A big picture thinker, I also love to map out all of the details needed to make the project come to life, and find the right person for each task.
In order to create a post-earthquake success story in Rainaskot, we had to plan the project to fulfill the wishes of the villagers for their future, consider environmental, economic and cultural sustainability, and make the buildings earthquake safe. All the while, we wanted to be good stewards of donor funds by having all of these priorities fulfilled at as low a cost as possible.
I was tasked with overseeing this conversation while allowing the Nepal team, especially our engineers, to have the most say in how we proceeded.
Some of the ways I was involved in this strategic planning included:
Holding a series of meetings to discuss several construction options with the villagers
Set parameters for participation in the rebuilding program, outlining the responsibilities of our team and those of the villagers
Facilitate the government permit approval process
Set up a periodic reporting standard for the Nepal-based team to follow
Assist in creating materials for data collection to track the impact of the project
Consult with a variety of experts in sustainability both in the US and Nepal, reporting my findings to the team and villagers for possible inclusion in the plan.
Our results: We were the first permanent rebuilding project to start work in Nepal. We were not the first to finish, we can say that the homes are very well-constructed, and they preserve some flavor of the traditional village home.
Our main economic plan for the village was to incorporate a B and B style guest room in each house (known in Nepal as a homestay). This plan has been a resounding success, with over 4000 guests staying in 14 guest rooms the first year.
This article explains the impact from the villagers in a very clear way:
Online Khabar article by Shashwat Pant
With disasters happening continuously in the US, and around the world, these events are quickly forgotten and the initial media coverage drops sharply after 3 weeks.
Add to that the fact that many Americans are unfamiliar with the life and culture of Nepal. Only more ambitious travelers make it to a small country that is a days worth of flying away, and even among those, few have been to the kind of community that we are serving.
Our aim was to raise the funds with as little expense as possible and to maintain the dignity and humanity of the people we were serving. To that end, my contribution to the strategy included:
Creating a focus for the marketing that would engage donors beyond the immediate aftermath of the disaster
Requesting specific materials and information from Nepal to introduce the donors to our beneficiaries
Periodic travel to Nepal to produce video content about the village, and to develop an ongoing relationship with the villagers
Hosting events in the US to meet new donors and update past donors about the progress in the village
Creating social media and email content to keep donors informed of the progress of construction
Working with the Nepal team to create personalized photos with thank yous from the villagers to inform donors of the ultimate impact of their investment
Conducting follow up visits with the village to monitor their progress in learning to run their Nepali-style Airbnb guest program (3000 guests in one year!)
Recruited and collaborated with volunteers in the US providing services in branding, PR, legal, accounting, database management, and event planning
Identified the most immediate pressing need for our team
Searched in our networks for the most engaged and committed potential volunteer with that expertise
Interviewed potential volunteers to find a match with their skills and availability, and crafting a task based on their response
Took US volunteers and board members to Nepal so that their work could be informed by seeing the project and meeting the volunteers
Mentored the young Nepali team with specific training in social media marketing, proposal writing, and using technology for project management
Identified what technology they owned and felt comfortable using
Procured donations of phones and laptops for team members without personal equipment to use
Implemented a file organization system for the team to follow
Conducted training sessions the team so that they could better understand the core functions of the US-based team and respond accordingly to assigned tasks