How Employment Changed My Life: Dhana’s Story

By Dhana, Kopila Valley Women’s Center Graduate, as told to Crystaline Randazzo

The BlinkNow Foundation provides schooling and a home for orphaned, impoverished, and at-risk children in Nepal. It also runs the Kopila Valley Women’s Center, which provides life-changing job training and education to empower women in our community to lead better lives. Founded by Maggie Doyne, the organization provides community services to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice. This post was originally posted on Medium.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I used to work eight hours a day doing physical labor. I carried stones to help build houses. It was really hard work for me and I was often in pain. I was married when I turned 14 years old and had my first child three years later. Then I had three more children. My husband has been sick for the past nine years and is unable to work. He stays home and I take care of him and our children. I am sad that he is sick, and it has been difficult to find ways to earn enough money to care for our family.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

When I heard about the Kopila Valley Women’s Center, I ran there and filled out the application form. When my name was selected for the first training group, I was so happy. I learned how to sew, how to communicate with other people, and I received counseling that has helped me. Sewing is easier on my body than laboring was. I can make everything — pants, shirts, kurtas. But my favorite part of working here is being surrounded by other women.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I can now cover most of my household expenses with my salary as a tailor. BlinkNow also put one of my daughters into the Kopila Valley School — she was 4 years old when I started working here, so she was enrolled in nursery class. It is my wish that all of my children could have attended KVS because I still struggle sometimes to cover the costs of uniforms, shoes, and school supplies for my other children.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I am an uneducated woman. My family didn’t have enough money to send me to school, so I worked from a young age. I cut grass for the animals, found wood in the forest, and cooked food. I want my children to complete their education and become teachers, nurses, or doctors. I don’t think my daughters should get married as young as I did. I want them to go to school and have a better life than me.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

My life was very tough before I got this training. I feel proud that I am now able to support my family and put all of my children in school. I want to thank BlinkNow for giving me such a beautiful life and the opportunity to work here.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

The Kopila Valley Women’s Center is working to close the gap in gender equality in Surkhet, Nepal and provide women with opportunities to feed and educate their children. We believe that when women are educated and empowered, they can make steps to alleviate poverty and foster a thriving community. Support women like Dhana at www.blinknow.org/donate.

How Education Changed My Life: Deepa’s Story

By Deepa Khatri, as told to Crystaline Randazzo

The BlinkNow Foundation provides schooling and a home for orphaned, impoverished, and at-risk children in Nepal. Founded by Maggie Doyne, the organization also provides community services to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice. This post was originally posted on Medium.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

remember my first day at Kopila Valley School. I was in seventh grade and I did not speak English. I attended two schools before coming to Kopila, but I had never touched a computer or read a book before. In those schools someone would take attendance, the teachers would write on the board, but they never even talked to us.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

It is totally different at the Kopila Valley School. It’s more like a home than a school. We have teachers, aunties, and uncles who are all looking out for us. They give me snacks. They talk to me about how things are going at home. Everybody cares about me.

Going to school here changed my life. I learned many things and met so many people. I learned how to speak English and how to use a computer. I learned how to learn. I learned everything here.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

My life was really hard before I came to Kopila. When I was younger, my dad left our family. He was an alcoholic and abused my mom, my brother, and me. My mom was seriously injured and had a hard time taking care of us. My father remarried but continued to make our lives difficult. It seemed like he wanted us to be unhappy.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

My favorite part about going to Kopila is that everyone shows me love here. I never expected that other people would stand up for me. This has given me a dream to share all of the love in the world that my father could not. I want to care for my mother, my brother, and other women and children who are going through hard times.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

After I finished my studies in twelfth grade, I interned in the Accounting Department at Kopila Valley School. After my internship, I applied for a job with the accounting team and was hired. Now, I get to work at Kopila every day!

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I’m a girl whose life is affected by domestic violence. I’m so glad that I am at Kopila. I have learned how to help other women and children. In Nepal, there are lots of children who grow up just like me. I know how hard it is. I know what it’s like to be hurt and have to show a smile in front of other people. Before I came to Kopila there were many times where I thought it would be better to die than keep living. I want to show others who might feel like that way that we all have problems, but we should work hard, and good things will come to us.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I would like to say thank you to the people who have helped me. I received everything I needed from Kopila. I do not have the right words to thank you, but I will say a blessing that you will receive happiness. I will never waste what you’ve given me. And I will do my best to make you proud.

Kopila Valley School provides a quality education and nurturing environment to at-risk children in Surkhet, Nepal. The BlinkNow Foundation is helping to educate students like Deepa and provide them with the tools they need to complete their education. Support girls like Deepa at www.BlinkNow.org/donate.

Joining Fashion Revolution with Resa Living in Nepal

A few years ago, I read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion. Learning that my trendy, cheap clothing had a human cost led me to reevaluate my relationship with clothing. I stopped shopping at fast fashion stores and moved towards higher quality, ethically made essentials or second-hand clothing. I further defined my personal style by creating a limited capsule wardrobe. I started seeking out innovative and stylish sustainable designers who paid a fair wage to their workers.

Ethical fashion soon began to bleed into from my personal life and into my professional one. At a pop-up shopping event, I was immediately drawn to Theresa’s clean Nordic design and the way she mixed the beautiful colors, textures, and handicrafts from Nepal.

I learned we shared a passion for sustainably made clothing and she invited me to the Fashion Revolution event that she was hosting. This was the beginning of my discovery of Nepal’s many incredible artisans.

This year Theresa kicked off her online shop Resa Living. Through this business, she provides a living wage to over fifty artisans. She employs local people skilled in artisanal crafts like sewing, knitting, weaving, metalwork, and fine jewelry.  With a focus on sustainability, she reuses vintage saris and re-imagines leather remnants.

Spending time with Theresa’s employees to create this video on social entrepreneurship has only reinforced my view that every person deserves a fair wage for the skill and craft that they bring to the table and that we shouldn’t devalue human beings so that we can have a closet full of inexpensive clothes.

Fashion Revolution week is from April 24-30th this year. I encourage you to go to an event near you, support businesses like Resa Living, and to ask yourself this important question: #whomademyclothes?

The Basic Components of a Photo Story

(Note: This post originally ran on NGO Storytelling, where I’m a co-editor.)

Why is it that every nonprofit has an archive of images but few have images they feel that they can use? It’s like having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I think most nonprofits feel this way is because they have lots of images but very few complete photo stories.

Indelible, craveable, relatable images have become a high currency in the world of content marketing. Did you know the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text? Powerful visuals are scientifically proven evoke emotion, which spurs on action. And what every nonprofit really needs is relatable photo stories to back up the important work they are doing. This post is your golden ticket to creating professional photo stories.

If you've ever seen the work of Eugene SmithDorothea Lange, or Sabastiao Salgado, you've probably wondered how they were able to create such amazing stories. Raw talent aside, let me tell you a dirty, little photographer secret: there is a formula for everything! Every master photographer and editor has used a variation of the components below to create compelling, photo stories.

 

Opener- This is the strongest image in your edit, the one that will intrigue your audience and get them to click on your link!

Wide Shot - This shot is a wide shot that shows the overall scene that you are shooting. It gives your viewers a feel for the environment where the story takes place.

Medium Shot-This photo draws your audience in closer to the action and makes them curious about what they see.

Portrait- One of my photography professors used to say that in order to have a great portrait you needed hair, eyeballs,  and teeth. Portraits connect you to an individual; they personalize abstract ideas or actions happening among large groups.

 

Detail- a tight detail that represents a part of the story presents an opportunity to add detail to the story that might otherwise be missed.

The Pivotal Moment/Action Shot- Your viewers want to feel like they are standing in your shoes. Choose image that makes them feel like they are. It should be engaging and dynamic!

Closer-I like to call this the riding off into the sunset shot. It should add some finality to the images that you’ve shown before.

I generally use 8-10 photos for each of my stories. I’ll add a few shots to the images above to fill in the gaps of my story or share images of intriguing moments. The sample photos above are from a photo story that I recently did on my website. You can read the full blog post if you want to see a photo story in action. We'd love for you to put together a photo story from your images and share it in the comments below!

When A Great Story Reminds You of Your Own

I cried during Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Her words were brought home to me that Hillary and any woman after her can be President of the United States of America. They say that children can’t be what they don’t see. And I rarely saw women in politics growing up. But that story changed for women around the world this week. 

I remember the first time I ever voted. I was six. My teacher explained to us that there was a presidential election going on, and we were going to vote for who our class thought should be president. She gave us a flyer with a picture of George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. We circled the picture of who we thought should be president.

Image used from https://www.hillaryclinton.com/bio/

Image used from https://www.hillaryclinton.com/bio/

I decided H.W. looked nice, and a bit like my grandpa and that sealed my vote. I didn’t understand a thing about politics. It wasn’t a subject that was ever discussed in my house when I was growing up. I floated through the 1992 and the 1996 elections with barely a thought. Though I vaguely remember my mom going to the firehouse across the street to cast her vote.

I had just turned eighteen in 2000. And I voted for George W. Bush. Frankly, it wasn’t too different from my circling the picture of the man who looked nicest. I voted for him because I lived in New Mexico and he was the popular choice. In 2004, I voted the same way for the same reasons though this time I was in Texas. 

I was becoming vaguely aware of politics. My roommate was a political science major, and I remember being surprised that she had such passion and interest in politics. At that point in my life, it never occurred to me that a woman could have political aspirations, much less become president. 

Image used from https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/10-little-girls-who-are-ready-first-woman-president/

Image used from https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/10-little-girls-who-are-ready-first-woman-president/

I felt excited and informed about the election in 2008. I watched the presidential debates with my boyfriend, and we went and voted together. I voted for Obama. And I understood why I had voted for the first time in my life. It was an incredibly empowering experience.

I grew up in a world where politics were mostly a man’s world. I can count on one hand the number of women I saw in politics. I also grew up in a place where you never brought up politics or religion at the dinner. And as a young girl, I absorbed a story that said women only play a supporting role in politics. 

I was surprised by my emotional outburst this week and the joy I felt seeing powerful women take and command the stage. I heard their message loud and clear. Women have a place in politics. Hilary is running, and now every girl can image herself behind that desk in the Oval office. That is a powerful change in the narrative for every girl in America. And today Hillary’s story has changed my own. 

A Photographer in Nepal: The Annapurnas with Three Sisters Adventure Trekking

The last half-mile of our climb was a straight uphill climb. I was hot and sweating profusely. A cold beer had never tasted better. As it hit my lips, I wondered who had carried the heavy glass beverages up the mountain, accessible only by steep, uneven stone steps.

Over drinks our trekking guide Muna shared her story. She left school at 13, became the child bride of a man who was seven years older, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a daughter. When she was 15, she begged her mother to allow her to return home because of her husband’s abuse. Feeling lucky that her mother allowed her to return, she was unprepared when a few months later her husband took her daughter away from her. It was ten years before she would see her daughter again.

Three Sister's guide Muna (in red) and my assistant guide Tukashi leading our team of three women on the Annapurna trail. 

Three Sister's guide Muna (in red) and my assistant guide Tukashi leading our team of three women on the Annapurna trail. 

She describes the years between the loss of her child and finding work as a guide as extremely difficult. She worked in a rock quarry for a number of years, crushing larger rocks into small pieces for construction with her bare hands. It was grueling manual labor. Eventually someone told her about a training program for young women to become trekking guides. Trekking is a lucrative occupation in Nepal, but the majority of guides are men.

Muna often wondered why so many foreigners wanted to climb mountains prior to becoming a guide but it is clear that hiking through the mountains brings her great joy. Through Three Sisters Adventure Trekking, Muna went through 18 months of trekking guide training and now leads treks monthly in Nepal. Three Sister’s provided Muna with an opportunity that simply wouldn’t have been available.

Three Sisters was found by Lucky, Dicky, and Nicky Chhetri, Nepali sisters and pioneers in the field of female trekking guides. In 1993, they were running a restaurant and a lodge in Pokhara, where they met women from all over the world. Many of their clients complained of negative experiences with their male guides. So the sisters decided to do something about it.

It turns out that their work has helped both women trekkers and Nepali women. In 1994, they created a training program to teach local women the necessary skills for trekking and guiding. Since then, close to 2,000 women from all over Nepal have completed the training. Many have become full-time guides or assistant guides.

Over my short three-day trek, our guide and assistant guides – Muna , Punam, and Tukashi – were stopped multiple times by women in the rural areas in which we hiked. It was clear the women respected what they were doing and wanted to get more information on how they could get involved. I felt like we were with rock stars in the countryside of Nepal. Women young and old would excitedly greet our guides and ask them where we were heading. It was obvious that these women were leading the charge of change in their communities.

Our assistant guide Punam showing us how to handle heat on the trail. 

Our assistant guide Punam showing us how to handle heat on the trail. 

This experience showed me that one of the best things we can do to help Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake a year ago is to put our dollars into tourism so that its people can earn a living and rebuild their lives. I was so touched by the stories our guides shared with us along our journey, and I share the enthusiasm of the women that we met along the trail. The way to help the woman of Nepal is provide them opportunity and hope. If you'd like to help visit Three Sister Adventure Trekking's website and sign up for a trek or make a donation to their nonprofit, Empowering Women of Nepal and help women in Nepal become self-supportive and independent.