I learned a lot about living in another culture during my three years in India. Upon returning to the US in March 2012, I knew that I wanted to continue to live overseas. When an opportunity became available in Nepal in June 2012, I relished the thought of coming back to this part of the world. My assignment was to build new partnerships, especially in the corporate and media sectors, for both VSO Nepal, an INGO working in the areas of livelihoods, health and education with the cross cutting themes of gender and climate change, and Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), a Nepali NGO working in the areas of land and agrarian reform, livelihoods and women’s empowerment. VSO Nepal will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014 and CSRC will be 20 years in 2013.
I really enjoy meeting new people, and being a Partnership Builder is a role that I’ve truly enjoyed. I’ve spent a good amount of time meeting with and talking to corporates regarding community involvement. I’ve found that in general, corporates are open to discussions regarding ways to engage with society. Some projects seem to be percolating. But it does take a lot of effort and persistence to make Corporate Social Responsibility, where both parties mutually benefit, a reality. The same goes for “cracking” the media and putting your voice in print and digital media. These are long-term activities as strong relationships and mutual trust take time to build.
Another role that I have is that of coordinating 50th anniversary events for VSO Nepal. With more than 800 volunteers from a wide array of countries having served in Nepal, it has been a major effort to connect with people. Fortunately, we’ve been able to develop an international Steering Committee with the members focusing on making connections with returned volunteers (RVs) in their home countries. We hope to put together a 50th anniversary book, music CD and documentary, conduct some treks and have a number of events in RVs’ home countries and in Nepal. It’s a huge effort, but is very doable with the idea being to raise the profile of VSO Nepal throughout the country.
In my spare time I have enjoyed getting to know the basketball courts and players in Kathmandu. I’ve found some really good players from a range of nationalities, but most recently have been playing with Tibetans and Nepalis. I’ve made contacts with the Nepali Basketball Association (NeBA) and the National Sports Council, and it has been a good learning experience trying to help move the Nepali game forward.
Basketball is a very popular game worldwide, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) has made its way to Nepal. With family members living in the US and other countries and playing basketball, the names of NBA stars and their teams are well known in Nepal as indicated by jerseys and hats worn by the guys that I’ve played with. There has also been space for wheelchair basketball and a future with wheelchair rugby.
While in India I coached at the New Delhi YMCA every Saturday night that I was in the city. I also played at the American Embassy School. I was able to combine my love for basketball with my professional work when a group of Americans from the NGO, Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide (WAW), came to Delhi to donate 12 sports wheelchairs. This was a great experience for me as I hadn’t worked on an international project of this magnitude. We were fortunate to have Aamir Khan at the first clinic, who was filming a segment for his television show Satyamev Jayte at Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust School in Delhi where the clinic was. At our second clinic at Amar Jyoti, Kenny Natt, the Indian Men’s National Basketball Coach and a former NBA professional coach and player, played wheelchair basketball with the children. At the final clinic in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, we worked with the Disability People’s Organization—The Ability People—to promote wheelchair sports.
Since being in Nepal, I’ve been able to make contact with a number of persons with disability. I’ve been coaching an army wheelchair basketball team, and helped my friend Bharat get to Korea for wheelchair rugby training through a generous ticket donation by Dragon Air/ Cathay Pacific. I attended the very first Career Expo for Persons with Disability, which indicated to me how huge an issue employment is for those with a disability. Bharat and I, along with our friends from WAW and local disability NGOs, hope to have a sports wheelchair donation program, clinics and a tournament in Nepal in May 2013.
Since being in Nepal, I am learning a lot about Nepal, the government, the culture, work habits, load shedding and the people. I am doing my best to become integrated, although language has been somewhat of an issue. I do like the bhaat part of meals, and have found a lot of vegetarian choices. I’ve been somewhat able to see and enjoy the diversity of Nepal, and look forward to much more traveling. The sight of Himalayas on clear days from my rooftop in Sanepa, is truly a marvel to behold. I love the sense of excitement I feel in just walking around areas in Kathmandu, its architecture is something that I just can’t find anywhere in the US. Even when I make the short walk from Sanepa to Thamel, there is always something new for my eyes and camera to see. I enjoy the sense of having the unexpected happen on a consistent basis. I’m so grateful to be in Nepal at this stage in my life. Mero Ghar Nepalma baschuu.
The author helped develop and coordinate a disability awareness raising campaign throughout India as a VSO volunteer