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Volunteer Experience: Carlijn at the Women Center

My name is Carlijn and I have been in Nepal 😉 For all people who are interested in my travel experiences, have fun reading this travel journal after the most wonderful trip in Nepal! I am really thankful for everyone I met during my trip and especially for the women in the Women Center. Last year I was five weeks in Nepal. I returned this year because I am so in love with the beautiful country and the lovely people!

Teaching English and Math at the Women Center

This year I started teaching English and Math in the Women Center in Pepsicola, a district in the capital city Kathmandu. In Nepal there are many girls who come from the rural areas and marry very young to a man in the big city Kathmandu. Those girls never had education before, which makes their life’s in the city very difficult for them. A few years ago the Nepalese association Volunteer Society Nepal started the Women Center to help those girls. The women learn for the first time in their life how to read, how to write and how to count! I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to teach to these wonderful women, with all their own life stories. They all have the courage to learn so many new things! On the other hand they taught me a lot about patience in life and how to go with the flow!

The Women Center: more than just learning

Even though it is amazing that the women get for the first in their life’s the opportunity for education. The Women Center means more for them, because it brings the women out their isolated lives inside their houses. The Women Center is a place to share thoughts together and make fun! After three years of education the women complete the program at the center. They speak English, can read Nepali and English and they have improved their Math skills. Even though they are well educated after these years nothing in their lives will change structurally. The women will return to their home and continue again to be solely a housewife just doing all day cooking and cleaning…

Micro Credit Project for Women

That is the reason why I started up a micro credit project. My plan was to teach the women how to start up their own small business. I prepared specific teaching material for business classes together with the Dutch micro credit organization Day For Change. Furthermore I have been in contact with the Dutch foundation Nepal Sambandha. This foundation helped over the last twenty years people in Nepal with many different projects for education and health care. They don’t do anything with microcredits but they gave me a lot of good advice how to start up a self-independence project and how to deal with some differences between the Nepali culture and the Western culture. I am really thankful for the support of all the people in these two associations, who helped me to realize this project!

When I came to the Women Center all the women were really happy to learn about these business classes. Sometimes it was difficult to teach, because of the language gap. In the Women Center there are two classes, a beginners and an advanced class. We decided that it was a good experiences for the women in both classes to join the business class, so I was teaching to 45 women in one classroom. I am very happy that the women of both classes got the opportunity to be able to join the program.

Empower Women

The aim of the program was to empower the participants to be able to start their own little business using a micro credit. Important topics in the teaching program consisted of teamwork, marketing, finance and budget planning. The first days we focused on sharing the first basic knowledge about a business. Subsequently we organized brainstorm sessions for starting their business and the women generated the most funny and great ideas! It turned out that we could realize a better result if all the 45 women participated all together in one business. We decided to host an open market in the Women Center.

Idea to do an Open Market at the Women Center

We worked out the plan of the open market in the marketing lessons. We discussed our customer group to focus on, the location to host this market, the price to sell the products and how people would get to know about the market. Also we made some big posters to announce our market. Both physically we advertised the posters and distributed the posters digitally on social media. During Math we did finance lessons. I made fake Nepali Rupees to practice how to use change by customers who are paying with notes. In addition we practiced to make up the profit and loss account.

At the time I was teaching the women, it was the month of the women. The women celebrate the festival Teej. During this festival they wear beautiful green dresses, green bangles, green nail polish and henna. So we combined the celebration of this festival with our first business: the open market. In that way our initiative exhibited several aspects of the Nepali culture visiting foreigners, in particular volunteers and regular tourists.

The business activities consisted of selling several services and products. For example they sold their own homemade jewelry. The women who didn’t sell jewelry, were busy with applying green nail polish or henna to the visiting customers. In addition there was a well appreciated workshop given by one of the women how to make bracelets.

How did the Open Market Day go?

The open market was a big success! All the women really enjoyed doing it and also for the tourists this was a great way to learn more about the Nepali culture! After the practical experience with the market, the women came with more and more ideas about what they could sell during a next market. For example some women who are really talented in cooking, they will sell the tasty Nepali food next time! The Nepali teacher Sonam and I made the plan that every time when there will be a festival (and in Nepal there are a lot!) the women will host a market and share the festival with the other people!! In fact soon after I left, they already organized the next market which was even a bigger success!

About Carlijn her Experience

I am super proud of the women that we accept the challenge and that we made it a success together. And I am even more proud that they will continue to organize the markets as a sustainable self-independent project!!

When they will finish the education program in the Women Center, they will come back every festival to join the market and share the festival together! So the Women Center will be forever a meeting place! And maybe ones some of them will really start their own business after the practical experiences they have had in the open markets! I am so glad I have been able to contribute to release a little bit of their social isolation and add to their self-esteem.

I have no words to thank everyone for this unforgettable experience!!!! Dherai dherai danyabad! See you next time! Namaste Carlijn