Laura’s Credible Future

I know, it’s been some time since I last posted anything to this blog.  My time has been spent settling back in after a year away … this takes effort!  But it is also not too interesting, at least not enough to write blog posts on.  I am back home in Canada, working, earning money, getting my house in order, catching up with friends, planning a catch up visit with family & friends in Ireland, and spending my so-called spare time volunteering locally.  Which is kinda fun actually!  I’ve been promoting an amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as lots of work with the Bowen Island Arts Council.

Although back home, I am still in constant contact with all things Nepal and Sri Lanka, and am in regular touch with everyone that calls me friend there.  I constantly read up on anything to with supporting the Nepali people – healthcare, education, human rights, livelihood sustainability, organic farming … you name, I read it.  Thanks to a friend who lives in Nepal, I came across this request.

I’ve written about Laura Spero in the past, and follow religiously, her writings in the All The Pieces Of blog, all related to living with her Nepali family in Kashikot, daily life in rural Nepal and the rural dental program she has worked tirelessly to build over the last decade or so.

I’d encourage you to take a look at her blog to get a sense of the hard work and dedication it has taken her and her ever-expanding rural dental team.  To achieve so much without governmental or iNGO support is just astounding really.  It’s only recently that her Jevaia Foundation has had to work with Nepal’s Government, negotiating the use of her program as a template to establish rural dental clinics country-wide.  Pretty impressive.

This young lady is currently doing a Master’s on Social Work and is now a finalist in the My Credible Future scholarship competition for a cool US$10,000.  To win this scholarship, she needs the most votes of all finalists before December 1, 2017.  But before I ask you to vote, I’ll let Laura tell you herself  why you should give her your vote.  Reproduced with her kind permission.

“I was very lucky to grow up with a fantastic education. The summer after my junior year of college, I got to go to Nepal as part of a group studying medicinal plants. For me it was mostly an excuse to go to Nepal, a place I’d been inexplicably obsessed with for many years. It was August, and the monsoon had settled in a perpetual downy mist around the mountain peaks. One afternoon, I was walking through a rural village with the group of foreigners, and I locked eyes with a Nepali woman leaning in the door frame of her house. ‘What a beautiful photo she would make,” I thought. And suddenly it hit me as astonishing that I’d come all the way to Nepal, to this village, right to this woman’s house, and we were still in completely separate worlds. I didn’t dare pick up my camera. Instead I thought, “I’d like to know what it’s like to stand in that house and watch people pass in the road.” 

And somehow, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. After I graduated from college, I went to Nepal to volunteer in a different village called Kaskikot. It had a road running right through it where tourists would pass by. I ended up living with a widow and her two daughters my age, threw myself in to their daily routines and fieldwork, started picking up the language, and began to discover problems people were facing. At 23, I started working with teachers in Kaskikot to bring dental care to people in the village. Fifteen years later, our sustainable rural dentistry model serves an area of 50,000 people and targets the most widespread childhood disease in Nepal. We run on a very lean budget and I do all the fundraising. None of us knew a thing about dentistry when we began, but the people I was working with certainly new about their own lives. And what I knew was how to learn. That was all I needed.

About two years ago and eight rural dental clinics later – all run by rural Nepali people – we realized we were ready to try to get our model adopted in to the entire national health care system of Nepal. This put our scrappy project in meetings with government officials in charge of health policy, an arena dominated by huge international funders and public health research agendas. 

And that’s when I decided to go back to school. Access to higher education is an incredible gift, not because it leads to a piece of paper, but because it opens avenues and resources and connections in the world. I’ve spent many years stripping back my academic training to work from the perspective rural farmers in Nepal. But it is my education that allows me to and bring that experience back to the institutions and structures that influence their lives.

Starting a Master’s in Social Work has given me the language of human rights to describe a project I started with no formal theory behind it. It’s helped me understand the world of research and grants, and start presenting our work to new and important audiences. With opportunity comes responsibility, and I want to use my life to be a bridge and a communicator for people who are left out. When I am in Nepal I still live in the same little house by a road in Kaskikot, with my adopted Nepali “aamaa” who cannot read or write, and I still fetch water and work in the fields with her. Now, thanks to the power of my education, I’m introducing her to you. I want #mycrediblefuture to also be my credible present: knowing when to put down the camera, but also when to pick it up.”

Laura hard at work with her Aamaa. Photo credit Laura Spero

I can’t imagine the great heights with which Laura will attain once she has successfully completed her Masters in Social Work.  How much more she will do for the rural people of Nepal.  It’s on this basis I ask you to do just one thing, every day until December 1, 2017.

Click on this link once a day and Vote for Laura.  It’s really as simple as that.  Share this link with all your friends and family so that they can vote daily too.  The more votes Laura gets, the greater her chances are to win this scholarship.

People sometimes tell me they would love to help but can’t travel to places like Nepal due to family commitments.  Others say they are not financially stable enough to contribute.  So this one is an easy thing to do, just vote once a day until December 1, 2017.

It costs you just a minute of your time, and the benefit to the rural people of Nepal is significant.  Be a part of it why don’t you?

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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3 Responses to Laura’s Credible Future

  1. Mick Canning says:

    It’s a great blog, Kate. I’m now following it. Unfortunately, though, I tried voting and after jumping through all the hoops, ‘woobox’ told me voting is not allowed from my location.

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