Danny Chaffin Founder Danny was only 19 in 2006 when he first set off to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage in Kathmandu called Buddhist Child Home. During the time he spent in Nepal, he made many friends. One was Rajan Shimkahada, who told Danny about the lack of schools in villages located throughout the steep Himalayan mountains. He offered to take Danny to his home village and show him “the real Nepal” and how people in the mountain communities lived. Danny was immediately struck by the poverty and lack of resources the villagers deal with, including few to none educational buildings and materials for their children. He and Rajan came up with a plan to build a village school, and HANDS in Nepal was born. Danny lived during his time in Nepal with a Tibetan family in Kathmandu and learned first-hand about culture and life in Nepal. He became sensitive to not only educational challenges for Nepal, but the challenges of living in a country without a working government as he experienced the rise of Maoist, the Civil War, and insurgency in the country while he lived and worked there as a volunteer. That first school was a hands-on experience for Danny, not only in fund-raising but in how to acquire and transport materials to remote, Himalayan regions. The Dharka School, or Shree Ganesh Himalaya School, as it came to be known, laid down a blue-print for others to come. When a nearby village came to Danny asking he could build a school for their village, he was able to do so with a sponsorship to HANDS from the Dworak Family of Minnesota-their son had just returned from a trek in Nepal and wanted to contribute to his guide’s village. From those two schools, Danny went on to direct the building of a library, and later HANDS in Nepal built a second library and several classroom additions in other areas. He also supplied, through HANDS, books and teacher resource material for the schools and libraries HANDS built. Danny left HANDS in Nepal after 6 years of traveling back and forth to Nepal to work on his college degree. He wanted to dedicate more time to his Peace major at Naropa University in Boulder, Co., and finished his degree at Goddard University, presenting a thesis on running a non-profit in Nepal. He currently resides in Santa Margarita with his wife Bree, where he helps his Dad, Don Chaffin, run a small construction company. His favorite pastimes include playing with his daughter Kora, running with his dog Caribou, and mountain biking. He plans to return to Nepal someday with his daughter and Bree, to reunite with all his friends and his “Nepali” family there.
Kevin O'Shea President Kevin has a background in horticulture. His interest in environmental issues and farming has nurtured his curiosity in sustainability projects. His first trip to Nepal raised his awareness in how important water filtration and quality are to villagers. He has worked with our Nepal liaisons to create water storage units and edit water filtration manuals. Kevin is also interested in how to support villagers in rural development and how to support and help them to raise up their quality of life.
Jan Sprague Jan has always had an interest in travel and culture, and found a way to combine that passion along with teaching when her son Danny went to Nepal. A graduate of Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo in photojournalism, Jan went on to complete a teaching credential and then a masters in reading and literature. She began to help Danny in Nepal on his many trips to build schools and libraries there, and was one of the founding members of the Board of Directors. When Danny left HANDS to finish his college degree, Jan picked up the reins and took his place as director of HANDS in Nepal. She has continued to fulfill Danny’s original mission statement, traveling to remote, rural areas of Nepal, meeting with villagers, especially women and children, and working with Nepali people to find the best ways HANDS can support and develop education programs in impoverished areas of the Himalayas. Jan says working in Nepal has not only been a life-changing experience for her, but a way to realize how you can extend education beyond classroom walls. She is strong believer in the need for literacy to build world peace, and continues to travel and supervise HANDS projects by traveling to Nepal each year. While teaching, she was nominated for a Crystal Apple Award for her work in Nepal building schools, and was chosen as Teacher of the Year for the Guadalupe School District in 2015. Jan has given presentations and talks about the work HANDS is doing in Nepal to organizations such as the American Association of University Women and Rotary Clubs. She uses her photojournalism skills to write a blog about her travels in Nepal, which can found on this website, along with her photographs, under the tab “ABOUT HANDS”.
Carole Leone Treasurer Carole Leone is a resident of Atascadero, Ca. who recently retired from a pension consulting business. In 1984, she co-founded a non-profit organization, Transportation Research Associates, that researched the use of composites in building light-weight covered bicycles called, Human Powered Vehicles. She was an officer of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) for several years, including at various times President, Vice President and Treasurer. From 1983 to 1994 she also did all of the office work and financial accounting for the family solar installation and repair business. Carole and husband George have been world travelers for over 49 years and visited Nepal in 1978, trekking in Chitwin and Kathmandu. Carole brings to the Board of HANDS in Nepal her experience for keeping financial records for non-profits for both legal reasons and to provide information for board members and donors on how funds are acquired and spent. Other than traveling whenever she can, her passions are world class human powered vehicle racing, and her dogs, cat and retired Arabian horse, Ria.
Bree Hugins Bree Hugins met Danny Chaffin when both were Peace majors at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She was interested in women’s studies and feminist issues before meeting Danny and HANDS in Nepal, and was keenly interested in interviewing Nepal village women when she accompanied Danny on trips there. Bree had also worked for a non-profit in Nicaragua in early childhood development and as a facilitator for Free the Children in Patagonia, Arizona. Both Bree and Danny currently reside in Santa Margarita, Ca., where they are raising their infant daughter, Kora. Bree also works at Cal Poly University in the Food Science Department.
Julee Bauer Julee has been honored to serve a board member for HANDS in Nepal since its inception in 2007. After teaching elementary school in Guadalupe, CA for over 20 years, Julee now educates future elementary school teachers in the Cal Poly School of Education. She enjoys teaching literacy and social studies methods courses and participating in the Spanish/English bilingual authorization program. In addition to her work at Cal Poly, Julee serves on the board of MZR Fitness, a local fitness organization, and volunteers with an international teacher association that provides support for educators. She also participates in various research projects to foster professional learning communities between the Cal Poly School of Education and local school districts. Julee enjoys speaking Spanish and traveling around the world. She has visited many parts of the United States, as well as Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico, and Central America. She spent two summers in Mexico studying culture and language, and taught courses in a Guatemalan school through a Cal Poly summer study program. Some of Julee’s favorite leisure activities are spending time with family and friends, hiking, early morning workouts, reading, listening to local music, and taking long tandem bike rides with her husband Terry. One of her dreams is to travel to Nepal with her dear pal Jan, to make new friends and see the schools, libraries, sewing cooperatives and learning centers that HANDS in Nepal has supported.
Heidi Lewin-Miller Heidi has been a resident of Santa Margarita and Garden Farms since 1992. She has worked as a psychotherapist and dietician in private practice since the 1980’s. Heidi cares deeply about others, be it her family, friends, clients, animals, or under-privileged people of the world. Heidi has volunteered for many organizations, including the Santa Margarita Advisory Council, the Live Oak Music Festival, local school PTAs, Robotics, the Marching Band of Atascadero High School, and as an EF and AFS host family. She has also helped organize the Garden Farms Holiday Craft Fair for 13 years. Heidi has enjoyed a close friendship with the Sprague-Chaffin’s well before the inception of the HANDS NGO. She joined the Hands Board in 2015, hoping to make a difference on a more global level. Heidi is in awe of the work HANDS has done with some grassroots support and a lot of committed and caring community members both in the U.S. and in Nepal. She had the great honor of joining Jan for a whirlwind 2 week trip in 2016 to visit Nepal. She helped deliver needed supplies to all of the HANDS' projects in Nepal, and met with our Nepali allies to collaborate on new projects. It was one of the most life changing trips she has ever experienced! On a local level, Heidi spearheads the HANDS in Nepal Holiday Art Market, she helps coordinate other HANDS fundraisers, and you might see her at the HANDS Earth Day booth or at the Live Oak booth. Heidi loves to travel the world with her family, hike, swim in beautiful seas, make jewelry, dance, walk her dog, and laugh whenever possible!
Jamie Walker Jamie Walker came to HANDS in Nepal in 2011 with her passion for helping children in impoverished countries. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, South America, Central America and Mexico and has witnessed the difficulties children have living in poverty. Jamie holds a Masters in Spanish and an elementary credential and has taught elementary school and ESL students. Her love of culture has taken her from being a host for foreign exchange students at her home, to helping HANDS in Nepal with fundraising. Presently, she works part time caring for the elderly. This fills her as she sees they offer a grounding quality with their years of wisdom and experience with life. Jamie’s excellent skills as a cook benefit our HANDS fundraisers with her guidance in planning menus and creating desserts and other tasty treats. In her spare time, she loves dancing, hiking and enjoying good meals with international friends. She also feeds her soul by creating: whether it's gardening, sewing, designing additions to her California property or cooking a new dish. She hopes to begin actively traveling again soon and meet the wonderful people of Nepal and experience first-hand the culture of the Himalayas.
Nancy Hill Cuñha Nancy Hill Cunha is a resident of Templeton, CA. Originally from Washington state where she trained as botanist, she has done botanical work for such organizations as the US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, The Washington Game Department, and various consulting firms in Washington and California. Nancy has volunteered for a number of organizations over the years. She has been very involved in the schools where her children received their education, doing things from nature studies, crafts, fundraising, etc. It is her belief that the more you give to the schools, the more all students will benefit. Currently she is secretary of the Templeton Drama Boosters, a parent support group at Templeton High School and president of Culture Initiative, a parent group at THS designed to help support a positive student culture that fosters a philanthropic attitude on campus. She has been secretary of Templeton Education Foundation since 2014. TEF raises money to support the Templeton schools from the elementary to the high school level. She also is a founding member of the Templeton Performing Arts Center Foundation, an organization that supports the Templeton Performing Arts Center facility. HANDS in Nepal is dear to her heart and she feels privileged to be a part of the organization. The dedication of the board and the positive impact that this small NGO is able to have in Nepal is inspiring. She hopes to travel to Nepal in the near future to experience this work first hand. In her spare time, Nancy enjoys quilting and being in nature. She is a member of the Almond Country Quilt Guild and the California Native Plant Society.
Jake Peters Jake’s connection to Nepal began in 2014, when he joined the Board of Directors and spent two months in Nepal coordinating projects for HANDS in Nepal. During this time, he developed a deep appreciation for the people of Nepal along with the Himalayan landscape and the people who call the Himalayas home. The following year, Jake would return to Nepal with emergency supplies following the massive earthquake of 2015. He coordinated the delivery of emergency supplies with our Nepal friend and contact, Bhupendra Adhikari, and brought blankets, tin, food and solar lights to earthquake victims with Bhupendra. He has traveled to many of the remote regions of Nepal, including Mukinath in the Mustang Valley, and has worked to help HANDS in Nepal assess the most needy places for schools and learning centers. He completed his masters degree at the University of San Diego in 2018, where he studied international politics and the impact of natural disasters in marginalized countries such as Nepal. He continues to serve on the Board helping with fundraising and working to develop the best ways to use aid for our work in remote, rural areas of Nepal.
Kavita Thapa Adhikari Project Manager Kavita grew up in a Nepal village in the Pokhara area. She was educated in Norway at the University of Bergen. She holds a degree in government studies. Upon returning to Nepal, she began working with the Nepal government and the National Land Use Project. When she studied in Bergen, her research dealt with Women's Studies. She began to focus her attention on women's work skills in the Nepal villages. Now Kavita works with village women to empower them with a focus on health. She has joined up with HANDS in Nepal to help us establish workshops for village women, teaching primarily sewing skills and sanitary pad workshops. She also helps teach village women how to make their own hygiene products, and serves as a field guide for us in understanding better the needs of women and children in the Himalayas. She has led workshops for HANDS in Nepal at our Learning Center and for women who have relocated to Kathmandu due to earthquake hardships.
Sandy holds a degree from Palomar College in San Marcos, Ca. and has extensive experience in the medical field. Sandy has always been a humanitarian. She has worked as a volunteer for many hospitals in the San Diego area and believes that life is about living with compassion and empathy for others. Part of that philosophy has been to work as a supporter for organizations that try to make the world a better place. She has always supported HANDS in Nepal from its origins, and has helped numerous times at fund-raisers and benefits. She has volunteered with the HANDS booth at various festivals. Sandy recently joined the Board officially. Her goal is to fundraise and look at how to promote HANDS in Nepal’s projects through public relations. Sandy enjoys living in the coastal town of Carlsbad, Ca and walking her Golden Doodle dog, Honey Bear, on the beaches after work. One of her hobbies is photography and she is always looking for a sunset photo opportunity. Her dream is to go to Nepal someday to photograph the women and children HANDS helps, and to work with helping women's sewing projects.
Lucas Miller Tech support Lucas graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2019 with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Information Systems. Lucas provides tech support and web development to HANDS.