Nepal – Breaking ground on our 1st School

“People who really want to make a difference in the world, usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities, and nations, and yes, the world! ” Beth Clark

Two weeks ago I came back from Nepal where together with the run2buildschools 2016 team we built the foundation of our first school.  It was by far the most fulfilling and inspiring, but also challenging experience I have ever had.  I saw poverty that I had never seen before.  But I also saw resilience at its best.  I met wonderful mothers who were no different than my own mother.  They were loving, affectionate, caring, and wanted nothing but the best for their children.  I saw firsthand that happy people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of what they have.

I will never forget the children I met. Their smiles, immeasurable happiness, and joyful energy will live forever in my heart. They were so exuberant; always happy to carry our bags, to help us on the work site, to play games or simply to be in our arms.

I will be forever grateful to our host families who shared their houses and food with us despite of having so little.  It’s true when they say that kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  We couldn’t communicate much with each other because of the language barrier, but we felt their love, respect, and genuine kindness. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for reminding me that kindness is an intrinsic human instinct that we should all preserve, cherish, and cultivate perhaps now more than ever. 

Thank you to my donors, family, friends and EVERYONE who has helped me along this amazing journey.  Thank you Annabella, Marling, Amy, Lori, Kelly, Tudor, Vlad, and Radu for coming to Nepal to help build the school.  I am grateful for your kindness, love, and friendship. What a unique connection our friendship now has ❤

Thank you Christa, Narendra, Shiv Raj, Tek Raj, Mahesh Rana, Sri Devi, and John for your guidance, language translation, yoga lessons, breakfasts, lunches, and looking after us all the time.

Last but not least, thank you buildOn for giving us all this amazing opportunity to help and experience such an incredible adventure.  We will never forget.

I created below a chronological photographic journal.  I hope you all enjoy it!
These are pictures that the entire team took while we were in Nepal.  Special thanks to Tudor, Annabella, Lori, and Christa for your amazing photos.  Also, thank you so much Kelly for taking all the videos. Sincerely, thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

First dinner in Kathmandu with the entire team – Run2BuildSchools Nepal 2016 @Thamel Hotel.
From left to right: Tudor, Radu, Kelly, Annabella, Marling, Lori, Vlad, Amy, and me.

Our Journey To Uttar Majhra village  


The following morning we flew out to Dhangadhi, a city in far western Nepal. Here we are in Kathmandu airport waiting for our flight. Thank you Kelly for getting this awesome banner for run2buildschools. I love it and I love you 🙂


Kelly and I happily wearing our buildOn shirts.


Amy and Annabella. So cute!

We flew out with Buddha Air. Since its establishment, Buddha Air has become the largest single domestic air operator in Nepal.

In the bus to the airplane, I couldn’t help but smooch my 15 years old nephew, Vlad.
I am so proud of him! When I first told him that I raised the money for our first school and I would love it if he’d come with me to Nepal, he immediately said “Yes, I am in!”
I am very thankful to my sister and brother in law for making it possible. I ❤ you all.


Annabella and Tudor. They look so relaxed. I remember being nervous a little bit.  But I always get nervous when I fly. The flight was actually really nice. We got to see the Everest range. It was amazing.


We made it to Dhangadhi airport! Here we met Christa & Narendra, our lovely trek coordinators.


 When in Dhangadhi we took lots of selfies 🙂 As soon as we got in, we just wanted to go out and explore a little bit of the city. Dhangadhi, is the 10th biggest city of Nepal by population. It is a major city of the far western region of Nepal, about 5 miles away from the border with India.


I saw these two beautiful teenagers coming out of school and asked them to take a picture with me.  They were so happy and so was I.


How adorable are these little girls! I love how they hold on to each other. ❤


Later in the afternoon, we all got together, had momos and practiced a little bit of the Tharu language.  We also learned our Nepalese names!!

Here is a little bit of Tharu 🙂
Ram Ram = Good morning/Good Night
Mor naau Sandra ho. = My name is Sandra.
Dhanyabad = Thank you
Sughur ba = Beautiful


My dear brother in law, Radu, practicing his Tharu.

The following morning, before embarking on the bus, the guys played some soccer.  They were so good!


Vlad showing off his skills 😉


John, looking like a soccer star!


Radu dribbling the soccer ball.


 Shortly after breakfast and soccer we were ready to hop on the bus and ride to our village.


Our bus!!  Narendra, on the right bottom was one of our trek coordinators. We loved you Narendra, and I think your smile was perfect 🙂


Christa, our amazing trek coordinator! Thank you so much Christa for everything you have done for us.  ❤


On our way to the village, we stopped for lunch. We ate samosas, mandarins, and bananas. Samosas are popular appetizers in Southeast Asia. The are deep friend or baked dish filled usually with potatoes, lentils, and onions. After lunch, we played a fun game that helped us learn our Nepalese names.


Nirmala and Priya – buildOn trek coordinators from Nepal.


Christa and Annabella


Radu and Vlad


Marling and Lori




Team is ready to go build the school 🙂 I love our run2buildschools bracelets. ❤


Final picture before getting to our village, Uttar Majhra! Here are our Nepalese names – from left to right: Annabella = Asha gi, Lori = Laxmi gi, Marling = Maya gi, Kelly = Kiran gi,
Me = Santhi gi, Amy = Anju gi, Tudor = Tej gi, Radu = Ram gi, and Vlad = Bijaya gi.

Right before reaching the village, there was a little creek that we crossed by bus! Unfortunately, we didn’t have a better option. There were no roads or bridges anywhere close. This turned out to be quite an experience, exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I have it all on video 🙂

The Opening Ceremony

Once we reached the village, we were welcomed by dozens of villagers and children singing, dancing and celebrating our arrival! It was an unbelievable experience. We were all taken by aback. I was stunned by the amount of joy and happiness that felt in the air.   It was so incredibly humbling to see the gratitude for us.

I got overwhelmed with so many emotions and I started crying.
Two years of running and raising funds have finally payed off. Here I was in Nepal with a beautiful group of people making it all happen. It felt so surreal.




We all got our Bindi, the red drop on the center of the forehead. When worn by men it is called Tilak. It has multiple meanings. One simple interpretation is a cosmetic mark used to enhance beauty.

Beautiful Tharu woman. The Tharu people are an ethnic group indigenous to the southern foothills of the Himalayas.  They are recognized by the Nepal government and represent an approximate 6.5% of the Nepalese population.


Tudor and I.


My nephew, Vlad and beautiful Annabella in the background.


Me, Marling, Kelly and cute little Elia and Barsha. We all fell in love with these two little girls.


I love Marling’s smile! I read happiness. ❤


How beautiful Kelly and Elia are! I am in love.

Annabella and Lori wearing lots of marigolds. The marigold is significant to Nepalese culture especially to the festival of lights (Tihar Festival) which is the second biggest festival in Nepal.


All of us danced, celebrated happiness, diversity, inclusion and love!




Thank you Lori for taking this picture of me, Elia and Barsha ❤


Kelly and I ❤


 I loved so much all the costumes, flowers and accessories! How much work they must have put into it. And it was all for us. It melts my heart. ❤


Our spectators were of all ages – children in school uniforms, teenagers, mothers, fathers, and elderly people.




“Eyes” taken by Tudor.
This picture reminds me a little bit of the Afghan girl, the iconic photographic portrait by Steve McCurry which appeared in the June 1985 cover of National Geographic.


Pure joy!


Namaste overloaded with cuteness.
Namaste is a respectful form of greeting. To do Namaste, you place your hands together, close to your heart or eyes and bow the head.


Photo taken by Tudor. Breathtakingly beautiful.  She will be going to our school next year.
I can barely hold my tears back, the emotions are running high again. ❤


Focusing. I just want to hug her 🙂


 Who’s so shy?


Beautiful! I love the hair style too. On my way to the work site, I saw few times mothers combing their daughters hair outside early in the morning.

I adored so much seeing all the children!

The Covenant & Groundbreaking of our FIRST School

Before breaking ground on our school, we all signed the buildOn Covenant. I had the honor to sign it first. Our entire team and every member of the community signed it as well.
The Covenant is a solemn promise between buildOn and each village outlining their duties and contributions to the project.
Because of the funds we raised, buildOn is able to provide the engineering expertise, materials, skilled labor, and project supervision. Each village provides the land and the unskilled labor to build the school. Additionally, every village promises to send girls and boys to school in equal numbers.

I will never forget this moment. ❤

This image is so POWERFUL. Women signing their commitment to education for their children and themselves. Thank you Annabella for taking this amazing photo.

For many women in the village, it was the first time when they had to sign their names. They used their thumbprint to sign it. Such an emotional experience.

Next we had the school groundbreaking ceremony. A tree was planted and traditional rituals were performed.

On November 10, 2016 – we broke ground on our first school. It will always be a very special day in my heart. ❤

I ADORE how this marigold fell into a heart shape on the tree.  ❤

Dinner that night was a quite unique for all of us. We were served in banana leaves plates rice, snail, mice and fish.


The Work site

The work is hard! It consists of tasks like digging, sifting, mixing concrete, carrying water, stones, tying the rebar and sometimes making bricks. Everything is done by hand and by the end of our time in the village, we were all so sore and exhausted. I remember Vlad, Maya had back pains, Tudor had painful blisters.
The villagers worked with us. We were so INSPIRED by their hard work and commitment to finish the project! It was incredible to see them working along us. The men taught us how to dig holes and how to tie the rebar and the women how to carry baskets of stones and gravel on top of our heads.

We all dug 14 holes in total. Each hole was 6ft deep. This was definitely the hardest task.



Annabella and Shiv Raj almost done digging their 6 feet hole. How cute this is!
I was digging a hole right next to them. They were faster and finished first! 🙂

Kelly and I working on our second hole. I LOVE our shirts 🙂

So proud of my nephew, Vlad. ❤

Materials have been brought to the work site.


After school, children would stop by and help us sifting the sand. They were so happy to help.

Once we finished digging the 14 holes, we had to put big stones on the bottom of each hole. These stones were huge and so heavy. I loved how we passed them from one another. The sense of community and unity working closely to each other was so incredibly pervasive. It was a really beautiful scene.



Radu and Amy making the steel rebar components.



Annabella and Lori tying the rebar. We had to do 14 of these, for each hole. They were very tall.

Vlad learning! I love this SO MUCH. ❤

Maya and Lori. They became experts in making rebars. 🙂

Next we made the cement. We carried water, stones, sand, mixed them all together with cement chemical compounds and then  poured cement in each hole.

Kelly worked SO HARD! You might think she is tiny but this girl is strong! ❤

Women and young girls carrying on their heads stones and gravel.

Children were just so happy to help however they could. They were so excited and joyful to be around us. Sometimes we would take a short break and play a game with them.
It was simply priceless.

At the end of each day I tried to take pictures of us and the villagers.

Me with two beautiful women. On the right is Nadia. We dug a hole together and at the end of the day she gave me bracelets that she was wearing. I was so humbled and happy.

I gave her a smooch and lots of hugs. We became friends. ❤

Narendra and Amy. I love Narendra’s glasses and Amy’s shirt ❤


Haha, how cute is Lori! She was so proud to be able to carry all that on her head.

And so was I!

And cute Maya!

 More pictures of us from the work site!



Radu, he looks so happy! 🙂

Sweet Christa with two beautiful Tharu women.


I love this picture.  Marling, Lori and I, on our way back home after finishing work. We didn’t know each other before this trip but I am sure that we will be friends forever. ❤

After finishing digging the holes, sifting the sand, making the cement and tying the rebars, we started the process of inserting each rebar into each hole. It took many of us to do this. Our team was able to assist and help on few rebars. The village community finished all the work.



By the end of our last work day, this is how the work site looked like. The foundation of the school has been COMPLETED. Thank you SO MUCH to all the hard working villagers, women and men, who made this possible.

 This is a nice video that show you how many people it took to get those rebars inside the holes.


At the end of our last work day, we wrote our names on a piece of paper, inserted it in a small bottle and dropped it at the bottom of the foundation. ❤

Group picture at the end of our last work day. I love it so much.

 Visiting current school

After work one day I visited the current school. I got emotional to see the conditions in which children were currently studying.

This was a small class made out of mud and it had a hay roof. The only light that got in was from leaving the door open and some sun rays would get through the hay roof.

Kids were so HAPPY to see me! They were all so exuberant and wanted to hold my hand and talk to me. They loved taking pictures too. Emotions run high again in my heart just thinking about it. ❤



I can not tell you how much joy and happiness I felt in that moment. My heart is melting again! ❤

Cultural exchange workshops

I LOVED this so much! Every day after work we all had lunch together and then we had different cultural workshops. We learned how to make plates using banana leaves, how to croshet, or how to make ropes and baskets. We also spent time with members of the community and shared with each other  things about our culture and society.

Vlad, Radu (below) learning how to tie a rope halter. ❤



Tudor learning how to make a rope using his toes. How cool is that!!


Me learning how to make a basket. Baskets are made either from split cane, rice straws, or bamboo.

Kelly mastering the crochet 🙂

Shiv Raj making amazing dishes to hold food.

Happy me! It was actually not that easy to make plates out of the bananas leaves. It took some skills.


Radu13_BLOG.jpgOne afternoon we all sat together and learned about each others cultures. It was so enlightening to learn about their traditions, beliefs and hopes for their children and families.



This beautiful woman was absolutely amazing! She voiced her hopes and dreams for her community so eloquently. I realized that we are indeed all the same. We have the same dreams and hopes for our children and families. It made me think of the beautiful poem, Human Family , by the amazing Maya Angelou.
In the words of Maya Angelou – “We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Kids and us

We all took bunch of pictures of the kids. We took selfies as well. I will let the pictures do the “talk”. But I want to say that every child you see here will have the opportunity to go to our new school. ❤

Sandra_Nepal48_BLOG.jpgRadu and Vlad with adorable kids

Elia and I

Sameer and Karan! I LOVED them so much!!!



Cute little girl trying on Annabella’s sun glasses!

Priceless and Pure Happiness! I love this so much.


 Amy sharing her cellphone with the kids! ❤

Me playing with the kids after work.


Sameer and Tudor! How amazing is Sammer. His energy was contagious.
I loved the kid SO MUCH. ❤


My nephew Vlad showing his pictures to the kids.





This smile and the Batman shirt! ❤

Kelly and Maya being happy!

Karan and I. Karan melts my heart every day.


 Cuteness and shyness all together. ❤

Beautiful girls.


Look how HAPPY Vlad is! I think I’m going to print this and keep it in my wallet. It brings tear of joy every time I look at it. It truly does. ❤

Our adorable Annabella and he kids! I love her expression.



Hello there! ❤
Beautiful pictures taken by Tudor.




Little girl running! ❤


Sweet little Barsha! ❤ ❤ ❤

Red Nose

Sameer and Christa! ❤

I gave my camera to Sameer and then I started making funny faces. He took pictures of me and then looked at them. I took my cellphone quickly out and snapped few pics. Their happiness is priceless! ❤


Vlad and his new friends.





 Tudor with Elia (left) and Barsha (right). Adorable!




I fell madly and helplessly in love with all the children. Every day since I came back I go through pictures with the kids over and over again. ❤

Few pictures of Uttar Majhra village ❤


I met this beautiful girl on my way back home one day. She spoke a little bit English. When she saw me,  she said smiling beautifully “Hi my sister”. I took a picture of her and showed it to her. She loved it! I then hugged her, wished her a good day and I continued my way back home.
Within few minutes, she came by my host family and brought me hair shampoo.
She said “For you sister, thank you!” ❤

This gentleman every day helped us on the work site.







Closing ceremony

For the closing ceremony the families dressed us all in Tharu costumes. They were so happy and took so much pride in it. I loved the experience. I they put make up on us, comb our hair, gave us their jewelries and dressed us in pretty and colorful Tharu clothes.
We danced again, heard lots of speeches, and celebrated our experience and commitment to education.

Team Run2BuildSchools, Nepal 2016 proudly posing for our final group picture.
Thank you Christa for you taking this picture. I actually really wish you were in it. Thank you SO MUCH for taking such a good care of us. Thank you for your guidance and amazing leadership. I loved having you as our trek coordinator. You are simply amazing! ❤

Annabella, Amy, Lori, Maya, Kelly, Vlad, Radu and Tudor – We DID IT! ❤ ❤ ❤
Thank you for being so good to me. Thank you for your love. Thank you for everything.


Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my all donors who made this school possible.  The donor plaque will go at the entrance of the school.

This transformative life experience has taught me to never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and compassionate people can change lives. Because, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.


On our way back to Kathmandu, we stopped by another school that buildOn has previously helped built. This is a picture of all the kids currently studying in that school.
I can’t wait to see a picture of our school with all the children that we met.
And one day I will go back and visit it all.

I thank you ALL for your support and love! It truly means the world to me and it magically keeps me going. We have raised money for 3 more school and next year I am planing to run more around the world, raise more funds for more schools.
Our next school will be in Senegal. See you all next year in Senegal!

Sending much LOVE to you, your loved ones and the World. ❤