Akron resident Bhakta Rizal’s passion for educating and engaging young people dates back to his own childhood.
In 1993, Rizal was 17 years old and had barely graduated from high school when he and his family became displaced from their native village of Dhalim in Bhangtar, Bhutan. Rizal would spend the next five years in a refugee camp in Nepal.
Upon arriving at the camp in Jhapa, where there were no schools, Rizal and his peers immediately saw a need.
“We saw a lot of kids running around, they have no education, so we should do something,” Rizal remembers discussing with friends.
Together with fellow refugees who had completed high school, Rizal founded a school for young children at the camp. In the absence of a school building, the shade of trees became makeshift classrooms.
The school took off, with enrollment reaching as high as 300 within its first couple of months. Soon after, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees built a bamboo hut to protect the teachers and students from rain, wind and sun.