Synergy is a matter that creates Acceptance : Arlene Mahinay
KATHMANDU, Nov 27: Country Director for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Nepal Arlene Mahinay has been involved with the organization for nearly three years now. She lives in Kathmandu with her lawyer husband and 15-year old son.
Mahinay comes from a family of academicians where both her now-deceased parents were public school teachers and one of her earliest memories is that of her father tutoring her and each of her siblings before they started formal schooling. “My parents had prioritized education because of which we could read and write basic English and native language by the time we reached grade 1,” Mahinay says.
She who started working before she graduated from her university in Manila, cites her elder siblings as her primary source of inspiration. She recalls how they were involved in community work when she was in elementary school.
Mahinay’s first effort in the field of development was organizing programs for farmers and urban poor families in Manila. She was influenced to go into more community service after her graduation, and she chose to work with women and development.
VSO is an international organization with its main office in the UK and country offices in 32 countries, including Nepal. It has been working in Nepal since 1964 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014.
VSO is currently focusing on three areas – education, livelihood, and health.
“Unlike other international organizations, we do not provide funds, we provide expertise of our international volunteers,” informed Mahinay.
Volunteers are recruited from mainly seven countries – Canada, the USA, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Philippines, Kenya, and India apart from the headquarters in the UK.
Currently, VSO is helping Nepal Government with School Sector Reform Program (SSRP). There are 20 volunteers in six districts helping to enhance quality education with teachers, resources and other staffs; ensure enhanced access to schools with retention of marginalized children, especially women, Dalits and disabled children.
“One student said he wanted to become a teacher because he was inspired by the work of our volunteers working alongside his teachers. It gave him enough inspiration to decide to go into teaching,” said Mahinay, citing this as an example of concrete impacts of VSO’s work in Nepal.
In her professional life, Mahinay says a colleague of hers helped a lot when she was new to VSO.
“He helped me develop professionally. So if a problem arises, I subconsciously imagine me to be him and think of ways he would solve the problem if he were in my shoes.”
For Mahinay, working with women from the Muslim community in Manila is the closest thing to her heart. Her project convinced the women to have greater access to productive resources like farmlands and control over working animals and greater mobility. Towards the end of the project, the women credited the project to have changed their lives.
“When I first came to Nepal, I told myself I would stay here for a long time because the country is so beautiful and people are welcoming and accommodating,” said Mahinay. “Nepalis take it for granted but I hope that they will be able to realize how beautiful the country is and how beautiful they are as persons. One reality may be different from another but it is just a matter of acceptance to create that synergy.”
Mahinay was featured on “Inspirations: The Essence of Life,” a personality-based television series presented by Media Gallery and Global Exposition and Management Services in association with Republica. The program is aired on Nepal Television every Wednesday at 10:10pm.