Major: Associate in Arts
Although Buna Dahal was born blind in Nepal, she had a vision for her life that went far beyond the boundaries of expectations.
At the age of 5, she began attending the Provincial School for the Blind in Dharan, and as she grew older, Dahal realized education was the key to her future. At the age of 18, she received a one-year scholarship to study at the Overbrook School for the Blind International Program in Philadelphia.
“Education was my dream, and coming to America was the only option I had,” she said. “After my program ended, I visited my uncle and aunt, who used to live in Downers Grove. I told them I had a dream and I wished to stay. They understood I would have a better life and greater opportunities in America.”
Her uncle contacted College of DuPage, which invited him to visit campus and to speak with Jackie Reuland, manager of what is now the Center for Access and Accommodations.
“My American journey and education in America really started at College of DuPage,” she said. “The entire team, from faculty to administration, supported me. Whenever I went to them with a problem or idea, they were always there for me. They never said ‘no.’ They instead would say, ‘Great idea. How do you do it?’ What instills more confidence in a young mind than ‘Go forward and do it’? But when I made mistakes or needed guidance, I could go back to them and they would talk to me about it.”
Dahal is especially grateful to English Professor Kathy Fitch and Shirley Pawella, who taught Developmental English.
“I knew what I wanted to say in English. But being that English is a second language for me, both said, ‘Don’t worry about finding the right English vocabulary, just write it down. That will come to you later or we’ll help you find the word,’” she said. “I just started writing and writing. Today, I’m very proud because of that empowerment and that level of instruction that I received at COD. I’m very proud to be a published author in America.”
Dahal earned her Associate in Arts degree from COD and transferred to Columbia College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
“Many people would tell me, ‘Buna, you’re making the biggest mistake. You’ll never be successful in that field.’ But I knew in my heart that I needed to get a degree in journalism. I had no desire to work as a reporter, but I wanted to work in leadership advocacy. I knew once I mastered the English language and could communicate well, both in speaking and writing, I could go out and do anything in life.”
Dahal did earn her bachelor’s and followed that with a master’s degree from the Regis University School of Professional Studies. She is currently president and leadership strategist for DynamicBuna, Inc., a Colorado-based company she started in 2007 that offers executive coaching for clients such as the United Nations, corporate executives and community businesses.
She founded Mobileyez International Foundation in 2014, which is now part of Blind Corps. She initially was responsible for international programs coordination and logistics at Blind Corps but is now in charge.
Her many achievements include delivering a speech at the United Nations in March 2007, receiving the 2010 David M. Clarke, S.J. Innovative leadership Award from Regis University, and in 2014 being named one of the first Distinguished Alumni from College of DuPage. She was the governor appointee for the State of Colorado Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and served as a chairperson for the State of Colorado Independent Living Council (SILC).
In response to the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Dahal and DynamicBuna undertook two outreach projects. First, DynamicBuna partnered with Project Cure, which donated more than $10 million in medical supplies to Nepal for the earthquake relief effort. Second, DynamicBuna is partnering with the community on Rebuilding Nepal: Seeing the Future Work, a project to help the blind and disabled in Nepal in the wake of the earthquake. The community partners include Ai Squared and many in the Nepalese community of Colorado.
In 2017, DynamicBuna continued her work on behalf of Nepal and other developing nations by partnering with Project Cure and Rotary International to co-host a nation-wide Community Day that took place simultaneously in Denver, Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston. Medical supplies were packed and sent to various countries, while Kits for Kids were assembled to promote first aid among children.
“The theme was ‘From Disaster to Development.’ When an event like an earthquake happens, once the initial work is done, the world leaves that country behind. We want to continue the good work being done,” she said. “We also addressed other health concerns. For example, in Nepal, there is only one mammogram machine in the country, and breast cancer is on the rise. We wanted to purchase mobile mammogram equipment so women in the villages can receive treatment. The ultimate goal is to make sure around the world people are healthy and taking care of themselves.”
In 2019, Dahal spent three months on a speaking tour in Asia that included Thailand, Myanmar, China, Malaysia and Nepal as she continues to lay groundwork for various projects.
“In every country, every project is important,” she said. “In Myanmar, for example, people don’t even know how to have a dream. They cannot imagine how to spark a dream inside them, create the dream and then start a new dream. Teaching them how to do this will empower them.”
Such accomplishments would not have occurred had it not been for a lifelong quest for education.
“Since childhood, I have always believed in the fact that something greater than ourselves exists. I had a thirst for knowledge and for life,” she said. “That’s what drives me, my faith in a higher power. We have only one life to live. If you ask if I get bored, I say I never get bored. There is always something to do. I want to reach Mount Everest, whatever that is for me. We all have our own Mount Everests, so my advice is to follow your heart. Don’t let anyone have low expectations of you. Find mentors and they will mentor you. And then mentor the generation that comes after you.
“College of DuPage knew how to help me to achieve my goals. When I came to COD, I could hardly speak English. Today I make my living by talking!”