Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation: A demise giving rise to many lives

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Life can start and end anywhere. A human has no control over it whatsoever. Yet, giving ‘life’ is a choice and Krishna Gurung made this his mission. An impressive person who has faced his share of sorrow, Krishna Gurung chooses to reflect upon it by providing service towards the community. Here is the story of a selfless man: 

1. What is the social problem you are trying to solve?
There are numerous social problems in Nepal. The country is wealthy in terms of resources, yet it has not been doing well nor utilizing the resources fully due to many social as well as other problems. Therefore, we want to raise this awareness among people that they should work and earn their living.
We aim at doing that by providing people with occupational opportunities, thus uplifting their living standards. We believe everyone has unique individual gifts. Creativity and participation thrive in the community and nourishes the environment for the present and future.

2. Can you share with us your venture with Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation? When was it established?
Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation was established in March 2010. As I have already mentioned, it began with an emotional cause. We lost our son Kevin in this village when he was seven years old. Then, I was leading a business in Kathmandu which was on its 17th-year run. It was nominated for the BBC World Challenge too.

After our loss, my wife and I went to the United States. However, I always had a strong vision to do something for the environment and the people. We returned in 2010 and started this organization. The three ideologies of Ecology, Economy and Social Inclusion functioned as the pillars of our foundation.

3. Can you share the concept and notion of your business?
Kevin Rohan was my son’s name who passed away when he was seven. KRMEF is dedicated to him. All we are trying to do is to help society live a better life. We run Leela’s Eco Café in Progress, which is under my wife’s name and Ankuran Kindergarten School.
We are additionally into biodynamic farming that produces local and sustainable fuel and does ecological architecture training with the education provided for the disabled, elderly and villagers with leprosy. We also provide for free health check-ups and handmade jewelry from local resources is one of our specialties. 

4. Can you talk to us about your business model?
Yes, sure. Leela’s Eco Café is under my wife’s name, which is doing well. All the proceeds earned are used to support the organization. We have many study abroad programs as well. The earning from the school is sufficient to sustain it. Additionally, other works like handicrafts, organic products, and homestay additionally help in sustaining the organization.

5. How did you initially raise funds to start your business? When you first started, how many employees did you start with and what is your current employee strength?
When we were in the USA, I collected money from my close friends and relatives. To be honest, I also took out the money from Kevin’s life insurance and that is how we started KRMEF.
Earlier, we had 7 employees with us but now we have grown into a family of 63 employees. 

6. Can you give us an estimate of your investment until the date? Additionally, is your business profitable?
Well, we have invested a substantial amount of money in these five years. If you enquire of an estimation, let us say more than 1.5 crores till now. It is a profitable business for the community. 

7. What challenges did you face initially? How did you overcome those challenges?
Initially, we faced many challenges. Everything had to be done gradually as the public’s acceptance did not come about easily. Thankfully, we were well-received by the villagers eventually and now we are grateful and growing. Challenges are always going to be there. All you have to do is never stop and keep going. My motto is – Never get scared but always be prepared.

8. Are there any challenges that you are facing now? Who are your target customers?
Everybody thinks that NGOs inject money into KRMEF but I am not in support of it. We have become self-sustainable in terms of everything and now, our current challenge is to make people understand who we are and how we work.
Our place receives national as well as international customers and those additionally happen to be our target group.

9. Do you observe any changes in society after the commencement of your business?
Of course! Most of the areas outside the Kathmandu valley are rural and Khokana being on the outskirts is one of them too. Before Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation was established, there were no jobs in this village. Presently, there are 63 people from the village working in KRMEF and more than 116 students studying in our school. Everybody is pleased so far.  

10. What are the key needs of your company right now?
Yes! We need extensive marketing and our products need to satisfy international standards. Our other essential need is training so our staff excels, as most of them have never had any formal training

11. Do you have any plans with the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation? Is there any other information you would like to share with people?
Our main aim is creating employment and increasing productivity in all of Nepal, rather just than replicating the set foundation.
Nepal is a small country and many things could be achieved here if we unite. Political stability, enthusiasm, and power to work is all we need.

For more information, check out their website- KRMEF or connect with them on Facebook here

Interviewed and article by Ashmita Rai.