Beginning July 17th 2011, I began participating in Leave for Change. Sponsored by Uniterra, Leave for Change is a initiative that enables employees from participating organizations to transform part of their leave into a three to four week assignment in a developing country.
In my case, the University of Guelph has made an investment in my professional development, while demonstrating amazing leadership in academic (corporate) social responsibility. I get an opportunity to put my knowledge and skills to work in an international development project, expand my personal and professional horizons, and acquire a deeper understanding of broader global issues.
To this end, I find myself working in Nepal at the Center for Microfinance (CMF). CMF was established in July 2000 to strengthen the capacity of microfinance institutions and enable them to provided savings, credit and other financial services to the poorest-of-the-poor families, especially women. CMF runs a wide range of programs designed to meet the emerging needs of microfinance institutions. To promote the microfinance sector, CMF engages in training, technical assistance, consultancy services, research, knowledge management, publication and documentation, dissemination of best practices, and networking in partnership with national and international organizations.
I am still reflecting on this experience. There were many amazing things that I learned and shared. There were also some incredibly difficult experiences. In response, I used my camera as a way to discover the beauty of Nepal. I expected tranquility. I discovered chaos. But I found beauty as captured in these images. I thank everyone for this opportunity. /ml
Ganesha: God for Good Luck, God for Prosperity, God for Safe Journey
It’s the end of my journey in Nepal. I’d like to thank the University of Guelph, Leave for Change, the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, and Uniterra. I hope you have enjoyed following my travels while volunteering.
Sunil Babu Pant has been described as a gender minority rights activist, a GLBT activist, an openly gay politician, but it is also important to remember his is an elected member of parliament in Nepal. His center for GLBT people in Nepal still needs funds so it can be completed. Think you can help? Let us know… Here he is talking to the BBC. Meeting him was one of the more rewarding aspects of my volunteer mandate in Nepal. Please consider inviting him to speak to your community. Thanks,
Activists march in Nepal for Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Equality!
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersexed people have equal rights under the law in Nepal thanks to legislation written by the Honorable Sunil Pan. Member of Parliament Sunil Pant invited me to attend Nepal’s Gay Pride Celebration on August 15th, 2011. This year it was taking place outside of Kathmandu in the town of Narayanghat. I wish I could have spent the entire day with the group of activists. I was impressed by the number of transgender people. “The activists gathered to remind law and policy makers to include gay and lesbian provisions in the country’s new constitution, which is in the process of being drafted. “We want spread awareness among the people in the rural areas too. People in the capital mostly accept the idea but we need to spread the awareness,” Pant told the BBC” Pink Pages (Aug. 15th 2011).
One part of my mandate was to “promote equality between women and men.” Based on my experiences in Nepal and learning from the Honorable Sunil Pant, I urge Canadian International Development Aid organizations to reconsider how they define gender equality.
On a related note: When census gatherers went door-to-door visiting 5.6 million households across Nepal this month, they collected information not only on the country’s men and women, but also on a so-called third gender.
Bonding with my elephant after a ride through the jungle. It was amazing to get out of Kathmandu and see a bit of the country of Nepal.
I caught the Celebration of Karva Chauth in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. My young guide informed me that this was a festival where women fast and then celebrate—for the safety of their husbands. My 16-year-old guide was more interested in pointing out the single women who were praying to find a husband. The mood in the square was rowdy yet romantic. Most women were dressed in bright red. It reminded me of Valentine’s Day.
A common symbol for Education
I finally made it to Bhaktapur! Some say Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square isn’t as “exciting” as the Durbar Square (Palace Square) in Kathmandu and Patan. I disagree. Bhaktapur was a focal point of my trip–a real favourite. Some amazing examples of Newari architecture (despite 1934 earthquake) and culture.
Newari culture is not Nepali culture. The Newars are careful to distinguish themselves from other hill peoples. There are over 40 different tribes in Nepal. But in the Kathmandu Valley, Newari culture is most visible and is greatly respected.
Exploring moments of calm in Kathmandu. Not easy. I actually expected Nepal to be tranquil and meditative. I thought this would be a city that would “slow me down.” I was wrong. Instead, I learned to find my stride. I was amused one day to discover another traveler's graffiti which expressed the same sentiment: “Wish list: Peace of Mind.” I found beauty and calm in Nepal’s flowers, flags, windows, & bricks.
Dusk; the view from Passage House Roof in Kathmandu
Ethnographic Images from my work at the Center for Micro Finance, Nepal
Sadhus: the Holy men of Hinduism…demonstrating in front of Xotica!
The inner life of nature in Kathmandu
Canadian Centre for International Studies and Co-operation (CECI) held a lunch honouring its staff. Here are some of my CECI friends. Thank you CECI Nepal!
A day in the life at the Center for Micro Finance in Nepal. Meet my amazing team! Shiva Hari Devkota, Senior Microfinance Trainer, Mimu Raghubanshi, Program Officer, and Samita Maharjan, Program Assistant… Awesome group of Micro Finance Trainers.
This educational video provides one lesson about the Management of Micro Finance Institutions. We introduce you to some of the basic terms and concepts of Financial Management. In this first lesson we begin by providing some definitions and outline five sources of funds; second, we explain four uses of funds; third, we describe four methods for managing risk; and fourth, we offer suggestions for greater profitability.