Fall 2018 Cover Story: The Power Of A Promise

Photo by Emily Adar

At 14 years old, Megha Tuladhar found herself working as a legal intern for Maiti Nepal, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking. During one of her first days on the job, she found herself sitting across from two parents, listening to how their daughter quickly became a victim of trafficking overnight. The couple didn’t have any photos of their child, only the memories of her characteristics ingrained in their heads. It was up to Megha to pry as much information out of the couple as possible. What does the girl look like? How tall is she? What was she wearing when you last saw her?

Megha translated the Nepali conversation into English and sent the description to Maiti Nepal’s branch offices at neighboring borders. Later that day, the child was found at the China border and safely returned to her family — the reunion impossible without Megha.

In that moment, 14-year-old Megha realized how much her actions can affect people. Living in an underdeveloped country, she finally recognized the poverty that surrounded her and now knew there was actually something she could do to change that.

She made a promise to herself: be the driving force of change for Nepal and for the world.

The First Dose of Responsibility

Megha has been surrounded by powerful, influential people all of her life. Both her mother, a gender equality and social inclusion advisor at USAID, and father, a share and stock investor and real estate investor, have both had profound impact on her life.

One high school summer, Megha’s mother wanted her to get involved in helping others rather than just sitting around. So Megha went to volunteer for Anuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal and 2010 CNN Hero of the Year award recipient.

“You get to go see what strong women in Nepal are doing,” Megha’s mother exclaimed.

Megha started her internship without hesitation. From that fateful day she saved a young girl from trafficking to all the other instances where she made an impact, Megha’s promise was still rooted inside of her.

Her work at Maiti Nepal gave her a sense of responsibility. Parents, family members and friends of sex trafficked victims were asking for her help because they believed she was capable.

“You know you can’t slack off on this,” Megha told herself. “These people are actually counting on you.”

She felt a responsibility to save the world — to help those in need. In fact, this yearning was so strong that she found another cause to dive into a few years later. As part of a high school course, Megha volunteered for Cerebral Palsy Nepal and was quickly touched by the young patients affected by this disorder. She spent her time helping teachers, creating coursework and learning about cerebral palsy. Turns out, Megha had a knack for helping others — something that came so naturally to her.

“When I found out I’m not too bad at helping out other people, I think that’s when I caught the niche of it,” she says.

The realization that no one is immune from hardships transformed Megha. It’s all a matter of chance. She could have easily been a victim of sex trafficking or born with cerebral palsy.

“It made me feel that I have a sense of responsibility,” she says. “I can’t just settle for being happy with my own world or just working and doing and donating so often. I don’t think I could have ever done that because I never feel satisfied with what other people are doing.”

Megha’s a problem solver, a doer and a go-getter. Nothing would stop her.

When The Ground Shook

For Megha, accepting her offer to Penn State was an easy choice. The first few weeks of April 2015 after she received her acceptance letter were filled with joy and the anticipation of what was to come. But, as her family basked in her accomplishment, disaster struck.

On April 25, 2015, a devastating earthquake disrupted the capital city of Kathmandu. The earthquake, which registered as 7.8 on the richter scale, killed around 9,000 people and injured thousands more. Megha’s happiness and excitement quickly vanished. Although her home was safe, her neighbors, her city and her country were not.

“Everyone knows in Nepal you are not supposed to build a house taller than three to four stories high. But there were [buildings] like seven, eight stories high,” says Megha.

When the ground shook, many citizens rushed to find shelter indoors, only to find themselves trapped by the rubble and collapsing buildings.

Megha asked herself, “What is my country going to do?”

But, the Nepali government was not prepared for a catastrophe of this magnitude. While the region is prone to earthquakes, a shock of this scale only occurs every 70 or so years, so no one expected an earthquake of this severity to strike anytime soon. Now was the time for Megha to fulfill her promise again.

“I went door to door asking houses that were not affected if they were willing to give anything that they did not need, or even money. I ended up getting loads of stuff. That was incredible. During crisis, people were willing to give — that was just shocking to me.”

Once items were collected and donations were received, Megha called on the help of a local social venture to make use of her efforts. After collaborating with Bihani Social Venture, she prepared all of her materials and headed to a nearby village in need.

“I remembered we had to unload everything from a far distance because the road was blocked off. We got there and we saw so many people who just needed help,” she recalls.

Photo by Emily Adar

The World Keeps Turning

In August 2015, with her parents still occupied helping Nepal recover from the earthquake, Megha found herself flying to college alone. Spending two years at Penn State Behrend, Megha was quick to find out that Erie, Pennsylvania and Kathmandu, Nepal were like apples and oranges. Still, her desire to do good didn’t disappear.

She became a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau because she wanted to be involved in philanthropic work. She raised money for THON and cleaned up a stretch of a Pennsylvania road as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program.

But unfortunately, Alpha Sigma Tau does not have a chapter at University Park, so when Megha moved to State College in the fall of 2017, she had to find other opportunities to express her passions.

Now, Megha is the director of signature events for Ascend’s Penn State chapter, which is a national organization for Pan-Asian business professionals. In her role, she plans several networking events for Ascend’s members. Her biggest accomplishment? Ascend to Vegas, a networking fair held in early September that brings students and potential employers together for a night of casino games and conversation.  

Megha spent the summer of 2018 in State College completing one of Penn State’s premiere internship programs, the Development and Alumni Relations internship. After working for the University Libraries all summer, she is now the Marie Bednar development intern for the University Libraries. Just another addition to her already impressive résumé.

Despite her diverse experiences, there is a common theme — everything Megha commits herself to helps people in some capacity. At Behrend, her sorority raised money for various philanthropies. With Ascend, she encourages her fellow students to tackle the job market and put themselves out there.

Making Passions Collide

Since Megha is an economics major, it may come as a surprise to hear Megha’s first encounter with economics was not a pleasant experience. For some reason, her economics teacher and her were like oil and water — never getting along. Ready to drop the course and enroll in a theatre class, she decided to do some research on the topic. After all, her mother studied economics, so she was not going to let her daughter give up that easily.

“The more I learned about economics practically, the more I could relate it back to Nepal: the society, the caste systems, how consumers and suppliers think, resource management,” she says. “I kind of understood that this is a subject I could study and apply in Nepal.”

Megha had suddenly fallen in love with the topic, and her professor and her, who were once so opposite, finally found common ground. Although this newfound passion was stirring up inside her, she struggled to find a focus. She wanted to be an advocate for the poor, fix gender issues, and promote sustainability. How could she decide which was most important to her?

“I felt like I was equally responsible for all sides,” Megha says.

That’s when she discovered Muhammad Yunus. A pioneer in the concept of microfinance and a Bangladeshi entrepreneur, his work inspired Megha, and she found that microfinance combines all of her passions into one idea. For Megha, microfinance could be the key to development in her beloved Nepal.

A Promise To Keep

When Megha walks across the graduation stage this year — yes, she is graduating in December — her time in America will not come to an end. With plans to work for an American non-profit that specializes in economic development, her yearning to make an impact will never settle.

In her opinion, working in America is the only way for her to gain an international perspective on this issue of economic development. When more experience is logged and skills are perfected, Megha will return to Nepal to fulfill her promise.

Perhaps one day she will have her own organization where she will be able to implement her innovative ideas for development and change. Her work, she believes, will be worthy of an award.

“I know one day I would love to have a Nobel Peace Prize. Not just because it’s a Nobel Peace Prize, but because then I will know I have impacted a lot of people, and I have done what 14-year-old Megha promised to do — create that change.”

The power of a person is strong.

The power of a passion is limitless.

The power of a promise is life-changing.

And it only takes an intelligent, kind and dedicated person like Megha to prove that.