During my time as a communications intern at Accountability Lab Nepal, I had the privilege of embarking on a remarkable research journey in collaboration with the Tarleton State University 2023 Nepal study abroad program. Together with Dr. Hemanta Kafley and his group of six exceptional students, we embarked on an immersive exploration of Bardia, Lumbini, Chitwan, Pokhara, and Kathmandu to gain a profound understanding of the resilient lifestyles embraced by the local communities in these regions.
Our journey was not only focused on sightseeing and cultural immersion but also aimed to delve deeper into critical issues that Nepal is facing around governance, community engagement, environmental sustainability, gender, and youth engagement. Through our interactions with the local communities, we sought to broaden our perspectives on these vital issues and explore potential ways to address the challenges faced by these communities.
Our expedition began in Kathmandu, where the students were warmly welcomed by Accountability Lab Nepal. Here, they were treated to an enlightening presentation that showcased the goals and projects of the organization. Engaging slideshows and captivating short films shed light on the pressing concerns surrounding landslides in Pokhara caused by climate change, as well as the profound impact of climate change on fishing-dependent communities. The foreign students were deeply moved by this distinct perspective on how climate change directly affects people’s lives, which they had never encountered before living their whole lives in the United States. One student, Wyatt Welch, noted “I am impressed with Accountability Lab for directly creating an encouraging environment in struggling areas of Nepal.”
Armed with this newfound awareness and inspiration, the students embarked on the next leg of our journey, fully aware that they would be engaging with individuals facing entirely different challenges from their own. Excitement and anticipation filled the team as they looked forward to learning about the resilient lifestyles of rural communities and exploring potential avenues to offer support and assistance.
In our next destination, Pokhara, students were granted the opportunity to speak to some Accountability Lab Climate Fellows who educated them about engaging young females to raise awareness about climate change and its impacts on the community. A Tarleton State student, Emily Ceja, shared, “Accountability Lab gave me an insightful new perception of climate change. We were able to learn about the different aspects that come with climate change, like health issues and technology, which usually wouldn’t be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about the topic.”
Throughout the expedition, the students had the opportunity to interact with various community members, hearing their stories and understanding the unique challenges they faced. They witnessed firsthand the strength and determination exhibited by these communities in the face of adversity. The students were particularly inspired by the work of the Accountability Lab, which actively works towards empowering local communities and promoting accountability among youth. When learning about Accountability Lab’s “Gov-her-nance” program, Rachel Lane stated, “I was nearly brought to tears by the tenacity of the women of Gov-her-Nance, who are working tirelessly to make the world a better place. I’m so grateful I was able to spend time with such wonderful change-makers!”
The student’s experiences during the study abroad program left a profound impact on them. They saw the Accountability Lab as a shining example of an organization dedicated to creating positive change. Reflecting on their journey, multiple students gave statements such as, “Seeing the Accountability Lab and how they work was truly inspiring.” This experience not only broadened their horizons but also motivated them to take action and make a difference in their own communities.
Overall, the collaboration between Accountability Lab Nepal and the Tarleton State University 2023 Nepal study abroad program provided an invaluable opportunity for the students to gain a deeper understanding of governance, community engagement, and youth accountability. The journey allowed them to witness firsthand the resilient lifestyles embraced by the local communities across Nepal. Armed with newfound knowledge and inspiration, the students returned home with a strong desire to contribute positively to society and promote accountability in their own communities.