and lives dedicated to the service of others, these famous Nepali people have earned their place in the heart of a nation and continue to inspire the generations that follow them.

1. Ani Choying Drolma

Ani Choying Drolma black and white
Photo source: @theyoghiniproject by Ralf Braum

Ani Choying Drolma, also known as Choying Dolma and Ani Choying, rose to fame through her unique voice and musical talent, and is credited with bringing Tibetan Buddhist chants and songs to mainstream audiences

Born in Nepal to Tibetan refugee parents, she escaped a difficult upbringing and found refuge in a Buddhist monastery where she would become a nun at the age of 13. Here, she discovered her passion and talent for music, as well as a deep desire to dedicate her life to helping others.

Drolma has gone on to create numerous humanitarian projects to help underprivileged people in Nepal, including care for the elderly, the education of young girls and the provision of clean drinking water, as well as promoting renewable energy and caring for street dogs in the Kathmandu Valley.

In 2014 she was chosen to be the first National Ambassador for UNICEF Nepal.

Visit the Ani Foundation; http://www.theanifoundation.org/ani.html

2. Nirmal Purja

nimsdai purja filming 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible
Nims during the filming of 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible. Cr. Netflix & Nimsdai © 2021

At 18 years old, Nims achieved his childhood dream of joining the Gurkhas. It was the start of a distinguished 16-year career in the military, which included 10 years with the UK Special Forces (SBS) – one of the world’s elite military units.

Since then, he has gone on to become a truly remarkable mountaineer with numerous records to his name, and in 2019 he completed ‘Project Possible’ – a daunting mission to climb the world’s fourteen highest peaks in a little over 6 months. His adventure is the subject of a new Netflix documentary: 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible .

Perhaps his greatest achievements have been the lives he has saved in the mountains, where he has put his own safety and objectives aside to help others on many occasions.

In 2018, Nims was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding work in high altitude mountaineering.

Find out more at https://www.nimsdai.com/

3. Dr. Sanduk Ruit

Illustration of Sanduk Ruit
Illustration of Dr. Sanduk Ruit by R Rajesh

Dr. Ruit is the co-founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project, and has made it his life’s mission to give people their eyesight back, regardless of whether they can afford to pay for the treatment.

Born in remote eastern Nepal, family tragedy led him to train as a doctor, eventually specialising in ophthalmology and studying in Australia. He became a highly skilled surgeon and, on his return to Nepal, he set about finding a way to perform high-level eye operations at low-level costs, and without the need for an established urban hospital.

For almost 20 years, Dr. Ruit had been working at his Tilgaga Eye Centre and giving the gift of sight to people from remote parts of Nepal and across the Himalayas, often working without charge.

It is estimated that he has restored sight for over 130,000 people across Asia and Africa to date.

Read about the Himalayan Cataract Project and donate to the cause; https://www.cureblindness.org/

4. Anuradha Koirala

Anuradha Koirala painting
A painting of Anuradha Koirala by Mayur Gurung

Affectionately known as Dijju (elder sister) in Nepal, Anuradha Koirala is the founder of Maiti Nepal – a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting women and fighting against sex trafficking.

Since 1993, her efforts have helped countless women escape from life-threatening situations and empowered many young girls to achieve a brighter future. Maiti Nepal has grown from a small private house in Kathmandu into an influential and internationally recognised enterprise.

She has received 38 national and international awards for her contribution to society, including the CNN Hero Award in 2010.

Visit Maiti Nepal to support; https://maitinepal.org/

5. Tashi R Ghale

Tashi R Ghale in the Himalayas
Photo courtesy of @tashirghalephotography

The plight of Nepal’s endangered snow leopards is well-known and difficult to solve, but one man has done more than most to protect these illusive creatures.

Tashi R Ghale has made his livelihood as a hotel owner and talented photographer, known for his subtle style and beautiful shots of Nepal’s landscapes, people and wildlife. However, it is the work he has done to protect the snow leopards which gained him international acclaim.
Hailing from Manang, high in the Himalayas and close to the leopards’ natural territory, Tashi has probably observed these illusive animals in the wild more than anybody else in the world, and has gone on the dedicate much of his life to their conservation. He is the co-founder of the Third Pole Conservancy NGO.

His tireless work in monitoring snow leopard numbers and behaviour has been vital in the effort to protect the species, whilst his photography and advocacy have raised global awareness of the problem facing Nepal’s snow leopards.

Tashi has received multiple accolades for his work, including the Disney Conservation Hero Award in 2018.

See more of Tashi’s photography at https://www.tashirghale.com/

6. Mira Rai

Photo of Mira Rai running with arms outstretched
Photo of Mira Rai from @nepalrunners

Regarded as one of world’s best female ultrarunners, the story of Mira Rai is every bit as remarkable as her sporting achievements.

Born and raised in the remote Himalayan foothills of Bhojpar, Mira’s childhood spent running to school and carrying supplies for her family inadvertently prepared to her to take the ultrarunning world by storm, but the journey was far from simple.
During the Nepalese Civil War, she was recruited by the Communist Party as a child soldier, at the age of just 15. When the war ended a couple of years later, she returned to her village but struggled to adjust to life, eventually moving to Kathmandu in 2014.

A chance meeting with some soldiers whilst running landed her a place in a 50km ultramarathon, where she came in 1st place, beating an all-male field in the process. Since then, she has established herself as one of the world’s best ultrarunners, winning a number of elite races and inspiring a generation of Nepalis in the process.

In 2017 she was the winner of the 2017 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

Read about Mira’s community work at https://miraraiinitiative.org/

7. Pushpa Basnet

pushpa basnet website photo
Photo of Pushpa Basnet from www.ecdcnepal.org

One of Nepal’s most highly-regarded social workers, Basnet has made it her life’s work to help children living in prisons with their incarcerated parents.

In 2005, she founded the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Nepal to strengthen the rights and provide day-care for prison children, as well as the Butterfly Home residential house where older children can live outside of the prison walls and under her care.

Over the years, the ECDC have helped with medical care, accommodation, nutritious food and school enrolment, and offered a better chance in life to so many children.

In 2012, Basnet was awarded CNN Hero of the Year, and in 2016 she picked up the CNN SuperHero award.

Learn about the work of ECDC and donate at http://www.ecdcnepal.org/

8. Mahabir Pun

Mahabir Pun
Photo by Kishor Rimal

Teacher, scientist, social entrepreneur and founder of the Nepal Wireless Networking Project, Mahabir Pun has done much to improve the lives and opportunities of children living in remote villages across the Nepalese Himalayas.

After gaining a scholarship to study in the US and achieving a master’s degree in education, Pun returned to his home village of Nangi with a mission, and soon established a new school for the community. The school would serve as a template for a more sustainable form of education in rural Nepal, with a focus on computer science and other income-generating skills.

His innovation and campaigning over the past 30 years have led to computer equipment being donated from all over the world, the establishment of an improvised wireless network connecting remote villages across the Himalayas, and a brighter future for thousands of children in Nepal.

Nowadays, the majority of Mahabir’s focus in on his role with the National Innovation Centre, where he works to support promising individuals and innovative businesses as they look to supercharge Nepal’s economic future. The NIC have also played a vital role in the country’s response to the Covid-19 emergency, supporting hospitals with PPE production and specialist equipment to fight the virus.

Read more about the pioneering work of Mahabir Pun at https://himanchal.org/ and https://nicnepal.org/

9. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa

Famous Nepali People - Pasang Lhamu Sherpa during a trek
Pasang Lhamu Sherpa during an expedition, courtesy of exploreinspired.com

The first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa has been an inspiration for a generation of girls in Nepal and beyond, and has gone some way to shifting how women are viewed in society.

Born into a mountaineering family, she dedicated her adult life to scaling peaks across the Himalayas and in Europe at a time when women were not considered capable of such feats.

She finally reached the summit of Everest at her fourth attempt in 1993, but her team encountered poor weather as they descended the South Summit and she tragically lost her life.

She became a household name in Nepal and will always be remembered as a hero who made young girls believe that anything is possible.

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