Archives - ‘Nepal’

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November 12, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

Now that I’m back in Canada, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the three months I spent as an intern in Kathmandu, Nepal and what I took away from the experience. I think it’s not so obvious when you’re in the middle of it what you’re learning and how it will change you, even in some small way. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I noticed my perspective was different from when I left, and my time in Nepal will always be a reference point as I continue my studies, learning about economic development and policy aimed at the poor. It has fundamentally changed the way I think about these issues and I think it’s a valuable perspective to have for any student pursuing work related to development.

For instance, I learned that what works in one country may not work in another because of differences in culture, history, institutional structure, and even geography. Its easy to forget to take these factors into consideration when you’re talking broadly about policy and theory at the macro level. ‘Development’ is not just about increasing wealth but increasing quality of life, and that means something different for different communities. Economic development and poverty reduction should not be a one-size-fits-all approach and it is important to keep in mind the realities at the local level.

Another thing that I learned is that when you’re working in a non-profit or local NGO, lack of resources is going to be a constant obstacle to anything you want to accomplish. To make even a small impact takes a lot of work, perseverance and creativity with limited resources. It was interesting to observe how funding streams dictated the work an NGO pursues. I noticed that there were projects the local NGO would prefer to prioritize, but the projects supported by foreign aid were the ones they focused on. There are good reasons why this is the case, but I also have a greater appreciation for the need to consult local NGOs on what their priorities are, as they have a lot more knowledge of what is needed on ground.

And lastly, I learned that I really do like working in the field. The reason I chose to participate in an international internship was to find out if living and working abroad in a developing country is something I would actually enjoy and feel comfortable doing. It’s a different experience than traveling as a tourist because of the linkages you make with the community and the necessity to integrate. I’ll now be able to apply for other opportunities in the future with the confidence of knowing I’ll adapt to a new place and learn along the way. For anyone else interested in interning abroad, I think you should jump in and try it out and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.

It’s only been five weeks…

November 7, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

It’s only been five weeks of living in Kathmandu, Nepal and I feel like I’ve gotten so much from the experience already. I’m interning at the Center for Microfinance, a local non-profit that works to improve the microfinance sector in Nepal through workshops and trainings, networking, and research. I studied microfinance as a development tool through my undergraduate coursework before applying for this position, so I was thrilled when I saw the opportunity available and even more so when I was accepted. This position has given me my first real-world application of what I’ve been learning, for a purpose I find meaningful and worthwhile.

For those in the bottom quartile of incomes in Nepal, credit and financial services like savings or insurance are inaccessible through formal channels. They do not qualify for loans at a traditional bank given that the poorest don’t have collateral or a credit history. So credit is obtained through informal markets, such as ‘loan sharks’ or community pooling, when possible. But still, many are left even more vulnerable to economic shocks without access to funds in case of emergency. They also lose out on the small investments they could be making into their work. It’s been really nice hearing the success stories and the impact they’ve had on the most marginalized in Nepali society—particularly women. Some of my favorite times here so far have been the discussions with my colleagues, who have many years’ experience in not just microfinance but development generally. They have great stories to tell and first-hand information to share, and it inspires me to pursue development work myself.

To my surprise, I haven’t found it particularly difficult to integrate and adapt to my new environment, and I owe much of this to the kindness and support shown to me by the staff at CMF and CECI. There is a great program in place that covers all the bases for a new intern, and I can’t think of anything else I could have needed that they didn’t already make available to me. I’ve settled into a familiar 9-to-5 daily routine of going to work, commuting home and eating dinner, and then I’m left with evenings and weekends free for exploring the city or planning short trips outside of Kathmandu. I’ve been able to spend a weekend in Pokhara so far—which I highly recommend to any future interns going to Nepal—and the Chandragiri hills, which when it’s clear has a view of the Himalayan ranges from Annapurna to Everest. I have a list of other places to see that have been recommended to me by colleagues and locals that I’d like to check off. There are so many, though, I hope I can see them all in the next 6 weeks!

Reflections

August 16, 2018 | Husna, International Development and Globalization, Mines Action Canada, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, MAC Support Officer

As my time at the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) and life here in Kathmandu, Nepal comes to a close, I find myself with heartbroken but ever-so-grateful for this experience.

My experience at NCBL occurred during a time of transformation – NCBL was established in 1995 in response to the government and militia forces use of anti-personnel landmines in conflict. The mandate of NCBL was to raise awareness amongst both civil society and the government about the loss of lives and property caused by anti-personnel landmines. However, since Nepal was declared landmine free in 2011, the organization and its partners were losing the limelight required for them to continue their work. Our boss - Purna explained that those who did not see the value of NCBL’s work also neglected the ongoing repercussions of landmine use and post-conflict development. Several families lost their livelihoods due to the loss of a loved one or an injury leading to disability – to this day, NCBL works to support these individuals and their families to regain their lives and well-being through long-term and sustainable initiatives. I am thankful to have gained an insight into development work that is based on commitment. And grateful to have witnessed my co-workers work tirelessly to tackle new and existing challenges throughout Nepal. In fact, whether it was developing irrigation systems for conflict-affected districts or expanding science and technology programs for marginalized women and girls – no challenge was too big or too small. And I was ready to write a proposal for it.

Beyond my internship in the office, in the short span of three months, I was able to develop a comfortable daily routine, make loving lifelong friends and create cherished memories all the while exploring and learning about the lively character of Kathmandu. During this time, I also learned of Nepal’s ethnic and religious diversity, its socio-political history and received a glimpse into the current, and rather complex, state of social, political and economic affairs. However, my experience of Kathmandu reflected rather little of that – instead it was formed through friendships developed by the virtue of a shared love for indie music, Netflix series and a lot of really great food. While I had very few expectations about Nepal prior to my arrival, I found that there were so many more similarities between the people I had met, and myself, than I could have imagined. I realized that while the socio-economic and socio-cultural context of our countries may differ, the things we love and appreciate are almost universal. Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it’s imperial globalization. Nonetheless, I am pleased at how easily these similarities allowed me to adapt and feel comfortable in a place so far away from home.

However, what my internship has truly taught me is that like all places, Nepal is a complex and diverse place. While I do not think I can justifiably present a neutral and holistic understanding of Nepal to others after a short three months abroad, I hope that I can encourage others to visit and explore Nepal as with the rest of the world on their own. Both personally and professionally, and as an intern and tourist, this experience will be considered as an incremental aspect of my time at the University of Ottawa and throughout my youth – for the ways it has taught me to grow and better understand the world in both its challenges and relentless beauty.

In a village in the clouds

August 13, 2018 | Ranawk, Specialization - International Economics and Development and Additional Minor - Statistics, Uniterra, Népal, Central Dairy Cooperative AssociationLalitpur District Milk Producer Cooperative Union Ltd, Communication and Documentation Intern

In the second half of my internship, I was able to visit the field. For me, as a volunteer for the Lalitpur District Milk Producers Cooperative Union, this meant travelling to a nearby village of buffalo farms to interview farmers and start to develop a success story. One of the first things that CECI Nepal highlights during in country training is just how diverse the geography and climate in Nepal can be. By going to the field, I was able to see how an hour and many windy uphill roads later, it felt like I was in a completely different area. Looking out from the home I was staying in; the clouds were level with where I was standing.

By spending some time there, I was able to fully appreciate it what it means to be a buffalo farmer. Most families have 2-3 buffaloes and caring for them is not the only job. Vegetable gardens are also important sources of income which take a lot of work. I interviewed several households about their experience with the cooperative and which aspects they appreciated most. While many of the answers were similar, the breadth of responses when it came to how the cooperative has improved their livelihoods was very telling of the change that is possible.

We travelled to the village in the milk truck that travels from the village to the city every day to collect and sell the milk for the farmers. Before the cooperative existed and before the farmers were a part of it, they each individually held the responsibility of finding a way to transport and sell their milk. I can’t imagine how difficult that was but it is clear how great of a benefit it is now. The farmers also spoke about how the cooperative provides seeds for their vegetable gardens, helps advocate at the government level, and improves knowledge on health and sanitation practices for their buffalos.

My visit to the field was a reminder of how change may feel incremental at the individual level but over time, can really add up. This along with connecting with other interns made me appreciate how when we are in these roles and performing these internships, all of our actions and reactions are part of much larger global systems. Each intern before us and each intern after us contributes to our expectations and our host communities’ expectations. While this can sometimes create miscommunications, it is a testament to how powerful a global network is. For students who are considering this internship in the future, I recommend you come in with determination, self-awareness, and an open mind – there is so much you can learn.

Stock up on tissues for your last day

August 13, 2018 | Kristina, Specialization - Psychology, Mines Action Canada, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, MAC Support Officer

I had been keeping a journal to document my experience in Kathmandu, Nepal, and as I was reading through older entries, there was a single-line entry that I wrote on the plane to Nepal that read “What on earth am I thinking going to Nepal for three months?”. Reading that now makes me laugh, but I can still remember the anxious feelings I had when leaving for this internship. Although I can’t say they were irrational, and it is normal to be worried about an endeavor like this, but after arriving in Nepal, all of these concerns quickly vanished.

While the first few weeks of my internship were a big learning curve and adjustment to lifestyle, in the second and third month I was able to comfortably explore more of the customs, traditions and cultural atmosphere in Nepal. I had never traveled to a country that wasn’t predominantly Christian, and so living in a mainly Hindu country for three months was an experience unlike any other. Religious tradition dictated a lot of aspects of everyday life, as well as the way milestones are celebrated. My birthdays in Canada mostly consisted of a dinner and cake with family and friends, while birthdays in Nepal are celebrated with a puja, a visit to a temple, and then various other beautiful traditions depending on the family.

The monsoon started about halfway through our internship, and I learned how to work around the constant rain and puddles in the place of roads and sidewalks, but also the side-effects of the monsoon which came mostly in the form of power outages. This posed a small issue at work for internet and electricity supply, but we continued on with our projects. I work for the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, and although Nepal has been cleared of landmines, we do a lot of work around assistance for victims and people with disabilities, as well as women’s rights. The monsoon means that our construction project for accessible toilets was put on hold, but we continued work with grant proposals and drafting ideas for the upcoming valley-wide (Kathmandu valley) volleyball tournament for people with disabilities. My job was very versatile and so I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of skills; from proposal writing and grant research to scripting and animating a promotional video for one of our projects.

My local friends have shown me so much about the everyday life, that I don’t think many tourists see on a short vacation here, and they are honestly missing so much rich culture, tradition and truly beautiful aspects of life that I think are very unappreciated in the western world. People’s lives are so interwoven in a way that everyone helps everyone out and it is a tight-knit atmosphere that I will really miss after returning to Ottawa. On that topic, there are many other things I will definitely miss such as the food, the hills, and the temples. Remember to stock up on tissues for your last day!

Saying Goodbye

July 31, 2018 | Jasmin, Specialization - International Studies and Modern Languages and Additional Minor - Environmental Studies (Bilingual Program), UNITERRA, Nepal, Central Dairy Cooperative Association Ltd (CDCAN), Website Development and Management Intern

My last full day in Hetauda was Sunday. My family planned a special meal for me in the evening, and I planned to spend the day walking around to places and saying goodbye. In the morning I put on my new sari. The mother of the family helped me put it on and she gave me some blue bangles and a necklace to wear with it.

It was a lot of fun wearing the sari. I was a bit nervous at first, but everyone was really encouraging, and when I went out to run my errands I even received a few compliments from strangers. While I was out I got some snacks for the trip back and some kinder eggs for the kids. When I got back I played with the kids and packed the rest of my things.

For dinner they made my favourite Nepali chicken soup. It’s so yummy, especially when you put it on rice. I will really miss it. Dinner was super nice and the whole family was there. They were also excited to see my sari.

The next day was the day I was going back to Kathmandu. In the morning I had my interview with CECI and my organization. They did a little ceremony to wish me on my way and I got a blessing. They also gave me a framed picture of Nepal which is really nice. I said goodbye to my coworkers and then came the hardest part.

I had to say goodbye to my Nepali family. I was really sad to be leaving them and I lingered a bit to play with the kids one more time. They were sad that I was leaving, and the 2-year-old wanted to come with me. He was adorable. I’m going to miss my Nepali family so much. They told me to skype them once I got home to Canada, so they could know I made it back safely. They also want me to call them regularly, so we can keep in touch. They’ve even RSVPed to any future weddings I will have.

They have been so nice to me and helped me so much. They were really supportive throughout my stay and I will miss them so much. I am still in Kathmandu and already I miss them and want to see them again. I really love Hetauda, it’s such a nice area, and it’s not too crazy or crowded. I definitely plan on returning at some point. Until then though, I must say goodbye for a little bit. This has been the most amazing experience.

Une fois la routine en place…

July 25, 2018 | Marie-Michèle, Développement international et mondialisation, Népal, Uniterra, Tuki Association, Communication and Documentation Intern

Après que la poussière de l’excitation des premières semaines soit retombée, après l’installation d’une routine bien amorcée, je peux dire que les dernières semaines à Katmandou sont tranquilles et paisibles. Je n’irais pas jusqu’à dire que je me sens comme une personne locale, et le Népal restera toujours un secret pour moi, mais il est définitivement plus facile de naviguer et de me sentir mieux dans cette grande ville et tout cela grâce à la gentillesse de l’organisation canadienne et des népalais.

Ayant déjà vécu à l’étranger auparavant, l’adaptation a été moins compliqué que je pensais. Toutefois, vivre dans un pays en développement demande une adaptation supérieure puisque tous nos repères habituels ne sont pas accessibles. L’argent, les négociations, les transports, et tout autre chose qui sont pris pour acquis au Canada, ne le sont pas au Népal.
J’ai profité du développement de cette routine pour visiter de fond en comble cette magnifique ville qu’est Katmandou. Il suffit seulement de trouver une balance entre notre travail et nos moments libres pour que cette expérience soit agréable. De plus, c’est en faisant des activités qu’on découvre des endroits cachés et qu’on fait les meilleures rencontres. Cette balance m’a permis de me rendre compte à quel point mon stage au Népal a passé rapidement et tout l’impact que j’ai pu avoir sur mon travail ici et sur moi-même.

Lors de mon temps ici, j’ai appris beaucoup sur moi-même et j’ai acquis des aptitudes que je n’avais pas avant. Le champ des communications n’est pas mon expertise, mais j’ai beaucoup appris sur le sujet. Mon travail au sein de l’organisation CECI Nepal consistait principalement à corriger des rapports, écrire des rapports et écrire des articles ou des histoires, ce qui m’a permis aussi d’améliorer mes aptitudes écrites et mon anglais écrit.

Les rencontres que j’ai faites ici, par l’entremise de mon travail, sont la meilleure chose qui me soit arrivée. Que ce soit mes collègues, mes amies bénévoles, ou tout autre personne qui a croisé mon chemin lors de mon temps au Népal, je me compte chanceuse d’avoir créer des liens qui dureront malgré la distance.

En conclusion, malgré le fait que le stage ait passé rapidement et grâce aux rencontres que j’ai fait, je garderai une expérience comme celle-ci dans mes meilleurs souvenirs, et je serai plus forte après celle-ci.

Loving Daily Life in Hetauda

July 25, 2018 | Jasmin, Specialization - International Studies and Modern Languages and Additional Minor - Environmental Studies (Bilingual Program), UNITERRA, Nepal, Central Dairy Cooperative Association Ltd (CDCAN), Website Development and Management Intern

This morning I woke up and got ready for work. I had some dhaal bat for breakfast, dhaal-bat is a very common Nepali food that is normally eaten twice a day every day. It usually has rice, a kind of lentil soup to put on the rice, and various vegetables. Sometimes it also has chicken or mutton with it. It’s really good.

After eating, I walked to work. My work is almost directly across the street from the small neighbourhood where I live with my Nepali family. It only takes a few minutes to walk there.

At work I’ve been working on a new website prototype for my organization. It’s coming along slowly, and I’ve been working with my counterpart on translations. Since I’ve been here I’ve taught myself how to read the Nepali alphabet in addition to the language basics. I still have a long way to go to have a complete conversation, but I can recognize important words which is really helpful. One of the most exciting developments of the website is having a feature to switch the language of the site so that it can be read in both English and Nepali. The work schedule here is a bit different from the one in Canada: On Fridays work ends early, and Saturday is off. We have work Sunday though.

Everyday after work I go for a walk and explore the city. Hetauda isn’t a huge city and is easily walkable. I usually set off with no clear destination in mind and I walk to different places I haven’t explored yet. Sometimes I find interesting shops or restaurants to try. Yesterday I found a bakery and got some fresh bread. Sometimes I walk in areas I’ve been in before and people who have seen me before wave at me and say hi.

The family I am staying with has two small kids, 4 and 2, and they are very cute. I’ve spent lots of my free time playing with the kids, doing things like painting and running around. We teach each other new words, and they call me their big sister. Living with a Nepali family wasn’t something I was sure I wanted to do when I first got here, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for staying in a hotel or apartment alone. I went away for a few days, and I found myself missing my Nepali family and Hetaua a lot. I’ve made some good friends and I really love getting to be a part of the community here.

The people who help you along the way

July 5, 2018 | Ranawk, Specialization - International Economics and Development and Additional Minor - Statistics, Uniterra, Népal, Central Dairy Cooperative AssociationLalitpur District Milk Producer Cooperative Union Ltd, Communication and Documentation Intern

After reflecting upon my last few weeks in Nepal, there is no simple way to sum up this opportunity. It has been a bit of a blur. I realized that although my experience has been personally challenging at times, I find myself grateful for a number of things.

Firstly, I am grateful for the opportunity to get practical experience pertaining to my coursework during my undergraduate degree. I love UOttawa for a lot of reasons but the number of opportunities available for international experience really isn’t something available everywhere. After spending a few weeks here, I feel lucky to be able to observe some of the concepts and theories learned in class in a real-world setting. Being immersed in a cooperative setting gives me a further appreciation for community-based initiatives and the power and accessibility they create. Talking about challenges in implementing development projects in a classroom on a slideshow is completely different from learning about them from colleagues who are also looking for their own ways to solve them. Cooperatives as a mechanism for development are something that I have been interested by since second year when I first explored their potential.

The second way I find myself grateful is that despite not knowing anyone in Nepal before I arrived, the small network I have here has been great in my times of feeling unsure or confused. This is my first international cooperation experience and I was apprehensive about the kinds of things I would be able to contribute. This is where CECI Nepal and their experience in facilitating local organizations and international volunteers has been really helpful in giving me options, preparing me, and giving continued support. Part of the reason I did this internship was to see if development work was for me and even if I find that is not the case, I know the people who helped me along the way will stick with me.

Finally, I find myself privileged to be able to experience another culture so fully. Travelling to travel and travelling to work are different feelings. I am able to pause, develop connections, and live a life. Working in an international setting isn’t always easy but being able to learn, question, and continue to open my mind and eyes is something I will never take for granted.

Halfway there…

July 4, 2018 | Kristina, Specialization - Psychology, Mines Action Canada, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, MAC Support Officer

I work for the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, and although landmines have officially been banned in Nepal, we work on victim assistance, mine risk education and advocacy & awareness. The organization works to help support victims of landmines and their families, and working with the government to make sure that the new constitution’s provisions for disabled persons in Nepal are carried out.

At the office, every day is different from the last; from grant proposals and organizing events to managing social media and animating videos about our programs, there is always something new to learn. I had been a bit worried about being the only intern this semester that is not in DVM, and the challenges that might pose at work, but it’s been an incredible learning experience, and I’ve been able to use knowledge from my program (Psychology) more than I had expected.

I am just about halfway through my internship, and it’s feels a lot like a glass-half-full/half-empty situation; I’ve enjoyed the trip so much and I’m excited to spend another month and a half here, but it also feels bittersweet to think about how fast time has flown by, and how soon I will be back in Ottawa.

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve fallen in love with life in Kathmandu. I was worried about having certain expectations and falling prey to the habit of comparing things to life back home in Canada, but everything is so new and different that even everyday tasks often turn into adventures.

We live with a host couple who have shown us the culture (and food) in Nepal, and our coworkers and the friends we’ve made are just incredible. I say “we” because I was fortunate enough to travel here with another student from uOttawa who has become my roommate, coworker, travel buddy, and good friend :)

We quickly got used to the walk to work, through small streets with a picturesque view of the hills, and also bigger roads which are often travelled by not just cars, buses and scooters, but usually a few goats and cows as well.

We’ve travelled around the country, visiting some small towns around Kathmandu, as well as the beautiful city of Pokhara and some trekking in the Himalayas around the Annapurna range; it has been nothing short of amazing. Although the altitude might be in part to blame, there’s something about waking up to see snow-capped mountains outside your window that literally takes your breath away.

This entire experience has been made so amazing by our kind coworkers, and all of our local friends who have helped us navigate our new lifestyle. My roommate and I have organized a Canada Day party for our local friends and coworkers to try and share a bit of our home with everyone. We will be attempting to make some poutine and s’mores, so we are praying for a stroke of luck finding ingredients and working our way around a kitchen that we aren’t used to.

After this week, we are bracing ourselves for yet another adventure; the monsoon. We think we’ve come prepared but I know we are in for a rollercoaster of surprises which will best be tackled not just by the rain boots, raincoats and umbrellas that we’ve packed, but with more importantly with an open mind and a strong-willed sense of humour :)