Empower Girls Through Travel & Aid Work in Nepal
Sponsor a group of young Nepali women on a volunteer trip to aid a rural village in Nepal!
'Girls Empowered by Travel' needs your help to send female Nepali youth leaders to support a tiny, earthquake-rocked village in the Himalayas where enterprising families are working hard to establish sustainable homestay businesses. Your donations will support our mission to empower girls through travel and community service, while helping secure a livelihood for indigenous families.
Your donation empowers girls in Nepal by:
• Funding scholarships to send young Nepali women on this volunteer trip
• Creating an opportunity to support their community and promoting self-sufficiency in the developing world
• Giving girls the opportunity to take leadership in projects, develop skills and knowledge, and learn how to become powerful in all aspects of their lives
• Broadening horizons: Girls travel outside their hometown (often for the first time!), exchange ideas, and promote cultural understanding
Their volunteer work will help save a village:
• Gre village was hit hard by a devastating earthquake in 2015 — many families still live in temporary shelters and lack basic needs, like showers or toilets
• Local families are eager to launch homestay businesses but lack access to resources. They have requested the guidance and support of mentors who can show them the way.
• We can help them establish safe, sustainable business practices, build the soft infrastructure necessary to support tourism, and attract travelers
• Homestays = income = opportunity, education, health, etc.
• Local industry means families won't need to move to the city or split up to find work — helping protect Tamang culture and heritage
ABOUT GIRLS EMPOWERED BY TRAVEL
'Girls Empowered by Travel' is a Nepal-based non-profit organization that provides safe opportunities for women to travel and get involved in community work. GET strives to promote leadership among women and youth that will have a ripple effect on their communities.
(VIDEO: Footage from a recent research trip to Gre to meet with homestay owners and entrepreneurs.)
It all began in a little village at the base of the mighty Himalayas....
Last November 'Girls Empowered by Travel' (GET) founder Lena Zubareva, Sajana Bhadal (President of GET), Kat Liljegren, and a few friends were trekking through the Langtang region of Nepal. The first night we were all guests in the rustic home of Nima, Dahlia, and their 4 young daughters (pictured above).
Over tea they told us how in April 2015 Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake , and their village was one of the hardest hit! Every home crumbled. Every. Single. Home.
Many people in the village still live in temporary shelters. Most are subsistence farmers, or rely on seasonal or international work to put food on the table. But some families, like Nima's, have managed to save up enough to build new homes — safe homes — that won't crumble in an earthquake. They dream of opening their new homes to travelers as a homestay, to share their culture and cultivate a lucrative tourism industry that will bring jobs and opportunity to the village.
We were the first guests in Nima and Dahlia's homestay. Before we left they asked us for help — advice, guidance — to make their homestay a success and bring jobs, industry, and opportunity to the village. It would mean a good income for their family. It would expose their four daughters to different cultures, and support their goals to learn English. And it would mean Nima wouldn't have to leave home to work as a guide for three months a year.
(PHOTO: Lena, Dahlia, and Sajana outside Dahlia and Nima's home in Gre village)
As we trekked on through the stunning Himalayans, Nima, Dahlia, and everyone we met in the village kept popping back into our minds. A plan was formed to organize a volunteer trip to support the village. The trip would raise funds for Girls Empowered by Travel while helping Nima, Dahlia, and their neighbors.
In April 2019 we will return to the village with a team of volunteers. We have 3 goals:
1) Help BUILD the infrastructure necessary to support tourism
2) Help ESTABLISH safe, sustainable business practices for the benefit of all
3) Help ATTRACT travelers to introduce this emerging destination to the world
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We need YOUR help! Your funds will support various projects to achieve our goals: Providing scholarships for volunteers, building a solar shower, providing hygienic cooking supplies and training, English language training and resources, transportation to and from Gre village (a 7 hour 4x4 ride from Kathmandu), marketing training and resources — and provide much-needed funding for the life-changing empowerment and service projects organized by Girls Empowered by Travel.
(PHOTO: Sajana repping 'Girls Empowered by Travel' on the summit of Kyanjin Ri at 15,700ft)
Our team is home safely and we’ve already received updates from the newly-elected Executive Council.
Our last evening was full of celebration and ceremony. The Tamang culture is so rich — Gre is truly a special place, and the locals are so eager to share it!
We owe a HUGE “danyabhad” (thank you) to each of YOU — our donors, partners and supporters! We truly couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you for trusting in our vision and giving generously to support this community, and our mission overall. We’re planning the next stage of our work with Gre and will keep you all posted.
How exactly does a community homestay work? Check our the diagram above. A traveler pays to stay in a homestay. The homestay owners keep most of the payment as income: to support their family, send their kids to school, and reinvest in their homestay. But a portion of the payment goes to a community fund, to support projects that benefit the whole community; like safe water, waste management, school improvements, homestay improvements, or whatever is needed most.
The community homestay program is overseen by an Executive Committee — so it was time to vote! We pushed for a fair, blind election but were overruled in favor of a public selection by debate. The process was a reminder that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Gre won’t develop overnight. We’ll start with hand washing, and work our way up to democracy.
In the end, we do have confidence in the newly formed Executive Committee and are excited to hand off leadership!
The day ended with more site visits. Check out the photos to meet some of Gre’s new homestay owners!
Each host greeted us warmly with “Namaste”, and offers of tea in the English they’ve been practicing. At each home we assessed cleanliness and facilities, and provided feedback on what looked good and what needed improvement. We’ll have another round of visits later in the week and are anxious to see how the feedback is incorporated!
Of the 9 homes we visited, 5 were ready or close to ready for guests. The remaining 3 could be ready within a few months or a year. (Some just needed furniture, others needed walls built or earthquake-proof reinforcement added.)
Visiting the homes made our work here feel more real than ever!
In between site visits Bini and Saru discussed safe water, using curriculum developed by the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology @_cawst. (If you saw our previous update, a health and hygiene poll revealed that 100% of our participants believe you can tell safe water just by looking at it.) The participants were fascinated to learn about the water cycle and how snow becomes rivers and rivers become rain! We focused on sediment filtration using a cloth filter, and boiling or solar disinfection (SODIS) for sanitization. (Did you know if you leave a clear plastic bottle of water in direct sunlight for 6 hours the UV light from the sun will kill any bacteria, viruses and parasites? )
The day ended with a Women’s Circle where we held a reusable menstrual pad workshop with the younger women. Although menstruation doesn’t carry the same taboo in Tamang culture as it does in other cultures of Nepal, the women in Gre still lack access to any feminine hygiene products. They’re forced to used old clothing instead.
Our team took a training before we left Kathmandu and today we passed along that knowledge to the participants — along with patterns, fabric, and sewing supplies.
The workshop was meant to drive home how the community homestay model lowers the barriers to starting a homestay because resources are pooled and work can be shared.
Marketing class was next! Our host Nima Tamang, a local trekking guide Pemba Tamang, and our program coordinator and token foreigner, Kat Liljegren, each shared their perspectives on what attracts travelers to homestays. In small groups the participants brainstormed what makes their home and family unique, and used this list to draft a few potential names for their homestay.
After lunch, our nightly English class faced some struggles. The villagers are eager to learn, but many must bring their small children to class. This can make it quite difficult to focus, as just when one child calms down the next starts fussing. It echoed a key finding of another Girl’s Empowered by Travel project. Our “Naani” program provides basic education to the children of brick factory workers. Without it, these children play in the dirt or help their parents make bricks. We recently completed the first run of the program, and an unexpected outcome was that the parents of children who attended class were able to make significantly more bricks each day, therefore increasing their income.
Nothing comes easy in life, and that’s especially true in this remote village in a developing country. Each day we are impressed with the tireless work and positive spirit of the people here.