UPDATE – 05/2013
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Nepal. My husband and son were trekking through the Annapurna range of the Himalayas and I chose to volunteer during their 12 day trek. I had been warned about volunteer “scams” in Nepal but felt confident when I came across Volunteer Nepal (VN), a US nonprofit organization which maintains 5 orphanages in Nepal and places volunteers throughout the country.
VN suggested that I work with some NGOs because of my education and experience. Many of the other volunteers were young and filled with enthusiasm and energy but not as much experience. I contacted Patrick Williams to see if there was a possibility of incorporating some of the Coaching the Global Village information and he generously shared the toolkit.
VN made arrangements for me to work with CAP Nepal, an NGO dedicated to ending gender based violence and exploitation of women. Their programs include a shelter for women who had previously worked in the “entertainment sector” (prostitution). The shelter provides rehabilitation and reintegration thus ensuring better lives for women and children who were previously in life-threatening conditions. Another program aims to eliminate the son preference culture which is pervasive in Nepal. One of the main aspects is psychosocial counseling with pregnant women to stop the practice of aborting female children.
After a meeting with the organization’s president I spent a day with a psychologist getting familiar with the program and gaining a better understanding of Nepali culture, concerns, and how I might help. The next day was spent in individual coaching sessions with staff members. We explored the challenges they face professionally and personally and possibilities to make things better. My sense was that they truly appreciated the opportunity to be asked about their work and lives and receive some coaching. The translator who assisted me felt that the staff really opened up and “their confidence was given a boost”.
After the individual sessions (one of which was extensive with the president of the organization) we developed a plan for a workshop. The entire staff of 20 attended the full day training with a focus on team building and communication. They actively participated in every exercise and were enthusiastically taking notes. One of the participants commented that not only did she learn a lot through the day, but as a trainer within the organization, she also learned how to present material and actively engage participants through some of the techniques I used.
The educational system in Nepal is very much based on rote learning. I witnessed this firsthand when helping the children in the sponsoring orphanages with their homework. What I found fascinating is that even with professionals, it is not common practice to be faced with provocative questions. Initially they seemed perplexed by my questions, but I could see the changes in their demeanor as they thought about them and responded. They began to discuss the challenges they faced and also the commitment to their work and the dedication to improve the lives of the women of Nepal. The culture of Nepal seems to be one of indirect communication so coaching on more direct communication to improve the team was well received. One participant became very emotional and reported she was looking at her life and family very differently by the end of the workshop.
As you can see form the photos I dressed in traditional Nepali wear. They love when westerners wear a kurta. At the end of the day they also gifted me a kurta and thanked me generously.
This experience has really shown me how important the concept of Coaching the Global Village is. I only wish I could have spent more time with them.
Marlene Boas, Ph.D.
is an ILCT graduate, BCC, and member of Pittsburgh Coaches Association