7 Day Tour November 2015
'Wow, this tour has far exceeded my expectations...". Read more about the trip which defied the political and petrol crisis and brought the first guests to visit the orange cooperative in beautiful Sindhuli.
Artists & Activists
During our first tour of 2015 we rode through the city in Safa-Tempos to meet visual artists and activists pushing for more accountability:
We started off with Kashish Das Shrestha, the Director of the City Museum Kathmandu and one of the initiators of the one of the initiators of the #Occupy Baluwatar movement who told us about the movement's challenges and achievements in Nepal and about the connection between art and social change. http://thecitymuseum.org/
Hit Man Gurung, Sheelasha Rajbhandari and their friends at Artree showed us some of their thoughtful artwork around social challenges like the plight of migrants, the role of women in society, nature or environmental issues http://artreenepal.blogspot.com/
Naryan Adhikari introduced us to the accountability lab's support for youngsters to produce films on corruption or other social issues, it's seed-funds for 'accounta-preneurs' and the recent TV show called Integrity Idol that celebrates outstanding public servants. http://accountabilitylab.org
Surabhi Pudasaini, the founder of GalliGalli, told us how they crowd-source and map information on government services through their platform 'Nalibeli' to help citizens register businesses, get driving licenses and access other public services. http://galligalli.org/
Street Art Tour
This one-day tour was all about youngsters who use their artistic skills and passion to beautify the city and bring issues of the young generation to public attention. They visualize social challenges or environmental issues in public spaces.
The tour started at Artudio in Lazimpat with an overview on street art. After introductions the participants walked the colorful roads along Lainchaur and Kantipath to Ratna Park. From Bir hospital the group enjoyed the ride in safa tempos to see more art pieces in Bagbazaar and Exhibition road.
We had lunch and more conversations at Bikalpa Art Center in Pulchowk. The group even created its own butterfly art piece and learned about the work of Artlab by one of the founders, Shraddha Shrestha who showed and explained us more beautiful pieces in Kupondol.
The artists /guides:
Kailash K. Shrestha runs Artudio in Lazimpat and was one of the first street artists in KTM. Artudio also conducts classes, serves as a creative platform and organizes exhibitions
Milan Rai, a young artist started his project as a symbol of pure transformation and hope to show that every individual can transform itself like a caterpillar develops into a beautiful butterfly
Saran Tandukar works around Beauty in Unity and creates street art with fabric
Saroj Mahato is a video artist and promotes contemporary art through Bikalpa Art Center in Pulchowk. The BAC also features a café to sustain its work.
Shraddha Shrestha is a young illustrator, graphic designer and street artist working with Artlab in Kupondol
Private tour for etr educational travel
We started 2014 with an outstanding bunch of international students who were amazingly engaged in learning about health care, rainwater harvesting and the exceptional mountaineering experience of lovely Shailee Basnet. It was great to see the interest of such a smart group of youngsters.
Social Enterprise Explorer
The final Journey for 2013: Health, Education & Employment, started with introductions and a briefing session at the beautiful Baber Mahal Revisited. The first stop was Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology where the group learned about the amazing work of this outstanding eye hospital and research institute. The non-profit organisation applies an intelligent pricing systems and sells its international standard intraocular lenses to cross-subsidize its community outreach programs. After lunch we met with Shanti and Nirjala Shrestha from Friend Handicrafts. The two ladies established the company ten years ago with an investment of NRS 6,000 and no other external funding/donations since then to provide employment to women with few other income generating opportunities. Currently it employs over 100 women to make high quality felt products.
In the early evening the group learned from Chiran Poudel, proprietor of Seeing Hands Kathmandu. He explained about the challenges for blind people in Nepal, about running a social venture and his satisfaction of providing jobs to visually impaired people. The day ended with an interesting networking session with the team from Edushala, and Bjoern Soederberg, an award winning social entrepreneur based in Nepal and Sweden.
The second day started at Himalayan Healthcare in Jawalakhel. The group learned about HHC's work from Anil and Soni Parajuli who produce handicraft from recycled waste material to conduct health camps in remote areas. Next, the group met with representatives from FSI Worldwide, an organization that provides ethical overseas employment to Nepalese workers. Long before the public attention was drawn to the plight of migrant workers through an article in The Guardian, FSI has started to prevent exploitation through transparent recruitment, professional management and decent employment conditions.
The last visit lead us to Kumbeshwar Technical School. KTS was started over 30 years ago to provide better livelihoods to the 'untouchable' Pode community in Patan. The people who traditionally worked as butchers, sweepers or small scale farmers, now receive vocational training in carpet making, knitwear and furniture making among others. Since its inception, KTS has come a long way to now boast a Fair Trade certified production house, provides free nursery and primary level education, runs an orphanage, and funds their operating costs through making and selling of high quality products.
The tour ended with a reflections session to discuss and digest all those new experiences and learnings.
Health, Heritage and Organic Farming
Hospitals, houses and horticulture - we had it all. Starting with hot piping tea on a chilly morning, the team and participants made their introductions in the courtyard of Baber Mahal Revisited. Our first stop was Bhaktapur, a rustic city in the outskirts of Kathmandu City which is known for the outstanding preservation of its architectural heritage. We met Rabindra Puri, who was considered crazy when he started renovating heritage buildings two decades ago. An UNESCO Award and hundreds of renovated houses later, he is now an internationally recognized figure and about to open a training center as more and more 'crazy' people now recognize the value and beauty of heritage buildings
After lunch we met Jason Shah, a young changemaker who uses his abundant energy and curiosity to learn, use and teach about sustainable farming techniques at his Karmi Initiative farm on a hill side behind Dhulikhel. With a partner, he has set out to construct a training center, hotel rooms (and not to forget the infinity pool) using vernacular building techniques like rammed earth walls and natural cooling and heating systems.Dinner and interesting insights into a village dairy cooperative was provided by our lovely host Fulmaya who has become a local hero due to her efforts to improve school attendance and income generation opportunities.
The second day started without the much anticipated mountain views but stimulating conversations about entrepreneurship and change. After breakfast with freshly delivered and tested cow-milk, Dhulikhel Community Hospital was next on our agenda. It is a model community hospital which has become a hub of development that goes beyond healthcare. It provides income generation opportunities, micro-credits, road building in remote areas and even fuel efficient stoves.
During lunch, the group learned about larger scale community development programs from B.P. Shrestha, former mayor of Dhulikhel, who had a large part in establishing the famous hospital, bring the municipal drinking water system, and founding Kathmandu University. Our last visit to the Everything Organic Nursery in the afternoon helped us understand the benefits of bio-intensive farming, the necessity for contextualized research and the need for continuous engagement with local farmers to build trust and spread innovative, low-input farming methods.
The Social Enterprise Explorer Tour
The Glimpse tour showed us how social enterprises address pressing social issues and how market-based models can make such efforts sustainable. The visits demonstrated how an individual or small group can make a difference and brought new perspectives, understanding and connections.
We started our tour with introductions and a short briefing at the picturesque courtyard of Babar Mahal Revisited. The beauty of this place stands in stark contrast with the sights and smells around the garbage sorting plant were we headed to understand the challenges around solid waste management in Nepal. After engaged discussions on the bus-ride to Kirtipur the participants had recovered from the sight of a rubbish-filled Bagmati river and enjoyed lunch (and an almost mandatory sip of local chang) at the Living Museum where we also met Sabita Maharjan, founder of Kiripur Hosiery and one of the Social Enterprise Award winners. She took us to her production sites and shared her experiences in expanding a knitting factory, running a cooperative and providing literacy and vocational training to other women.
We returned to the city to meet Mahabir Pun at his Nepal Connection Center who spoke about the wireless network project and his other ventures around Myagdi district. After learning about wood-boxed computers for rural schools, high altitude trout fish-farming and yak cheese production from him, we enjoyed an evening of networking with young artists, educators and other social entrepreneurs.
The beautiful glass-beads produced out of waste bottles from tourism treks provided an artistic start for the second day of our tour. The fine art was countered by Smart Paani founders who explained us how they try to address the water shortage in Kathmandu valley. Over lunch at the Village Cafe, we discussed about the challenges of organizing home-based workers and quality assurance. It was probably the spicy food and hearty hospitality that made us come up with even more marketing strategies for the Sabah Nepal delicacies.
In the afternoon we met Samir, an outspoken serial entrepreneur in the agriculture and food sector who helped us understand the entrepreneurial mindset and the determination required to run a business through all downs and ups. We then rounded up our tour by testing our (in most cases very limited) talent at arts and crafts and were hence even more impressed by the work of young artisans at Rajendra's Traditional Art Training Center.