‘Ok Baji’ blazes trail in Palpa

Bhaktapur, August 20:

Meet “Ok Baji”, a Japanese national who is popular in eastern Palpa for his contribution to the educational and social development of the district. Ok Baji is an appellation given to Kazumasa Kakimi, 66, who has been doing yeoman’s service in Nepal for the past 13 years. At present, there are 27 villages in Palpa district that have Japan-funded projects and Kakimi has initiated all of them. “When I first visited Jalpa, I could not understand Nepali and used to say ok to anyone who accosted me. The children dubbed me as ‘Ok Baji’. Baji in the Magar language means grandfather,” laughed Kakimi while talking to The Himalayan Times. Kakimi was recently in Bhaktapur to distribute educational material to students of Araniko High School in Dadhikot.

“Initially, it was very difficult to raise money. I was a novice and the donors did not trust me. But of late, $30,000 is being raised by the Japanese for the Ok Baji Supporting Society (OBSS)

each year,” said Kakimi. Kakimi first visited Jalpa village in 1992 on the invitation of a tourist guide. The penury of the villagers inspired him to be a social worker and a Children Learning Centre (CLC) became Kakimi’s first project in Palpa. Today, Palpa has more than 50 schools that are supported by the OBSS. “I have confined my work to Palpa district only because I like to keep myself near and close to the village where I work so that I can evaluate what I have done for the villagers,” said Kakimi.

“I walk from village to village and listen to the travails of poor Palpalis. They have all kinds of woes to narrate, and depending upon my budget, I offer them support. At present, I have more than 60 applications to rebuild school buildings,” said Kakimi. Kakimi likened Nepalis and Japanese villagers as hardworking. He, however, described Nepalis as differing in approach. He advised development practitioners in the country to understand the need of people, adding that the planners only look at statistics and principles that are printed in books but which are difficult to implement. It was in march 1998 that Kakimi came to Nepal for the first time as a tourist. He was so enamoured of Nepal’s natural beauty that he returned again in 1990. Kakimi has made it a point to spend two months in Japan to collect funds and dedicate the other ten months to his social work in Palpa.