Nicole Farkouh

Nicole Farkouh (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Nicole graduated from Smith College with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. She also has a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans. Nicole’s professional background is in education. She has worked as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, mainly with middle school students with special needs. She is also a certified community mediator and has studied a complementary model of mediation based on Non-Violent Communication. She has studied abroad in India, lived and taught in Mexico. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master of Public Policy degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After her fellowship, Nicole wrote: "More than anything, this summer I received a new level of understanding /appreciation for the complexity involved in “development” and “human rights” work…. Particularly being a foreign body trying to work in a new culture."


15 Aug

I have been blessed with an adopted mother in Nepal (which everyone at NESPEC loves to tease me about). She has been responsible for helping me learn everything from to how to take a bath at the water pump while fully covered and in public view, to some horribly accented and broken Nepali. Our current project involves me trying to learn to cook Nepali-style.

Twenty-three year old Parmila is from a village in Udayapur District a few hours away from Gaighat. She attended the local government schools there through the equivalent of high school completion, and is now waiting for the results of the national exit exam she recently took before enrolling in a bachelor degree program. In the meantime she is the chairperson of the active volunteer committee at NESPEC.

She rents a room in the same house I live with 2 other friends (Susma and Karuna) in preparation to attend the local college. The room the 3 of them share is smaller than mine, has only a single bed, and contains not only all of their clothes and school things, but also all of their food and cooking apparatus – including a gas tank and burner!

Parmila had a love marriage at 19 against the wishes of both families when she and her male best friend (from another caste) professed their love to each other and eloped. Subsequently her family (mother, father, and 3 brothers) has accepted their marriage. Unfortunately, her husband’s family has not. This causes particular challenges as typically in Nepali society upon marriage a bride “leaves” her family and joins her husband’s family, with her birth family having no future responsibility for her.

Additionally, Parmila has an absolutely edible 4 year old daughter, Rachana. Rachanna sometimes stays with us in Gaighat but mostly stays with her maternal grandparents in Harriya and attends the local school. Luckily Parmila’s family has decided not to follow the traditional custom and is very close with both Parmila and her daughter. The financial and emotional support they provide is particularly important given the challenges she and her husband are facing.

Parmila’s husband, like many other Nepalese men lacking job prospects, outsourced himself through a broker as unskilled labor to the Middle East. He has been in Dubai for the last 3 years trying to save enough money from his low wages to send home. On top of not seeing and barely communicating with his wife and daughter for 3 years, he is having much less success than hoped as a result of a fraudulent broker, and the family finds themselves in a very difficult financial situation.

My friendship with Parmila has been one of the greatest blessings I’ve experienced during my stay her and I am honored to introduce her to you now.

Posted By Nicole Farkouh

Posted Aug 15th, 2014

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