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Dashain Festival Celebrations

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Dashain Festival Celebrations

One of the most beautiful aspects of living in a Nepali, rural community is the unique opportunity to not just witness but participate in the festival season celebrations of Dashain and Tihar. Dashain is the largest and most celebrated festival of the year for the Nepali Hindu community. Dashain serves as a homecoming for many in Nepal and the sense of family, belonging, and good-natured revelry is felt and shared by all.

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The community of Takure opened their hearts and homes to us, a collection of 36 volunteers, mostly strangers to them, from all over the world during this most special and revered time of year. During the festival, we were repeatedly invited into the homes of different local families for traditional meals and blessings. These invitations are just another example of extraordinary Nepali hospitality as we were welcomed into the intimate setting of family celebrations.

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Dashain is a 10-day celebration symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The Goddess Durga and her many manifestations are worshipped for her defeat of the demon Mahishasura. The demon was terrorizing the world of the Gods and Goddesses and no one was able to eliminate Mahishasura until Durga entered a 9-day battle with the demon finally defeating Mahishasura on the 10th day.

There are different celebrations and rituals for the various days of Dashain beginning with the planting of barley seeds, called “jamara", inside each family home and kept out of the sunlight.

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Another highlight of the festival period is the 8th day, Maha Asthami, when there are many animal sacrifices made to appease the Goddess Kali, one of Durga’s manifestations. Water buffalo, goats, and chickens are sacrificed at temples in every community and for many this is the one time of year that they will eat meat.

One of the most fun activities is the building of a traditional swing, called a Ping. Each community takes great pride in building the best and tallest swing out of local bamboo and rope. Pings can reach heights of 20 feet or more and are enjoyed by children and adults of all ages.

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The 10th day, Vijaya Dashami, informally referred to as Tika Day, is the highlight of Dashain. On this day everyone dons their best dress and spirit. The women are often dressed in ornate red saris with red bangles adorning their arms and gold jewelry. Our volunteers, in small groups dressed to impress, spread out into this community in awe of the generosity and openness of the people here. We were offered the ritual of tika with Jamara, marigolds, and fruit upon the arrival at each home. It is a beyond beautiful experience to share such a sacred holiday with these families. The people of Takure are so generous with their homes, their food, and most touching – their spirit. It was remarked by a volunteer that these families were doing the equivalent of letting strangers into their homes for Christmas dinner. The magic of the season and generosity of this community was not lost on a single person. We were all touched by the celebrations, the love, the laughter, and the genuine sense of community shared by all.

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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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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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