Why should Nepali youth practise volunteering? Here’s a testimony

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I enjoy volunteering and always have the urge to represent myself as an active young mind. I am passionate about making a positive change and enriching myself with leadership skills but did not know where to start.

We always talk about a better world, but how often do we ourselves try to change it? Asking this question to myself, I did not want to just sit on the sidelines and complain.

I recall how growing up in Thimi of Bhaktapur with both progressive and conservative societies brought together two perspectives in me at a young age. One part of my mind always thought about what was much beyond us — about cities, literature, and stories. Another part of my mind always had a very inward-looking viewpoint— always instilling that no matter who you are or how much money you have, you must be a good person.

All these feelings brought me to volunteering, and the Sachet project that we started has given me a fantastic opportunity to volunteer.

Why is it so fantastic? Do you like to know?

Getting to know the USYC

The USYC Sachet team poses for a photo after an event. Photo: Pooja Bade
The USYC Sachet team poses for a photo after an event. Photo: Pooja Bade

I joined one of the leading commercial banks as a trainee, determined to begin working immediately after graduation. I was earning well and could see a clear career path, but it did not satisfy me.

I had a very clear feeling in my heart that I was not singing the song, which I was meant to sing. I wanted to get myself involved in volunteering.

Amidst all those feelings, I happened to go through the web page of the US Embassy Youth Council, which was then accepting applications for the 2021-22 cohort.

The US mission in Nepal designed the USYC as a professional development and mentoring programme. It assists the council members in developing leadership skills to solve critical issues in their communities. Throughout the duration of their membership term, council members participate in networking opportunities, work on volunteering and community engagement projects, and attend important strategic events. After thousands of applications and many rounds of the selection process, finally I received the email with the subject “Congratulations!” from the USYC. I was among the 50 exceptional USYC members for the cohort 2021/22.

On the journey to the USYC, I met phenomenal people having skills and expertise in diverse sectors. The main purpose for joining the USYC was that I was interested in a civic engagement project (CEP). It aims to strengthen the constructive engagement by civil societies on policies and issues of public concern and increase and sustain youth volunteering and involvement in public life in Nepal.

Moreover, through the CEP, participating young people and civil societies acquire knowledge, gain motivation and develop skills. This allows them to contribute to policy discussions with the government, the private sector, the media and other societies.

Eventually, with the objective of spreading the knowledge about misinformation, especially considering the upcoming elections, we the team of 10 USYC members formed a group for our civic engagement project and named it SACHET: Strengthening Democracy, Combating Misinformation”.

Training university students through Sachet

The USYC Sachet team during an event. Photo: Pooja Bade
The USYC Sachet team during an event. Photo: Pooja Bade

Sachet includes USYC members, namely Pooja Bade, Sudip Simkhada, Sairus Sharma, Binod Deuba Thakuri, Mamta Siwakoti, Rakshya Bam, Susmita Lamsal, Prajwal Bhandari, Krish Paudel and Ravi Mandal. Under the mentorship of American Spaces specialist Sulav Bhatta, we completed the first phase of the project in September 2022.

This volunteering project was designed in a workshop format and had the objective to train university students on the concept of misinformation and tools to identify and combat it. The event took place in three colleges in the Gandaki province— Prithvi Narayan Campus, Pokhara Engineering College and Western Regional Campus.

The workshops included the themes of the roles of media, right to information, fact-checking and financial misinformation. They were accompanied by case analysis, general discussions, games and storytelling. There were around 90 students in each workshop, who were educated on misinformation and now are connected to the Project Sachet initiative as “information warriors” on social media.

We also conducted a panel discussion with local journalists, lawyers and administrators about the ways to combat misinformation.

In retrospect, the decision to reach out to these participants was very satisfactory to me. As I recall my early childhood when I used to see volunteering activities, they always inspired me with their contribution in many ways. Now, I am committed and I will be volunteering throughout my life inspiring many youngsters to come into this field.

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Bade is an MBA graduate, working at a commercial bank. She is also a member of the US Embassy Youth Council Nepal and a young activist for social and financial inclusion, advocating for financial inclusion and literacy of women, LGBQTI+ and the underprivileged.

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