Mark Koenig

Mark Koenig (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Mark was born in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from the International School of Bern in Switzerland in 2000, he spent one year at Davidson College in North Carolina and then moved on to Johns Hopkins University where he received a bachelor's degree with honors in Political Science in 2004. While studying at Johns Hopkins, Mark completed internships with genomics researcher Craig Venter, US House Representative Chris Van Hollen, and in London with Lady Sylvia Hermon, a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland. After graduation, Mark moved to Shenzhen, China where he lived for two years teaching English at Shenzhen Senior High School. At the time of his fellowship, Mark was studying at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston focusing on post-conflict reconstruction, law and development. After his fellowship, Mark wrote: “I think that perhaps it is my interest in and understanding of community level dynamics and activities that has developed the most while here. The significance of community level interactions and relationships as it pertains to the events that take place on a national level is an intriguing topic that this summer has given me new insight into.”

Jaya Ram Chaudhary

28 Aug

We met Jaya Ram Chaudhary on the main road through Mayurbasti Village in Bardiya District. Krishna and I had just finished lunch and were taking a walk, Jaya Ram was just returning from a morning of debt collection.

Jaya Ram Chaudhary is the leader of a farming collective that has more than 500 members and hands out loans of up to $1,000, which for a farmer in Nepal is a lot of money. We had been meaning to meet with Jaya Ram later in the day, but when we happened to meet he invited us back to his house and we happily went along with him.

While the collective offers so much hope and possibility to its farmers, the reality is more than half of those that take loans can never pay them back. In Jaya Ram Chaudhary’s opinion most of those who default on their loans really want and intend to pay the loans back but just cannot. He bases that opinion on the hours he spends on his bike visiting those who had taken loans and learning first hand about their situations.

While we were talking one of Jaya Ram’s daughters came in to join us. She gave me the intense stare that most two year olds fix on people who look as different as I do. While I tried to meet her stare, I found myself distracted by another face that appeared just outside the window behind her. To my surprise, the two faces appraising my pale skin and blue eyes were impossible to tell apart.

During a lull in the conversation I asked Jaya Ram about his daughters, and as it turned out I had not been mistaken and his daughters were identical twins. With a bright smile as he pulled his daughter onto his lap, Jaya Ram explained “I wanted two children, but God decided I should have three.” Luckily for Jaya Ram he knew exactly where to get a loan to help deal with the extra costs of having twins. While the collective system is not perfect and incurring debt is not the best plan for anyone (note to myself…I should heed my own advice) the loans given by the collectives across Nepal offer a way out of the complicated situations that life throws our way as well as some help for farmers and their families to buy the supplies they need to improve their situations.

Posted By Mark Koenig

Posted Aug 28th, 2007


  • Kristina

    August 28, 2007


    Mark, I love these portraits that you have put together! The way you write and the pictures you add really help make the lives of these people feel real to us over here on the other side of the world.

  • mark

    August 29, 2007


    thank you so much for your comment. I think that the people I have met will stick with me longest from my time here in Nepal. I was honored to listen to them tell me about their lives so honestly and it is my honor to share their stories with everyone who cares to read about them. so i am truly glad you are enjoying the series. i have another 8 or so people to introduce to you all.

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