For many years, Berman Tabacco partner Chris Heffelfinger and his family have strived to provide children in Nepal with education, housing and medical care through their work with the Nepal Youth Foundation. The Foundation and the Heffelfingers’ connection to the Foundation were recently spotlighted by ABC News.
The Nepal Youth Foundation is dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues acutely experienced by Nepali youth by providing them with vital healthcare, education and a safe home. The Foundation’s programs include granting scholarships to Nepali youth from kindergarten through college; building homes to shelter them from homelessness; establishing Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes that resolve severe malnutrition; and creating the Indentured Daughters Program to stop impoverished families from selling their daughters into bonded servitude. That program has been so successful that it quadrupled in size from the first year to the next, and since then more than 12,000 girls have been saved by the program. Olga Murray, a close friend of Chris’s parents, Totton (“Tot”) and Joanne Heffelfinger, founded the Nepal Youth Foundation in 1990. The Heffelfinger family has been involved with the Foundation from its inception, with Tot serving as a founding board member. It was through the Heffelfingers’ friendship with Olga and their deep commitment to the Foundation’s goals that they eventually welcomed a nine-year-old Nepali girl, Durga Thapa, into their home.
Durga was eight-years-old when Olga met her in a Kathmandu hospital. Durga had been badly burned in an accident as an infant. Due to the severity of her injuries, Durga needed extensive plastic surgery that local doctors were not trained to perform and that her family could not afford. After meeting Durga, Olga and the Nepal Youth Foundation brought her to the United States so that she could receive treatment. But Durga needed a home in the United States — a place where she could be supported through the numerous surgeries that would take place over the next decade.
The Heffelfingers provided Durga with that home, enveloping Durga into their lives and welcoming her as their seventh child. Tot and Joanne cared for Durga through all of her operations and supported her schooling, which eventually led to Durga attending college at Mount Holyoke. Durga now lives in Solano County, California with her husband and young son.
Chris has continued his family’s commitment to the Nepal Youth Foundation, serving as a member of its board since 2014 and recently participating in a trip to Nepal to see the Foundation’s work first-hand. “It has been a privilege for me to carry on the love and commitment to the Foundation inspired by my parents and by Olga, and I am fortunate to have met many of the dedicated staff members and beneficiaries of these programs and to have forged new friendships,” commented Chris. To read more about Durga’s return trip to Nepal, please visit https://www.nepalyouthfoundation.org/durga/. Information about the Foundation is available at https://www.nepalyouthfoundation.org.