OUR
STORY

FOUNDER'S MESSAGE 

The vision of the Unatti Foundation came to me after traveling through Kathmandu in January 1998. I was at the city gates of Bhaktapur, Nepal working on a photographic book about underprivileged street children in developing countries. A group of small boys, ages 8 to 14, were sitting on the side of the road, hoping to befriend tourists so they could make a few rupees for their hungry families.

Two boys named Rajesh and Ramu, dressed in soiled clothes, approached me to be my city guides. In typical Western fashion, I shooed them away. Still, they politely followed me around the city, several feet behind me, offering tidbits of information. At the end of the day, I gave them a few rupees and figured I’d never see them again. The next day, they were right there. “We knew you’d be back,” Rajesh said. Then, staring at my feet, he remarked, “Two days, two shoes.” He noticed I owned more than one pair of shoes, a rare thing in poverty-stricken Nepal. I was struck with awareness and began considering how I might make a more lasting impact on my young teachers.

The boys and I became fast friends. When Rajesh preferred a dictionary over a gift of money, I decided to sponsor the two friends so they could attend a private school and receive a decent education. Five short years later, our founding board of directors, other donors and I created the Unatti Foundation and named it in honor of a young orphan girl who touched my heart.

THE UNATTI GROUP HOME FOR GIRLS

On March 6, 2002, five little girls wearing bright red school uniforms held hands and walked toward me, nervously smiling from ear to ear. I knew immediately that they were the first members of Unatti's family and I cried with joy.

Over the course of that month, I recruited local leadership to begin the early stages of development of the Unatti Group Home for Girls and our other budding programs. Listening to their stories and learning from their experience, I realized how fortunate I was to be part of it all, to be supporting their efforts and enabling their potential impact to be bigger and bolder.

Seventeen years later, we have grown to house more than twenty five young girls, employ nine adult women, and have a full time Director of Programs in Nepal. Our programs have expanded to include the community of Bhaktapur, the medieval city that surrounds the Unatti Group Home for Girls.

With the devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015, Unatti Foundation now partners with communities beyond Bhaktapur in our Phase 2 project. We are committed to helping Nepal recover and thrive and are proud to have played an important role in one-the-ground disaster relief because of our strong presence and experience in the region.

My life has been changed by the people of Nepal and now, with the support of so many others, the course of many lives abroad have also been uplifted and empowered. The Unatti Board of Directors join me in feeling humbled by the outpouring of support that started with just a few friends almost two decades ago and now includes more than 10,000 donors, supporters, and volunteers from around the world.

Thank you for being part of the Unatti Family and for joining me in making a lasting impact on such a deserving community in Nepal. We are honored to have your support.

Namaste,

Stephanie Waisler-Rubin
Founder, Unatti Foundation

LIFE IN NEPAL FOR A GIRL

Nepal is the geographic size of Arkansas, but is home to more than 26 million people. More than 50 percent of its people live below the poverty line—one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Half of all Nepalese children are malnourished (as defined and measured by UNICEF). Seventy percent of the nation’s children start elementary school, but half drop out before reaching fifth grade. Nepali Census Bureau data reports that girls are removed from school even earlier and more frequently than boys. Of the nation’s girls — 4 million of which are between the ages of 8 and 18, approximately 34% are in arranged marriages before they are 16 years old. Some 7 percent are arranged before the girls are age 10.  Another 20,000 girls are trafficked annually into Indian brothels.

ABOUT BHAKTAPUR

The district of Bhaktapur, Nepal, where the Unatti Foundation particularly focuses its efforts, is located in the eastern corner of the Kathmandu Valley. With a population of more than 300,000 living in 119 square kilometers, it is Nepal’s smallest land-area district. The average life expectancy is 57 years. The district has a 65 percent male literacy rate, whereas the female literacy rate is about 45 percent. 

Like wonderful communities you find throughout the developing world, people in Bhaktapur are warm, welcoming and generous with what they have.  They want to make their lives better, have the passion and drive to improve their infrastructure and cultural landscape, but they need financial support and leadership empowerment to achieve their goals.

NEPAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS

This passionate group of volunteers in both Nepal and the United States work together to ensure the mission and vision of the Unatti Foundation is achieved. Meeting regularly to discuss and measure progress, fundraising to ensure fiscal stability, and serving as local ambassadors on the ground in Nepal and abroad are important functions of this governing body.

Hashana Shrestha
Chairperson, Unatti Board Nepal

Hashana received her M.Phil in clinical psychology from Institute of Medicine, Nepal. She works as a clinical psychologist in both private practice and at a private psychiatric hospital. Additionally, she works as a consultant for an NGO in mental health issues for child survivors of abuse.

With almost a decade of experience in mental health, Hashana understands the essence of mental wellbeing and how childhood experience plays an essential role in their future. She believes even a small positive attitude towards someone struggling in life can find a thread toward hope.

Rita Dhowju
Board Treasurer, Unatti Board Nepal

Coming Soon

Dil Kumar
Member at Large, Unatti Board Nepal

Mr. Thakuri is the Head of Academics at Kadambari College, Nepal. He also teaches Academic
English and Advanced Social Work Research in the college. He is an M. Phil in Education
Leadership from Kathmandu University; Master Degree in English from Tribhuvan University
and holds ESL from Canada. He has 18 years of experience in teaching and training students
from school to college levels. He is also the former principal of Nepal College of Development
Studies, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He has presented paper on Servant Leadership, Flexible
Learning and Child Separation issues in national and international conferences. He has taken
teacher's trainings from University of Cambridge, UK and the British Council, Nepal. He is a
member of Nepal English Language Teachers' Association (NELTA) and also a former secretary
of International Teachers' Association (ITA), Nepal.

Sumitra Prajapati
Member at Large, Unatti Board Nepal

Sumitra Prajapati earned a Masters degree in Technology from Tamper University of Technology, Finland. She currently works as Programme Leader for Environmental Science in Naaya Aayam Multi-Disciplinary Institute, Nepal.

Sushila Limbu
General Secretary, Unatti Board Nepal

Ms. Limbu has completed her Master Degree in Anthropology and has worked consistently in the social sector. Currently, Ms.Limbu is associated with International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED International) in the program department. She has more than four years of working experience in the forced migration issues arising from both human made and natural disasters. She is a big believer of team spirit in work and is always receptive to new ideas and knowledge.

Elson Thapa
Member at Large, Unatti Board Nepal

Coming Soon!

USA BOARD OF DIRECTORS

This passionate group of volunteers in both Nepal and the United States work together to ensure the mission and vision of the Unatti Foundation is achieved. Meeting regularly to discuss and measure progress, fundraising to ensure fiscal stability, and serving as local ambassadors on the ground in Nepal and abroad are important functions of this governing body.

Janelle Eagle-Robles
President

Janelle Eagle-Robles is a Los Angeles-based entertainment professional and activist. She traveled to Nepal for the first time in 2009 and fell immediately in love with the Unatti Girls. As a freelance videographer and travel writer, she spent many years supporting Unatti's mission by creating videos and writing communications about our work to increase fundraising efforts. Beginning her professional career in the nonprofit sector, Janelle was a fundraiser for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Working as a grants administrator, events consultant, and community organizer, she has also partnered with the 2008 Obama Campaign in Ohio, JQ international, American Jewish Word Service, and Pride Live. She now works as a producer in film and television and added two new roles to her resume recently - wife and mother. These last two roles are the ones she enjoys most of all.

Michelle Armoni, M.S.
Secretary

Michelle Armoni has over 18 years of demonstrated leadership, organizational development, human resources and administrative management experience handling a wide-variety of critical business issues in a broad variety of arenas, including for-profit, not-for-profit, entertainment, government and overseas organizations. Michelle is known for her ability to walk the line between management and employees, earning the trust and respect of both. Michelle works closely with her clients to develop effective strategies for implementing organizational change initiatives. Other areas of expertise include legal compliance, executive coaching, employee/ management relations, and compensation and benefit programs. Michelle earned a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from Johns Hopkins University, a certificate in Human Resources Management from Loyola Marymount University, and a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Personnel and Industrial Relations from Syracuse University. Michelle is also certified as a Mediator through the Los Angeles Bar Association.

JESSICA ESFANDIARY

Jessica is a yoga instructor and integrative wellness coach living in Los Angeles, California.  Back in 2018 she traveled on a soul-searching mission through the Annapurna Circuit of Nepal with friends and a few cameras.  She had developed a concept called Kind Footprint, a mission to show the best of ethical travel and give back everywhere you go. It was on this this journey that Jessica met and fell in love with the Unatti Foundation and their mission.  She's honored to now serve on the Board and is looking forward to supporting the programs and watching the girls grow into inspired leaders in their own communities.

Kristy Trabert
Treasurer

In 2014 Kristy came back from her first volunteer trip with the Unatti Foundation a changed woman. She had been a long-time donor and during that fateful trip, saw firsthand how her and other’s donations genuinely helped and made an impact on the girls. She has since traveled back to Nepal three more times and was honored to join the U.S. Board in 2017. Kristy is a Los Angeles native who has called San Francisco home since 1997. She studied Health Education (with a minor in Special Ed) at San Francisco State and currently owns a thriving jewelry store (Trabert Goldsmiths), which she opened with her husband in 2002. Kristy also has two amazing daughters, both of whom inherently inspire her do this type of work helping young girls in need.

Steven Rubin, J.D., LL.M.
Member at Large

After attending Pepperdine Law School and passing the California bar exam in 1990, Steven Rubin enrolled in the Masters of Laws in Taxation program at Georgetown University Law Center, where he was awarded a Master of Laws in Taxation degree in May 1991. Steve then returned to California to practice law, where after many years working with firms in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, he opened the doors to his own law practice in 2000 with offices in Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley, California. For more than 16 years, Steve has provided clients with personal and understandable legal representation, with a focus on business development, real estate, asset protection, estate planning, business litigation and tax matters. His clients include start-ups, privately held companies and small-to-mid size businesses across a wide range of sectors. Steve happily lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

OUR TEAM

Meet the talented professional team spanning the United States and Nepal who work together to provide the incredible services available to our beneficiaries.

Stephanie Waisler Rubin
Founder / Executive Director
Sambika Basukala
Art Instructor
Sarada Duwal
Unatti House Maintenance
Rajmati Suwal
Unatti House Maintanance
Anita Prajapati
Executive Director of Programs Nepal
Rama Darlami
Reintegration Officer / Accountant
Meeta Shakya
House Mother
Nitu Shilpakar
House Mother
Sita Khadka
Chef