Meet Sudip Bhandari: Holocaust Educator

“When I came to United States, I realized that everyone talks about Holocaust,” says Sudip Bhandari ‘14. “I only had a very vague idea about what it was.”

Bhandari, who was raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, realized that the textbooks of his childhood education system had very little, if any, reference to the mass genocides in World War II Europe that have become infamous in the Western world. Students at St. Olaf would mention the subject in passing, use it within larger arguments, and teachers would mention it in class. What was common knowledge to the majority of American students was somewhat overwhelming to Bhandari, and he decided to learn as much as he could about the subject.

“After I investigated enough, I realized that this is something that each and every citizen of the world should know about,” he said. So, Bhandari designed a program that would bring information about the Holocaust to students in Nepal who, like Bhandari, had no information on the subject. Working with an Entrepreneurial Grant from the Center for Experiential Learning and numerous donated textbooks from the Anne Frank Center in New York, Bhandari spent the last half of his summer going from school to school in Nepal educating local students about Anne Frank, Hitler, the Holocaust and the mass genocides of World War II.

 “I hoped to inspire high school students to be more tolerant and mutually respectful to each other, and also be knowledgeable about human rights and democracy,” Bhandari said. By using a vast network of connections in Nepal and interacting with over 2,300 students, Bhandari’s project was deemed an absolute success. “I used to doubt whether or not I could really lead a group of people to carry out a project of this capacity,” he said, “but once I was done, I realized just how possible it is. No matter how small it is, our contribution matters.”

This worldly outlook and desire to make a difference, in conjunction with his work last summer, has earned Bhandari some notable recognition. Bhandari attended the Clinton Global Initiative University conference this past weekend, and was able to listen to notable speakers like Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Madeline Albright, Usher, and Jon Stewart (among others).

Bhandari also was awarded a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace award to continue his work on Holocaust education in Nepal this summer. The Davis Projects for Peace committee awards projects that help in fostering peace in regions where students see there are people in need of help. Along with Julia Coffin ‘12, Bhandari will continue giving education talks in schools across Nepal, and will begin to establish a Peace Library, filled with permanent resources for Nepalese students to access.

Especially exciting is Bhandari’s most recent award, “The Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Educator Award,” which will be handed out soon by the Anne Frank Center in New York. The award is given to individuals who have proven that they have personal courage to make a difference as an educator. Bhandari will be the first recipient in the award’s 35-year history who is an undergraduate student.

All the recognition, however, has not kept Bhandari from enjoying life at Olaf. Bhandari is a Biology major (for now - he’s interested in potentially creating his own Public Health major), and is extremely active with STOtalks (as a committee member) and International Student activities (as an Internation Student Counselor). He also loves writing poetry in his free time.

“I work with the Holocaust because there are core lessons of mutual respect, human rights, democracy and tolerance that apply to everyone,” Bhandari says. “I saw something that needed a change, and worked to change it. A little bit of effort can bring a huge smile to people, spark passions in the young, or bring a positive influence to someone’s life. No matter how small the contribution is, it matters.”