How it all began
“What legacy will you start today?”
In 1998, Govinda Prasad Panthy started the SAV school in Bageswori, Nepal. There he taught the children of his community at a price that their parents could afford. Govinda partnered with Nanri (an organization based in Belgium) and spent the next ten years providing a high quality education to the children of Bageswori.
In 2008, years of monsoons began to cause the buildings of the SAV School to crumble. There were over 100 students attending Govinda’s school, and many of them would wake up early in the morning to help their parents with farming before heading off to school. With the education of his students hanging in the balance, Govinda diverted many of his school’s resources into saving his classrooms. This came at a great cost, Govinda now had to choose between his classrooms or the journals, books and teachers that made his school one of the best in the region. Around this time an internet cafe’ opened up in Kathmandu, giving Govinda an idea. “What if I could give my students the keys to access the entire world?”
Govinda began making a 90 minute walk from his home in Bageswori to the internet cafe’ in Kathmandu. Once a week for the next four years, Govinda endured the rain, snow, wind and heat to get online for an hour in the internet cafe. Govinda traversed the corners of the world in search of a new partner for his school.
In 2010, the world answered.
August 19th, 2010 | Open World Was born
It was Ben Honeycutt’s his senior year of high school, expecting an easy senior year he would have never guessed what his english teacher would challenge him to a project that would later become Open World Cause.
“Today, I challenge you to create a legacy that will pass down to the senior classes that follow.”
That pesky teacher inspired him to do something he really didn’t want to do. Try. Ben remembered his father telling him about how a group of teachers in the Global Classroom Project had tried to put together a care package for a teacher in Nepal. Due to Nepal’s high tariffs, the package was seized and the teacher from Nepal was unable to retrieve it from customs.
That night, Ben’s father gave Ben the contact information to reach Govinda Prasad Panthy. Ben typed in a hello but lingered before sending the message. Was it even possible for a 17 year old kid from Kansas to do anything for a school all the way in Nepal?
Blown away by Govinda’s dedication to his students, Ben launched the Open World Project, a grassroots, social media effort to bring two laptops, internet access and a library to the SAV School. By March of 2011, the community around Buhler came together to raise $5,700 to provide the SAV School with two laptops, internet access, and a library. On April 3rd, 2011. Open World had their first successful Skype call with the SAV students.
Govinda’s dream of giving his students access to the world was becoming a reality. With the laptops Govinda began to partner the SAV School with classrooms all around the world.
But in June 2011, disaster struck the school.
Connor Janzen had been Ben Honeycutt’s best friend since the two were in Kindergarten, and the two planned on dorming together at the University of Kansas.
Connor had supported Ben’s efforts with Open World from the beginning, but during the summer Ben got devastating news. A monsoon had wiped out two of the school’s classrooms, and if the classrooms weren’t repaired, 30 of the students would no longer be able to attend school.
When Open World began, Ben didn’t plan on continuing to work on the project until college. But as the two thought about it, they asked themselves “How good are laptops if these kids don’t have a school to go to?” Ben wanted to help, but he had didn’t know if he could do it alone.
Without hesitating, Connor committed to joining the Open World team. In the next month Connor developed a new website for Open World and campaigned to raise enough money to rebuild the damaged classrooms. When Ben and Connor reached KU, the two pioneered an effort to transition to a student organization called the Open World Cause.
August 2013 | Open world on campus
Open World was at a crossroads. Ben and Connor had been overwhelmed with academics and fundraising for the organization had come to a standstill.
Shelby Lemon was a graphic student at the University of Kansas. She had met Ben two years before at her freshman orientation and had wanted to get involved with Open World since that time. In July 2013 She approached Ben and Connor and asked if she could make her portfolio with designs for the Open World Cause. In the next two months, Shelby crafted a portfolio of 26 incredible designs that gave Open World the look of a professional organization. After showing her designs to Ben and Connor, Shelby expressed her desire to join the team.
Shelby injected the organization with a brand new life. In the next year, Shelby became the creative force behind Open World’s designs and developed outreach programs that recharged the organizations fundraising efforts. Her efforts would allow Open World to help construct a new school in 2015.
Water bourne diseases were a devastated issue to the Bageswori community. In the SAV School, at least one student was sick each day due to a water bourne disease. The entire community was reliant on water that had been piped in from a river 9 km away. If the water wasn’t boiled, the students of the SAV were at risk for a water bourne illness.
Garrett Wilkinson was about to start his senior year at Buhler High School. A freshman when Ben and Connor were seniors, Garrett remembered the Open World Project and wanted to take the reigns of Open World’s high school legacy. Garrett had a dream to provide clean water to vulnerable populations. After reaching out to Open World, Garrett was connected to Govinda and learned of the situation facing the SAV School. In response, Garrett launched Project Purus and provided water filters to over 100 families in the Bageswori community.
In May 2014, Garrett joined Open World as an executive member in charge of the organization’s clean water outreach.
June 2014 | Govinda opens a school in narayanpur
Thanks to the efforts of Govinda and many other leaders in the Bageswori community, the nearby city began a busing system that transported the students of Bageswori to a school inside the city. Govinda approached Open World and articulated that his mission as a teacher was to provide schooling to children who did not have access to an education. Govinda told Open World that he wanted to start a school in the Narayanpur community in Nepal, where he could educate children from the indigenous Tharu population.
Ben, Connor, Garrett and Shelby mobilized a new campaign with the Foundation of Leadership and Learning, a non-profit in Hutchinson, Kansas. Open World partnered with the Nanri and Edukado organizations and raised over $40,000 to help Govinda construct a five classroom school in the Narayanpur community. In April 2015, Govinda founded the TriKa school.
Summer 2015 | On the ground in Nepal
The executive members of the Open World Cause traveled to Nepal for the first time. The cause members got to meet Govinda face to face and spent three weeks volunteering at the TriKa school. Open World distributed an iPad, a robot courtesy of Double Robotics, and Sawyer water filters to every family who attended the school. The executive team also conducted on the ground research about the needs of the community. From the results of their research, Open World purchased a new generator for TriKa and launched a school lunch program for the students.
Once the team returned home, they Open solidified a partnership with Livingstone Kegode, the founder of the HIP Academy in Kenya. Livingstone inspired the Open World team by his efforts to start a school to educate the children of a rural community in Kenya. Later in the year, Open World funded the purchase of a community water filter for the students of the HIP Academy.
In August 2015, The Open World Cause transitioned into a non-profit that helps schools become self-sustainable through educational services, technological solutions and agricultural programs.
Summer 2017 | on the ground in Kenya
In 2017, the team made efforts to further connect with the problems facing HIP Academy by sending a ground team to verify school conditions surrounding facilities and administration. The trip would offer opportunities not only to serve the community better, but also deepen our understanding of school operations and its importance to the students it serves.
This effort was led by Melissa Collum, our director of humanitarian projects and adjunct professor at Viterbo University. With past experience working with the UNHCR, her perspective and strategy for working to report on-the-ground conditions greatly improved our ability to assess the needs of HIP Academy, and further strengthened our approach to working within the community.
The success of this trip was constructed around understanding the needs of the school and what it means to serve. Our evaluations and efforts following the trip have led to the construction of new school buildings, better sanitation and filtered water for student and community use. Since the time of our trip, Jeremy Gulley, our director of outreach in this community and professor at the University of Kansas, has worked alongside his wife, Beth Gulley, to travel to and continue working with and understanding the needs of HIP.
What started as a high school project has catalyzed into a non-profit organization that’s partnered with schools in three different continents – but we still have much to accomplish. Nepal is facing a devastating blockade of petroleum that’s sending shockwaves through their economy. Meanwhile, our partner in Kenya is almost singlehandedly building a school from the ground up. Your support can allow us to help children around the world receive the education they deserve. We continue to send members of our organization to work in the field, directly serving and learning with our communities. Our focus is to deliver a vernacular approach, offering solutions in the course of each partnership that demonstrates sustainable benefits to our partners domestic and abroad.