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.”

Suresh Kewat

03 Sep

When I met Suresh Kewat, he was clearly not nearly as excited to see me as the circle of children that quickly formed. While the children were anticipating posing for pictures and having some fun, Suresh on the other hand knew I was coming to take an interview, a process which he has repeated many times for those coming from universities, NGOs, INGOs and the government.

Suresh and the rest of the Kewat Dalits are grass-cutters by trade. Their traditional work is to cut grass both to keep lawns looking neat as well as to produce food for horses and donkeys. Everyday Suresh walks several hours to a place outside the city where high quality grass can be found. He cuts the grass and carries it back to the city where he uses butcher knife to chop the grass into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are then sold to the owners of horses, goats, cows and donkeys. On some days Kewat grass cutters are paid by local house or business owners to cut the grass from their lawns and gardens.

With this job being so unique and difficult to earn a living from, Suresh and the Kewat grass-cutters have often found themselves being the subject of interviews from various organizations. NGOs, INGOs, media and researchers have all come to speak with the Kewat of Nepalgunj. All these diverse groups of interviewers have one thing in common from Suresh’s perspective; they never come back to actually help.

Suresh was not the first worker I heard this story from. It seems every community has been visited by NGOs and scholars for data collection and research, but very few have actually received any help either from NGOs or the government. With each interview they feel hope, and when no help ends up coming they feel more and more like they are alone and like no one actually cares to help them.

I unfortunately could do nothing to dispel this idea as I could not offer them any tangible relief. My goal is to do advocacy regarding their problems and while this is important, it does not put food on their tables and provide medicine when they are sick. Speaking with Suresh, listening to everything he had to tell me, I cannot express how much I longed to be the one who came back to help his family. Meeting these communities and people like Suresh Kewat has made me more motivated to return to Nepal someday to help in whatever way I can. Unfortunately that time is not now, and all I had to offer Suresh was the promise that I would do my best to make everyone I could aware of the difficulties he and his families have to face.

Posted By Mark Koenig

Posted Sep 3rd, 2007

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