Thursday, December 20, 2012

Life in Nepal-One Volunteer’s Story[1]

I learned a lot about living in another culture during my three years in India and 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 be that of building 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 getting articles in print, on-line, etc.  This is a long-term activity 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 RV’s home countries and in Nepal.  It’s a huge effort but is very doable with the idea to raise the presence of VSO Nepal throughout the country.

In my spare time I’ve 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 tends to be a universal game 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, as he was filming a segment for his television show Satyamev Jayte at Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust School in Delhi, where the clinic took place.  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 Organisation, The Ability People to promote wheelchair sports in this part of India. 

Since being in Nepal and in my spare time 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 to 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. 

I’m learning a lot about Nepal, the government, the culture, work habits, load shedding, 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 lots of vegetarian choices.  I’ve been somewhat able to see and enjoy the diversity of Nepal, and look forward to much more traveling.  Seeing the Himalayas on very clear days from my rooftop in Sanepa, is a site that is truly a marvel to behold.  I love the sense of excitement I feel in just walking around areas in Kathmandu, the architecture, that I just can’t find anywhere in the US.  Even when I make the 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. 

[1] This only reflects the views of the author and does not in any way reflect those of the organisations mentioned. 
Michael Rosenkrantz, an American, spent March 2009-February 2012 as a VSO volunteer working for the National Trust, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, in the field of developmental disability.  Through this assignment he gained a true appreciation for the challenges faced by Persons with Disability in a developing country, especially through the capacity building workshops that he facilitated for NGOs throughout the country.   Michael was able to help develop and then coordinate a disability awareness raising campaign, Badhte Kadam, throughout India and saw the sustainability of this project through National Trust continuing the campaign during November 2012.  Through his love of basketball  Michael was able to be intimately involved in a sports wheelchair donation project to two NGOs in India. 

1 comment:

James McRitchie said...

Very nice report Mike, good to learn of your activities. You are certainly making an important contribution to this world of ours.