2020 PFIG Recipient Aayushma Bastola
JOURNAL ENTRY #1
This summer, I am interning remotely with Hoste Hainse, an organization that provides education to children living in remote parts of Nepal. I have been working on and off with Hoste Hainse, both field-based and remotely, since I travelled to Nepal in the summer of 2017. Over the years, I have grown increasingly attached to the mission of sustainable development through education. Hoste Hainse’s scope of projects ranges from educational programs to economic development to environmental preservation to public health and more. The possibilities for this summer are endless.
To start off, we had our first video conference call to debrief me on everything that has changed for Hoste Hainse over the past year and more recently relating to the Coronavirus situation. With Nepal in lockdown, we have been debating whether we can risk opening the schools up again. We have to consider the logistics of enforcing social distancing and educating the students on the very real risks, especially because these villages do not have the medical support to handle a COVID-19 outbreak. It is encouraging to see that I am already being involved in important discussions like this. After my 3 years of experience with Hoste Hainse, I was hoping that this committed internship would allow me to take my involvement to the next level.
With Hoste Hainse being a small and flexible organization, they are more than happy to let a passionate volunteer take initiative. Therefore, I have already started on a few projects, including crafting proposals to build a solar-powered computer lab and partnering with Books of Joy to design an interactive, kid-friendly library for our schools. Every morning after breakfast, I join a video call with Rashmi (Executive Program Manager), who has just finished her dinner. We work together for a few hours until it’s my lunchtime and her bedtime. Working across time zones has never been easier. Now that the whole world has been forced into full online collaboration, the usual feelings of frustration and isolation that accompany being the only active remote volunteer for the organization have finally faded. The pandemic disrupted so many promising internships for so many deserving students, but it appears that the effects of the pandemic may have strangely made my internship more accessible. Nothing about this summer has been normal, but I’m extremely grateful for how it has worked out for me so far, and I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way.
JOURNAL ENTRY #2
Things are going better than I had imagined. So far, just by working on grant applications and proposals, I’ve had to draw on every skill I’ve ever developed over my 19 years of life. I have to be quick-thinking, detail-oriented, and thorough as I evaluate the financial and social risks and benefits of every project. I have to conduct research, consider finances, and figure out marketing strategies, while also being an effective communicator and charming networker. I have to possess general in-depth knowledge on every topic, which ranges from buffalo milk delivery to telescopes to library planning to computer labs to bathrooms and running water. Still, all this comes so much more naturally to me now than it did 3 years ago. That’s some professional development!
I’ve also been stepping into my US Volunteer Coordinator role as I onboard new volunteers and coordinate with donors in America. Whenever I get the chance to share my love for Hoste Hainse with someone else, I do it. And by adding new members to the team, I have friends to share these overwhelming moments of victory with, as well as the overwhelming frustrations. I have coworkers that I can depend on daily to help me progress with the challenging tasks that I previously did not have the time or resources to handle on my own. Right now, we are juggling a few tasks, including revamping the website, working with Books of Joy, writing CSR appeals to corporations, and more. My favorite task right now is our initiative to create a foundational roadmap for Hoste Hainse. If a donor comes along offering a large sum of money, we need to be able to express clearly not only what our immediate steps are, but also where we see ourselves 5-10 years down the road. In creating this roadmap, Hoste Hainse has to take a moment to evaluate how far we have come, what path we want to continue on going forward, what we are willing to prioritize, and what our role is going to be in the Sarlahi community further down the road. There are a lot of big questions to consider. I’m excited to be a part of something that will define our organization.
JOURNAL ENTRY #3
With the chance to dedicate my summer entirely to Hoste Hainse, and the opportunity to assemble and lead my own team, I’ve accomplished so much. For example, I just found out this week that my grant application for building solar-powered computer labs in our schools made it past the first round of evaluation! I poured so much time and energy into that application, and to watch my baby grant grow up, moving on to stage 2... it’s just so fulfilling.
Additionally, my team of dedicated, talented girls took so many projects of mine into their own hands and just ran with it. We’ve spearheaded the campaign to deconstruct the harmful stigmas surrounding menstruation in Nepal. We’ve been ironing out the Roadmap, dabbling in program management as we create the 10-year strategic plan for the organization from scratch. We’ve taken on the gargantuan undertaking of revamping the old, outdated website because it currently does absolutely nothing to communicate the power of Hoste Hainse’s impact. I have been advocating intensely for a new website for the past 3 years, to no avail. However, with our combined efforts, we designed an entirely new website, presented it to the Executive Director, and got it approved! Providing these brilliant and driven young women with guidance has been the easiest and most fulfilling thing to do. Together, we have had such a productive and fruitful summer, with tangible results to show for it.
After three years of slowly building my wealth of knowledge and skills, this experience has allowed me to understand myself as a leader in Hoste Hainse. I really think about sustainable global development all the time, and the work comes so naturally to me-- I just wish I could do it for the rest of my life. It still feels difficult to imagine a future where I could do this work and also make enough money to support myself, but I am also just barely beginning to discover this world of non-profit careers. The feeling of being involved in small, ethical, and localized efforts is unparalleled. Needless to say, Hoste Hainse was the perfect place to discover my strengths, align it with my interests, take charge, and create substantive change. Dedicating my summer to Hoste Hainse was immensely rewarding. I will, of course, continue working with Hoste Hainse throughout the school year and into the foreseeable future.