From Philanthropy to Reality: Steve Kilts' Eye-Opening Journey to Nepal's Girls INpowerment Center

a donor's firsthand experience with the Compass Rose International founder unveils the transformative power of education and support

From Philanthropy to Reality: Steve Kilts' Eye-Opening Journey to Nepal's Girls INpowerment Center

a donor's firsthand experience with the Compass Rose International founder unveils the transformative power of education and support

At the 4th Annual Northstar 2 Freedom Gala  in 2023, Steve Kilts won a life-changing trip to Nepal with the charity’s founder, Katie Hilborn, during the live auction. In late April 2024, Steve embarked on this transformative journey, exploring sacred sites like the birthplace of the Buddha and experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride to Everest Base Camp. However, the true highlight of his trip was visiting the Girls INpowerment Center. 

Welcomed warmly by the girls and their families, Steve witnessed firsthand the profound impact the center has
on the community. Observing the girls’ joy and resilience, he was deeply moved by their transformation through education and empowerment. Conversations with locals revealed how the center has significantly reduced child trafficking in the remote village of Ghyangphedi. Inspired by what he saw, Steve is now committed to supporting the center’s mission and advocating for sustainable solutions to help it thrive independently.

We interviewed Steve to hear his first-hand account of the experience.

At the 4th Annual Northstar 2 Freedom Gala  in 2023, Steve Kilts won a life-changing trip to Nepal with the charity’s founder, Katie Hilborn, during the live auction. In late April 2024, Steve embarked on this transformative journey, exploring sacred sites like the birthplace of the Buddha and experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride to Everest Base Camp. However, the true highlight of his trip was visiting the Girls INpowerment Center.  
Welcomed warmly by the girls and their families, Steve witnessed firsthand the profound impact the center has on the community. Observing the girls’ joy and resilience, he was deeply moved by their transformation through education and empowerment. Conversations with locals revealed how the center has significantly reduced child trafficking in the remote village of Ghyangphedi. Inspired by what he saw, Steve is now committed to supporting the center’s mission and advocating for sustainable solutions to help it thrive independently.

We interviewed Steve to hear his first-hand account of the experience.

Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp

Initial Impressions
Initial Impressions
“My first thoughts and feelings when I arrived at the INpowerment Center was that I was overwhelmed by the warm reception we received,” Steve said. “I was just expecting to make a trip, see the facility, and meet the girls, but when we arrived they were waiting with their families to greet us. Some of the family members, I found out, had walked up to two hours in the hills to meet us. One by one the girls and their families placed Nepali sashes on us and thanked us. They then put on a program where they sang, danced, and gave speeches about how much the center has helped the girls, their families, and the community.”

Personal Connection

“I had many memorable encounters with the girls,” Steve said fondly. “They didn’t speak English, but they pointed and giggled at me a lot. I doubt they had ever seen such a big white dude. Literally. One of my favorite moments was when we went to the river to go swimming, the girls jumped into the mountain run off water which was barely above freezing

temperature, and dove in like it was a swimming pool. I sat on a nearby rock and noticed how powerful these little girls were when given the chance to spread their wings.”

Initial Impressions

“My first thoughts and feelings when I arrived at the INpowerment Center was that I was overwhelmed by the warm reception we received,” Steve said. “I was just expecting to make a trip, see the facility, and meet the girls, but when we arrived they were waiting with their families to greet us. Some of the family members, I found out, had walked up to two hours in the hills to meet us. One by one the girls and their families placed Nepali sashes on us and thanked us. They then put on a program where they sang, danced, and gave speeches about how much the center has helped the girls, their families, and the community.”

Personal Connection

“I had many memorable encounters with the girls,” Steve said fondly. “They didn’t speak English, but they pointed and giggled at me a lot. I doubt they had ever seen such a big white dude. Literally. One of my favorite moments was when we went to the river to go swimming, the girls jumped into the mountain run off water which was barely above freezing temperature, and dove in like it was a swimming pool. I sat on a nearby rock and noticed how powerful these little girls were when given the chance to spread their wings.”

Understanding the Issue

“Visiting the center deepened my understanding of child trafficking, poverty, and their effects on the local community significantly,” Steve explained. “I had conversations with some of the local residents, and they said that trafficking went from a major problem to near zero due to the INpowerment center. The town that the center resides in, Ghyangphedi, is poor even by Nepal standards. It is at the end of the road (literally) outside of the capital in the foothills of the Himalayas and difficult to get to even by car. Even still, it had a helicopter pad. Wait what, why? Because the traffickers used to fly a helicopter in, pick up girls, and fly away. Due to their remote location, poverty, and other factors, they were a perfect target for this type of trafficking. That fact was stunning to me, as I can’t imagine any town in the US, no matter how poor, being so vulnerable to these types of crimes.”

Understanding the Issue

“Visiting the center deepened my understanding of child trafficking, poverty, and their effects on the local community significantly,” Steve explained. “I had conversations with some of the local residents, and they said that trafficking went from a major problem to near zero due to the INpowerment center. The town that the center resides in, Ghyangphedi, is poor even by Nepal standards. It is at the end of the road (literally) outside of the capital in the foothills of the Himalayas and difficult to get to even by car. Even still, it had a helicopter pad. Wait what, why? Because the traffickers used to fly a helicopter in, pick up girls, and fly away. Due to their remote location, poverty, and other factors, they were a perfect target for this type of trafficking. That fact was stunning to me, as I can’t imagine any town in the US, no matter how poor, being so vulnerable to these types of crimes.”

Daily Life at the Center

“I got to observe what a typical day was like at the INpowerment Center,” he said. “I was struck by their lack of, just, toys. Katie suggested I bring some gifts for the girls, so I filled up a duffle bag with stuff from Amazon like coloring books, card games, dolls, etc and spent maybe a few hundred bucks total. When we unpacked this at the center, the girls were thrilled to receive these gifts. The next day, I walked around the center and observed that all 46 girls had broken off into groups, all playing with different toys that we had brought. It made me wish I could have brought more.”

Daily Life at the Center

“I got to observe what a typical day was like at the INpowerment Center,” he said. “I was struck by their lack of, just, toys. Katie suggested I bring some gifts for the girls, so I filled up a duffle bag with stuff from Amazon like coloring books, card games, dolls, etc and spent maybe a few hundred bucks total. When we unpacked this at the center, the girls were thrilled to receive these gifts. The next day, I walked around the center and observed that all 46 girls had broken off into groups, all playing with different toys that we had brought. It made me wish I could have brought more.”

Education and Empowerment

The INpowerment Center provides girls with equal access to education and empowers them to be more confident while giving access to opportunities. Steve recalled, “In my conversations with the house manager, Harric, I learned that some of the girls that enroll don’t even know the basics of hygiene. After a month or so at the center, however, they transform into beautiful little girls. That had a massive impact on me as I better understood the changes we were helping to create for these people even at a human level. These girls live, play, eat, sleep, and go to school together and keep each other safe. In doing so, they have the space to receive an education, sing, dance, and engage in activities that aren’t just related to survival.”

Witnessing Poverty

“I reflected on the poverty and daily struggles observed within the village,” Steve explained. “From the moment I arrived in Ghyangphedi, I realized this was a level of poverty that we don’t even know here in the US. The room I stayed in had concrete walls, fencing material over the opening that was the window, and a corrugated metal roof. We washed our hands, dishes, and everything else in the same Himalayan runoff water. We take things like cleanliness and safety for granted, they do not.”

Emotional Journey

He continued, “I had the opportunity to also reflect on the emotional journey experienced during the trip. I was very honored and humbled by the reception we received at the INpowerment center when we arrived. I was the face of the donors to them, and they treated us like royalty… I wasn’t expecting that and certainly wasn’t looking for that when I planned the trip. I felt a sense of overwhelming joy in knowing that we were helping so much, and inspired me to help them more.”

Role of the Center

The INpowerment Center plays an important role in the lives of these girls, particularly in combating trafficking and offering educational opportunities. Steve said, “I think the most important role is safety, the facility is gated and has a security guard. The girls are taught how to identify a trafficker, what to do, who to tell, etc. The center also shows the girls that they do not have to get married as children, there is hope for a better life if they get an education and are shown the possibility of even supporting themselves.”

Education & Empowerment

The INpowerment Center provides girls with equal access to education and empowers them to be more confident while giving access to opportunities. Steve recalled, “In my conversations with the house manager, Harric, I learned that some of the girls that enroll don’t even know the basics of hygiene. After a month or so at the center, however, they transform into beautiful little girls. That had a massive impact on me as I better understood the changes we were helping to create for these people even at a human level. These girls live, play, eat, sleep, and go to school together and keep each other safe. In doing so, they have the space to receive an education, sing, dance, and engage in activities that aren’t just related to survival.”

Witnessing Poverty

“I reflected on the poverty and daily struggles observed within the village,” Steve explained. “From the moment I arrived in Ghyangphedi, I realized this was a level of poverty that we don’t even know here in the US. The room I stayed in had concrete walls, fencing material over the opening that was the window, and a corrugated metal roof. We washed our hands, dishes, and everything else in the same Himalayan runoff water. We take things like cleanliness and safety for granted, they do not.”

Emotional Journey

He continued, “I had the opportunity to also reflect on the emotional journey experienced during the trip. I was very honored and humbled by the reception we received at the INpowerment center when we arrived. I was the face of the donors to them, and they treated us like royalty… I wasn’t expecting that and certainly wasn’t looking for that when I planned the trip. I felt a sense of overwhelming joy in knowing that we were helping so much, and inspired me to help them more.”

Role of the Center

The INpowerment Center plays an important role in the lives of these girls, particularly in combating trafficking and offering educational opportunities. Steve said, “I think the most important role is safety, the facility is gated and has a security guard. The girls are taught how to identify a trafficker, what to do, who to tell, etc. The center also shows the girls that they do not have to get married as children, there is hope for a better life if they get an education and are shown the possibility of even supporting themselves.”

Stories of Resilience

“I witnessed many stories of resilience and courage among the girls and their families at the INpowerment Center,” he reacalled. “When it was getting closer to sunset, some of the family members had to leave so they could get home before dark. There was one mother who was middle aged, had a baby strapped to her front, and was wearing broken sandals. She didn’t speak English, so I asked Harric how long it would take her to get home. He said: ‘it would take you four hours, but will take her two.”

Call to Action

“There are many ways that others can get involved and make a meaningful impact,” Steve says. “There is currently a 65-person wait list for more girls to enter the school as soon as space opens up. The center is currently a two-story building, but the stairs go all the way to the roof with the intention of eventually adding a third and fourth floor. Also, there is a need and desire to make the school more self-sustaining. The girls and their families know that they are dependent on donors from the US, and long term it would be beneficial for them to find ways of generating some revenue so they can sustain their own costs. There are various ideas currently being tested including crops, honey production, livestock, etc, but nothing has yet materialized. One call to action is for business owners and entrepreneurs to help brainstorm innovative ways to solve this problem.”

Stories of Resilience

“I witnessed many stories of resilience and courage among the girls and their families at the INpowerment Center. When it was getting closer to sunset, some of the family members had to leave so they could get home before dark. There was one mother who was middle aged, had a baby strapped to her front, and was wearing broken sandals. She didn’t speak English, so I asked Harric how long it would take her to get home. He said: it would take you four hours, but will take her two.”

Call to Action

“There are many ways that others can get involved and make a meaningful impact,” Steve says. “There is currently a 65-person wait list for more girls to enter the school as soon as space opens up. The center is currently a two-story building, but the stairs go all the way to the roof with the intention of eventually adding a third and fourth floor. Also, there is a need and desire to make the school more self-sustaining. The girls and their families know that they are dependent on donors from the US, and long term it would be beneficial for them to find ways of generating some revenue so they can sustain their own costs. There are various ideas currently being tested including crops, honey production, livestock, etc, but nothing has yet materialized. One call to action is for business owners and entrepreneurs to help brainstorm innovative ways to solve this problem.”

Photography by Bijayabar Pradhan 

Photography by Bijayabar Pradhan 

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