A love affair with Nepal and a lifelong commitment to children in need
Interview conducted by Drew Sanborn, Reporter editor
What is your work in Nepal?
I am the country director for the Himalayan Country Office of Save the Children U.S., which operates programs throughout Nepal and Bhutan. We have a staff of about 170 people, nearly all of whom are Nepali or Bhutanese. Save the Children operates a wide range of programs in both countries, aimed at making a positive, lasting difference in the lives of children in need. Our programs are in four main areas: child protection, health programs, education, and economic support and food security. We aim to help children in all times, including times of crisis, by providing emergency support, like food and medicine, after disasters, both natural or man-made. And we aim to promote peace and reconciliation, which is especially important in Nepal.
In my day-to-day work, I do all sorts of things, from managing human resources and finances to developing new program ideas, as well as writing proposals and networking with other organizations—local, governmental, and international—to coordinate our programs and work together. The best part of my job is doing field visits, where I get to see our programs in action. There is nothing like seeing a family with a newborn baby that is healthy, thanks to our program, or a child from a very poor and marginalized community thriving in school, or a teenager who used to fight in gun battles working as an electrician and supporting other kids like him as they reintegrate peacefully into society.
What drew you to Nepal in the first place?
When I was a teenager in New Jersey, I answered an ad by Save the Children to sponsor a child, and by chance, was assigned a little girl in Nepal. I babysat and did catering on weekends and used the money to pay for that child’s sponsorship, and then, naturally, I became interested in Nepal. That interest grew when I was at Trinity. I majored in religion and was especially interested in Hinduism and Buddhism—the two main religions here. The more I learned, the more interested I became. When I was a sophomore, I heard about a program called the Trinity Action Project Fellowship (TAP) that allowed students to get a full semester’s worth of credit by doing an independent project focused on international development or humanitarian work. I saw that as my opportunity to get to Nepal. I spent six months, June to December of my junior year, volunteering with Save the Children and focusing on women’s development and adult literacy programs. That trip began my love affair with Nepal, and I have spent probably half of my adult life in this country!