Carbondale family starts Read-a-thon to raise money for solar power at Nepali school |

Carbondale family starts Read-a-thon to raise money for solar power at Nepali school

Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Only 6 years old, and Karuna Asha Owens is already living up to her name.

Tamara Kupper and Craig Owens of Carbondale adopted Karuna from Nepal a little more than three and a half years ago. Her name comes from Buddhism – Karuna meaning “compassion,” and Asha meaning “hope,” Kupper said.

Recently, she said Karuna has been asking a lot of questions about her native country. Are the children poor and hungry? Is everyone sad?

“We respond, ‘Yes, many of the people are poor and many of the people are hungry. But it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily sad,'” Kupper said.

To which Karuna responds, “I want to go back to Nepal and read to the children.”

“What could I say to this but, ‘OK, let’s figure out something we can do to help the children in Nepal,'” Kupper said.

So, she began doing some research and learned about a school in a poor, rural part of Nepal that has 500 students between the ages of 5 and 18.

“Kids walk an average of two to three hours to school,” she said. “Only 20 percent of Nepal has access to electricity, so the schools that the children attend have no lighting or electricity.”

Using Karuna’s reading suggestion, they came up with the idea to do a read-a-thon to raise money to provide solar panels for the school, as well as a water pump to supply clean drinking water, and maybe one or two computers.

A new member of the Roaring Fork Moms group, Kupper has been getting the word out to mothers about the fundraising effort. The read-a-thon started Feb. 10, and will continue through March, she said.

Participating students are lining up sponsors to put up 10 cents for every page read.

“All reading counts – mom and dads reading to kids, kids reading to themselves, and kids reading to other kids,” Kupper said.

The goal is to raise $6,900 by the end of March. To date, they’ve collected $2,000 in pledges. Eleven kids have already signed up for the project, and Kupper is looking for about 10 to 15 more young readers from throughout the valley who want to participate.

“This project gets our kids involved in the global, world connection, helping other kids [who are] less fortunate,” she said. “Our kids could make a huge impact in these Nepali children’s’ lives.

“The added lighting helps the kids see what they are reading, aiding in the overall improvement of literacy,” she added, noting that illiteracy rates in Nepal are around 50 percent.

The project, called “One World, One Heart – Let There Be Light” campaign, is being organized in cooperation with the Himalayan Light Foundation (HLF). The organization is based in Katmandu, Nepal, and is run by a husband-and-wife team, Kupper explained.

“We liked the organization and its basic principles, so we have decided to raise money for them,” she said.

HLF provides solar energy to rural villages, supporting schools, health posts, monasteries and community buildings. The villages that are interested in receiving solar panels must provide crafts, goods to sell or come up with some other system to help pay for a portion of the panels being installed.

The project will also be documented from start to finish, Kupper said.

“We will video the kids in their read-a-thon efforts here in our valley, and if the kids want to participate and create video messages for the children in Nepal, then we will document those too,” she said.

The solar installation process in Nepal will also be documented, Kupper said.

To become involved in the read-a-thon, e-mail, and for more information about HLF, visit

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