BAR HARBOR — Surya Karki, a third-year student at College of the Atlantic, has been selected to participate in a United Nations-sponsored UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Youth Conference in Okayama City, Japan, on Nov. 7.
Karki, of Madi Mulkharkh, Nepal, was one of only 50 students chosen out of more than 5,000 applicants from 180 countries.
UNESCO is the acronym for the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, founded on Nov. 16, 1945. With 195 member states, its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science and culture to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights, according to its charter.
Participants will help develop recommendations for the UNESCO World Conference on ESD, slated for Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, Nov. 10-12. Karki and other participants also will be invited to take part in that conference, an integral part of UNESCO’s Operational Strategy on Youth 2004-2021.
For Karki, a Davis United World College Scholar at COA, the trip to Japan will come on the heels of several weeks studying sustainable energy this fall in Samso Island, Denmark, as part of an innovative College of the Atlantic “monster course” designed in partnership with Rockland-based Island Institute and underwritten by the Fund for Maine Islands.
In 2011, he helped create Maya Universe Academy, the first completely free educational institution in his native Nepal, consisting of three schools where about 142 children receive free education. Parents volunteer two days per month in the schools’ gardens, and the crops sold generate revenue in lieu of tuition.
That effort led to him being named one of seven finalists for the 2013 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneur Awards, which celebrate youths who develop innovative sustainability solutions. Finalists were given funding to advance their projects and attended a London ceremony with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
“It was an eye-opening experience and I think a motivational experience at the same time, because you know when you’re doing something that is socially beneficial to people and you’re trying to create a business that would benefit people … you tend to think that you are the only one or you’re walking the road alone,” Karki said at the time. “Prince Charles came up and said, ‘So you’re the guy? You’re the guy from Nepal? You study somewhere in the U.S. and do a great job’,” Karki said. “I think it was really wonderful.”
Within the past year, Karki was named one of the Top 11 Influential College Students in recognition of being a Davis UWC Scholar, as well as a Project for Peace recipient. Karki also has been selected as a Dayitwa Fellow for 2014, a program of the Nepalese government that “fosters collaborative leadership among young public service leaders to collectively nurture a mindset of innovation in the policymaking community of the Government of Nepal.”
“Through my education at COA, I am striving to understand development economics, global environmental politics and sustainable business,” Karki has said. “I work, empower, protest, write and speak for the voiceless because I have a dream to lead my country towards prosperity, by being a leader that many Nepalese have hoped for.”
“Surya is an amazing example of how College of the Atlantic students stretch the boundaries of place-based learning to bring creative ideas and intellect to vexing world problems in more and more places, from the global halls of power to just about anywhere,” said college President Darron Collins ‘92.
Participation in the UNESCO ESD World Conference is by invitation only. Some 1,000 participants from around the world are expected to attend.