rthapa's blog

Weaving Philanthropy Into Relief Work

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After the 7.8 Earthquake of 25th April, 2015 and a few significant others which followed, all of us had to go into relief work.  Although this was a new on the job learning for many of us, we used our common sense and a sense of urgency recognizing how most the affected people had suffered multiple major losses.  The two organizations I founded in Nepal Tewa – the Nepal women's fund, and Nagarik Aawaz for peace, decided to work jointly with a synergistic approach.  The earlier 2 weeks were spent in grounding systems, values, and our approach.  These were premised on a hypothesis that when disaster/s of this magnitude strike, people are taken off their balance and they suffer great losses. This will temporarily paralyze, numb, or traumatize them.  But essentially they are the same as any of us.  Their values and principles remain the same if not further honed.  Their inherent altruistic nature or goodness cannot change.  We decided to serve with the same respect that was due to them earlier and not reduce them to be VICTIMS.

If "Philanthropy" Ruled Our World

It was inspiring to listen to Professor Benjamin Barbar.  With reference to his book "If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities", he spoke convincingly why the shift is happening from Nation-States to cities, towns, and metros.  In relation to this, since the launch of the book in 2013, the Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) has been convening since 2014 to address issues affecting inter-cities and how these can be addressed and tackled as well as how cities can best serve its people.  

This is not what I want to talk about – but there are two things here that may be noteworthy even in our field of work. 

1.     The notion that people can take charge to transform any given situation for the better despite the dysfunctionality of the nation-state/s across geographic/economic divides, and

2.     Citizenry at large (even as they shift to increasingly grow more cosmopolitan) or the civil society can be that most amazing vehicle to do the right thing right.

It is Not One or the Other, But All Together…

The world is at a point and time in its evolution, when a shift – and a very rapid one at that – is inevitable.  In fact it is already happening.  To take a broad sweep – rapid environmental degradation, hazards, and disasters; increasing conflicts; weakening - or in countries like mine, failing States; and widening disproportionate economic gaps between people, are only a few of the markers.  Like never before, with the help of technology and communications we are more connected as people.  Despite colour, taste, size, location, interests, we are increasingly realizing that as humans we are basically the same.   Essentially we are not happy when we do something wrong e.g.

Do not kill or hijack...

Over twenty years of working in this field of social justice philanthropy in Nepal, I continue to be struck by the resilience of the local communities, their home-grown leaderships, and the way they innovate and improvise to sustain and nurture each other as far as it is possible!  During a recent visit to several districts of the far-west Nepal, visiting with Tewa grantees and women activists, I was blown away when this was reaffirmed for me yet one more time! 

An Act of Altruism Expands Beyond the Expected

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The story is borrowed from Sagar Prasain’s facebook and is located in Kathmandu.

Can “Philanthropic” Intentions Be as Good as Philanthropy?!

By Rita Thapa

Yesterday I was invited to watch “Waiting For Mamu” - a film made on 2012 CNN Hero, Pushpa Basnet.  From start to finish tears flowed down my face shamelessly.  More so, when Pushpa who has now taken in over 100 children of jailed mothers from 14 prisons across Nepal, spoke of how the “Butterfly Home Project” for her children is an absolute commitment on her part so that they are no longer thrown away from rented homes as in the past years.  

She will need over $ 700,000 or more (I gather from my experience) to build and equip something to house that large a family.  So far she has acquired land and has received approximately $ 100,000 in cash.  I returned from the film with a silent pledge to my self to commit my personal gift of Rs. 100,000 and while that accumulates, to look for a matching gift/s of US $ 100,000 for Pushpa. 

Philanthropy Inherently Exists

by Rita Thapa

Photo: SC Closing Event 2 April 2014 at the Tewa Center - A Community of Donors

Just this month, I was witness to 3 philanthropic phenomena!

  1. The 3 year long Samapanna Campaign (SC) was brought to closure at Tewa, the Nepal women’s fund in Kathmandu,
  2. I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Donor’s Forum (with a focus on Arab philanthropy), and
  3. Independent youth activists, painted powerful mural messages in Kathmandu, volunteering their time and pooling in necessary resources.

The SC had a goal to raise US $ 900,000.   We managed to raise US $ 1,000,000 including the well-timed gift of US $ 300,000, which came from a private Trust housed in the Royal Bank of Canada, Jersey Island, UK.  Of this total amount US $ 130,000, was gifted by Nepali donors alone, 90 Tewa grantee organizations from all over Nepal also became donors to the SC, and furthermore ALL the staff and almost all the members of Tewa became SC donors! 

On the path…

I with my colleague Meera, I have been running a 3-year fund-raising campaign named the “Sampanna (fulfilling) Campaign” (April 2011 – March 2014) for Tewa - Nepal Women’s Fund which has a goal to raise US $ 900000. Within this campaign, we built an equally ambitious plan of raising at least a US $ 100000 from fellow Nepalis living in Nepal. Besides raising money, the campaign has many other facets of infrastructure building, promoting, and managing. Soon coming to a close, we can say that the Sampanna Camppaign will meet more than what we initially set out to do.

Mindfulness in Advancing Philanthropy with Wealth

By Rita Thapa

In my last blog I argued that philanthropy has no direct relation with wealth.

Now, I want to recognize and emphasize how wealth has, can be, and needs to be used to leverage for societal transformation – for social justice, equity, and for peace. All over the world, the discerning good among the endowed have used their wealth for the well being of the larger good depending on their then felt/seen needs grounded in their own contexts.

What Has “Philanthropy” Got to Do with Wealth?

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By Rita Thapa

During heightened civil war in Nepal, I went to visit an abandoned village burned to ashes by the Maoists (for the government had armed local civilians to retaliate with the Maoists). The lurking smell of death was strong enough to keep neighbours at bay even on the 13th day I arrived there. The remaining grief stricken and fearful villagers ate early and went off to sleep with nearby communities in fear of another attack. We arrived at dusk and needed to eat and sleep for the night. A family preparing to leave that evening chose to stay back and cook for us. They fed us with great hospitality and gave us shelter. Today how many of us can overcome personal trauma and grief, and risk our own lives to ensure the wellbeing and comfort of strangers who knock on our doors? I have witnessed and seen more philanthropic acts closer to the grounds than those, which are thus labeled.

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