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INF Australia News

What do communities really need?

Our partners go door to door talking to community members to find out their challenges and hopes for transformation.

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Pankh and the power of 287

One year ago, Pankh Bohora was given a loan.   He lives in a remote community in Western Nepal where more than half the population survives on less than 50c a day. The loan was pulled together by fellow members of his community Self Help Group. At each meeting, members contribute a small amount toward a fund that can be used as a loan for members; it’s supplemented by International Nepal Fellowship. The amount?  AUD $287.00. Pankh was chosen by his group to receive the loan because in spite of his best efforts as the owner of a small market stall, he was really struggling to meet the needs of his family of eight. “There are no employment opportunities in my village and many people leave to find work in India,” he says. “My small shop met some of our family needs, but not enough. I joined the Self Help Group very eagerly, but I didn’t know what a big impact it would have.” Pankh invested his loan into chickens. He bought a flock and took part in livestock breeding and small business training offered by INF through their local project coordinators.  But at first, things went badly. “Some of my chickens died, even though I cared for them very well,” Pankh says.  “But I did not give up hope and continued to raise them with perseverance.” Within a season, the tide had turned. “Now I am earning NRs 20,000-25,000 (AUD $230-287) per season,” Pankh says.  “I have been able to repay the revolving fund taken from the group as the poultry farming is running well. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the work done by INF Nepal for our communities and people, and I plan to expand this business in its own right.” Here’s what A$287, Pankh’s hard work and the support of INF have delivered for Pankh’s whole family: Education, improved health and hope for Pankh’s daughters, whose continued education will mean delayed onset of marriage, fewer unplanned pregnancies and the ability to help shape the next generation as well as start their own small businesses Opportunities to create a livelihood close to home for Pankh’s sons, who would otherwise leave the area to find work and send home money from across the border Earning capacity and leadership opportunities for Pankh’s wife, who has joined a Self Help Group and become a role model for others Best yet, the loan has been repaid and will be extended to another member of the group.  This is the power of 287. If you’d like to help support a life changing loan of $287 for someone who’ll make great use of it, please visit us at our Walk For Nepal page.  This event is helping support specific goals the people of Kalikot have set for their community for the coming year.

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Are governments listening?

Why advocacy really matters In early 2021, the world looked on aghast as the Delta strain of COVID-19 decimated communities in India. Exhausted medical staff, desperate people carrying oxygen tanks, a death toll that sent fear up the spines of people everywhere: it was on the news nightly for weeks. “Many of us didn’t realise that Nepal, right next door, was suffering in similar ways,” recalls International Nepal Fellowship Australia CEO Ben Thurley. “The local Nepalese community here in Australia was mobilising fast to do what they could, and one of those things was advocating to Government to provide COVID aid not only to India, but to Nepal as well.” The Nepalese community is the fastest growing segment of the migrant population in Australia. They believed they had a cause and numbers to support their message, but would Government listen? “The previous year, we’d heard that the Government was planning to cut aid. DFAT was very clear – they were considering cuts to every program in SE Asia,” says Ben. “Alongside Nepali organisations, we put together a joint letter to the Foreign Minister and a public petition that was signed by hundreds of people, including International Nepal Fellowship supporters. We also organised a meeting with advisors to the Foreign Minister.” The outcome? When the aid budget was released, there were only three countries that escaped deep cuts to programs. Nepal was among them. “Of course we don’t know for sure it was the result of the campaign, but when communities raise their voices, governments do listen,” Ben says. “They may still make decisions we don’t agree with, but living in a democracy means we have every opportunity to speak up.” The outcome in 2020 encouraged INF and local Nepalese organisations in mid 2021 to request specific COVID aid for Nepal, as well as Australian Government support for a waiver of World Trade Organisation rules that prevented equitable development and distribution of COVID-19 treatments.  Again, the community rallied to create a petition and conversations with Government reps. When additional aid was given to India, it was followed up with another 7 million for Nepal, as well as support for the waiver. “That made a huge difference on the ground in Nepal,” Ben says. “The money was channelled through the Australian Embassy in Nepal to local NGOs, among them International Nepal Fellowship who opened an additional oxygen plant to supply patients in Green Pastures Hospital. While negotiations on WTO rules continues, it was a very concrete win.” Off the back of both campaigns, International Nepal Fellowship is once more advocating to the Australia Government. We’re asking that aid to Nepal, and to other global neighbours, be increased.  Please help us by signing the petition here, and if you’re able, write to your local member to put your concerns on the agenda.

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Pray with us in September

For Your Prayers… WACT Give thanks for the successful visit of INF Australia’s International Programs Manager Russ Hancock, with whom WACT was able to share stories of their work and a vision for the future. Russ also travelled to spend time with child and adolescent groups where he met a number of young people who have returned to the group as leaders. They told Russ they wanted to help train others in the kinds of life skills that they had personally found valuable as members of the group. WACT is attempting to complete some of their activities by the end of September and have found local elections disruptive. They also seek prayer for regular rainfall as they come to the end of the monsoon season. Severe flooding devastated communities last year. Shanti Nepal Give thanks for the visit by Russ Hancock, International Programs Manager INF Australia to Shanti Nepal. It was a time of sharing information and encouragement together. Give thanks also for a fruitful meeting with the Chief Minister of Bagmati Province. Shanti has finalised and submitted our Annual project report to our funding partners, which provides security for the coming year. Please pray that funds will be allocated by local municipalities in the agreed amounts by the agreed deadlines – this is proving to be something of a challenge. Both federal and provincial elections have also disrupted some of the projects, meaning it will be difficult to complete them on time. INF Australia Give thanks for our Celebrate Nepal event on September 17 in Sydney. We launched our advocacy action at this event as well as provided opportunities for people to fellowship together and learn more from our partners in Nepal. Thank God for two new recruitments to help out in Australia – a new Office Coordinator and Company Secretary. Pray that the new staff and advisor will settle in well to support the work of INF Australia.  Give thanks that Caryn and Peter Kneale have now arrived in Pokhara and are preparing for orientation and language training. Ask God to give them energy and plenty of people to support them as they adjust to their new roles and home. MILAP Give thanks for time spent with INF Australia’s International Programs Manager, Russ Hancock, who met with MILAP staff and government officials in the field. MILAP Executive Director, Mr Rajendra Bdr Sunar, also attended Community Driven Development training in Bala Vikasa India for two weeks. The experience was extremely helpful in planning MILAP’s activities for the next six months. MILAP gives thanks for the marriage of Mr Rajendra Bdr Sunar who will wed Kristina Prithi on the September 7 and asks that we pray for his married life. Please pray for the newly elected Executive Board under the leadership of Pastor Ramesh Raj Regmi, Chairperson of Milap. Pray for wisdom and compassion, especially as MILAP deals with the inability of their staff to visit in the field due to damaged roads and intense rainfall. INF Give thanks for the opening of a new mother and child care facility at Green Pastures Hospital (GPH). This on-site facility will help the working mothers at GPH who wish to bring their babies to work. Please pray for the ongoing planning and preparation for the celebration of INF’s 70 years of service in Nepal. The decision to operate a rehabilitation service in Shining Hospital INF Nepal Surkhet has been made. Please pray for the planning of the activities, human resources and funding availability. Give thanks for the visas that are available for expat volunteers – this really is an amazing blessing and opportunity to strengthen the capacity of INF with expertise in a range of technical areas. Please pray for those waiting for their applications to be processed, including the teachers who are urgently needed for the next academic year at the Pokhara Study Centre. 

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Raising your voice in a shouty world

Why advocacy really matters Scroll through social media, tune into an amateur podcast or flick open your local paper: there have never been more opportunities for ordinary citizens to tell the world what they think. From ‘what I eat in a day’ to opinions on the failings of politicians and football teams, to documenting every aspect of our newborn’s development, many of us seem perfectly happy to put ourselves and our opinions out there into the public space. But when it comes to letting others know about the people and causes we care about, the water is murky. There are perhaps four reasons why we hold back from using our voices as advocates. 1. The sheer number of things in the world we could care about is overwhelming. Rather than giving up and checking out, maybe pick just one or two things to focus upon publicly. Know why these issues matter to you and to others. Become an expert as far as you’re able. And then quietly, consistently, optimistically – tell the stories of the things you’ve chosen to care about. Don’t just rant, rebuke or rail. Celebrate the wins. And lend your voice whenever you can: sign petitions, write letters, attend rallies. 2. We’re ‘not political’ Advocacy, especially with the advent of online activism, can have a reputation for being aggressive. Both sides of politics have drawn battle lines around certain issues and the ensuing fall out can be ugly. But what if we saw advocacy as an expression of love more than anger? When we’re called to love our neighbours, we need to understand the context in which they live. And if those contexts include violence, oppression or inequality, one of the most loving things we can do is to stand beside them, listen, offer support and speak up with and for them as much as we can. While we might wish we could avoid ‘politics’, in reality we’re all part of groups that are negotiating how to use and share power. Love calls us to stand with those who have the least. 3. We don’t want to ‘virtue signal’ or bore people. We hate the idea of being seen as naïve, overinvested or woke. The word ‘woke’ was used originally by African Americans as a call to be alert to racial injustice, particularly police brutality. It’s been reduced to a derogatory, smirking catch-phrase for a wide range of progressive ideas and politics, weaponised to belittle those who care ‘too much’. Interesting article here on the history of wokeness! Depending on the cause you champion, you might just have to put up with being labelled by others. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon about every injustice that comes along, it can help to know and commit to just one or two things and understand the issues as well as you possibly can. It also helps to be known for listening more than speaking – both to the people impacted by the issue you’re interested in, and to those who disagree. 4. We’re not sure it makes any difference. Some things make more difference than others. Hashtagging a post #PRAYFORUKRAINE may not have a tangible outcome other than signalling there’s a community of online people who claim to care. But supporting Amnesty International’s call to the Australian Government to reform our humanitarian refugee intake has genuine repercussions not just for Ukrainians, but for the increasing numbers of people who are being displaced by conflict and changing climate. Likewise, supporting the increase of aid also makes a big difference. Whenever there’s a cut to be made, Governments look to our investment in overseas aid because it’s not an issue that local electorates generally protest about. But when we actually take time to encourage our Government to help Australia be the responsible global citizen we can afford to be, that matters. Read more here about INF Australia’s advocacy win on maintaining Australian aid to Nepal, and why we’re doing more of it. Advocacy in a shouty world is a difficult thing to navigate. One of the biggest dangers is taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach – either despairing that we have no power, or trying to be on top of every issue, all the time. There’s a happy medium that can be sustained over the long haul – that’s where change takes place. If you’re considering dipping your toe in the advocacy waters, read more here about INF Australia’s call to the Australian Government to increase aid to Nepal, which has been falling over the last decade.

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The hidden power of respect

When we look for the impact of our work with partners in Nepal, we often focus on the material changes – clean water in a village, the ability to earn an income or send children to school. These things are incredibly significant, but there are other equally valuable forms of transformation that are harder to measure and articulate. For Narjana, who tells her own story here, finally being seen as worthy of investment and friendship is worth a lot. Respect changes lives too. My name is Nanjara Pun. My house is in Sunchahari village ward no. 4 Zhinja village. I am 52 years old. My family consists of five members, one son, two daughters and one grandchild. I got married at a very young age of 15. My son and daughters are also married. My family lives in a very poor economic condition. We try to make our end meets by working on a small piece of land for crops and vegetables, and by doing other people’s work. When I was about 9-10 years old, my leg was crippled by fire.  I have always faced difficulty in doing chores due to my disability.  I was also not treated nicely by my husband due to my disability. I endured all the hardship that I could. Meanwhile, about 15 years ago, my husband went to another district in search of work. There was no means of communication back then and I used to believe that he went there to work for the family. I eventually found out that he had married another girl on the grounds that I was disabled. I had no awareness or knowledge of the legal aspect related to marriage. I had small children to look after and after my husband left me for another women, I was all alone to take care of my children. I had no regular source of income to support my family. Three and a half years ago, INF started EDUCATE project in my village. The project formed a group of poor disabled people like me. They worked with the group to provide support in various ways.  I became a member of Laliguras self-help group. The group started meeting twice a month. In the meeting, we discussed the solutions to the small problems that we faced daily and worked together to come up with an action plan for the solution. I liked this method very well. I got the opportunity to learn many other things as well. There was an activity to help the low income earners through the group. I was chosen by my fellow SHG members. I also received training on how to do business. I later received 20,000/- for my business start-up. With that money I bought two goats and started rearing them. I plan to sell goats in market after the number of goats increases. I have started using the goat manure in my vegetable garden as well. I am supporting my family with that small vegetable garden. In the group, we discussed various social issues including gender equality, violence against women and disability. Even though I am disabled, I did not know about the disability identity card. I had heard that disabled persons and single women get allowances from the government. But I had no idea how to access it.  When I discussed this matter in the group, it was decided that the group would help me in getting a disability identity card. INF staff and other group members took the initiative to get me an identity card. After completing all the procedures, I got the disability ID card. That is, after 42 years of being disabled, I got recognition. I have a disability ID card of category C. After getting the identity card, I can get access to the small disability provisions like getting a discount on the travel fair while traveling. Another change is the way people have started addressing me more than before. In group discussion they talked about not using disrespectful words while addressing people like me. They have started respecting me and they do not use disrespectful words like before. I feel respected among the SGH members and in the community as well. I would like to thank my group, INF and donors for helping me with the goat support for income along with helping me get disability card ID.

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If you teach a man to fish…a trawler might still beat him to the catch

Why advocacy really matters No doubt you’re all familiar with the saying: “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day….  If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever.” Brilliant. It’s a concept we all love – rightly – because it builds on the idea that people will make their own lives better if they’re given the chance. Modest amounts of capital and business training can help people start up goat rearing, chicken raising and roadside garden projects that are truly life changing. But it doesn’t end there. You can teach a man to fish, but it won’t stop a fleet of trawlers run by a multinational corporation from getting there first. It won’t stop the warming of the ocean, making catch harder to find. And it won’t prevent the owners of the marketplace refusing to pay what is owed or hoarding the fuel and bait because of caste discrimination. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” There are some things that charity alone can’t fix. “For most of us, charity or giving is a fundamental part of our response to human need,” says International Nepal Fellowship Australia’s CEO Ben Thurley. “But some things will never change unless we challenge the systems and structures that keep people poor. And that doesn’t come about through charity alone. It requires people to speak with and for those who are affected by injustice and oppression. That’s the work of advocacy.” International Nepal Fellowship Australia’s partners in Nepal foster income and livelihood opportunities, provide health and disability care, respond to disaster and prepare communities for the impact of changing climate. But one of the most powerful things our partners do – and one of the least reported upon – is advocacy. In many parts of Nepal in which we work, discrimination based on caste, remote location or lack of access to education means people are excluded from making decisions about their own lives. Injustice and oppression are living, breathing realities. So when our partners gather communities together to learn about human and children’s rights, disability inclusion, gender equality and the services they can access through their own governments, it’s big news. Many people are hearing these ideas for the very first time. “Nepal has some fantastic laws – the Local Self Governance Act means that local communities should have a voice in planning and budgeting processes so that their concerns and ideas are considered,” Ben says.  “It’s a great law and very inclusive, but like a lot of laws its not always put into practice. “Our partners dedicated themselves to raising awareness about the law and how it operated so that local people could advocate for their own needs. They ran week-long training courses with local communities, and the difference these made was incredible.” Every community in which the training ran put in submissions to local government – and they got what they asked for. Improvements to a bridge, new drinking water systems, support for a health post that specifically cared for people with HIV and AIDS, disability stipends and family pensions… the changes at the local level were powerful. “Everywhere we went the communities told us – this is amazing!” Ben recalls. “They wanted everybody to know about it. Educating people to understand  and ask for their rights creates change far more widespread than just about anything else.” Advocacy work doesn’t often provide the immediate, life changing stories of happy goats and families. But it’s powerful and necessary. And it needs your support. When you give to an NGO, consider investing in leadership training, empowerment of women, girls and young people and advocacy work. It’s every bit as important as toilets, wells and goats. To find out more about how you can be involved in challenging injustice and changing systems here in Australia, read more here

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Of clouds and clarity

In a small room a couple of hours out of Pokhara, Nepal, the rain is coming down hard. It’s been bucketing all night; outside the air is thick and mist circles the village. How long has it been raining? Days? Weeks? Twenty-five-year-old Rhianne, on her final placement for a Masters degree in Humanitarian and Development Studies, doesn’t remember the moment the rain stopped. She just remembers standing in front of the sink, washing her hands, and then casually lifting her eyes to the window.  What she saw stopped her in her tracks. “There were mountains,” she remembers.  “These vast, towering, snow-capped mountains just looming above the landscape… it was mind-blowing. Surely they weren’t there the day before?” For weeks at a time during the rainy season in Nepal, the combination of pollution and bad weather can obscure everything but what’s right in front of you.  “But afterwards – when it clears – it’s completely transforming,” Rhianne says. “You see things you never realised existed.” In many ways, that experience summed up Rhianne’s time in Nepal. She returned with a clarity she couldn’t have predicted when she boarded the plane from Sydney – bound for Kathmandu and three months in a placement that rounded out her degree. “I didn’t ever imagine I’d go to Nepal – I was born in the UK before coming to Australia as a one-year-old, but my parents are from Sri Lanka,” Rhianne says.  “So part of me always assumed I’d be doing a placement – or spending my life – working in Sri Lanka or maybe somewhere in Africa!”  Unexpected it may have been, but the time in Nepal turned out to be completely life changing. While the placement itself had its challenges, on her return to Australia Rhianne realised she’d fallen in love with the country. “The people, the culture, the food, the music – I just loved everything about it,” Rhianne says. “I knew nothing at all about the place before I went but by the time I came back, I knew I wanted to work in Nepal. It felt like I had left a piece of my heart in Nepal, and I couldn’t wait to go back.” Originally seeking volunteer opportunities after graduation with the Australian Himalayan Foundation, Rhianne found her way to International Nepal Fellowship Australia. While she felt that both worked on similar types of projects, INF had one significant advantage. “While I was in Nepal, I think I began to experience God in a completely different, independent way,” Rhianne says. “I don’t really like the word spirituality, but my time away was so different to anything I’d experienced before that it really made my relationship with God come clear too. So volunteering for INF, with its grounding in faithful Christian people who wanted to serve among Nepalis, was very attractive to me.” Seven months after beginning her stint as a volunteer, Rhianne applied for a job with INFA as a Nepal Programs Officer. She says that her time in Nepal helped re-shape the way she had imagined engaging with development work, and her role now has far more emphasis on equipping local people to take control of their own projects.  “I watched my parents my entire life looking for ways to serve others,” Rhianne recalls. “They were such a powerful example to me that the international development sector seemed like the only place I’d want to work. It’s been so good being part of an organisation who really respect the people with whom we partner. Rather than being in charge of the development process, we help equip people to create their own changes. It’s just one more thing that became clear to me because of my time in Nepal, and it’s been cemented by my work with INF. I’m so grateful for every opportunity that has led me to where I am today – working with an incredible group of people to serve and love the people of Nepal.”

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