[Bhaktapur, Nepal] The Worlds Touch work in Nepal is significantly different from that in Darjeeling, India. In Darjeeling, I was a volunteer with Hayden Hall for four months in 2006 while on a Rotary Club scholarship to learn Nepali. I had been approved to go to Nepal itself, but then the Maoists were waging war against the government here, so the Rotary Foundation balked at sending me there. Then I learned that the Darjeelingites (?!) are a Nepali-speaking people, so I shot off several emails and finally met with success.
The last time I was in Darjeeling, in 2008, the political situation there was unstable. We managed to participate in one health camp, paid for by a generous doctor friend of mine, and then the town shut down tighter than Davy Jones' Locker. Jean-Francois freaked out at being unable to get outa Daj. My contacts at Hayden Hall said the personnel situation there made it impossible to consider any sort of volunteer work there.
So this time, it was in effect, a totally new world in Darjeeling. My Rotarian friends were all busy-busy-busy shooting a movie and other personal stuff. The guy who was supposed to be organizing a video production workshop didn't get his act together at all. Hayden Hall, on the other hand, has a new director who was thrilled when I showed up because he's been wanting to do this book and there came me to write and supervise three college students to get it done. Father Kennedy didn't tap into my tech consulting capacity until the end of my trip there, but then we did manage to look into the self-hosted version of WordPress. He taught computer science before he became director of a huge social service org, so he could figure out how to set up a local host so he could really play with WordPress.
He was also interested in Tactical Tech's NGO-in-a-Box stuff. I arranged for him to receive one of their free CD packets, but when it came, it was all Linux OS focused (he's running Windows) and still required downloading from the internet. I had thought one reason they provided the CD "in a box" was to facilitate software acquisition by folks with incredibly slow internet connections. We're working on this one.
Is Hayden Hall a client yet? I'd say a qualified yes. Father Kennedy may very well start taking advantage of my talents on subsequent visits. Here in Bhaktapur, though, I've been working with Surya and Ramesh at Community-Based Rehab and its Resource Center for nearly six years. My first encounter, we played with an access database and Surya's dream of having a database that could be disseminated throughout the disability community of orgs so that data gathering about the disabled in Nepal could start taking place.
That database-- after one false start with a local programmer-- is starting to become a reality, "thanks to your encouragement," Surya and Ramesh told me my first day here. On my last visit, in 2008, I built two websites for the two organizations housed here together. The first, CBR-Bhaktapur, provides direct service to disabled people and trains teachers, social workers and others to include the disabled in fully integrated classrooms and social situations. The second, RCRD (Resource Center for Rehabilitation and Development-- sheesh, I would change that name in a heartbeat if I had any control over the branding of this outfit) is a library and training center, aspiring to become the nation's data collection center on disability issues.
We've put together an ambitious program for my monthlong visit. I'll share that information in another post. I'm challenged with questions I have to research, I'm gratified to find people who like what I can do and want my contribution (as I found in Daj with Father Kennedy as well!), and I'm with good friends in a fascinating culture. Win-win-win-win.