Milipa Thapa and Niva Shakya, CONNECT Interns
At the start of our journey as CONNECT interns, we expected the experience to be up and down with lots of trying, falling, learning but always looking forward. Unlike in many cases where our expectations weren’t met, we can say that this time we got exactly what we asked for.
To begin with there was lots of training about our projects, communication channels, responsibilities, reports and with us asking loads of questions to the CONNECT coordinators. Fast forward one and a half months and we went on our first field trip to Dhangadhi, Dadeldhura, Doti, Dailekh and Accham - all in ten days.
We first visited the National Acacdemy of Science and Technology in Dhangadhi where we met the student members of the Future Entrepreneurs’ Club (FEC). When talking about their inspiration they had an anonymous voice but they had many unique ideas for businesses from the paper industry to bamboo furniture; all focusing on local specialties. It was also good to know that CONNECT colleagues had already made a strong impression and Binod had some diehard fans who were trying very hard to contact him.
Our next destination was Organic Mountain Flavor’s processing facility in Sahajpur. Our visit here was quick but informative, all about how the facility operates. Visiting Dadeldhura Farmers Cooperative Society Limited the same day we met the staff and got to learn about distribution strategies for seed. The journey to Doti was one of a kind. Fitting four healthy people (Ruth, Asin and us) in the back seat was an achievement in itself. Milipa was still as a rock, never swaying whereas Niva was all over the place, so clumsy.
The training with the District staff in Doti gave us an opportunity to learn and create a comfort zone with them. Joining a briefing on photo ethics and consent and the year two work plan not only informed the District team of plans for the year ahead but also enlightened us about the system and accountability for the next phase. Visiting our next partner Shoba Trader and Order Suppliers, gave us an insight into the way CONNECT partnerships work and the potential and challenges of expanding STOS’s sukuti production.
The next day Niva introduced Kobo toolbox to the District Managers, a tool designed for easy data collection from the field. With lots of queries, confusion and team effort the Kobo pilot finally got started.
Getting an opportunity to interview one of the Hamri Didis, Dambari Bika, Milipa was really overwhelmed by her inspiring story.
Our visit to Doti proved to be full of stories of empowerment and triumph. In the meeting with female DCCI members regarding the increased number of reserved seats for women on the Executive Committee, we met a kind woman who owned a small beauty parlour. She had gone through lots of difficulties in her life and courageously walked out of it. She was so friendly that Ruth couldn’t help but ask if we could visit her parlour. The following evening, we three girls, and Binod were walking with green bangles, red nail polish and lots of blessings for getting loving husbands in the future. Meanwhile, Asin was back in the office cooking a delightful meal for us to enjoy. Not mentioning his cooking skills would be unjust!
Our journey proceeded towards Accham and then onto Dailekh. It had the most beautiful sunset. Meeting with CONNECT’s three partners in Dailekh, Hatemalo Seed Promotion Cooperative, Pawan Agriculture Collection Centre and Belpata Dairy Co-operative gave us deeper understanding about their businesses. Helping with Partner recruitment interviews, collecting financial data, meeting the Dailekh team and the dinner at the end of the day were opportunities to learn about the project from the grass root level. And hearing the team’s side stories and learning new words like “feesmaf” made our journey even more exciting.
The start of our journey as a part of CONNECT seems even more exciting now that we know our team, the work and the places. Those 10 days in the field were really a significant investment of our time and effort. The entire trip was an amazing experience. One of the most impactful trips we have done so far. It only motivated us to look forward to the journey ahead and contribute what we can to make a difference and forge meaningful connections.