Dal Bhat and Gratitude

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Dal Bhat and Gratitude

Reflections on My Time at Conscious Impact

By Ben Perlmutter

 

Everyone who visits Nepal will remember dal bhat. It’s omnipresent. Most Nepalese people eat this blend of curry, dal (lentil) soup, and rice at least once a day. 

At first, this custom might seem a little strange to an outsider. Don’t they get bored of the same dish every single day? 

Most tourists will probably get sick of it after a week. I know I did. 

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But then, after you spend some more time in Nepal, something curious happens. Not only do you get used to eating dhal bhat every day, but it weaves itself into the fabric of your life. It becomes a staple of your diet. You begin to appreciate the nuance in the flavor and you learn no dal bhat is the same. The flavor always remains similar, but every cook adds their own blends of spices to create a unique experience. In my almost three months in Nepal during the spring of 2017, including three weeks at Conscious Impact, I fully converted into a dal bhat lover.  

And, dal bhat’s even vegan and gluten free, so there’s no excuse for not eating it!

At Conscious Impact, like everywhere else in Nepal, dal bhat is unavoidable—It’s the lunch every week day, be it served in the camp’s kitchens by Parbati and Pratima or in the home of a local family that volunteers are helping for the day. 

Just as dal bhat serves as an essential and idiosyncratic part of Nepalese culture, Conscious Impact has a tradition of its own that has many parallels with dal bhat: the nightly Gratitude. 

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Every night before eating dinner, all volunteers at Conscious Impact come together and say what they were grateful for that day. The gratitude could be for another volunteer’s helping hand, a special moment shared with a local (I recall Mama getting an especially large number of shout outs), some natural beauty witnessed, or whatever else you might be grateful for that day. 

When I first arrived at the Conscious Impact camp, I was taken aback by this tradition. 

My only previous experience with pre-meal gratitude was during Thanksgiving dinner right before diving into the turkey. But to do this every night now? I was uncertain. It just seemed…weird. 

But, when you have to do something to get your dinner, especially after a long day of plastering an earth-bag house or moving bricks, you do it without much hesitation. Like the repetition of eating dal bhat everyday grew on me, so did Gratitude. Every day’s Gratitude is different yet similar. Each moment and action to merit gratitude is different, but certain themes emerge: appreciation for the kindness of others, wonder at the beauty the natural world present for us, and thankfulness for the food the Earth has given to us and others have prepared. Just as dal bhat’s blend of lentils, curry, and rice provides a template for each cook to enrich with their own nuance and personality, Gratitude repeats on the same themes with the individual spice of the day’s events. 

Despite my initial hesitancy towards the idiosyncrasy of Gratitude and daily dal bhat, I learned to love them both. Just because the rest of the world isn’t eating the same meal or expressing their gratitude everyday doesn’t make these traditions bad; they’re just different. 

There is something deeply familial about Gratitude. It helps build community in the camp among volunteers who come from many walks of life and are staying with Conscious Impact for varying lengths of time, from a few days to the entire nine-month season. 

Gratitude also helps create the atmosphere of positivity that Conscious Impact radiates. By explicitly expressing gratitude every night, the subtext of gratefulness that always underlies daily life becomes explicitly stated. Raising these thoughts to spoken word makes them become more real. The positive things that we think, but might not say in fear of sounding “different” or “awkward,” become the reality of our expression during Gratitude. 

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Furthermore, having to come up with something that we’re grateful for every night makes us think about what we’re going to mention during Gratitude during the day. The idea of gratefulness becomes a constant thought throughout the day. The value of gratitude—for a person, the gifts of earth, or any and everything else—raises itself in our consciousness and permeates all our interaction. 

That Conscious Impact dares to be different, with traditions like Gratitude, helps make it a truly special place in the world. Things at Conscious Impact, like so much in Nepal, operate a little differently from the rest of the world. You live in tents, not houses; you choose what work you do each day, it’s not chosen for you; and bricks are made of earth, not clay. 

I only got to spend three weeks volunteering at Conscious Impact before I was pulled back to the world of lower altitudes, being woken up by car horns not chickens, sit-down toilets, and a lack of dal bhat. Those three weeks at Conscious Impact, however, were some of the most—well—impactful days of my life. 

While I’m not expressing my gratitude every night anymore, my gratefulness for the time I got to spend at Conscious Impact persists. I’m grateful for the friends I made there, some of whom I still talk to over a year later. I still regularly think about natural beauty of Takure, from the snow-capped mountains in the distance to the exotic flora and fauna we got to interact with on a daily basis. I’m thankful for having had the opportunity to help such a kind and welcoming community recover from the traumas of the 2015 earthquake. And, all of this was done in a manner that respects our planet and helps people live sustainably with it.

Conscious Impact is special. While the wifi at the camp may not have been fast enough to stream Netflix (although for rural Nepal, it really wasn’t too bad!) and the showers colder than I would have liked, it didn’t really matter. The trappings that can define so much of modern life and the values that come with it become less important at Conscious Impact.

Who needs wifi and hot water when you have dal bhat every day and Gratitude every night? 
 

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Photos taken by Antoine Maes, George Blower, and Yann Delalay.

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IT'S A BRICK BONANZA!

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IT'S A BRICK BONANZA!

Things are busy here on the ground in Takure! Rebuilding is in full swing as families throughout the Nawalpur VDC diligently work to have their homes completed before monsoon season starts.

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Last operational season, Conscious Impact assisted in the construction of 5 homes. Due to the community's greater interest in sustainable, locally-produced building materials, this year we have assisted the completion of 17 homes and have trained more than 10 local mason teams. We currently have a list of 10 families waiting on bricks to finish curing, including bricks for the second story of the Everest Children's Home (an orphanage we assisted on the construction of last year).

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Paddy and Ari playing with kids at the Everest Children's Home. 

 

In an effort to promote greater gender equity, we now employ 4 women full-time and 2 part time at the Training and CSEB Production Center. We are producing ~600 bricks daily, which is quite miraculous when we reflect on the 60 bricks per day we were making in December of 2015 when we were first learning CSEB production. Progress, progress, progress!

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Rabinia, a new Training Center employee, sieving soil.

Kelsey and Ben riding in the back of a truck filled with bricks for a new home.

 

Every week, volunteers are helping move bricks to new homes. In total, we have moved 43,000 bricks this season! We are excited for more volunteers to join us for the last few builds before monsoon, where we will continue not only to move bricks, but plant trees and inspire local youth! 


Photography by Abi Plowman, Elijah Lazarus, Ankit Tanu, and Jonathan H. Lee.

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A Day in the Life of a Conscious Impact Volunteer

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A Day in the Life of a Conscious Impact Volunteer

A day in the life of Danny Escola. Danny shared his 10-day experience with his friends and family on Facebook and we wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!


Nepal - Day 1

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I’m back in Nepal helping Conscious Impact improve the lives of a community where 97% of their homes were destroyed by an earthquake. I’ll be living in a tent on a camp in the Himalayas for 10 days working alongside other volunteers and the local Nepali people to help improve this community. Some of my primary duties will be making pressed bricks out of sustainable materials, helping to build a home for a deaf/mute couple and their family, and experimenting with agriculture techniques and crops to help the local farmers. I’ll also get opportunities for community visits to places like the local orphanage to play games with the kids and help them practice their English. It’s gonna be a fun adventure and I’m excited to be back!

And in this gratitude, a shift begins. Little by little we learn to love, to grow, to share, to recognize the wonderful gift we have been given to be human and to live a life of vulnerability and compassion. We begin to recognize that our world is completely transformed when we give love.

On this first day, I’ll be going on a 5 hour (and terrifying) bus ride from Kathmandu to camp. Look for pics tomorrow.

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Nepal - Day 2

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Today I’m waking up in my tent all bundled up in every layer I have....it’s really cold here at night! Yesterday was an incredible adventure over the Himalaya foothills to arrive at the Conscious Impact camp which is at about 4,500 feet above sea level. The drive included 5 hours of incredible vistas of the Himalaya peaks and a stop in the town of Melamchi for Dal Bhat (a traditional lunch of rice and lentils). The bus ride itself was the bumpiest, dustiest, and uncomfortable ride you can imagine with other buses passing us on a dirt road not much wider than the width of one bus. The maneuvering these drivers do to allow the other vehicles to pass without us tumbling down the hillside makes me a believer they have got to be some of the most talented drivers in the world.

After arriving at camp, we received an orientation, had the chance to set up our tents, and a little downtime before “gratitude” where all 25 of us campers went one by one in a circle to say what we were grateful for today. I was grateful for meeting old and new friends, for seeing the high Himalayas, and for being back in such a warm community. Gratitude is such an amazing way to end a day and It would be great to incorporate this into my life back home on a more regular basis. After gratitude and a delicious camp-cooked meal, I was ready for an early night.

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Today I’ll be working with a team moving bricks that were built by Conscious Impact. These bricks are made up of a mixture of local soil, local sand from the river, and a little bit of concrete and water and then pressed using a manual machine. What I find so cool about these bricks is that they are not only sustainable and earthquake resistance, but by using a pressed method instead of a firing method, the air pollution related to brick making is eliminated (unfortunately, over half of the hair pollution in Kathmandu is attributable to the firing of bricks). Also, Conscious Impact is training the locals how to make these pressed (non-fired) bricks and the intention is to hand the facility over to them to create a local economy. ❤️❤️❤️

Here are some pics from my day yesterday traveling to camp, setting up my tent, and settling in.

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Nepal - Day 3

Waking up refreshed (and cold) after a long day of work yesterday. The mornings here are quiet and beautiful and we start at 6:30 am with chanting/meditation/singing/dream reflection by the fire in the Conscious Impact tepee. It’s a wonderful way to welcome a new day and prepare for another hard day of work.

Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes after breakfast to sort trash and stuff plastic bottles with plastic wrappers and other smaller plastic waste. In Nepal, there is litter everywhere and they don’t have the same kinds of waste management you would find in western countries. Conscious Impact is very mindful of the trash it produces and tries to reuse or compost everything it can. When it comes to plastic, they have found that if you ram smaller pieces of plastic into plastic bottles, the bottle becomes extremely hard and can be used as a building material. Many of the structures at camp use these plastic bottles as part of the structure....what a great way to reuse!

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After my trash duties, I spent the morning moving bricks in a human chain passing one brick at a time from person to person. The bricks were being moved from the place where they had been dried to the staging location for delivery to the various households that will use these earth-conscious and earthquake-resistant bricks. We must have moved a few thousand bricks! I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and got some minor cuts on my arm. No worries tho, they will heal soon. I also got my turn using the brick-pressing machine. Like I said in my post yesterday, these bricks are pressed instead of fired which means there is no air pollution associated with the process.

In the afternoon I helped cut and sew earthbags for a house Conscious Impact is making for a deaf/mute couple and their children. Earthbags are filled with compacted soil and stacked like bricks and then covered with plaster and can be used as an inexpensive construction method...an entire quality home can be built for just a few thousand dollars. Conscious Impact is providing the labor and the materials to help this family rebuild from the devastating earthquake.

 

Nepal - Day 4

I’m midway through my 4th day here at camp and wanted to keep going on using Facebook as a journal to reflect on my 10 days here while I work with Conscious Impact to help rebuild this community in Nepal as they recover from a 2015 earthquake that left about 97% of the surrounding buildings and homes in rubble.

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Yesterday I woke up early at 6:30 am to sit in the tepee and learn a Hindu chant to the god Ganesha. From what I learned, in Hinduism, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles. I’m sure we can all agree that as humans we all have obstacles (usually that negative voice in our head telling us that we can’t, that we aren’t a good person, that we aren’t deserving of love....a sense that somehow we aren’t enough). Even though I didn’t know the exact the meaning of the words I was saying while chanting, it was cool to offer my transition from sleep to wakefulness to a removal of obstacles both small and large. And also to remind myself that everyone has these obstacles and it’s important to remember this fact as we interact with each other as human beings and offer whatever compassion our hearts can muster.

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After breakfast, a group of us made our way about 20 minutes down a very steep hill to the house that Conscious Impact is currently building for a deaf/mute couple and their children. Conscious Impact only has the manpower and resources to build one house at a time and in order to avoid picking favorites on which family to build for, Conscious Impact has asked the entire village to decide who we should build for next. The community decided that the deaf/mute couple and their children were the most in need and so Conscious Impact has been providing the labor and materials to build this home. When I was here in October I was involved in digging the ditches for the foundation and it was exciting to see the walls are now going up. Conscious Impact is building this home out of earthbags which are just bags filled with soil and then stacked like bricks. The bags are compacted and are as strong as concrete for a fraction of the cost. Once the structure is in place, the walls are plastered and will look just like any other homemade from concrete....pretty cool. I spent the morning filling bags with soil and stacking them in place! I was working with one of the dead/mute couple’s teenage kids who has been helping out and he was such a sweet person and a hard worker. It was really rewarding!

After a nice lunch back at camp, I went with a group on a community visit to visit a local family. We sat outside, drank some tea, and learned about their experience with the earthquake, got to meet their 1-month-old child, and talk about their family and all kinds of topics. It was nice and relaxing afternoon.

I was assigned to the dinner team in the evening and had fun working with a crew of 5 of us making a delicious Indian bean/vegetable stew, a green salad, and rotis. The camp is 100% vegetarian out of respect to the locals but I got to say vegetarian does not mean it lacks deliciousness! Our meal was so so good. 🙂

After dinner, it was time to crawl into my tent and rest up for another day of work.

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Nepal - Day 5

Woke up early again on Thursday to go to the tepee at 6:30. This time we were led through a 30-minute meditation. I’m really enjoying starting my days with a calm, reflective, and mindful practice to help me stay present and prepare myself for the day ahead.

In the morning after breakfast, I again headed down to the earthbag house to work. This time I started off laying down the barbed wire which holds the earthbag layers together. I got a few snags in my pants and my gloves basically got destroyed by the wire, but hey, it’s construction work so I shouldn’t expect anything less. It was fun to again work with the deaf/mute couple’s oldest son...he is such a hard worker and has a great positive attitude. After laying down the barbed wire we filled earthbags and stacked them as we had done the day before.

In the afternoon, I joined an agricultural team to pay a visit to a beautiful farm about a 15-minute walk from camp. This farmer had all kinds of plants from aloe to lemon trees to tomatoes to coffee just to name a few. The property was spacious and stunningly beautiful. After our tour, we got to sit and chat over tea and even got to feed the goats which were really fun.

Before dinner, I got some time to start a book called Jumla - a true story about a Nepali nurse who lived and worked in an impoverished city in western Nepal during the Maoist conflict. She later went on to win the N-Peace Award for her humanitarian efforts....truly a remarkable woman. It’s always inspiring to me to read stories of real people who have done incredible things.

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In the evening after dinner, some of the Conscious Impact leaders did I presentation on natural building. In addition to the obvious sustainability benefit, it was interesting to learn how durable natural buildings can be. Homes made from earthbags, for example, can last 500 years! They also are much more insulated than concrete or wood homes and therefore do not require nearly as many resources or money to heat and cool these buildings. Earthbag homes can be built with sophisticated electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems too. Another thing I’ve been getting out of my experience here when it comes to homes is a good reminder that we really don’t need to build large houses to prove our wealth or importance. We can get by simply and comfortably with a small space to call our own.

Nepal - Days 6-8

Skipped a few days of updates on my experience here but hey I’ve been pretty busy!

The schedule is packed here with some sort of spiritual practice at 6:30 am around a fire in the tepee, breakfast at 7 am, morning chores from about 7:40 to 8. Then the morning work projects run from 8:30 to noon. Lunch at noon. Afternoon projects from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Dinner at 6, then usually some sort of evening activity. And everyone is assigned to a major chore almost every day whether it be the breakfast cook team, the breakfast dishes team, the dinner cook team, or the dinner dishes team. For lunch, Conscious Impact hires two lovely Nepali ladies to make it for us so we don’t have to interrupt our work projects to cook lunch. I never thought to be part of a camp community could be so rewarding but here I am and truly loving every minute of it. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I was this happy! It’s been such a beautiful experience surrounded by amazing, beautiful, well-intentioned volunteers from all over the world. We have volunteers here from Germany, the US, Canada, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Mexico, and the UK. There are even 3 of us from Connecticut...so random!

It’s not all work here. Conscious Impact is very much work hard/play hard. Fridays and Saturdays are “off” days which means there aren’t any work projects, but plenty of other activities such as hikes, workshops, pizza making, baking, sunset walks, a “roll-in” breakfast on Saturdays complete with pancakes, fried eggs, and hash browns. On Saturday we also visited the local orphanage and continued work on an earth-bag bench for them! The kids helped as we stomped on cow poop to make the cob that goes around the exterior of the bench. It was delightfully fun! We also had a “trade circle” on Saturday where all us campers could trade possessions/skills we have for things other campers have. I traded away my trader joe’s peanut butter cups for a great new moose hat, I traded away a work shirt for a 45-minute massage, and I traded away some chocolate for a bag of raisins. It was hysterical watching all the trades taking place...so fun.

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It was back to work on Sunday and Monday. Sunday I spent the morning moving big stones and moving soil in preparation for a new permanent structure here on the camp for a new kitchen and common space. Currently, the kitchen and the common space are in open air structures made out of bamboo. They are wonderful spaces but eventually, the untreated bamboo weakens and has to be replaced. So, CConsciousImpact has decided to make these spaces permanent structures.

Sunday afternoon I went back to the orphanage to continue to work on the bench for the kids. We had such a blast being silly in the cow poop.

I’ve met so many open-hearted beautiful people at this place. People who dedicate their entire lives or a portion of their lives to service and human connection.

Sunday evening we had quite the dance party after dinner in the common space complete with house music, strobe lights, and complete silliness. No alcohol/drugs allowed at camp, but we were high on life and kicking it in the Himalayas!

Today (Monday) in the morning I worked on the team sewing earth-bags for the earth-bag house and in the afternoon I went down to the earth-bag house and laid barbed wire as I had done previously. I was on the dinner cook team today and we made awesome veggie burgers, French fries, and a green salad. Was quite the hit!

Nepal - Day 9

Today was my last full day at camp and my feelings are all over the place.I feel happy to come home and see my amazing boyfriend, my family, my friends and everyone else back home but also my heart is sad. I’ve met so many open-hearted beautiful people at this place. People who dedicate their entire lives or a portion of their lives to service and human connection.

Conscious Impact has really been about personal growth for me. Every day I was confronted, asked to do something I had never done before, asked to do something that my first instinct would be to reject. But somehow, you do it...you cook a meal for 25 people in an outdoor kitchen, you live in a cramped, dirty tent for 9 nights in the shivering cold, you take an outdoor shower with freezing cold water, you walk up and down steep hillsides after hard physical labor, you poop in a hole and cover what you did with sawdust, you hand wash your laundry, you get up before dawn and sit upright on a dusty floor and meditate even when all you want to do is sleep in, you pitch in where you can, you wrestle with cell service that rarely works at all, you move heavy bricks, you shovel soil, you lay down barbed wire, you stack earth bags, and you work side by side with people you’ve never met. But at the end of the day, you sit in a group and you say what about the day you were grateful for. You take that moment to reflect on all the joyful moments you had during the day. The wonderful conversations you had, noticing the remarkable capability of our bodies, the nourishing food we ate, the acts of kindness someone did for us, the warmth of the sun, the goodness we felt to work as a team, or just remembering a silly moment that filled your heart up. And in this gratitude, a shift begins. Little by little we learn to love, to grow, to share, to recognize the wonderful gift we have been given to be human and to live a life of vulnerability and compassion. We begin to recognize that our world is completely transformed when we give love.

I can’t say enough good things about this place and I really hope any of your reading will consider a trip here.

Oh this last day here, I worked in the morning with the agriculture team making a border around garden beds that spell out C.I. and then the shape of the Nepal flag. It was a wonderful last project with lots of laughs and we even played a prank on the earthbag sewing team by switching off their power so their sewing machine wouldn’t work. We had a good laugh with them and then we all got back to work.

In the afternoon I cleaned up my space to get ready for my departure and then walked around camp and took some more pictures of this beautiful space I’ve called home for the last 9 days. I’m attaching some pictures of camp here.

I hope to be back soon and maybe bring some friends too!

If you haven’t donated yet and if you are able to, please do so. I promise you that Conscious Impact uses every dollar to help this little sliver of Nepal in their efforts to rebuild after a devastating earthquake. 🇳🇵 🇳🇵❤️❤️

https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/1235744

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Youth Program Update

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Youth Program Update

Namaste from the Conscious Impact camp! We have some wonderful updates about what's been going on with the Youth Outreach program so far during Season 3. 

Long term volunteers Polly Gunton, Kendra McGowan, and Meghan Fox led by community partner Kumari Bomjam led the charge on building a garden and cob play-bench at the orphanage in Asilah Khakar. The aim of this project was to introduce a nourishing and natural element to the children's living space, and having them actively participate in the construction of their garden and play area. The garden project was commenced in November 2017, and the cob bench is on its way to being completed, with only a few more plaster layers needed in the coming weeks. 

With the return of Youth Outreach director Alyson Sagala in early March, Girls Empowerment programming was able to commence for 4 short sessions before the beginning of exams and time off for Nepali New Year. A highlight of the sessions included having groups of volunteers teach the girls how to make dreamcatchers, which were then sold for profit for a micro-business planning project. They also held a session for International Women's Day, and had a school-wide Sexual Reproductive Health day where core Girls Group members taught girls from other classes about menstruation, sexual anatomy, and self-defense.

As soon as school recommences in mid-April, the Youth Outreach team will continue environmental awareness and waste management workshops at the primary level, and will expand Girls Empowerment Programming to include young men at the secondary level, with the intention of inviting them to positive masculinity workshops. 

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The Magic of Moringa

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The Magic of Moringa

The Agriculture team here on the ground has some truly exciting updates! With the completion of our newest bamboo greenhouse, we were able to plant about 4,000 Moringa seedlings, of two distinct varieties. Moringa Oleifera is native to foothills of the Himalayas, exactly where we are currently located. The second variety, Moringa Stenopelata, grows at high altitudes in Ethiopia and Kenya, which is also fairly similar to Takure's altitude. Moringa is a tenacious and fast-growing tree, that can grow 2-3 meters in less than a year. It can be grown alongside to provide shade if grown in a sunnier area, or by itself in the clear sun. The Ag team plans to distribute these trees shortly before the monsoon season and hopes to have them established before the heavy rains fully arrive. 

 Volunteers planting 4,000 trees!

Volunteers planting 4,000 trees!

Some of the many reasons we've decided to grow Moringa here in Nepal:

  • It's deep taproot won't have to compete with other vegetable and field crops for ground nutrients.
  • It is drought tolerant and will do well during Nepal's 9-10 month dry season.
  • The leave can be ground into a fine powder which has a high market value. Their long bean pods that can also be sold for 50 rupees/kg at market.
  • It can help alleviate malnutrition because it is high in Vitamin A, C, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and is a complete protein.
  • It's nutrient-dense leaves increase milk production in cows.
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 Moringa Stenopelata seeds

Moringa Stenopelata seeds

  Moringa Oleifera seeds

Moringa Oleifera seeds

Providing a space for experimental growing is one of the biggest advantages that the CI Ag team can provide for the local community, an opportunity to see if a lucrative crop like Moringa can grow in this exact terrain and altitude. More importantly, it supports our initiative to reforest this area, reinvigorating the surrounded environment, preventing terrace erosion and circumventing the danger of landslides in the future. 

 Week old Moringa trees beginning to sprout

Week old Moringa trees beginning to sprout

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Books for Bricks

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Books for Bricks

“Books for Bricks”

By: Petey John Cunningham

 

  Me, holding a poster we had made for the event.

Me, holding a poster we had made for the event.

A few weeks before I arrived in Nepal in December of 2015, I confess that doubt weighed heavily on my mind. I’m an international affairs student at Northeastern University in Boston, and much of my degree has been spent learning about international development. Despite my decision to volunteer, I’d heard countless examples of irresponsible or exploitative development practices and feared that those practices, or worse, awaited me in Takure.

"I was relieved and grateful to find an organization as responsible, caring and hard-working as Conscious Impact proved to be."

  Sale day, with my Nepali friend Raj manning the booth!

Sale day, with my Nepali friend Raj manning the booth!

The ten days I spent with the Conscious Impact team tore those fears from my mind, root and stem.... I was relieved and grateful to find an organization as responsible, caring and hard-working as Conscious Impact proved to be. Upon my return to Boston in the fall of 2016 after a semester studying in London, I decided that I wanted to raise funds for this cause and organization that to this day remains so close to my heart.

  My Momma, helping to sort and organize books!

My Momma, helping to sort and organize books!

During my time in London, I attended a $1 used book fundraiser hosted by Amnesty International. I decided to bring the idea back to Boston and host my own series of book sales within the Northeastern community, on behalf of Conscious Impact. This approach heartily appealed to me because it creates value for both the giver and the receiver, donors get wonderful new reading material, and the people of Takure get the funds they need to rebuild.

  Conscious Impact’s official Sales Associates!

Conscious Impact’s official Sales Associates!

I sent emails to bookstores, libraries, professors, family and friends, soliciting book donations from as many sources as I could imagine; I parted with much of my own personal library. At one point, over 800 books sat in my Mom’s living room; you can imagine how appreciative she was of the clutter! I used my connections with two groups on campus, the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) and the NU Buddhist Group, to have the sales officially sanctioned by the university and, in October, I held my first sale. With friends and family staffing the tables, and speakers blaring our favorite music, the “Books for Bricks” vibe was more ‘party’ than ‘bookstore’!

  Northeastern’s mascot Paws striking a pose!

Northeastern’s mascot Paws striking a pose!

The fundraiser cost me no more than time, and the gas I used driving my mom’s little red Chevy to transport boxes, first from the donors to my home, and then from my home to the sale sites. Each book cost only $1, but customers were, of course, encouraged to donate extra if the urge struck them. Often enough, they generously left me their change, or an extra dollar or two. All in all, the sales raised $1573.87.

I have to take a moment to thank all those who helped: my fantastic friends, my many book donors, and my incomparable mother. Their assistance made all the difference.

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Bricks For Nepal 2017

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Bricks For Nepal 2017

The Time is Now:

Rebuilding in Nepal

(Create a fundraising page, or donate here.)

 

"If families do not rebuild before June 2018, they will not receive government aid." 

Now is the time. More than two and a half years ago, the powerful Gorkha Earthquake struck Nepal, destroying tens of thousands of homes, and knocking down every one of the 240 homes in Takure, Sindhupalchok. For the last two years, most families have continued to live in temporary structures, built of wood scraps and tin, saving money and resources for a new home. Earlier this year, the government announced that any family wishing to receive the government-allocated USD $3000 in aid must rebuild their home before June. That gives the entire region 7 months to build. Conscious Impact wants to be in the center of this rebuild, providing thousands of bricks to families all across the region.

  Photo 1: Krishna Kafle, our closest neighbor in Takure, nears the finish of his home’s foundation. Now he must decide which bricks to use to complete his walls and strive to finish his home before June. With support, he will rebuild his home with our CSEBs.

Photo 1: Krishna Kafle, our closest neighbor in Takure, nears the finish of his home’s foundation. Now he must decide which bricks to use to complete his walls and strive to finish his home before June. With support, he will rebuild his home with our CSEBs.

To rebuild their homes, community members must quickly dig their foundations, lay stone and mud up to the plinth level (just above ground level) and then find appropriate and affordable building materials for their walls. They can use stone for the walls, similar to the homes they had before the earthquake, but most families will seek bricks to ensure an earthquake-safe home. This is where Conscious Impact can offer support.

 

"Bhaktapur bricks have not only been shown to cause more than 60% of the air pollution in Kathmandu, but have poor human rights records, keeping child employees out of school."

 

DONATE HERE

  Photo 2: A “Bhaktapur brick” production facility near Kathmandu. Recent studies show that this industry creates as much as 60% of the region’s pollution and also relies on child labor, keeping youth out of school. Our hope is that our CSEBs will provide an environmentally sustainable alternative.       

Photo 2: A “Bhaktapur brick” production facility near Kathmandu. Recent studies show that this industry creates as much as 60% of the region’s pollution and also relies on child labor, keeping youth out of school. Our hope is that our CSEBs will provide an environmentally sustainable alternative.

 

 

  Photo 3: The Conscious Impact “Bricks for Nepal” construction team produces environmentally sustainable and earthquake-safe CSEBs as quickly as possible to be distributed across Sindhupalchok

Photo 3: The Conscious Impact “Bricks for Nepal” construction team produces environmentally sustainable and earthquake-safe CSEBs as quickly as possible to be distributed across Sindhupalchok

The most common brick in the market is the wood-fired “Bhaktapur brick,” manufactured by large corporations in Kathmandu and southern Nepal. These bricks have not only been shown to cause more than 60% of the air pollution in Kathmandu, but have poor human rights records, keeping child employees out of school. Additionally, these bricks must be transported many miles over the mountains to reach Takure and the nearby communities, putting more trucks on the roads and draining money from the villages to the cities. On the other hand, Conscious Impact provides locally produced, environmentally sustainable and earthquake-safe bricks that are cheaper and stronger than the standard Bhaktapur bricks.

"...we believe that the environmentally sustainable CSEBs could become one of the region’s top choices for reconstruction."

While it seems that these facts would make the decision easy for community members, the truth is the choice is still hard. The Conscious Impact Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEBs) are a new technology in the region, and some people are skeptical. Still, with effective advertising and strengthened community relationships we believe that the environmentally sustainable CSEBs could become one of the region’s top choices for reconstruction. If this becomes a reality, it means more jobs for locals and a sustainable social enterprise that could last for decades. For Conscious Impact, now is the time to invest in this social business.

  Photo 4: Uddhav Kafle, after two years of working with Conscious Impact, stands on top of his nearly completed home, built with the CSEBs that he helped produce. With the money from his salary, he was able to complete a beautiful, earthquake-safe and environmentally sustainable home for his family that will last for generations to come.

Photo 4: Uddhav Kafle, after two years of working with Conscious Impact, stands on top of his nearly completed home, built with the CSEBs that he helped produce. With the money from his salary, he was able to complete a beautiful, earthquake-safe and environmentally sustainable home for his family that will last for generations to come.

While Conscious Impact has a number of ongoing projects (a beautiful earthbag home, coffee farming and sustainable agriculture, for example), growing our brick business is our most urgent focus. This is our chance to support dozens of families to rebuild their homes across the region, and to establish a social business that could employ generations of local men and women. To do this, we need help. Our goal is to supply bricks to at least 20 homes this year, and more if possible.

To scale the brick distribution, we need to subsidize the bricks by 12 cents/brick. This will make the price competitive and support families to build their homes more affordably. It is also a direct investment into families’ reconstruction processes. At 12 cents per brick, we need $450 per home (a four-bedroom home with hallway). In other words, for every $450 that we raise we can collaborate with a local family to build an earthquake-safe and environmentally sustainable home. For 20 homes, we need $9000. One hundred percent of any donation goes directly towards subsidizing bricks.

Let’s help Takure and the surrounding communities rebuild earthquake-safe homes with earth harvested from their own land and bricks made by their own hands! Support Conscious Impact with an investment into our brick business that will last for generations to come.

 

Create a fundraising page or donate now.

Click Here

For every $450 raised, one family will be able to rebuild using CSEBs. 

  Photo 5: The first brick purchase of Season 3! Prem Bahadur Tamang and his wife stand proudly next to their CSEBs. In the 2015 earthquake, their two-story stone structure fell. Now, they will use these bricks to build their new home, beautiful and earthquake safe. Our hope is that Conscious Impact can support at least 20 other families to have the same opportunity.

Photo 5: The first brick purchase of Season 3! Prem Bahadur Tamang and his wife stand proudly next to their CSEBs. In the 2015 earthquake, their two-story stone structure fell. Now, they will use these bricks to build their new home, beautiful and earthquake safe. Our hope is that Conscious Impact can support at least 20 other families to have the same opportunity.

  Photo 6: Conscious Impact volunteers help to load bricks into a truck for a delivery to Prem Bahadur Tamang and his family. Everyone that comes to volunteer with Conscious Impact will be directly involved in distributing bricks to families around the region. #cometonepal

Photo 6: Conscious Impact volunteers help to load bricks into a truck for a delivery to Prem Bahadur Tamang and his family. Everyone that comes to volunteer with Conscious Impact will be directly involved in distributing bricks to families around the region. #cometonepal

  Photo 6: Buddha Tamang, a local farmer and friend to Conscious Impact, stands in the middle of his home construction, checking the foundation to ensure quality work. Most families are directly involved in the construction of their own homes, and also hire outside masons to support with skilled labor.

Photo 6: Buddha Tamang, a local farmer and friend to Conscious Impact, stands in the middle of his home construction, checking the foundation to ensure quality work. Most families are directly involved in the construction of their own homes, and also hire outside masons to support with skilled labor.

  Photo 7: Laborers at Buddha Tamang’s home break stone to be used in the foundation

Photo 7: Laborers at Buddha Tamang’s home break stone to be used in the foundation

  Photo 8: Everyone gets involved in the construction process! A young boy plays with an empty wheelbarrow on site of a local community home reconstruction.

Photo 8: Everyone gets involved in the construction process! A young boy plays with an empty wheelbarrow on site of a local community home reconstruction.

  Photo 9: One of the newest female employees of Conscious Impact Nepal Pvt. Ltd., a Nepali-operated social enterprise providing jobs to local men and women to produce CSEBs

Photo 9: One of the newest female employees of Conscious Impact Nepal Pvt. Ltd., a Nepali-operated social enterprise providing jobs to local men and women to produce CSEBs


 

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The Bimire Earthbag House

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The Bimire Earthbag House

The Bimire Earthbag House

Rebuilding a Sustainable and Earthquake-Safe Home for the Acharya Family.

 

  A special moment of connection between Ankit, a Conscious Impact volunteer from India, and Ama Acharya. There are more ways to communicate than words, and with this family we must find alternatives every day.

A special moment of connection between Ankit, a Conscious Impact volunteer from India, and Ama Acharya. There are more ways to communicate than words, and with this family we must find alternatives every day.

 

Every year, there is one project at Conscious Impact that steals the heart of every volunteer that comes to our camp. This year that project is the Bimire Earthbag House, a full-power effort to build a new home for the Acharya family, the most vulnerable family in the community. On April 25th, 2015, the Acharya’s lost their house in the powerful earthquake, like the rest of the region’s families, leaving Chandra Bahadur Acharya, his wife, his sister and their 4 children homeless. While hundreds of families begin to rebuild their homes this year, however, the Acharya’s had little hope of ever rebuilding on their own: Chandra Bahadur, his wife and sister are all deaf and mute, unable to communicate with the greater community and extremely economically disadvantaged. For this reason, the Bimire community asked Conscious Impact for support.

 

 

 

"The Acharya’s had little hope of ever rebuilding on their own: Chandra Bahadur, his wife, and sister are all deaf and mute."

 

  Our amazing “groundbreaking” team of volunteers and Nepali staff working hard to dig the foundation of our newest project, the Bimire Earthbag House.

Our amazing “groundbreaking” team of volunteers and Nepali staff working hard to dig the foundation of our newest project, the Bimire Earthbag House.

Last month, our volunteers and Nepali staff began the reconstruction process, moving hundreds of kilograms of soil to clear and level the land in preparation for the foundation. Now, we have completed the foundation and next week we will begin the earthbag walls! The goal is to complete the home by January, allowing the family to move into their new home before the cold of winter reaches its height.

 

 

 

"These bags ensure that even during the powerful monsoon rains, the foundation of the home will remain well drained and the walls undamaged."

 

  The “bag sewing” team back at camp, working diligently to keep up with the rising earthbag walls on site .   

The “bag sewing” team back at camp, working diligently to keep up with the rising earthbag walls on site.

 

Today, I was blessed to spend time on site as 9 volunteers plus the family’s oldest son Namraj worked together to lay the first course of gravel bags. These bags ensure that even during the powerful monsoon rains, the foundation of the home will remain well drained and the walls undamaged. It is hard work, but with a big team the bags fill quickly. Each bag was carefully measured, labeled and sewn closed by a team of volunteers working as quickly as possible back at camp to keep up with the work at the site. “Bag sewing” is a daily work task at camp, and a great way to rest the body while still contributing essential work to the project.

 

 

   The family’s son Namraj stands on the edge of the construction site at the end of a morning’s work admiring the progress. Filled gravel bags cover the site and the Langtang mountain range hides behind the clouds in the distance. 

 The family’s son Namraj stands on the edge of the construction site at the end of a morning’s work admiring the progress. Filled gravel bags cover the site and the Langtang mountain range hides behind the clouds in the distance. 

Sitting in the Acharya’s current house, a small, temporary structure built with broken wood and leftover pieces of tin provides perspective to the project. Seven people sleep on this tiny floor on rice mats every night, and everything they own hangs above them. Yet still, below the drying corn and torn clothes, the mother makes a fire to cook zucchini and cornmeal for lunch with a smile on her face. We communicate with gestures, she invites us to stay for food but we clarify that we will leave before lunch to return to camp. She smiles again and we share a confirmation that everything is OK.

  Alex and Mac, two volunteers, fill a bag with gravel as part of the foundation construction. The home sits on a bluff with a beautiful view of the Langtang mountain range.

Alex and Mac, two volunteers, fill a bag with gravel as part of the foundation construction. The home sits on a bluff with a beautiful view of the Langtang mountain range.

 

 

 

This project will be a large focus of our volunteer efforts over the next 3-4 months as we build the new home from foundation to roof. Every volunteer that visits us will have the opportunity to learn the process of earthbag construction and get their hands dirty moving soil, filling bags and laying the walls. This project will also take a large sum of the Conscious Impact funding, budgeted at USD $8000.

 

 

 

 

If you or anyone you know wants to contribute directly to this project, please write us at consciousimpact.nepal@gmail.com or send us a message.

Every dollar helps.

 

 

Thank you to the more than 50 volunteers that have already put their sweat and labor into this project, and to all of the Conscious Impact community around the world for making this work possible. We send blessings to you all from Takure, Nepal!

  The Acharya’s sister sits to watch the construction of her new home. Both deaf and mute, like her brother and his wife, she mostly watches in silence. They say she is also blind, but the way she watches our work I know she must see something.       Written by: Orion Haas  / Photography: Ankit Tanu

The Acharya’s sister sits to watch the construction of her new home. Both deaf and mute, like her brother and his wife, she mostly watches in silence. They say she is also blind, but the way she watches our work I know she must see something.

 

Written by: Orion Haas / Photography: Ankit Tanu

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Youth Outreach Program Update: End of the Year Summary

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Youth Outreach Program Update: End of the Year Summary

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2017 is coming to an end and our Youth Outreach program is excited to share with you an update on their 2017 projects! Here is a summary of the major projects and programming we led thorughout the year.


Shakya Jenisha and Alyson Sagala teamed up to start the Girls Empowerment Program at the Nawalpur Secondary School, where they met once a week to run workshops and classes around female identity, expression, safety, and sexual health education. Alyson and Jenisha received materials from the organization Days for Girls to help aid in teaching reproductive health in the secondary school. The girls were nervous yet excited to learn more about their bodies, a conversation that is not common throughout schools in Nepal.


Co-Coordinator Ellen Stewart created and facilitated a series of workshops at both the primary and secondary level at multiple schools in our area which focused on waste management and environmental sustainability. The curriculum centered around teaching concepts like biodegradability and climate change, as well as engaging students with hands-on projects like building cob waste bins at their schools. 

As an initiative to create an inclusive community between volunteers and locals we invited local students on field trips to the Conscious Impact camp. We held field trips for the students at Bimire and Takure Primary, where students visited the camp and learned about the nature of Conscious Impact's work with sustainable rebuilding and regenerative agro-forestry. Students planted trees alongside our agriculture team, learned about compost, and watched the CSEB brick making process.

Co-Coordinator Lily Foster helped facilitate and organize art classes at Nawalpur Secondary in the mornings before regular classes. Students were thrilled to learn watercolor painting techniques (using donated paints!), basic sketching, and paper maché!

Volunteers continued to visit both the Takure and Bimire Primary School to hold play-oriented learning classes with students ages 3-11 years old. Many volunteers over the course of the season helped to paint classrooms at Takure Primary and Nawalpur Secondary School. We worked alongside students to paint and decorate their classrooms, turning their once dark classrooms into an engaging and playful learning environment. 

Thank you to volunteer Yotam Machat and Joshua Umesh who led a playground design project using recycled materials. Volunteers and students worked together to build a caterpillar playground structure made from cement and recycled car tires.

Thank you to volunteer Laurie Tobia who led projects in painting murals around the community. Laurie, with the help of some students and volunteers, painted a beautiful mural at the Bimire Primary School.


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A special thank you to all the dedicated volunteers who contributed their time and energy to the Youth Outreach Program this past season! Thank you to our education coordinators Alyson Sagala, Ellen Stewart, Lily Foster, and Shakya Jenisha for leading these amazing projects. Thank you to Jonathan Lee for photographing these projects.


The Youth Outreach program is always looking for volunteers interested in non-traditional learning and youth/girls empowerment! Those interested in staying long term will have the opportunity to develop and implement their own programming and curriculum if they wish to do so, with guidance from coordinators like myself and local teachers. 

We hope to see you in 2018!

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8 Reasons Why You Should Practice Yoga in Nepal

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8 Reasons Why You Should Practice Yoga in Nepal

Join us in Takure, Nepal for Conscious Impact's 3rd Annual Yoga Retreat.

10 Days of Yoga and Service. November 6th - 15th 2017.

Fill Out an Interest Form Here.

 

1. Strengthen Your Yoga Practice

with Dharma Shakti

 

Dharma Shakti is a Yoga Instructor, Aryuvedic Practitioner, Pancha Karma Specialist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Kirtan Wallah, Owner and Founder of Yogalution Movement and Creator of Free Yoga on The Bluff.

Yogalution Movement is a socially active, donation-based yoga studio that specializes in community mobilization. The center is best known for 'Yoga on the Bluff' an outdoor, twice-a-day yoga donation based class that is open to everyone, regardless of their experience! This class inspired what would become Conscious Impact's Yoga for Nepal Retreat.   

Dharma continues her studies with her many mentors and spiritual teachers, having a deeply rooted foundation in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Tradition, an ancient lineage, she studies and finds knowledge and wisdom in Vedic Sciences such as Bhakti and Jnana yoga, Spiritual Scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and ancient Yogic Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are her biggest influences. 

One of her many teachers,  Tukaram Das Prabhu, whom which she studied with for 10 years, has had a very big impact on the way Dharma teaches Yoga and the way in which she delivers Yoga Philosophy in her classes. Without his guidance, she would not be the teacher she is today.

This year marks Dharma's third visit to the village of Takure for another beautiful 10 days of service.

2. Practice with a Community of Yogis from Across the Globe

 

Yoga for Nepal is Conscious Impact's 3rd annual yoga retreat in Takure, Nepal. Every year we welcome guest from countries all over the world. Expand your yoga practice with diverse knowledge from yogis across the globe. Practice together, hike together, cook together, volunteer together and create life lasting friendships. We pride ourselves in creating a volunteer community where everyone is encouraged and comfortable to express their truest selves. Spend your evening teaching your favorite workshop, or join in on other activities, sit in the tipi and share stories and poetry with your new friends. If you have an idea for a fun activity at camp, talk to us, we will help you set it up! 

 

"However I was not prepared for the inner peace and contentment that I feel every day in this sacred place."

- Aoife Kane

3. Practice Seva Yoga (Selfless Service)

 

The act of selfless service leads to collective benefit and gain even though it is performed without regard for the outcome of the individual. In performing acts selflessly, one must confront his/her own difficulties, resistance and negativity. One learns to recognize personal thought patterns and behaviors, as well as different facets of his/her personality. Through this heightened self-awareness, one can surrender the aspects of his/her personality that are no longer serving him/her and find an inner peace which is not dependent on or influenced by external factors.

It is said that Seva yoga is a combination of Karma yoga, the yoga of action, and Bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. In practicing Seva yoga, one serves others with his/her actions and does it with an attitude of pure, selfless love.

"The essence of Seva yoga is said to be encapsulated by the roots of the word. Seva comes from the Sanskrit words saha, meaning “with that,” and eva, meaning “too.” Thus, seva means 'together with.'"

4. Practice Karma Yoga

 

"The intention when practicing karma yoga is to give selflessly for the good of others without thought of one's self or attachment to the results of one's actions. Acting in this way is considered the right way to approach service and it is said to purify the mind."

Karma yoga is an ancient concept. The path of karma yoga is described in the Hindu sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita. It is also taught by zen teachers.

Karma yoga is relevant to all yogis because, to some extent, everyone must undertake some actions during their lifetime. By practicing karma yoga, all of these actions, even the most mundane, can become part of one's spiritual path. Practicing karma yoga also means to fully accept one's dharma, or life’s duty, and to let go of selfish desires. In doing so, one sublimates the ego.

5. Strengthen Your Hatha and Bhakti Yoga Practice   

BHAKTI YOGA

The intention when practicing Bhakti yoga is to devote one's self to the Divine that is in everything and, thus, to realize the union of the individual self with God. It is motivated by a love of God rather than a fear of negative repercussions or punishment and has been described as the sweetest of the yogic paths since it develops love and acceptance for all beings.

The Bhakti path of yoga is a path of the heart and practitioners may use chanting, devotional mantras, prayer, kirtan and rituals as part of their worship. 

HATHA YOGA

Hatha yoga is the yoga tradition most familiar to Western culture. The term is derived from the Sanskrit ha, meaning "sun," and tha, meaning "moon." The practice aims to unite the active and receptive qualities represented by each celestial being.

Practitioners of Hatha yoga use physical alignment and breathing control to achieve an equilibrium between the active body and its universe. The resulting harmony manifests itself as physical strength, physiological health and emotional well-being.

 

6. Practice Yoga in the Himalayas  

 

Takure is located in the foothills of the Himalayas just 60 km north/east of Kathmandu. Our camp is steps away from the Langtang mountain range and the dramatic views are a short hike away. Our classes are all held outdoors allowing you to breath in the mountain air, listen to animals in the jungle, and watch the dramatic sun set as you strengthen your practice. During the retreat we offer hikes through the local community and into the nearby mountains. Practice yoga as some of the highest peaks in the world look over you in the distance. 

7. Spend Time With the Local Community

 

The Nepali community is rich in Hindu and Buddhist tradition. During festival season in the fall, we've been lucky enough to engage many festivities with the villagers. Last year, we assisted in the construction of a 40 foot bamboo swing, partook in festive feasts, and danced in the roads to the music of the Madal (nepali drum). In the afternoons, we can walk five minutes to the local tea shop to share cups of hot milk tea and laughs with community members while practicing our Nepali. 

 

8. Daily Yoga Classes, Meditation, Chanting, Vegetarian Meals and More!

SIGN UP HERE

(This is not a deposit and does not count as an official attendance. This is an interest form so we can begin planning your journey in Nepal. Sign up, ask questions, request a phone call, and learn more! We look forward to seeing you in Nepal!) 

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Meet Narayan: A Philosopher and a Farmer

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Meet Narayan: A Philosopher and a Farmer

Narayan Bhatterai is the local leader for Conscious Impact's agriculture program and was recently named the chairman of the new Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative in Takure. Out of affection, we call him Narayan "Mama", which means "uncle" in Nepali. 


Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Namaste, my name is Vishnu Bhatterai, but people know me as Narayan Bhatterai. My house is in Nawalpur, Takure Ward number 4. In some ways, my life has been painful. Because nobody can say, “My life is full of happiness.” Everybody has their own pain. Everybody has their own suffering. My life has been different than others in certain ways. I didn’t receive the warmth of love from my mother and father. I never got the chance to realize what that kind of love was like. When I look back on my childhood, there was a lot of suffering. It doesn’t matter how many times you’re injured, because when you are able to heal, you are stronger. In my life now, I have a place to be satisfied. There is a reason we pick from the edge of the river when choosing a loro (stone pestle). It is those stones that pass through the most struggle and hardship, making them strong. They are the best for the work that needs to be done.


"It doesn’t matter how many times you’re injured, because when you are able to heal, you are stronger." 


My father died when I was 1 and a half years old. I never knew the face of my father. When I was 7 years old, my mother remarried to another man, and then left him. After that, my life was not so easy. By the age of 14 -15, I went to live with my maternal uncle. I grew up there, and I was able to complete some of my studies. After that I went back to my house in Takure, and got married. Right now I have 5 members of my family. My two daughters are a blessing from God. They are so much better than me. I forget all my pain when looking at my family. I am satisfied. The earthquake brought a lot of pain and sadness. Yet after this sadness, to some extent there is always happiness, because we were able to find a new family in Conscious Impact. I met them, and had the chance to sit with them, talk with one another and recognize each other. All of this is such good luck. This is a good opportunity, because every challenge has possibilities and every possibility has challenges. This is my experience.


"There is a reason we pick from the edge of the river when choosing a loro (stone pestle). It is those stones that pass through the most struggle and hardship, making them strong. "


I have a simple family and don’t have so many fields for farming. I have one cow and two baby cows. The cow gives me milk. I have 5-6 goats. Simply our life is going on. Maybe I’m not able to fulfill all my children’s wishes, desires, and happiness. But I am trying. I am trying to give more than 50%. If I am able to at least give 51%, I can be satisfied. And when it comes back to 49%, that is my bad luck.

A single individual makes up one part of the whole, while the community makes up the bigger part. If society improves and develops, then your village, your tole (small community), your VDC, will also grow to be better. Just because your neighbor is rich, doesn’t mean that you are poor. This is a way of thinking that still exists, and hasn’t disappeared. I hope that it doesn’t. I am satisfied with this way of thinking.

The benefits we receive as individuals are not large. We are not taking any things with us, yet we try to earn so much to have sufficient things. We come into this world with empty hands, live in nature, step on this earth, breathe the air, drink the water, get warmth from fire. And when we die, we leave empty handed. We reach again the water, and are burned by the flame, mixing our soul back into the fire. We take only the satisfaction that we drew from our own lives and the thoughts that others had of us, when we die.


"We come into this world with empty hands...And when we die, we leave empty handed...We take only the satisfaction that we drew from our own lives and the thoughts that others had of us, when we die."


 

Q: What role does agriculture play in your life, and why is agriculture important to you?

A: When I was in class 8 or 9, I learned that Nepal is an agricultural country. About 87-90% of people rely on farming to live. Slowly, there was a decrease in production because people were becoming less interested in agriculture. This is sad for me, and for everyone. Everyone has begun flying to other countries for work. People are constantly fighting one another for government jobs, or for any kind of work. The number of people that focus their time on agriculture is decreasing day by day. This really hurts me, because we are sacrificing so much to try and work abroad, giving so much blood and sweat working for someone else in a different country.

Increasing population, the population density, unregulated farming methods, the use of chemicals and unnatural fertilizers -- all of these things are leading to less income generation and more expenses. Because of all these things, people are moving away from agriculture, and just trying to find easier work.  Because of all these reasons, agriculture is the most important thing. It is life. Along with this, agriculture protects the whole world. Agriculture takes care of all human beings and animals. Because of all these things, I am more interested in agriculture, and more attracted to agriculture.

 

Q: Why are you interested in growing organically?

A: When we adapt to organic farming, I believe that the soil that is now dying will slowly regenerate. If the soil is good, we’ll be good as well. If soil is healthy, you will also be healthy. Thinking about all these things, we have to make the soil healthy and more fertile. If we make the soil unhealthy, then we will also be unhealthy. Maybe we’ll be able to make money just for the present moment, but we cannot avoid questions about what we will do in the future?

Now it seems we are too late. We have made the 5 elements of our world impure and muddled. We are human beings who have a big responsibility, but we are becoming selfish and only focusing on our individual needs.

Air, water, earth, and soil -- all these things are our life. Yet we think we can challenge these things, and move forward with the wrong concept of trying to control them.


"Challenging nature is a foolish thing. We use the word 'development, development' but it is only bringing destruction. If we forget to keep a balance between development and destruction, or our future generations will resent us."


Challenging nature is a foolish thing. We use the word “development, development” but it is only bringing destruction. If we forget to keep a balance between development and destruction, or our future generations will resent us. Meditating on all those things, the only way to make soil healthy is through organic farming.

 

Q: How did Takure move away from organic farming and start using chemicals?

A: In 2036 B.S. there was a huge famine. I had only heard about this because at the time I was only 2-3 years old. After that, chemical fertilizers became popular to use, and people were so happy to see the very quick increase in abundance.

In the last 30 years, we have given birth to unheard diseases and unhealthily polluted air and water. Because of deforestation, and the use of unnatural fertilizers and chemicals, the soil is not able to bear the load, because everything has balance. Now it’s time to think deeper. Even if we aren’t thinking about it right now, imagine what will happen if we continue using chemicals and fertilizers at this pace. Deforestation leads to landslides and flooding, and yet we are continuing these practices. And the use of chemicals will leave future generations with nutrient-less, poor quality food.


"Deforestation leads to landslides and flooding, and yet we are continuing these practices. And the use of chemicals will leave future generations with nutrient-less, poor quality food."


Only the owners of those companies who make chemical fertilizers are earning money. Farmers are investing money, and making money, but losing more. Even if we do hard work into the future, by the end of it we will not have a good environment for farming anymore. Still we have time, and if we coordinate with each other, getting helping hands, it won’t be too late, even though there’s little time left. We can stop all this destruction and save the soil.

We can give life, and to give life is to give a future for our children and to save our world. Along with this, it’s important to keep ourselves healthy, not only yourself, but all creatures, and the whole planet.

With continued support, interest, and help -- one day Takure will be a place that is again fully organic. I am hopeful that one day it will be like this.

 

Q: What does partnering with us to bring organic coffee to the community mean to you?

A: I was in my own lifestyle and my own way of thinking. After the big earthquake, you chose to come here after seeing our pain and suffering. We were given the chance to receive this help. 


"Even before the earthquake, day to day life was difficult. After the earthquake, it was like we were left naked. It was a pitiful situation. "


Even before the earthquake, day to day life was difficult. After the earthquake, it was like we were left naked. It was a pitiful situation. There were no businesses around or government services or jobs in this area. For the five of us in my family, it was very hard. Without work, it is so hard for me to take care of my family. When  you [Conscious Impact] came along many villagers received job opportunities. Not only jobs, but got the chance to serve our own community. Brick making is a service to the community. We now have a coffee nursery. And this is not just for one individual, but for the community. If the community will rise up, I can also rise up. I am the smallest part of the community.

Not only me, my society, my community -- we need to stand up together. We all need to understand what the truth is. This is my expectation. Even though we may not be able to help with every sector, with the help from Conscious Impact we’ve started a nursery, we began growing 10,000 coffee trees, and next year we will plant another 10,000 coffee trees. Slowly in 3-4 years, we will have 40-50,000 coffee plants.

This will be a great source of organic farming. Along with this, people’s standard of living will be improved. Growing this organic coffee will mean not having to work as hard every year because we will not have to plant every year. We just have to plant once, give care, and provide water. If you wait for 2-3 years, then you will regularly be able to make income for 40-50 years. On one side, it is beneficial for human beings as a source of income, and on the other side it is beneficial to the soil because it is grown organically. It is healthy for us as human beings.


"Growing this organic coffee will mean not having to work as hard every year because we will not have to plant every year."


You [Conscious Impact] have given so much inspiration, so much help, and you’ve made us so much more enthusiastic. For this, we want to say thank you. I hope this community will take this in a positive way. Truly, we don’t have to just focus on temporary happiness, and we have to think about the future. I want to thank Dheeraj Mishra for bringing Conscious Impact to Takure.  I want to thank my community as well.

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The Formation of a Coffee Cooperative

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The Formation of a Coffee Cooperative

Meet the "Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative"

June 18th, 2017

 Our "Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative." Elected chairman Narayan Bhattarai stands third from the left and the Sakute offical stands third from the right. The committee is 3 men and 4 women, and represents 4 different casts within the community. 

Our "Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative." Elected chairman Narayan Bhattarai stands third from the left and the Sakute offical stands third from the right. The committee is 3 men and 4 women, and represents 4 different casts within the community. 

This week with the help of our own Greg Robinson and Narayan Bhattarai Mama, Conscious Impact formed the Takure branch of the Nepali based coffee cooperative! On Saturday we were excited to set up a training with a representative from the Sakute Coffee Cooperative in Nepal and the local community. Sakute is a town in Sindhupalchowk, the same district as Takure and only a short bus ride away. A representative from the cooperative came to Takure this week to provide a training regarding the structure, requirement and benefits of the co-op model. To join the cooperative members were asked to provide citizen cards and passport photographs. We are so excited that 46 women and men turned in their paperwork and the cooperative has officially formed! We now have 26 members from Takure and 20 members from Bimire. Others in the community will still have the opportunity to join in the coming years.

 Members meet for a training with a representative from Sakute.

Members meet for a training with a representative from Sakute.

The cooperative has been named the "Basic Organic Coffee Coopetavie." Basic means to be directly connected to the earth through simple and organic means of farming. 

Apart from forming the cooperative, the members sat together and elected a 7 person committee to represent the "Basic Organic Coffee Cooperative." Narayan Bhattarai was unanimously selected as the chairman of the committee. Of those elected as representatives 4 were men and 3 were women. The elected committee represents families from 4 casts, Brahmin, Tamang, Magar, and Dahal. We're so excited for this opportunity to have women and men working together as well as families form 4 casts. 

 A huge thank you to our agriculture team and Mandu Tapa (third from the left). 

A huge thank you to our agriculture team and Mandu Tapa (third from the left). 

The cooperative is Nepali run and organized and supports an equal women to men committee. The chairwoman of the cooperative is Mandu Tapa who has been extraordinary in helping us form the Takure/Bimire branch of the cooperative. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has been a part of forming the cooperative. None of this would be possible without the support of volunteers and donors from around the world. To learn more about our More Than a Tree campaign and supporting the farmers of our community click HERE. Please consider donating to help us continue this project, and for every $1 donated one tree is planted!! DONATE NOW!

 "Coffee is less of an investment. I can spend less money and generate more income." - Gopal Achraya

"Coffee is less of an investment. I can spend less money and generate more income." - Gopal Achraya

 "I'm excited to plant coffee because small worms destroy corn and millet. It is much easier to plant coffee." - "Bal Kumari Dahal

"I'm excited to plant coffee because small worms destroy corn and millet. It is much easier to plant coffee." - "Bal Kumari Dahal

 "I'm excited to plant coffee because it provides a long lasting income generating source." -Amar Bdr. Ranamagar

"I'm excited to plant coffee because it provides a long lasting income generating source." -Amar Bdr. Ranamagar

 "There is a big problem with Monkeys destroying other crops and I think coffee will be good." - Sarita Achraya

"There is a big problem with Monkeys destroying other crops and I think coffee will be good." - Sarita Achraya

Support our More Than a Tree Campaign by clicking

 

Written By: Bryce G. Tanner, Greg Robinson

Photography: Greg Robinson, Rebeca Segal, and Jonathan H. Lee

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Meet Buddha: A Farmer Using Permaculture in Nepal

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Meet Buddha: A Farmer Using Permaculture in Nepal

Meet Buddha Tamang 


A note from the interview: Buddha Tamang is an elderly Buddhist man living just down the hill from Conscious Impact's camp. His friends in the village could only praise him for his love of organic farming and dedication to his plants and trees. We knew we had to meet him. He is a permaculture enthusiast in every definition of the word. He plants in a way that benefits all the living things near and on his land. His trees are intermixed with crops and everything he grows has a purpose. His devotion to Buddhism is directly reflected into the way he farms. Buddha has often said he loves his trees as much as his children. He loves to talk about his life, his plants, and how he has coped through major distresses including the passing of his wife and the 2015 earthquake. Buddha is now a close friend, a coffee co-op member, and a mentor, we visit him often. 


Q: How is your way of planting trees different, and what is special about that?

A: My original home is not here, but in Daduwa. When I first moved to this land there was not a single tree. This land was just for grazing animals for the people of Takure and Dude. From that corner of land to the other, in the 15-20 ropanis (2-2.5 acres) of land, I could only collect 1 basket of grass.

All that I have planted I brought from somewhere else. This tree here, has grown here (pointing to large tree behind him). This land had no plants or trees, when I first bought plants, I didn't know how to grow them. Then I learned how to use compost. There wasn't any grass for my animals to feed on, so I learned to grow grass. Now this time, there won't be wood shortages or problems. We grow trees for wood and bamboo to make baskets. Before we used to carry everything in rice sack bags, but now we use bamboo to carry things and make baskets.

When my wife was sick, I learned how to grow fruit trees, specifically lemon trees. I took my wife to India and other foreign countries. I would carry around lemons in my pocket to put in water when I wanted to drink. When she was in the hospital there was no one at home to wash my clothes. I took off my jacket and hung it in my house and did not wash it for a year after she was sick. After one year, once she had passed away, I reached for my coat again, and found the same 2 lemons, but now they had become dry. When I opened them, there were 11 seeds. I wanted to know if they would grow, so I planted all 11 seeds in the mud. I wanted to try, and all 11 seeds grew.

I planted the 11 trees in small plastic bags. I put soil and compost inside the small black bags, and placed them under the shade of a tree for 2-3 years to grow. I gave them water and took care of them, even though I didn't have experience, I dug 11 holes to plant the trees. I planted them too close together, so when they grew the branches touched each other.

After my wife died, I traveled to so many places and saw many people doing tree grafting. I watched and learned how to graft by watching other people do it. I eventually did the same for my plants. Through tree grafting, I was able to grow 80 lemon trees. All these trees, especially lemon, are from grafting. I used to have more trees, but 20 trees were destroyed when the government expanded the road.

 "I want to build a garden around this land. Gardens need to be cared for. They need water, and medicine, everything. I want to make this place a garden. That's why I'm doing this."

 

There was no system that allowed my son to stay home and work in Takure, because there were no jobs available. Like the heavy rains that wash away everything in its path, my wife died, and I was left alone. I was left having to pay back 14 lakh rupees in loans, which I had spent on my wife's medical treatment. And even after she died, I spent so much money on her death ceremony and funeral.

Because of the need to pay back these loans, there was no way for my son to stay home. My son, when he comes to stay, is more like a guest. Not out of his own interest, but because he is obligated to work.

Throughout all this, I had wanted to build my house. I have so many plans to work on my land. I have a problem where there is not enough water. I want to make the land level and build a dam to store water. I already have a small pond. I want to plant different types of fruits and vegetables, like onion and garlic. Anything can grow in this soil, on this land. If there are problems with starvation for 2 months, we will survive because I have grown so much food, like yams and sweet potatoes. I planted all different types of wild yams and sweet potatoes all over this place.

 

Q: What are your dreams and vision for your land for the next 50 years?

A: In my view, I want to make it a better place. I've only done experiments on this land, and haven't really benefitted from what I grew until now. Now I've seen I can do what I want to do. My son and grandsons, are all involved with the agriculture on this farm. Everyone's heart is in this work and land. Right now, why go to America or the UK or Korea or different countries? If we can plant trees and fruits here, we will have flowers, and now I have bees. We can create benefits from all these things.

Nowadays, there are roads and markets everywhere. You can use vegetables for eating, you can sell them in the market, and you can send them far away to be sold. Onions, garlic, and green vegetables are essential. We need them every day, morning and evening. If you have extra vegetables, you can sell them, and then you don't have to buy it. I will manage the problem of water, and I will grow different kinds of fruits and vegetables. It is hard work doing agriculture, but there is no other option. This is what I want to spend my time doing, putting all my energy on this land. Not just for myself, but for my grandson. My grandson has a good education, and it is good for him to do this work because he has knowledge. That is why our dream is to manage this place, and to have guests like you from far away. I have experience, I just don't have enough resources or economic power. I have less income and more expenses.

"Right now, why go to America or the UK or Korea or different countries? If we can plant trees and fruits here, we will have flowers, and now I have bees. We can create benefits from all these things."

If we look, there is nothing to do. But if we just do, we find what there is to do. We have so many bamboo trees, so we can make so many things from them, but we need the skills to learn how to make these things. What we need is skills. How to plant trees, how many trees need to be planted – all these things need to be learned.

I have 6 children/grandchildren. All of them are going to school, being part of society, attending ceremonies and inviting everyone. If for 2-3 years, you are all coming and going from this place, you'll have the opportunity to see these changes. If one person died, we don't have to stop doing things, because dying is a natural part of life. In 2-3 years, I want to decorate this place like a bride on her wedding day. I may die, and I will not be able to do this, but my son and grandson will be able to continue this work.

Q: There is a large tree behind your house and there are many pigeons living in it. Have you built these homes in the tree for the birds?

A: Before the earthquake we had a two story building here, and the 2nd floor was a just for pigeons. There were 500-600 pigeons there. I don't keep pigeons, but I give them grains. Because of the earthquake our home was destroyed. After that, there was such a horrible smell. We realized it was the smell of pigeon poop. 500-600 pigeons produced 80 sacks of poop for compost and I collected all of this.

"If we have to climb up, then we will also have to climb down – there is always both happiness and sadness. We have laughs and tears, life is like this. Even if you feel right now everything is okay, maybe it won't be later."

We dug a hole under the lemon tree and put all the pigeon poop there and covered it. You can see the lemon tree is still flowering and giving fruit. After that, the pigeons were still living in the damaged house. We didn't have any space for them to live. Just like human beings, who also didn't have anywhere to live after the earthquake. But still they would come at night and live there. We believe that 50-60 pigeons were eaten by cats.

For agriculture, when it comes to rice, millet, wheat, corn, black beans and other different kinds of beans, you will not understand if I tell you all the different things I know about these crops. I am the child who did so much agriculture and still I am doing. Now I have so many hardships because of my wife. I have experienced so much pain because of my wife. I was not even 50 years old when she died. It is not worth it to love someone who has died, but it is worth it to love those who are living, that is why I love my children. I get so much happiness and so much sadness from everything I've experienced in my life.

I traveled so much. If we talk about India, I went to Calcutta, New Delhi, and many other cities in India. I also went to West Pakistan. In my country, I went to Rolpa, Dolpa, and Gorkha. I have so many experiences through traveling. Time did not give me the chance to do everything. I am not hopeless, nor am I overconfident. Everything is good with me. I am okay. I am not jealous that other people are earning more money. If anyone says anything, it doesn't make me feel bad. If time favors me, I am going to be able to do so much. We have to travel to different places inside and outside our own countries. And if you will come here sometimes, you will see all the changes that I want to do to this land.

I have planted 150 Lapsi trees around here and I have cut some of them for wood. I have also planted 50 chestnut trees, one variety that you can open with your teeth and the other you have to crush with stone. Now they are bearing fruit. We came to this land just 30-35 years ago.

"You ask, I will answer. Or I will just speak alone like a crazy person."

If we have to climb up, then we will also have to climb down – there is always both happiness and sadness. We have laughs and tears, life is like this. Even if you feel right now everything is okay, maybe it won't be later. Time is powerful, and we have to move according to time. We cannot say, "No I can't," due to the power of time.

To donate to our agriculture program click here

To learn more about Conscious Impact visit: www.consciousimpact.org

Interview by: Jose Welhan and Bryce Tanner

Edited by: Bryce Tanner

Photography: Johanth H. Lee

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Inspiration Through Connection: Renee's Story

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Inspiration Through Connection: Renee's Story

My arrival to Conscious Impact was on a whim, but my arrival to Nepal was not. I had been planning to come to Nepal for over a year, with a desire to further my passion for the environment and in organic farming by volunteering. Many of my closest friends were caught in the 2015 earthquake and were lucky to survive without injury. Through their experience, not only of the earthquake but of the incredible time they had exploring this country beforehand, I was inspired early on to come to the mountains.

"I was inspired early on to come to the mountains."

I started my journey by attending a two week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Hasera Farm outside Kathmandu. I attended the course to gain more knowledge before volunteering and to learn about Nepali culture and family life through a homestay.  After this, I purposely had no plans. And lucky I did not, because there I met three members from Conscious Impact, including Narayan Mama, one of the local Nepali staff. By the end of the course I decided “Sure, why not?”, and followed them back to Takure to see what kind of work they were doing.

It was clear to me after only a few days I was not ready to leave the Conscious Impact Camp anytime soon. Our Nepali staff are so integrated into the projects, and actively participate in decision making. One of the first projects I worked on was helping create an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) survey. The survey intended to continue discussions with the local community to ascertain existing strengths in order to create connections for new opportunities. At home in Australia, I have always been interested in indigenous issues and know the difficulties of fast paced, disconnected development models. I connect strongly with Conscious Impact's long-term, community focused, and driven style of development.

These days I am heavily involved in the Agriculture Team. Among other projects, I am most passionate about the local run coffee co-op we are helping to establish in Takure. I am interested in reforestry and land regeneration, which is a very big and concerning issue in Nepal. This project highlighted to me the complexities of trying to regenerate the land while creating sustainable livlihoods for the local community at the same time. The co-op model will provide farmers with an alternative, long term and stable source of income, while reforesting the land at the same time.


"I am grateful every day for each person here, Nepali and foreigner, who holds space for me."


This work is often difficult and challenging, but living in community gives us all the much needed support to stay balanced when living and working rurally in a foreign country. I have felt my heart open so much, less focused on the “I” and more on the “We”. From daily yoga practice, to sharing chores, to gratitude reflection before dinner, every act is done with intention, and as a reflection of our collective gratitude for this space and for each other. I am grateful every day for each person here, Nepali and foreigner, who holds space for me.

To continue support my work with Conscious Impact please click HERE

To learn more: www.consciousimpact.org

www.facebook.com/consciousimpact

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Meet Durga: A Woman Farmer in Takure

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Meet Durga: A Woman Farmer in Takure


A note from the interview: I had misconceptions of the difficulty a female farmer in Takure faces every day. I had no idea the daily struggle that Durga Koirala endures because it was always hidden behind her beautiful smile. When we interviewed Durga her eldest daughter had just been married and subsequently moved away from the village. This was weighing on Durga deeply. Because of the emotions that were connected to these questions, we chose not to ask further details on challenging subjects. As a widowed mother, Durga is responsible for bearing the weight of farming and raising her 6 children. Her youngest son attends boarding school and lives with his uncle, while the rest of her daughters help with farming while trying to attend classes. These children respect and adore their mother whole heartedly, she means everything to them, and it is obvious in the ways they help her and care for her. This family has constantly shown adversity in difficult times and I admire their continuous courage. I hope that next season we can continue to help her family though our agriculture’s coffee program. For every dollar donated, one tree is planted, but it also means so much more. The money raised will continue to support families like Durga’s in creating sustainable long-term job opportunities. I hope to continue this interview at a later time, as for now, here is a glimpse into the life of a female farmer in Takure. I hope that by reading this interview you see the connection between mothers around the world. Durga, just as a mother in your home country, hopes to raise empowered, smart, and healthy children. Sincerely, Bryce Tanner

Learn more and support Takure's farmers HERE


  Durga stands in her field with two of her young daughters. 

Durga stands in her field with two of her young daughters. 

Q: What is your name, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?

A: My name is Durga Koirala. I live in Takure with 5 family members, including myself. Two others are in Kathmandu and another lives in my uncle’s house. Sometimes they come home, but not often.  The five of us stay here to do all the household work. I have one son, one daughter who is already married. Now five left waiting to be married.

Q: What does it mean to be a female farmer in Nepal? What do you like the most? What is challenging?

A: It is hard. I am getting a little help, which helps pay the school fees for my children. People ask me how I’m doing, all these things. Before they said they would provide a job for one of my daughters, but now they are saying they won’t. My other daughter says it is not possible to work in Takure. She will only find work in Kathmandu. Who will help her find a job or a place to stay?

My son still has to study. I provide some education to my daughters, but I have to spend money on my son’s education. He is small.

Q: Is farming sufficient to provide your family with food for the whole year?

A: No. Sometimes we have to buy food. Nearly half of what we eat we have to buy. This year we had enough corn to feed our buffalos, but not our family. We are not able to take care of all of the buffalo, and have to sell one. We are not able to get sufficient production from our farm because of problems with monkeys and insects.

We don’t have a sufficient water supply for our fields and for our crops. This year we planted corn in the month of Jestha (Nepali month). We were not able to plant millet and that is why we don’t have sufficient food from farming.

I have one coffee tree. It already has some fruit. Last year I didn’t pick any of the fruit because I was busy building my house. This year I will harvest it. Before last year I was able to earn 700 NPR (~7 USD) from the coffee tree. After my husband died, I planted this orange tree and now it is bearing fruits.

 

"My other daughter says it is not possible to work in Takure. She will only find work in Kathmandu. Who will help her find a job or place to stay?"

Q: Does you have access to enough water for your plants?

A: No. Because of the water problem, I have so many difficulties. People fight for water from the tap.

Q: Did you grow up farming? What is your favorite memory of farming as a child?

A: I didn’t work during my childhood. After I was married, every year I gave birth to a new child. My husband is the one that used to work in the fields. Before he died, he did all the farming, grew all the millet, and took care of all the animals. Now that he is gone, I have to do it. But even these days, I have my daughters to do a lot of this work as well. I have to take care of the house, and all other household chores. When it is necessary for me, I will leave the house and go run errands. For the government funding, I recently left to go receive it in the city.

Not only now, but I’ve had so much suffering and hardship during my childhood.  

"If we have access to a water source, I can work hard and grow more."

Q: What do you grow on your farm?

A: I grow greens, onions, cabbage, and peas, but there is no water. You can see I planted onions, but there is no water for them. If we have water then we can grow a little bit more. If we have access to a water source, I can work hard and grow more.

Q: How much time a week or a day do you spend collecting fodder for the animals?

 A: It takes 2-3 hours to go down to the field every day.

My daughters usually go to cut grass, and most of the time I am at home. When my daughters are busy with their studies, I do the work. One of my daughters is in Nawalpur right now for her studies. She only studies in the morning and returns home after lunch.

Q: What do your children do in the farm?

A: They do everything. Digging corn and taking care of the fields.

Q: What hopes do you have for your daughters? What do you see for them in their future?

A: My only wish is for them to find jobs.

 


To learn more about our coffee program or support the farmers of Takure,

CLICK HERE

Interview: Bryce Tanner and Sunita Pandey

Photography: Jonathan H. Lee


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Meet Shyam: A Coffee Farmer from Nepal

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Meet Shyam: A Coffee Farmer from Nepal

Shyam Katuwal owns and operates an organic coffee nursery in Takure. Over the last year, he has shared his experiences with Conscious Impact so that we can help connect potential coffee farmers from Takure and Bimire with a local cooperative. He is truly an inspiration. 

Q: Why did you start growing organic coffee?

A: I have found inspiration from within myself grow coffee. For me, coffee farming is more important than life itself. I started growing coffee in the year 2043 B.S. (1986).

Growing coffee is important for the bright future of children. It is good for our health to drink coffee. For families, it can be become a good source of income. From the very beginning, I have felt that coffee farming is good which is why I decided to do it. Now I am so happy and proud of myself. My sons and I have registered the name of a coffee cooperative under the name Surjya Coffee Cooperative.

 Shyam in his garden.

Shyam in his garden.

 A young coffee tree with plenty of compost will grow be strong and produce plenty of income-generating fruit.

A young coffee tree with plenty of compost will grow be strong and produce plenty of income-generating fruit.

After the registration, I now have different NGOs (non-government organizations) connecting with me. If I was only growing corn or millet no one would want to work with me. Because of coffee, Conscious Impact has also come, and I feel so happy for this to happen.

 

Q: How has the community grown from having coffee?

"The journey of coffee is longer than that of us human beings. "

A: Now I am providing training for farmers on how to dig holes to plant coffee trees. With the help of trainings, coffee farming will be able to expand. But right now, we are unable to supply as much coffee as being demanded by the market.

Coffee farming is so good. It is like farming for dollars. Planting trees are beneficial for our health long-term. Even if we don’t have food to eat, even if we just sit in the garden drinking water, coffee is good for us. Gardens are good for the environment because plants give us oxygen to breathe.

CI_Season2_Part2_Ag-Program_Photos (40).jpg
 Shelled coffee, drying on racks.

Shelled coffee, drying on racks.

 Shyam sharing the coffee production process with John.

Shyam sharing the coffee production process with John.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your farm, and what coffee has done for your farm because we like your organic style and sister planting, which has led to the creation of a beautiful farm environment:

A: Rice and millet farming is not sufficient to generate enough income. Our goal is to begin three-story farming: with a large tree creating shade as it grows over a coffee tree, and then a low growing plant below that; such as ginger or turmeric. Though land size never changes, the number of people we have to feed only continues to grow. By farming in this way we have enough food to feed everyone, and future generations will have a good source of income. Millet and rice is not sufficient, so this is the best way of generating income and feeding people.

 Shyam showing off his turmeric, a great low story plant.

Shyam showing off his turmeric, a great low story plant.

 Beautiful tumeric.

Beautiful tumeric.


"Rice and millet farming is not sufficient to generate enough income... Though land size never changes, the number of people we have to feed only continues to grow. By farming in this way we have enough food to feed everyone, and future generations will have a good source of income."


Until now I haven’t received any donations. I have been coffee farming by myself. I am so happy that you are all coming here and doing this interview with me, helping to promote my hard work. Coffee is life. We have to go out and cover these naked hills with coffee plants. Since you have coffee saplings, you must plant everywhere, to make everything green again. Whatever help you need, I will be here to support you. Whether it is with trainings or helping speak to people.

There are so many important things that we still have to learn about coffee farming.

 Over the last two decades, 25% of Nepal's land has been deforested which contributes to increased landslides, loss of biodiversity, and economic downfall.

Over the last two decades, 25% of Nepal's land has been deforested which contributes to increased landslides, loss of biodiversity, and economic downfall.

 Shyam and Narayan. Two friends and farmers ready to reforest their land.

Shyam and Narayan. Two friends and farmers ready to reforest their land.

 Coffee begins to give fruit after its 3rd year.

Coffee begins to give fruit after its 3rd year.

"Coffee is life. We have to go out and cover these naked hills with coffee plants."

We have already been certified internationally as organic coffee farmers. We collected soil for 3 years and tested it for being organic or not and for use of pesticides. After going through all those requirements, we were finally certified as organic. We have the certificate, and will eat organic vegetables. We are not like broiler chickens, we will make our whole lives organic and healthy.

We are spreading the message of organic farming in our villages. Some people understand and some people don’t. People do not think for themselves, and so they don’t understand the importance of organic farming and why it is good for everyone and the environment. I am working so hard to convince people that we are capable of doing good, instead of bad.

 Shyam speaking to other farmers about the benefits of growing coffee organically.

Shyam speaking to other farmers about the benefits of growing coffee organically.

 Stronger together!

Stronger together!


"We are spreading the message of organic farming in our villages. Some people understand and some people don’t."


I started a coffee nursery in the year 2043 B.S. (1986). Now I am providing coffee trees to my friends and selling them for 15 rupees each. Since 2063 B.S. (2006), I have continually worked in the nursery and spread knowledge to my friends on how to grow coffee.

I’m so happy that you came here to see all of my work from the very beginning. I feel so lucky. By unveiling my work, I am able to connect and share my story with different foreigners, donors, or organizations. This has created a good environment and strong network for me. After connecting with you [Conscious Impact], I feel I like my knowledge has increased from what it was before.

 

Q: How has starting his own coffee cooperative changed the way he is farming coffee?

A: From the very start at the beginning, we had so much difficulty selling the coffee because there was no cooperative. We first supplied coffee to Buddha Coffee Mill. I started I realized it was necessary to find constant and stable suppliers who would buy coffee. Constantly having to go to different places and people was not sustainable. After that we made 8 primary coffee cooperative groups.

Now we are established and are able to supply all our coffee to this processing center in Sukute. They collect all the coffee there, divide the organic from the inorganic, and all the organic coffee is shipped to Korea and elsewhere. In this way, we directly transport our coffee to Sukute as we grow it.

 Shyam talking about the benefits of growing coffee with other plants.

Shyam talking about the benefits of growing coffee with other plants.

 Compost tea at Shyam's farm!

Compost tea at Shyam's farm!

By connecting to this district coffee cooperative, we can create unity among us which can be hard and difficult to do. If we support each other, we can raise each other up. Some people still do not understand why I plant coffee trees. If we cover all these hills with coffee plants, we can look at it and know it is for the benefit of the Nepalese people. It is not for foreigners. Our aim is to raise awareness among people and help them to do something by themselves. Coffee is so important.

"One person cannot do anything on their own. If we help each other, we are able to raise each other up."

 

One person cannot do anything on their own. If we help each other, we are able to raise each other up. If Conscious Impact is here to help, then we are more than willing to receive it. Whether it is with our coffee or with a nursery, we are here to receive and share knowledge. We as farmers are a marginalized group. I am trying by myself to do this work, but with more energy from others, we’ll be inspired to do more.

For us, coffee is our life cycle. The journey of coffee is longer than that of us human beings. People are not able to understand coffee. Our coffee is organic Arabica, and comes all the way from the Americas. The name Arabica is famous in this way.

I want to thank you again; I am able to sit here and give this interview and not worry about time. There is no value of time because the life cycle is constantly going on.

 Narayan, Greg, and Shyam talking coffee in the Conscious Impact greenhouse.

Narayan, Greg, and Shyam talking coffee in the Conscious Impact greenhouse.

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Training Takure in Coffee Management

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Training Takure in Coffee Management

 Our first coffe tree is being planted!

Our first coffe tree is being planted!

 Volunteers Meryl and Jatesh measure 6 kg of humanure per tree!

Volunteers Meryl and Jatesh measure 6 kg of humanure per tree!

 Farmers sit in front of the Bimire School as we plant our first coffee tree!

Farmers sit in front of the Bimire School as we plant our first coffee tree!

 Greg is teaching our hardworking volunteers the importance of prepping holes for each coffee tree!

Greg is teaching our hardworking volunteers the importance of prepping holes for each coffee tree!

 Farmers from Bimire and Takure are ready to plant coffee! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project!

Farmers from Bimire and Takure are ready to plant coffee! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project!

Community Training

On May 5th and 6th Conscious Impact, in partnership with a Nepali coffee cooperative held two local coffee trainings. One in the community of Bimire and another in Takure. We were grateful to host Ehak Prashad Bykurel from the neighboring village of Sukute to train our community. Ehak works at the processing and distribution center and trains farmers to be successful in creating their own branch of the coffee cooperative. Each farmer was trained in the history of coffee, where and what to plant with coffee, how to prepare the soil, how to take care of the tree, benefits of organic trees, and benefits of the co-op model. We will be helping the community organize into two groups of 25- 30 farmers.

As a part of the training we planted our first 10 coffee trees. These are the first 10 trees of our 10,000 tree initiative. Each tree represents so much more than a tree, they will help to reforest these mid hills in the Himalayas, help mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon, and help support livelihood security by providing cash crops and making agriculture a viable way of life. We’re 10 down and 9,990 to go! We’re so excited to plant all of these trees over the next year. Learn more HERE

In the next few weeks, as monsoon rains continue to increase, we will be distributing trees to the farmers in our community. Each farmer will receive the amount of trees for the holes they have prepared. Most farmers have asked to purchase between 50 and 500 trees. It will take 3 years for the trees to reach maturity and begin producing fruit.

Over the next few weeks we will begin planting new coffee seeds for next years distribution. We are also continuously planting other varieties of tree to be planted alongside coffee including neem, ippl ippl, jack fruit and other income generating trees.

Camp Training

On May 7th we held a special training for our volunteers. Each volunteer was taught how to properly dig and prepare a hole for coffee. Each hole is prepared with a 50 cm radius and depth. The top soil is separated and each pile of soil is mixed with 3kg of compost. Our tree compost is made specifically from our composting latrines. This means that every volunteer who has pooped in our latrines is contributing to the health and longevity of each tree planted at camp!

We will spend the rest of this week digging and preparing holes!

Are you interested in supporting our 10,000 tree initiative? Learn more, or donate Here! Thank you!

Written By: Bryce G. Tanner

Photography: Rebeca Segal / George Blower

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Sexual Reproductive Health Class

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Sexual Reproductive Health Class

On Friday April 28th, Conscious Impact’s Education Team held another meeting of the Girls’ Empowerment Program at Nawalpur Secondary School. The program has reconvened with the start of the Nepali school year.

We hadn’t been able to meet for almost 4 weeks as school was out on holiday, which gave the team ample time to plan for this extra informative session. The meeting focused on knowledge surrounding sexual reproductive health — reproductive organs, sexual health, and the science behind menstruation. The girls who participated in the meeting ranged from the ages of 12 to 17. Even though visiting NGOs had previously done presentations on the same subject at the school, they did not describe in detail the scientific processes behind sexual intercourse or menstruation.

The session started by asking the girls what they knew about their bodies, how they managed their periods, and misconceptions regarding why menstruation happens in our bodies. The girls seemed a bit shy at first, but the reality was they actually knew so little about their internal anatomy. It was intensely rewarding to have the girls slowly become more inquisitive and engaged as they began to ask questions, and gave input about what they thought was happening when they experienced their cycles each month.

We were amazingly lucky to have access to educational materials (in Nepali!) provided by Days for Girls Nepal, an international NGO that focuses on providing sexual reproductive health education and menstruation hygiene materials, such as eco-pads, to women around the world.

We ended the meeting by having the girls chant in a circle, “I love my body,” in Nepali and cheer as we celebrated the beauty and power of ourselves as women.

The team is excited to continue meeting as many times as possible until the end of the season.

Written By: Alyson Segala / Alysonnoele.com

Photography: Johathan H. Lee

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10 Days in Takure

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10 Days in Takure

"I've discovered a small part of the country, I’ve met amazing Nepalese people who I’ve worked and celebrated a wedding with, and I have been impacted: not just by the majestic mountains and the exceptional food, but by a project which has shown me how it really is possible to make a difference and improve the world if one has a purpose and determination, as well as humility to achieve their goals.

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Project Update: April 25th, 2017

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Project Update: April 25th, 2017

"Today we stand with Nepal in remembering the 2 year anniversary of the devastating earthquake. Two years ago, the community of Takure was decimated by a 7.8 earthquake, destroying almost every home. Today, we remember the lives lost, the homes destroyed, and acknowledge the bravery and resilience of our Nepali community. To rebuild after tragedy is to emit great courage. every day we admire and respect the community of Takure for standing together with us and rebuilding their homes." -Conscious Impact

 

Housing and Village Reconstruction

On the 1st of April 2017, the government of Nepal approved CSEBs (Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks) and many other sustainable building solutions for earthquake reconstruction in Nepal. Families are now able to begin rebuilding with our bricks! Since the approval, we have begun construction on 5 homes in Takure and the surrounding community, while many more are in the design phase. Since the beginning of 2017 we have moved over 30,000 bricks from the training center to homes and projects around our community.

Community Center

The brick walls at the community center are complete and awaiting plaster. The roofing is to be installed this week and will be the final step in completing the structure.

Women’s Cooperative

The Women’s cooperative building is complete. The final coats of plaster have been applied, the inside building is painted, and the roof is installed. In the next few weeks, final details will be installed, including lighting and electricity.  

The Everest House Children’s Home

The walls at the children’s home are nearly complete. After the columns are finished the slab will be poured and the roof will be installed.

Sunita Tamang’s Earthbag Home

The second coating of plaster has been applied to Sunita Tamang’s earthbag home and the roof is being installed this week. Next week we will begin applying the final two coats of plaster, pour the slab, and Sunita will move into her home!

Agriculture

Coffee Cooperative

This week Conscious Impact with host Mandu Thapa, a representative of the Sindhupalchok, Coffee Cooperative in Nepal. She will spend two days at camp training local community members in organic coffee farming. Once the training is complete, community members can officially join the cooperative and begin planting their trees.

Spring Fundriaser

This spring, Conscious Impact will be launching our “More Than a Tree” campaign. Funds will support the farmers of Takure in their coffee cooperative and continue our agriculture program.

Education Program

Our women's empowerment program administered a 70 question survey to a group of young women at Nawalpur secondary school. The survey is constructed to asses what it means to be a young girl in this village and how we can address needs in the future.

We have started a pen pal program between the Takure Primary School and a primary school in Kent, England. The goal is to engage students from Takure with others around the world. We have begun video messaging between the children. 

Camp Construction

At Camp we are building permanent composting toilets. Our team has built two new toilet chambers from our CSEBs and bamboo. The final structure will incorporate a wall made from bottle bricks. We are upcycling trash from past volunteers into our very own toilets!

Training Center

This month we hired our first full time female employee, Chul Kumari. We are so excited to have her joining our all Nepali team at the training center. In addition, we are continuing to employ five women part-time every month for soil sieving. 

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