Come to learn
My colleagues have been living and working alongside these people for the last three years using an approach that we have honed over 20 years of working in similar communities. At the heart of this approach is an emphasis on building strong personal relationships. We believe that you can only catalyse real change when you become a part of a community.
We don’t come with a pre-formed view of what the community’s problems are – or of how to solve them. Instead we come as learners. We seek to build relationship and earn trust. Through gentle questioning, we encourage conversations that draw out the main issues and help villagers to disentangle the complex web of symptoms and causes of poverty. As trust builds, we support villagers to develop their own plans that focus on harnessing their local assets and advocating for better services from government. It’s a painfully slow and undramatic process.
Donors scratch their heads and wonder why it takes years of talking and drinking tea before we can ‘crack on’ with implementing something a bit more tangible. But we are building crucial foundations here: breaking down fatalism and deep caste divisions; kindling visions of hope and change; teaching skills in community planning and action; and building a sense of self-confidence. On these foundations, radical and sustainable change becomes a real possibility.
Proud and strong
Surveying the beauty around me, I’m struck by the parallels between Nepal and Scotland: mountains; poor soils; a challenging climate; geographical remoteness; and occasional insecurities about a large, powerful, southern neighbour. There is a remarkable resilience and a strong national pride here. The British army ruled India but they couldn’t make any headway against Nepal’s fierce soldiers. Indeed, the British were so impressed by these men that they hired them – Nepali Gurkha soldiers have been legendary and loyal fighters for the British ever since.