Meyrav Mor, MEd '04Waldorf Teacher Training Program
Meyrav Mor's Unclouded Vision:
Cancer and Parasites Don't Deter Her Devotion to the Children of Nepal
Four years ago, when Meyrav Mor could be seen in the halls of Antioch University New England, she was carrying a belly full of parasites and the fate of children a half a world away whom she had held, taught, treated, and loved.
A student in the Waldorf Teacher Education Program, Meyrav had come to America on the heels of three years in Nepal and cancer treatments in her native Israel. She lived with Trauger and Alice Groh, on their farm in Temple, New Hampshire, where she could rest, recover, reflect, and relent to the Grohs' kindness and wisdom. She regained her strength, earned her degree, turned her thesis into a book, and returned to her work in Nepal and to the vision that drives her.
In a time when options and freedom can complicate a young person's sense of purpose, Meyrav Mor enjoys and endures absolute clarity. “When it comes to my life, my path is very clearly paved. I don't have too many choices,” she says. Looking back, she can trace her dedication to a single day. Before then, she had grown up with hard-working parents in a suburb of Tel Aviv, served in the Israeli army, and set out to explore the world, a typical progression among her peers. She traveled east to India, Thailand, and Nepal. “As I flew into Kathmandu, I looked down at the Himalayas and the little houses and instantly liked it,” she said. Her affection grew during her time there.
“I had been visiting the little village of Magarkot and was waiting for the bus. The children were playing there. It was cold, early winter. The kids were in shorts and had crusty noses. I asked 'what are you guys doing here?' and they pointed to their school, a miserable looking building. They were holding torn, dirty notebooks. That's where and when the seed was planted,” she said.
Seed Planted in Nepal and Germinated at UCLA
Mor stumbled over a Waldorf kindergarten while taking classes in early childhood education at UCLA. “I liked two things about it right away. I liked the way the teacher spoke to the children: with respect, very softly. And I liked that the environment was completely made of natural materials. I realized that this sort of education could be adapted for anywhere in the world. Because, at its heart is storytelling, circles, and toys you can make. Every culture has stories. Every culture has songs,” she says. Her vision centers on culturally sensitive education. In one of the poorest countries of the world, where the average adult dies by fifty-seven, and where children suffer not only poverty and disease, but abandonment, she and a growing cadre of supporters see early childhood education as a seed to prosperity in Nepal.
Antioch University New England gave Mor the education she needed to advance her vision. But she took up her mission years earlier. In 1996, immediately after a Waldorf teacher education program in California, she rushed back to Nepal without knowing how to begin. “A few months after I arrived, I signed a three-year contract to start a kindergarten inside Bal Mandir, the state orphanage. It was very intense. Many of the children were abandoned. They suffered trauma, wounds, boils, scabies, lice, worms, diarrhea leading to dysentery… you name it. I was just twenty-six, and I had to be a mother, a nurse, a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a fundraiser, and a negotiator with the government. Looking back, I made lots of mistakes,” she says. But, at the end of her contract, the kindergarten could sustain itself.
Her parents, meanwhile, thought she was crazy. Her mother is a nurse; her father a bus driver. “What are you doing there?" they asked, "You don't get paid. It's a country full of diseases." They couldn't understand because I wasn't making any progress toward a mortgage.”
And today, after starting yet another school in Nepal, the Tashi School, marrying an officer in the British army, writing a book, and developing a rhythm of working in both Asia and London, her parents still worry for her future. But Meyrav Mor has also become a citizen of the world. She attracts support from the U.S., the United Kingdom, all over Europe, and throughout Asia. She is working feverishly on what she calls “the Tibetan project.” With this project, she will (and I choose “will” instead of “hopes to” after hearing her speak) work with teams of researchers, teachers, and anthropologists to create a culturally sensitive curriculum for Tibetan exile communities. Again, serving young children, the teams will incorporate Waldorf foundations, but “the anthroposophists must back off,” she says, “because [the Tibetans] have a very strong Buddhist culture that needs to be preserved. It means a marriage between Waldorf, anthropology, Tibetan studies, and dharma.” Her material goal is a model school, teacher training seminars, books, and resources.
Visionary Relies on Support Near and Far
Ambitious as her projects are, she admits to leaning heavily on those who help. She emphatically says “Thank you America!” and urges us to bear unfair global criticism. (“I say, c'mon, get over it. Try being an Israeli!”) She expresses true gratitude toward the Antioch community, and for the ongoing support she gets from former AUNE president, Peter Temes. “He believes in what I'm doing, and allowed me to speak and present,” says a woman who was labeled “a dreamer,” in California, no less. She points to “the many questions of leadership” with which Peter helps her. “Because I carry the vision, it can be quite challenging and I find myself feeling quite alone, trying to move forward without losing heart when things are tough. Peter gives me inspiration.”
From her home near Wimbledon, Meyrav treks back and forth to Asia. The balance keeps her healthy. As does the love and support she gets from her husband, Nick Marlow. “Some people are surprised that I married a military man,” she says, in a voice that's gentle and understanding of the contradiction it might present. “But I think it works. Very well. He's plenty strong and he copes with my life. He's solid. He's grounded. He's compassionate. He's open-minded. He sponsors a child. He believes in and knows that I need to do this work.”
But marriage has not abbreviated her dreams, quite the opposite. If the world's remote and poverty stricken villages aren't enough of a challenge, there's always a return to Israel. “I think my work will eventually lead me back there. When I am older and stronger—and I will have to be, because it's the ultimate… this kind of work in Israel will be for the needy communities, which will be the Palestinian communities. And right now, I'm just not ready for it.”
The world presents countless opportunities for those dedicated to serving underprivileged children. So Meyrav will not want for projects. “When I look down the road, I can see that my work could be for any country, any group of people. I see how much healing it brings.” She sees. When vision appears to a young woman who pursues and continually clarifies it, we can all begin to see the world through her eyes.
To learn more about Meyrav Mor's projects, please visit www.childrenofnepal.org.