Today I will be leaving Nepal for seven weeks to visit family and friends in the US. I will have completed almost five years as a VSO volunteer, in both India and Nepal, a remarkable journey that has remade me into who I am today. I never could have imagined what living in another part of the world would bring or what I might share with the many people whom I've met.
Leaving VSO is somewhat bittersweet. I've had the support of an incredible organization to guide me in learning about and becoming part of what I consider to be, a unique and successful development modality, i.e. that of using experienced volunteers to share skills and develop empowerment opportunities in collaboration with host communities, partner organizations and individuals whom volunteers come into contact with. On the other hand it hasn't always been smooth as there are a variety of difficulties and working cross culturally can be very challenging. But all in all I wouldn't trade the past five years for anything.
In the US, although I didn't realize it at the time, life became too commonplace; I went to work, came home, the same routine day-in and day out. It wasn't that I was unhappy, but I needed to expand my life experience. Although the "daily routine" might be the case for my former Indian and current Nepali colleagues, for me things are always evolving. One day I might trek to a village, talking to school children about how an international Rotary project is helping to improve their learning environment; another day I might be in the field discussing how access to land can lead to livelihoods development and women's empowerment. Sometimes I might be meeting with a CEO about how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be further incorporated into their core business objectives, or just hanging at Boudhanath. The disability sector, that I started working in when I was in India gave me an immense opportunity to combine my passion for basketball as a tool for developing disability sports in Nepal. Coaching the Nepal Army wheelchair basketball team, as well as others has become an integral part of my life in Nepal.
I've been able to collaborate with incredible VSO colleagues, from a variety of countries, all doing their piece to help provide a voice for the voiceless. I've worked with amazing Nepalis doing the same, seeking to build this country for the better. I've seen how small is beautiful, micro hydro plants in remote areas providing electricity enabling students to study longer, women to have their own businesses and go to school to learn to read and write.
Whenever I'm in the west I try my best to communicate the "treasures" that I've experienced on a daily basis during the past five years. However, people don't always get it or take the time to really understand life outside of their own sphere. Even when showing photos, after a bit of time people's eyes begin to glaze over. I wish that somehow my friends and family members in the west could truly understand how connections with diverse people make one's life rich beyond monetary wealth, actually make life truly worth living.
The past five years in India/Nepal has become so much part of my fabric, my core/DNA, it's as if somehow I am home. It's as if when I go to the west I am only visiting. Although I'm still learning and practicing I feel so very privileged and blessed to have been accepted in 2009 by VSO as a volunteer. But above all, I have come home to a remarkable world, new friends and brothers and sisters from different mothers. I'm happy and I am at peace.