Thursday, January 17, 2013


My role of partnership builder for both VSO Nepal and Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)  has led to numerous opportunities and unexpected turns.  However, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from living in Asia.  Working in India from 2009-early 2012 really helped me to open my eyes to all of the doors and windows, which I never quite saw before living in the United States.  This experience also enabled me to take more chances, step through to the other side and be curious about what I might find.  Since coming to Nepal in June, 2012  I’ve not only been able to meet with some of the top business people in the country, but will also start appearing on Nepal TV as the host of the show “Inspirations”. 

Although my sister and her husband, as well as my daughter, are all performers in their own right, in both music and film, in India I found my stage to be that of a capacity building, facilitating NGO workshops in strategic and fundraising planning and human resources development.  I had appeared on the stage a number of years ago when I decided to take acting lessons and perform in some minor roles in Shakespeare plays for Flocke Theatre in New London, Connecticut.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, dressing up, saying a few lines and participating in pitched sword battles.  I had also been interviewed for various television shows in my previous jobs in the US.  But I had never given any thought to hosting a  television show.

As I’ve come to meet a number of media people, one thing led to another and the producer of “Inspirations”, Anmol Tandukar of Media Gallery asked me to help out.  Initially I was off screen asking questions, but things have evolved into me being on screen.  The current point of the show is to interview INGO and NGO Directors, inspiring people, focusing on information about their personal lives and how they came to work in Nepal.  The personal touch really adds a lot and provides greater insight into how and why people chose Nepal.

I started helping Anmol after the eighth episode when we interviewed Arlene Mahinay, VSO Nepal Country Director.  Arlene is from the Philippines and had worked in a number of countries before coming to Nepal.  One could sense how impacted Arlene had been by her parents and large family leading her to her present position.   One could also feel her passion for women's issues.  

From Media Gallery’s side having a foreigner conduct the interviews was seen as positive, after Anmol tried his hand at interviewing Dominic O’Neill, a former VSO volunteer who is now the DFID Nepal Head.  I liked Dominic immediately as I’ve come to find him to be a very, warm, friendly and helpful person.  When asked to describe one of his most memorable moments he immediately talked about his not too long ago wedding and one could feel the depth of love that Dominic felt for his wife.

For me it is not about asking people questions, but is more about listening to their stories.  We recently interviewed Ben Ayres, the Country Director of the dZi Foundation.  Ben is a young American from New Hampshire  who has been in Nepal for a number of years.  He originally came to this beautiful  country to spend part of his junior college year abroad.  Ben became fluent in Nepali and communicates and listens as a native speaker.  He previously worked with porters and now, along with his Nepali colleagues, works in villages in the eastern districts, providing integrated capacity building and assistance based on the villagers identified needs and not any other agenda.  I asked Ben if he would ever return to the US to live and he hesitated and talked about creating a community.  But I could feel from speaking to him and watching his interactions with the Media Gallery crew, that he is very much a Nepali and has been greatly impacted in his thinking and being by this country. 

We interviewed Dr. David Molden, like me originally a Californian from Los Angeles, and now the Director General of ICIMOD, a huge responsibility given that the organisation serves the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas AfghanistanBangladeshBhutanChinaIndiaMyanmarNepal, and Pakistan .  David spent his college years in the mountainous state of Colorado and  during the 1990’s worked in Nepal.  Early on in his career David spent time in Lesotho in the Peace Corps, which had a huge impact on his life and helped lead him towards his present assignment.  Recently David’s and his wife’s daughter married a Nepali man in a traditional ceremony.  As David described this I could see from the wetness in his eyes, what this meant to him.  I saw a great sense of pride as he described how he was now a greater part of  Nepal. 

After interviewing David we met Ramesh Puri, the new Country Director of Room to Read.  Ramesh is the first Nepali that I’ve interviewed, possessing a very strong background to lead this literacy program.  Ramesh had spent some 15 years abroad as Country Director for organisations such as Save the Children and Concern.  Ramesh and his wife made the decision to return to Nepal and he has brought with him a plethora of experience and knowledge in helping to build his country. 

The opportunity to spend some time with such inspiring people and hear their stories is something that I will always treasure.  But it goes well beyond that as I learn how other people approach life.  But I also know that anybody can be inspirational.  As I left ICIMOD I admired the perfectly white topi of Farid Ahmad who is from Chitral, Pakistan.  Without hesitation Farid gave me his topi and said in his culture this is the way that it is.  This simple gesture made my day and I hugged Farid.  Given the harsh realities in the world, isn’t this the true inspiration, the little things that we can all do to show kindness and help one another.  I left with a huge smile, feeling truly inspired. 

The Inspirations TV Show can be seen on Wednesday evenings at 10:10 PM on Nepal TV.

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