Morgan St. Clair

Morgan’s first experience with international work came in 2003, when she travelled around the world with Semester at Sea studying intercultural relations. She received her Bachelors degree from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass, and worked as an intern in the probation department in the Worcester Trial Court. Morgan then worked on human resources at a Biotech company. At the time of her fellowship, Morgan was pursuing her Master’s in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations with a concentration in community development at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.



Eating on leaves in the Udayapur District

06 Aug

 

Devki Devi Chaudray making plate

 

Community Center being built

How the villagers sustain themselves

How the villagers sustain themselves

            This week has been hitting me hard physically from getting sick to my stomach to a nonstop runny nose. For some reason before leaving to come here I thought I would be invincible and did not think to bring much medicine.  I was able to buy some meds at the pharmacy so I’ll give it a little while for them to kick in and see how Nepali drugs work.  Nepal has awakened every one of my senses in ways that I could not imagine.  Breathing in the thick, hot oven air, (garmee, hot in Nepali is a frequently spoken word) smelling the various, sometimes not so pleasant smells and watching the women in their colorful saris carrying large baskets of vegetables on their heads all consists of my daily walk to NESEPC. The way of life has been a respite from the often hectic, overwhelming western lifestyle.  How will I ever go back to having a quick cup of coffee in the morning, running to work when I could have a leisurely Nepali tea and biscuits?  Morning, my favorite time here when the pigeons, roosters and goats outside my window awake me and the sun creeps over the brightly colored radio station building near by.  I look out my window every morning and am in awe that I have made a home and found life long friends around the world.   

             I was able to take part in a committee meeting out in the Sundarpur village about an hour motorbike ride away from NESPEC. The Dhamchap village, located within Sundarpur consists of 34 houses made of mud, bamboo and wood.  The people are all of the Tharu caste, speaking their own ethnic language. The villagers came together and decided that they needed a community center that will serve many functions.  The most general need would be for gatherings, such as women’s meetings for sharing their issues. In addition, guests will stay when visiting in the center. The community center will be available if needed and donations will be accepted from guests to go towards the village.  They have asked NESPEC for help with building the roof.  It was fascinating to see how well the people worked together for one common goal.  Extra wood from each house was shared to build the house and have agreed to work together in the future about important decisions regarding the center.

             I witnessed NESPEC’s model at work; helping a committee, always allowing for the members to be the ones building so they take ownership of the community center.  If NESPEC built the center then the members would not take as much pride in it.  A simple empowerment approach that I believe more organizations need to follow.  Let the people be the change in the community.

            Collective communities can teach me a thing or two about how to work in a group.  I had to take a class on teamwork at school while these villagers have it in their culture.  The sense of togetherness is instilled in them when they enter the world. The distance in our cultures on occasion astonishes me.  

            The Dhamchap village sits on disputed land that is government owned. They left their prior land in 1996 due to flooding and still are fighting for the land.  They have a temporary certificate by the Village Development Committee because of the unwritten constitution.  After the laws are written is when they will have permission to live there they believe.  Even remote villages are waiting patiently for the government to finish writing laws.  The projected deadline is May 10, 2010, although it is looking like it may not be enough time to finish.  The tolerance of the Nepali people surrounding the slow government process is certainly very commendable.  I’m glad that civil society in Nepal is so strong, that people are passionate here about their rights and open political conversations can occur.  I sincerely hope that villages like these will improve after the constitution is written and the “New Nepal” can emerge.  

            Cultivation is the major outsource for the village as well as selling the Bhorla leaf (see picture) to make plates for eating.  When a few of the women were explaining they sell leaves in the market I had to see for myself.  They quickly found some to give to me and said only to eat once off of them, called  “one time plates.”  One of the women, Devki Devi Chaudray (in picture) made a plate in about thirty seconds with string made of bamboo.  They can sell one hundred leaves for about thirty rupees in the market (less than one dollar), sustainably helping out their livelihoods. 

            When I asked what other problems they are facing, the president of the committee responded with how they need more food.  They can only produce enough food for six months and depend heavily on rainfall.  The village members asked the program coordinator of NESEPEC, Ram Chaudray if NESPEC could setup an irrigation system to water their gardens for an extended time to help during drought seasons.  NESPEC does not have the capability for such a system but they will make the effort to ask local officials what can be done. I couldn’t help think to myself why can’t more be done to help their food production?  A whole village would be fed, not a single person, many lives would be benefited.  Feed a village should be the catchphrase, not just one child or even one hungry family.

Posted By Morgan St. Clair

Posted Aug 6th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Jaime

    August 11, 2009

     

    Hey morgan!
    sounds like you are having quite the experience in Nepal. Keep up the good work and the open mind and heart.
    Lots of love,
    Jaime

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