So far, most of Fairways' cadets have come to us by happy accident.
Tiff (Fairways CEO, Tiffany Chaisson) usually comes across them when she's talking to people... she's very good at talking.
Our Canadian cadets came shortly after I'd challenged Tiff to prove the Fairways concept by going out and finding the first kids. I thought it might take her a week or so, but she was on the phone within 12 hours saying she'd found the Shaw boys at a nearby club and was going to pay for their memberships herself.
Our Indian cadets were discovered in Kolkata, India, when Tiff, who had been on her way to the West Bengali jungle to deliver golf clinics, but was forced to remove herself from the plane on hearing there were riots in the tea plantations at her destination.
Our Bolivian cadets were found in Canada. Yep. Tiff was in Calgary, talking..., as she does, and met the sister of our now good friend, Edwin Fernandez, who was trying to deliver golf programs to poor children in Santa Cruz. Naturally, Tiff found herself in Bolivia soon afterwards.
Pratima Sherpa, our Nepali cadet, has a similar discovery story, but this time I'm taking the credit. Well..., part of it, anyway.
Life in the Fairways back office is very romantic. I spend my time liking Tiff's Facebook posts, retweeting her tweets, setting up nonprofit legal structures, finding auditors, doing accounting and waiting in lines at Western Union agencies to send money to countries with questionable banking systems.
I know, right? Sexy.
Tiff is doing it tough with all her networking and golfing in exotic locations... Sucks to be her.
One day last October, I was living the dream while perusing Tiff's email correspondence, when I opened one of her many, "FYI" emails. She'd forwarded an email from Gordon Moir, who is the Head Greenkeeper at St. Andrews (the one in Scotland), and a huge supporter of Tiff and Fairways. He went so far as to send us a 144th Open Championship flag signed by five former champions. Awesome, right? We're using it as the major prize for the club or individual who raises the most during our upcoming DAWN2DUSK fundraiser.
Anyway, Gordon had sent us a link to a Golf Digest article about Pratima Sherpa, an 18 year old girl who had grown up in an equipment shed on the grounds of Royal Nepal Golf Club. The shed has no electricity.
Pratima had been taking lessons from Sachin Bhattarai, a RNGC pro, since she was 11 years old, and had become the top-ranked female golfer in Nepal. She also had a winning record in tournaments of close to 80%. Amazing.
The author of the Golf Digest article was Ollie Horovitz, an American writer and film-maker, who had climbed to Everest Base Camp with a driver and had teed-off the mountain at 17,600ft (5,380m). He was playing RNGC on the way home to the US when he heard Pratima's story. After meeting her, Ollie set up "Team Pratima" to fundraise for her dream of becoming Nepal's first female golf professional.
I quickly sent Tiff a reply with Ollie's email address and said she should contact him so Fairways could get involved. Soon afterwards (Tiff wrote a blog about it here), we were part of Team Pratima.
Fairways' mission includes the support of clubs and professionals, so we decided to start paying Sachin, Pratima's pro, to give her additional lessons. Up to that point, all of the lessons he had given her had been free.
Ollie wrote to us recently:
The lessons with Sachin that Fairways is so kindly funding are clearly paying off in a major way. Pratima is improving every week, and she's setting personal records at both Royal Nepal Golf Club and at Gokarna Forest. She shot an even par round at Royal Nepal 3 weeks ago, including 6 birdies. That's huge.
Her dream to become Nepal's first female golf pro is seriously on track, and she's been gaining a ton of exposure in Nepal. I think it's safe to say that the golf community in Nepal is now firmly behind Pratima, and that she is on all their radar screens.
Pratima has won 11 out of her last 14 tournaments. All this while studying in her final year of high school. Incredible.
Ollie also told us Pratima did not have a proper light to study by at night. Many people in Nepal are forced to use kerosene (paraffin) lamps, particularly after the 2015 earthquake wreaked havoc on the nation's electricity infrastructure. The lamps are smelly and the fumes are hazardous.
This was something a keyboard-jockey like me could sort out. Tiff put me on to the social-enterprise, Greenlight Planet, who make solar lights. Unfortunately their website contact form wasn't working, so I guessed the CEO's email address and he was kind enough to reply with their local distributor in Kathmandu!
Two weeks later, Pratima was studying with her new solar light, which also had a mobile phone charging attachment for her phone. We take safe and consistent lighting for granted here in Australia, and it's only when we hear stories like Pratima's, that we realise how lucky we are.
We continue to get updates about Pratima from Sachin, who says she is just about to take her final school exams, after which she will have an opportunity for continued golf training in the US, organised by Ollie. Tiff is also planning to visit Pratima on her return to the Subcontinent later this year. Can't wait for that.
We wish Pratima all the best for her exams and continued success in her golfing career. Fairways will continue to be there for as long as she needs us... which at this rate, probably won't be too long! Oh well. Nice problem to have.
If you can help a cadet like Pratima, please become a Fairways sponsor. Thank you.