One of the rituals of Maya is the morning circle. Everybody holds hands, closes their eyes and shuts their mouth for a minute. In this way you start to become aware of the environment and you feel the warmth and energy of the people surrounding you. After you've opened your eyes, you give the person on your left and on your right a hug.
This is what the school stands for: connection, community and mostly love, to feel this together, every day. The name of the school is 'Maya', because Maya means 'love' in Nepali.
REJINA PARIYAR AND MAYA UNIVERSE ACADEMY
Rejina Pariyar (14) lives together with her mom and sister Asmita Pariyar in a cabin in the village Ratamata. Last year her father passed away at a tragic work accident in India. Together with her family, Rejina belongs to the lowest caste, which also means 'untouchable'. The people in this caste have less right. Rejina's father worked abroad (which happens often in Nepal) to make some money and provide for the family.
It does happen that Rejina isn't allowed to enter certain stores or visit places because of her caste status. It doesn't matter how hard you work, you will never work your way up within the caste system. You're born in a certain caste and you'll die in this same caste, no matter what you've accomplished. Luckily, Maya Universe Academy wants to change this tradition in Nepal.
Because of Maya Universe Academy, which was founded by Manjil Rana, Rejina has had many chances to evolve herself. Despite her circumstances, she was chosen as the student leader of 200 schools in Byas municipality and started a campaign against child marriage, in which she calls out to girls of her age not to fall for the marriage with an older man.
Maya Universe Academy has developed a totally new perspective on education in Nepal, in which all children, no matter their caste, gender, socio-economic background or religion, are welcome and have access to high-quality education.
Maya involves the local community in school operations by allowing the parents of the students to pay with time instead of money. The parents contribute two days of work in exchange for their children's education, the work usually entails helping on the land of the school (they build their own vegetables), cooking, restorations and every activity where Maya needs a hand. The team of parents has a wide range of qualities and each parent contributes in their own unique way.
One of Maya’s biggest strengths is the ever-expanding international community it harbors. There is always a big team of international Mayans on the ground. They teach the children and help with all the activities of the school.
With this movie we hope to create awareness that as a volunteer, you really can make a difference. Think of the quality of education, life and future.
It's a very fair system in which parent and child get the chance to break out of their socio-economic chains and take control over their future. Maya's close collaboration with the local community is the reason for its rapid growth. Just eight years ago, the organisation started by teaching ten students from a tent. Today, Maya comprises four schools, providing education to over 500 students.
We are going to film Rejina, to capture the story of Maya Universe, which means so much to her. We'll also see what a big role the volunteers have for the children.
Bas de Nijs: "There is a lot of critique worldwide on how orphanages in developing countries are using children to lure in voluntourists. Though returning volunteers like me and others do play a role in the kids' lives, we definitely don't want to portray ourselves as an organisation that promotes dependency of children in need on short-term volunteers as this only increases abandonment issues that the children will most likely already have."
Without the new education system of Manjil Rana, the founder of Maya, underprivileged children would have never had the access to high-quality education.
We are very fascinated by the caste system, which in our opinion is very unfair and unreasonable. Especially if you compare it to us, as free democrats from the Netherlands. How do children live in this to us so unfamiliar caste system.
It seems that there over a 1000 ways to say or write 'you', which all indicate another status in the caste. Can you imagine?
We are curious to see what drives Rejina, even if she knows that the caste system takes so many opportunities away. How does she deal with this? What kind of dreams does she have? And what is the role of Maya? Not only to her but also to all the other children.
This year Rejina will be one of the first students of Maya that will take her exams. If she passes she will go to another school in another city. This transition is, ofcourse, very exciting, because she'll have to leave her familiar environment in order to build a new life.
After being a leading voice in Maya for eight years, her capabilities will be tested in new and possibly more competitive surroundings.
How will she continue after Maya?
GOAL OF THE FILM
As mentioned before, we want to raise awareness. We believe that with the right intentions and determination you can definitely make an impact and help working on a better future for everyone.
We also want to give an honest impression of the life of the people in Nepal, with special focus on the children. They will be the new future and maybe even bring a new perspective to the impossible and unfair caste system.
And ofcourse, this project will be very exciting for us as well. As young and enthusiastic filmmakers this is all very new, so we plan on learning a lot during our stay.
We hope we have managed to make you enthusiastic as well. By supporting this project you help raise awareness about the strive of underprivileged children worldwide! Thanks for making the world a better place.