Two representatives of a donor agency had visited the NGO, Namsaling Community Development Center (NCDC, Ilam) as part of their evaluation. I travelled with the team and also served as a translator between the communities and the members of the donor agency. After the questions were answered, a few men in the community posed a question that was similar in essence to this: How can we speak English like you so that we can talk to you without the need of a translator?
It has been a little over a decade since that question was posed. I secured an assistantship to pursue my Master’s degree in the U.S., then continued on to earn a Ph.D., and then in a search to earn a living. That question however has lingered around. I have interpreted that question in many ways but I was not satisfied, until very recently:
Every one of us, no matter where we come from and no matter where are stand, we want the liberty to steer our life on our own terms. We don’t want support to be handed to us; we want to be part of the solution. In fact, we want to be the ones asking for help, not told what needs to improve and how it needs to improve.
It is perhaps for this very reason that Dr. Mahabir Pun works with the communities and comes up with innovative solutions to those problems. And it is perhaps for the same reason that he has left the undertakings of the National Innovation Center open for discussion.
Dr. Pun has garnered enough recognition for his works that raising the money that he has set out to from the government and now the public, would have been an easier task had he submitted a proposal to donor agencies. However, in every interview I have watched of him, he talks about the need for a movement; he is looking for the ownership from the Nepali government and mostly from Nepali people.
It has been difficult to see Dr. Pun visiting very school and very city he can get to in order to garner support. There’s one simple reason for this unease: we are wasting a genuine opportunity to jump-start change, to play an important part in the development of Nepal.
We are wasting the effort that this visionary could be spending in starting the innovation center and benefiting the people.
Technological advances have connected people all over the world and Nepali no matter where they live are itching to make a meaningful contribution to shape Nepal. Once, we get this movement going, help in any form will not be impossible. In fact, it is the perfect opportunity for the youth to come together and start gaining the kind of experience that was not possible for even a generation before them. This could be the perfect opportunity for them to jump-start their career, never ever having to be a part of the debate of the chicken or the egg (experience first of a job first).
When I heard of the concept of the Innovation Center, I remembered the farmer in Ilam who was known for utilizing every ounce of his farm, even the seemingly infertile terrace walls. I wonder what providing him a platform to train other farmers could have done in terms of increasing productivity. I also remember of this old medicine man. When we had held a non-timber food exhibition, he had brought over one hundred local medicinal plants to the exhibition. I also remember a mother proudly showing off the amazing bamboo crafts of his son. These stories had somehow been buried in the back of my mind all these years. What if?
For now, Dr. Pun’s vision seems so far-fetched. It is! Because we still see this dream as “Mahabir Pun’s Dream.” Once each of us starts adding our own dreams to it and our own ideas to the mix, it will soon be ours.
This is the most comprehensive interview I have watched of understanding Dr. Pun’s vision and perhaps you have too.
If we all contribute, not only with cash but with our ideas, if we all put our minds together, we probably can start realizing the benefits of the innovation center much sooner. It is time that we gather our resources and stand up for ourselves. It is time to create ripples.
It does not matter who was at fault yesterday, it does not matter who stopped things from moving forward last year; all it matters is how we can take steps forward together starting today.
I may sound naïve but shouldn’t we actively participate to give our hope and dreams for Nepal and for a prosperous Nepal a chance, our fighting chance?
And, I also urge you to join the Learning Community-Nepal Facebook Page to start a constructive conversation. This group is meant for us to come together and brainstorm and come up with ways to take this movement forward, to create ripples of change. We are all busy living our lives and confronting our own struggles; it has been my experience that when we set just a few moments to try and do something for the greater good, more comes our own way.
Let’s start a movement for innovation, shall we?