David Walton amidst a group of women from WELNepal classes

WELNepal founder receives a warm welcome on arrival in 2007


See the GALLERY section
for more images of Nepal,
the women and their
literacy classes.

Letter from the Founder & President

In 1992 I retired as a commercial photographer and began traveling the world. In 1996, during my first visit to Nepal, I fell in love with the warmth and generosity of the Nepali people. Every year since then, I haven't traveled anywhere else. To help Nepali villagers better their lives, in 1997 I began working as a volunteer teacher of English in village schools and establishing libraries there. I quickly realized that the situation of rural Nepali women is a very difficult one. Most inhabitants of the Terai region, where I work, eke out a living as subsistence farmers. The peasant women are required not only to perform all housekeeping and child-raising duties, but also to do the backbreaking work of wood gathering, water collecting, field cultivation, and harvesting. It is estimated that women do 85 percent of all the work in Nepali villages, all of it without the benefit of mechanized aids or machinery.

David Walton looking at the student's workbookFrom an early age, the workday of a girl in a Nepali village begins before sunrise. The first thing she has to do is go into the fields or the forest to collect leaves or grass to feed the farm animals, if her family is lucky enough to own a few goats or a buffalo. On many days she also has to go into the forest to collect firewood for cooking. On laundry days she carries a heavy bag of clothes on foot to a faraway river, washes them there, and then carries them back home. On most other days she also has to work in the family field, do housecleaning chores, and keep the house repaired (the typical village house is made of bamboo, mud, and buffalo dung, and has a thatched roof). In addition, she is expected not only to look after her younger siblings, but also to care for elderly family members.

David Walton sitting outside with a group of women and childrenThe above duties keep Nepali girls busy from dawn to sunset. When they turn 16 or 17, they are subjected to marriages arranged by their fathers, after which they must go to live in their in-laws' home. There, under the thumb of their mothers-in-law and while raising their own children, they are forced to continue the routine tasks they have performed since childhood. The vast majority of Nepali girls and women are kept at home and away from school to do all of the work described above. Their education is deemed unnecessary.

Funding literacy classes for adult women in Nepal has been my most fulfilling and important undertaking. Through these classes, young women who were initially too timid to look at me have transformed themselves into proud, confident persons fourteen months later. My friends and acquaintances have donated money to fund a limited number of such classes. In 2005 I founded WELNepal in order to broaden the financial base of my work and thus increase the number of literacy classes and help more Nepali women to change their lives.

David Walton
Founder & President