This summer, five second-year GSD students travelled to Nepal to volunteer at the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco-Foundation, an organization promoting sustainability initiatives in the local community. Lucy Page and Marina Zorila stayed at the foundation for three weeks, whereas Clem Owusu, Ellie Church and Sara Shiraaz were there for 10 days. During their time, they taught English lessons at the foundation’s Waldorf-inspired school, contributed to the construction of an earthquake-resistant house made of recycled glass bottles, and worked in the biodynamic farm. The foundation also runs a jewellery workshop, called Mahila Shakti (translating to ‘women’s power’), which teaches uneducated women in the community to make jewellery made of organic materials. The women at the foundation, who make up 90% of the workforce, taught the volunteers how to make the jewellery and welcomed them into their Women’s Day celebrations to advocate female empowerment.
Ellie has referred to the trip as the “highlight of [her] summer,” as it has not only enriched her learning but helped her develop personally. She says, “The cultural exchanges, the sharing of knowledge, ideas and perspectives and the hands-on approach to sustainability are things I’ll carry with me into the future.” Similarly, Sara says “It is a venture I will treasure going forward, as it helped shape me into an individual who holds an awareness of the surrounding world and one who now holds value to each and every experience.”
The experience has led Clem to reflect on the fact that “community development cannot be solely achieved through classroom learning and top-down schemes. In order to meet the ‘needs’ of those from that particular community, their voices must be heard, their challenges must be seen and their ideas must be taken into consideration – thus ensuring a holistic approach to development.”
Lucy believes that the trip enhanced her passion for sustainable development, as she has learned about the importance of community cohesion and local level sustainability. “It was interesting to see the practical implications of my studies in the form of a successful bottom-up community based initiative,” she says.
[News item by Marina Zorila]