Namaste! I just spent the last month in Nepal as a volunteer with the Farmer-to-Farmer program. My assignment was a little different than most F2F volunteers, as I did not travel to one location and provide technical training. Instead, I visited organizations around the country that hosted previous volunteers to follow up on how the assignments went and how we can make future volunteer assignments even more impactful.
While I only spent a short amount of time with each group, I was struck by how welcoming they all were to me. As a blonde, pale, woman, I could have easily been an outsider. My experience, however, was quite the opposite. Here is a story about one community we visited in the Syangja district.
After one and a half hours of our driver impressively navigating the muddy, steep, almost impassible road through the mountains we finally had to get out and walk. The green terraced rice fields were beautiful in the mid-morning sun. We tried not to slip in the mud as we climbed higher into the mountains, watched by the men and woman working in the fields. A truck approached us, with a cracked windshield and caked in mud. The community we were visiting had sent their only vehicle to come collect us. We climbed in, and the cheerful driver began bouncing along the road.
As we arrived, it seemed like the whole village had come to see us. I was welcomed by high school girls in traditional Gurung clothing with a garland of flowers, printed Stoll, and red powder pressed to my forehead to make a “tika,” or red spot traditionally worn by Hindu women and men.
Most of the 55-household community members sat with us in their community pavilion, and spoke about their experience with the American volunteer that had helped them improve their goat production. Both men and women shared what they had learned from the two community members they had sent to participate, and some of their continuing challenges as well. Some of the community members excitedly showed us the improvements they had made to the goat sheds, and proudly exhibited their breeding buck. The women made us traditional Gurung food and tea, which we shared with the community leaders.
Though it took us as long to get to the community as we stayed, I felt that, because of their openness and kindness, I had known the community members much longer. I was very sad to leave, and after taking several “selfies” with the high school girls on their phones, their arms linked with mine, the only vehicle prepared to take us back to our car. The girls piled in the back of the truck, wanting to spend as much time with us as possible.
This openness and sense of welcome I have felt on every community visit I have made in Nepal. The people here want to share their stories, successes, challenges, opinions, and culture. I very much enjoyed my time in Nepal, and hope to return again with the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program and Winrock International!