Global Service Scholar: Isabelle Lee
Looking back at my time in Nepal, it’s quite difficult to sum up in words and fully do justice in being able to describe my experience and the key takeaways this experience has provided me. But, what I can say is that Nepal is a country filled with inspiring people like the women at Her Farm, who aim to change the patriarchal perspective currently held in Nepal, and it is vibrant through its traditions and festivals held every month. From having the privilege to interact with and work alongside such hardworking, passionate women at Her Farm to learning how to cook Nepalese food to exploring the national parks of Nepal, each and every moment I spent at Her Farm, as well as Nepal, changed who I was and my perception of the world.
However, if I could choose just one of the many takeaways I brought back home, the most impactful one would be recognizing just how valued making connections and building relationships are to the Nepalese people. In Nepali culture, I learned that these connections are everything as those in your social circle are the people you go for anything and everything — they are the businesses you shop at, the ones who come to support your businesses, and they are the ones you call when you’re in need for help. At the same time, these people become some of your closest friends as you spend the most time with them. For the Nepalese people, these connections can truly last a lifetime.
Connections were what started Her Farm, which aims to serve as a safe haven for women who come from abusive households, struggle with a mental illness or poverty. Most, if not all, of these women were able to live at Her Farm because they or someone in their family knew Sunitha, the leader of Her Farm, and because of this connection, they were able to come and live in a safe, supportive environment. Throughout our time at Her Farm, I was able to see within the farm and the surrounding area how valuable building relationships and a sense of community were to help not only those at Her Farm thrive, but their neighbors as well. I always remembered seeing how neighbors and their families would come together to help the women at Her Farm pull weeds, dig up holes, plant millet, and other tasks that required a lot of physical effort. Tasks that would often have taken days without the neighbors’ help turned into tasks done in a few hours because everyone played a role to ensure the success of the farm. In turn, the women at Her Farm and us volunteers also helped them the following day to plant millet on their land. We even learned that the fresh cow milk they milked daily and our donations would also support the neighbors. Living in this community meant that helping others succeed also meant helping yourself succeed as neighbors supported one another and shared their items with one another.
Seeing the kindness and collective spirit found in this community warmed my heart as instead of viewing those in this area as competitors, they came together and supported each other in both the good times and the bad. The warmth and giving spirit found at Her Farm also transcended from their neighbors onto us — complete strangers we had never even met. From the moment we first met Sunitha, I recall her stating something along the lines of “even though I may not be your actual mom, I can be your mom here in Nepal.”
The women at Her Farm even went to the lengths of cooking us American-styled breakfasts in order to better accommodate our needs and always asked how we were doing. To let strangers not only into their house, but also share their daily lives and personal stories with us was something that touched my heart forever. One of the last things Sunitha said to us before we left was “remember that no matter what, you have a second family here. Even if it’s years from now, you are always welcome here.” In that moment, I knew her words were genuinely true and that I had a home to go to in Nepal forever. Just like how Sunitha and the women at Her Farm showed endless support and love to my cohort and me, I hope that I, too, can continue to support and make a lasting, positive impact to those I meet in my life.
Namaste, Nepal — Dhan’yayāda (thank you) for allowing me to have a second community I can always go to in your beautiful country.