Each summer, I come from my home in Washington D.C. to Nepal to visit my paternal family members. This time, I have been volunteering at Centre for Research and Sustainable Development Nepal)CREASION with their Volunteer for Change program in Kathmandu as I mentioned in my earlier blog post. As my time here comes to a close, I have been thinking about the projects I’ve had the privilege to influence and the people that I have met. Due to the fact that I only get to visit Nepal once each year, it’s important to me that I make the most of my time here. CREASION has allowed me to do that by having me participate in a variety of different projects that let me both research in the office and go into and around the city to connect with the people that these projects impact.
One favorite project that I have gotten to work on is the PET plastics initiative. For the majority of the first half of my visit, I read and edited documents about the dangers of plastic waste and its significance in the lives of the waste workers who sort through piles of litter for very low pay. I even had the opportunity to visit a private waste site and listen to waste workers talk about their jobs as part of CREASION’s project to honor the workers. Although PET is a highly recyclable plastic, most of it ends up in landfills because people are either unaware or too careless to sort their recyclables from the rest of their waste. CREASION has come up with a plan that simultaneously puts the recyclable plastic to good use and increases the wages of the waste workers. This model allows all aspects of the community to flourish. The quality of life of people that live near waste sites increases, waste workers, and their families have more money, women are given more job opportunities and therefore an income to grant them independence, and the environment is free of excess plastic. This holistic concept is a prime example of CREASION’s values. It is also a reflection of how I spent my time here and a major reason it was so meaningful to me. Although I reached out to CREASION because of my specific interest in the environment, they let me participate in a variety of other projects as I worked on the PET initiative.
Along with the plastics project I had the pleasure of working in youth empowerment, female empowerment, and care for the elderly and disabled. I, along with some national volunteers, visited a home for the elderly and disabled nearby the office. As it turns out, a woman there has a son who lives in the U.S. just an hour or two away from me. We spent some time chatting about Nepalis that come to the U.S. for an opportunity, as my father did many years ago. I also spent some time trying the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into CREASION’s youth empowerment program. Specifically, I looked for ways to implement goals four and five into their program that helps youths learn about relevant technology, write resumes, and prepare for job interviews. This geared the program toward meeting some of the specifics listed by the UN to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (goal five) and inclusive and equitable education (goal four). One of the last things I got to do was organize and hold a spelling bee for a local school. This was perhaps my favourite outing because seeing the competitive spirit of the kids was really fun to watch, and frankly a little surprising, as I did not expect so many students to have such good sportsmanship. All 36 students took the competition very seriously and earnestly congratulated the winner at the end. This was my final project at CREASION. The fact that I had the opportunity to learn and work in so many different areas made this trip truly unique. I spent a lot of time in the environment sector as I expected, but I also got to learn and experience completely different things.
After the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015, volunteer programs have been instrumental in effecting change. Therefore, CREASION is eager to recruit more international volunteers, and I hope to use my unique position to spread the word about their work back in D.C. Interning in Nepal has helped me find much more meaning in my annual trips to Kathmandu and let me explore my fascination with environmental work. I am sure this will not be the last time I work with CREASION.