University of North Carolina at Charlotte College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) professor, Liz Johnson, spent her summer vacation in Nepal working on women's empowerment projects that help prevent sex trafficking with the Volunteer Initiative of Nepal (VIN https://www.volunteersinitiativenepal.org/women-empowerment-program/). Johnson worked in rural Kavresthali, assisting women building micro-credit businesses and setting-up social media accounts so their products can be more effectively marketed.
Additionally, Johnson was invited to return in July, 2020 to speak on the complexity of approaches to policy research at their first international conference.
Johnson is also working with Nepali leaders to recruit students to attend UNC Charlotte and study computer science. Johnson said, "Hopefully this is the start of a fruitful partnership, whereby Nepali students can gain the benefit of a top computing education by attending UNC Charlotte and some of our students can use their skills to volunteer in programs that help marginalized communities in Nepal.”
While in Nepal, Johnson also trekked the Himalayan mountains and made it to Annapurna Base Camp. An avid hiker, Johnson has climbed two of the Seven Summits (highest mountains on each continent) and plans to hike more in the future.
Throughout her travels, Johnson kept a journal and has been sharing entries on websites associated with the empowerment program. One such entry reads:
Nepal has its charms and magic, even in the rainy season. I have come to learn the Nepalese, like few others, demonstrate remarkable resilience. If there is an earthquake they rebuild (DRR Project…Read More). If there is rain they don rain attire and keep moving. If there is mud…well that is when the magic comes out. It is as if every driver has a magic charm so they will not be hit or hit another person, cycle, or car.
The other magic can be found in the smiles and warmth of the people. No matter the weight of their load, a Namaste is given. As I was finally on my way home on the best part of Nepal, a downhill, I was greeted enthusiastically by older village women on their way to a wedding. They asked if I like to dance. I said with total honesty there is nothing I love more. So, they gently grabbed my arm so I could be part of their entourage. They even let me stop for a few minutes to get a quick shower and put on a basic simple western dress. So, I was attired in simple blue amongst all the myriad of colors in the saris.
On the way, they held my hand and guided me through all the intricacies of the path to avoid construction. They were like giddy school girls with the excitement of the upcoming wedding. Once at the destination, all anxiously awaited the groom to bring his bride to his home. The women seemed to be seated in accordance with age. The oldest women smiled widely and joyously as they began to sing and dance. The rains came and no one even moved from their seats. Over time, more and more joined-in the melodic singing, as if the rain had no power to dampen spirits. The women danced with the grace that would rival any prima ballerina. They floated and swirled as if they were dancing with the wind. Then the requests came piled up for me to dance. Slowly I arose. The beauty of their songs carried my limbs to new places of expression. I closed my eyes and could feel not only the music but the love of the women powering my movements into even more beautiful shapes. Then my turn was up. I felt transformed by the simple love expressed by all the participants and in awe of their beauty and purity of spirit. And that is what magic is and can be in Nepal.
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