In my last post, I described how I became involved with the Women’s Protection Center in Nepal and how the opportunity to serve this group through West Monroe’s Fischer Fellowship was born. In this post, I’ll discuss how I supported the team in Nepal and the impact we created.
Once I arrived in Nepal and began working in the WPC I quickly found my spot on the team, first implementing box.com to share files with operations in the states and hosting some basic software trainings, then eventually digging into the awareness program proposal. Taking on the project management role felt natural, and for the first time I was really able to see the value that I was going to provide here in Hetauda.
The fall was spent developing materials for our educational outreach program, designed to make school children aware of the risks and warning signs of trafficking. We hired a professional child rights advocate, and reached out to schools to host our pilot program. In no time at all we were standing in front of our first class, sharing truths about child rights and trafficking far beyond our requested time allotment, and closing with Nepali khaja [snacks] of beaten rice, beans and of course tea. Feedback from the staff was positive, from the students was energetic, but from me… I felt it could use some more work. It needed interaction. It needed discussion. It needed more gripping stories that had led me here in first place.
By the end of February we had redesigned our original program to introduce those ideas, socialized our program in 15 schools, and increased our exposure by partnering with a local reporter to cover our message. I also successfully got my workload down to simply being a silent observer after presenting my introduction in Nepali which increased my confidence in the team we built together and their ability to run it without me going forward. I also walked away with funding secured to continue delivering our program (at $80 – $120 per session) to all 75 government schools within Makwanpur district over the next year and a half.
In addition to the awareness program, I identified a need with our vocational training school. Currently the women attended six months of training learning how to become a seamstress, designing standard Nepali clothing. Upon graduation we hosted a ceremony and sent them on their way without additional support or with follow up to ensure their continued success. As response, I designed a course that taught women how to build a successful career, the importance of saving, and introduced the idea of entrepreneurship and steps to start their own shop. We had exercises that taught women how to create their own budget based on national averages reported by Rasta Bank. We also had previous graduate women stand up and share their success stories with the group. Pulling off this event was a huge success and landed us another article in the local paper.
Leaving Nepal has been hard! I miss the kids hanging on my waist all evening asking for another selfie. I miss the spicy curries and feasts of white rice. I miss the colorful houses and clothing alike. I miss the old women’s smiling wrinkly faces and strong hands and backs. I miss having hours straight to read, write poetry, sing, and dance to Bollywood hits. I miss the loud crows at dusk and dogs that barked all night… well… maybe not that part. When signing up for the fellowship I only dreamed of the future stories I would get to tell, primarily thinking about the work that I would accomplish. I never would have thought that it was the people and the culture that sucked me in, changing the way I viewed under developed countries and in many ways left me longing their simplicity and contentment that can only be understood by fully separating from Western society or in my case living as a ‘minority of 1’.
Many people have asked me what’s next. All I can say at this point is that I am going to remember the slower pace of life and conscientiously attempt to not over schedule my life. I’m going to remember Nepali’s focus on community and family and will do a better job staying in touch with mine. I’m going to appreciate the luxuries that our culture has to offer like art museums and yoga classes. I’m going to continue to drink a lot of tea, I mean a lot of tea. Beyond the Nepali lifestyle, I find it important to recognize that there is work to be done in our own backyards, such as homelessness, illiteracy, and yes, even human trafficking. Continuing to stay involved with human rights movements here in Seattle seems more important than ever to ensure our own shortcomings are not overlooked. Will you join me?