Simplexity Associate Tricia Lustig was invited (with Nepali colleagues she was training in the process) to a village in the Nepalese countryside (Phakhel) after they had requested some help. We began by asking them to tell us about a time that they had been proud about what they had achieved together in their village, we asked that they drew it on a piece of paper. We separated them into three groups, men, women and children with a facilitator working with each group to ensure that each group had a voice. After the “prouds”, we asked them what kind of a village they would like to have for their children and grandchildren. When we asked what they could do themselves, however, the energy began to disappear – there was some reluctance to move from victim mode (letting things happen to them) to leader mode (taking responsibility and doing things themselves).
Then, Mr. Pasang Lama, a subsistence farmer with only a few acres who could neither read nor write, stood up to speak to the village, ‘We have been bloody lazy! For the past 40 years we have been holding our hands out to receive aid and what do we get? We get into fights, we can’t agree on anything, we don’t feel good about our village anymore, we don’t take responsibility or feel proud. Forty years ago, we did a lot together because we had to – there was no one to help us. And we were proud of what we had done, we were proud of our village.’ He paused and there was silence. ‘Are any of you proud now? Well, shall we work together and be proud again?’
After his speech, they were at first silent and then the group came alive. People stood up to offer what they could and would do. Some offered labour; some offered money – even if in very small amounts; some offered building materials for a school. It was amazing.
Over several years, returning a few times a year to work with the villagers, they accomplished many things – they built a secondary school, a health post, a nursery school and a resting place for porters all without asking for outside help. They did receive help from an International Non-Governmental Organisation, but this was offered to them – might as well back a winner!
Our work with the villagers helped them to change their Narrative from seeing themselves as needy and victims of circumstance to seeing themselves as masters of circumstance. They could and did tell a different story about themselves. And they were once again proud of their village and what they had achieved together. However, it also allowed people who might never before have had the chance to take on a leadership role (Mr. Lama).
*I have not been to the village since the earthquake. The village was totally destroyed. There has been no government help. There is a temporary school, but that was organised through an INGO.