Working with Community Development Network (CDN)

During the summer of 2016 I had 4 goals set for myself to accomplish before flying back to Nepal to continue my work there. I had reach all of my goals but one. I wanted to start a non-profit status in the U.S. but was finding it challenging. What started as a project in Nepal to build a computer lab and  later developed into so much more, was starting to show the challenges most face when wanting to help others.

Computer Lab in Arnakot

One of the struggles we have faced with the computer lab in Arnakot is getting a proper curriculum for the children to follow in order to get the best use out of the technology. The Teach there has been excellent at helping the children learn the basics of computer use, such as turning on, logging in, using a mouse, drag and drop, opening programs, and onto Microsoft Word and into typing techniques. Some of the children have even taken on their own initiative to learn how to use the games on the computers (not unlike our own children).  As I watched the children go off on their own and explore the computers more, opening games, playing music, watching videos, etc I can’t help but want to develop a curriculum that helps them develop these skills into a means of developing a future career. Just as American children are honing development skills by modifying games or engineering skills through building robots in their robotics clubs there shouldn’t be any reason why the children of Nepal that have the same potential have the opportunity to develop those skills as well.

I reached out to my former High School friend Josh Burker who is an Education Technologist at the School at Columbia University. Josh spent a good several hours talking with me about ideas for the students in Arnakot and the future students of the new lab being built in the Gorkha region that was hit by the earthquake in 2015. He asked me if I was involved with the organization providing computers to the people in Nepal that has been working for several years. I replied “no” and asked him more about the program. He mentioned Jeff and the work CDN had been doing. He recommended that the two of us get in touch and talk about our various projects.

Jeff is a Professor in the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program at Brandman University, and holds a doctorate in Educational Technology. Jeff has been working in Nepal since 2004 volunteering and researching mainly in the Kathmandu area and the focusing on the town of Sankhu. He started the Community Development Network as a charity (NGO) in the UK in 2000 and as a non-profit 501(c)3 in the United States in 2003.  In addition to Jeff’s research in Nepal, he and his team have provided school supplies to children as well as much needed assistance throughout the years, and implemented a computer lab in the town of Sankhu.

In June of this year (2016) Jeff reached out to me in email. We exchanged a few emails back and forth and set up a time to chat on the phone. When we spoke Jeff and I realized we faced the same struggles, only the town of Sankhu faced an even larger struggle as the elders of the town did not like the youth managing the computer lab. He spoke of a woman by the name of Ramita who spearheaded most of the work in Sankhu and faced quite a lot of scrutiny from her fellow townspeople. He also mentioned a conference where the youth managing computer labs in the region all get together and share their knowledge as well as learn more on how to make the best use of the labs and the technology they have. We both agreed it might be a great resource for the teacher in Arnakot and the people involved with the computer lab there to take part in.

Since Kara Moyes is the one in charge of both of the computer lab projects, I asked Jeff to spend some time and chat with her about the work they have been doing (just as he did with me). So, I put the two in touch and they spoke as well. Jeff also had some time in Seattle while he was working with one of his Ph.D. research students to stop by and meet Kara and I for lunch. With all of the conversations a great collaboration was sparking that could benefit the people of Nepal even more. Jeff and I had time to chat more about the work I am doing outside of the Karma Flights and Orphans to Ambassadors projects and I asked him questions about setting up a non profit in the U.S. He talked about CDN, what they do and how maybe I could work with them to initiate my projects rather than having to set up my own non-profit.

Enter Community Development Network (CDN)

Jeff emailed me a few days after our conversation in Seattle. He was talking things over with the board of CDN and said he would get back with me. He asked me to send him answers to a few questions on my projects including:

  1. The scope of your work – what the funds will go towards?
  2. Length of the project.
  3. Approximately how much money?
  4. Who will the funds get distributed to?

I had all of what I want to do in my head and tried talking to people when they ask why I go to Nepal and what I do there, but I hadn’t had to officially write up exactly everything with projects and goals. So this was my moment to get my head together and real nail down all of those thoughts into an organized fashion.

Since the calendar year was halfway completed and some of the work I wanted to do was already done, I had to look at it as a “Here’s what we have planned, here’s where we are at, and here’s where we need to go still.” I also had some of the money covered through some donations from friends and out of my own pocket, but still need to raise quite a bit to finish out the year with a solid plan completed.

What I ended up with was:

1) The scope of your work – what the funds will go towards?

There are three aspects to what we do:

1) Providing basic needs to individuals through sustainable means in the form of school supplies, uniforms, and various items needed for individuals and families to spark their productivity in providing their own source of income.

2) A Scholarship fund for Students that perform well in school and who have a solid career path in place.

3) Aid in building homes for those in need who show career ambition and have proven to make a positive impact on their community.

4) Partnering with other non-profits to provide sustainable resources through large projects including: Computer Labs, Libraries, food programs, educational programs to improve daily living of the community.

2) Length of the project.

This is all ongoing.

1) The supplies are small one-offs with school supplies revisited in 3, 6 or 12 months if needed (though is set up in a way that the community does not become reliant on receiving the items).

2) Scholarships are revisited each term with review of the student’s performance and counseling on the path they have chosen to ensure it is still a good fit.

3) The homes lasts as long as the home itself is being built, and then onto the next family that is in need.

4) However long the individual project lasts.

3) Approximately how much money?

Depending on the initiative:

1) School supplies are perfect for those that donate $10-$50 from a Facebook post, Blog read, or other request.

2) Scholarships run $250 – $400 depending on the school and any supplies the student qualifies for.

3) The home can run roughly $10,000 – $20,000. The current one I am working on I am providing the family $3,000 to get started and will evaluate whether they need/have earned more after we get the foundation and walls up.

4) The partnering organization should be providing the majority of the funds and we provide the connects and do the ground work in Nepal needed to make it happen.

4) Who will the funds get distributed to?

1) Nisha and I purchase the items and distribute them to the school children.

2) Nisha or I go with the student to pay the school directly and will purchase any supplies needed.

3) Nisha or I purchase the materials needed to build the home, and pay any additional workers needed (most of the work is to be done by the family receiving the home and volunteers).

4) So far we mostly work with Orphans to Ambassadors and KarmaFlights.org (who works their funding through Cloudbase). Prem or Renuka make any purchases needed for supplies and payments to workers.

Niisha has been good about documenting everything while I am in the states. I put all of the photos she sends me in a Google Drive Folder.

The student is required to write a letter explaining why they want to attend the University and what they plan to do with their education. Nisha takes a photo of the student, and she photographs all of the receipts.

When I get there in September I am going to work on Niisha entering the accounting items into Excel. I left her a Chromebook Computer when I was there last, so she will use that for keeping track of the documentation.

Right now she has an ATM card to the checking account for my consulting company. I am going to set up a bank account for the non-profit either through the Tika Nepal business (the exporting biz I set up for selling Nepal items on Etsy and the website to raise money) or set up an account just for the non-profit itself before I leave. Then I’ll leave her an ATM card for that. We will both be setting up a non-profit status in Nepal and potentially a bank account for that as well as one for the exporting business there. With me being there 5 months out of the year, she only needs to manage things there for the other 7 months.

There are many rules and requirements around each one of our initiatives that are a bit more detailed, but for now I hope that gives you enough of an idea of what we are working on.

The overall objective is to make as much of an impact on the economy and the people of Nepal in a way that they can still support themselves and continue to impact their country in a positive way. By providing school supplies to the children they then have a better chance of doing well in school, as we watch them grow and succeed we then provide them with an extended education to go onto making an impact on their lives and others around them. The homes we build are for those that continue to aid in bettering their community and the individuals around them, by taking the burden off of them to provide for their family they are expected to give back by volunteering with us or other organizations. The materials purchased will support the economy of the country, and the workers we pay will also impact them positively and the community they are in. The computer labs and other large projects we partner with other organizations on also work towards the larger goal in providing the resources the people benefit from in order to impact their community.

A few days had gone by since I sent Jeff the list of projects and I was getting anxious. I asked a few more people ot serve on the board for a non-profit that I could set up myself and one agreed, I also started in on my business plan for the organization just in case.

On August 26, 2016 Jeff sent me an email asking to talk on the phone. During our call he told me that I was approved to work with CDN to work on my projects. I was ecstatic!

I wanted to shout it across the rooftops. The ability to work under a non-profit that I didn’t have to go through setting up myself was the best gift anyone could give me. Jeff introduced me to Tiffany Ivins who is the Director of CDN. Tiffany managed to get me set up with the CDN bank account and asked for a more comprehensive list of our projects with the description so this was my chance to really nail down what it is that I have planned for the year.

  1. Igniting Self Reliance – Providing the tools the people of Nepal need that encourages them to work towards a better way of life.
    The Government of Nepal offers students that are performing well in school the tools to continue to do their work. The students that do not meet their standards do not receive the tools they need. This making it difficult for students to do well when they do not have the tools to be able to do the work.
    This last May of 2016, 12 school children attending the Shree Shivalaya Primary School received the necessary school supplies they needed to complete their school work, as well as ribbons provided for the girls to complete their uniforms, and games and soccer balls were provided to the school. This October 2016 we will be providing all students of 3 public schools in Nepal with notebooks, pencils and the additional items they need to be successful in school. We will be following-up with the students of the Shree Shivalaya Primary School we provided supplies for in May of 2016.
    Blog post about the School: http://misadventures.wpengine.com/nepal/a-school-in-nepal/
    Total For Project: $300
    Total Raised so far: $150 ( I am personally going to put in the remainder if no one donates – but people like to give to this one since a little goes so far)
  2. Recurrent Assessed Scholarship Program – Providing the tools needed for well performing students to attend a higher level of education for one year and assessed for continual support based upon performance as well as personal goals.
    Students from our Igniting Self Reliance Program, as well as those outside of the program, that perform well in school and who’s families qualify as lower income receive one year of all expenses covered to the approved school of their choice.
    This August 2016 one student received the first scholarship to attend a University in Pokhara, Nepal. We plan to provide 3 more students with full scholarships to attend a University and/or Private School Education.
    Blog Post about Srijana: http://misadventures.wpengine.com/education/a-scholarship-program-in-nepal/
    Total For Project: $1,200
    Total Raised so far: $500
  3. Building Homes in Nepal – The people of Nepal struggle with providing themselves with proper shelter. From the devastating Earthquake in April of 2015, the Fuel Crisis shortly following, and tourist activity at an all-time low the economy has taken a severe hit yet there are many individuals that are continuing to provide aid to their fellow Nepali citizens despite not having much themselves to give. We provide homes to those that have worked hard to support their country and it’s people who do not have much to support themselves. People that have been effected by the economy and some still affected by the earthquake by providing them with the tools to build themselves comfortable homes for their families.
    In August of 2016 we began work on our first home to a very well deserving family that have no home, but have been providing aid to the people of Nepal.
    Blog Post about Home:  http://misadventures.wpengine.com/nepal/my-friend-niisha/
    Total For Project: $10,000
    Total Raised so far: $4,000

Now that I had narrowed the focus for the projects, and had everything defined with goals, I am able to articulate to people when they ask what I am doing in Nepal. I added the list to the blog here with the donation link that Tiffany gave me for CDN.

It feels really good to be a legitimate organization now with organized projects and goals. Next stop – Nepal!