Strengthening Communities through Homestay Project

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  • Shikha Rai
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Ms. Tara Chaudhary, 52 grew up in a remote village of Birendranagar-9, Surkhet, with no major roads, electricity or television. “All my childhood, I stayed home doing household chores, and being a girl child, had no opportunity to attend school”, she shares. To fulfill her childhood wish of acquiring education, she was determined to educate her children irrespective sex despite financial crunch in the family and no financial support from her husband. And educating four children was not easy especially for her with no back support from anyone. The family had 8 Katha land but, it was not enough to provide education, and all the other family needs.

She is now an active member of Caritas’ Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, and recently got involved in Homestay project too. Also, she has been involved in Navjyoti cooperative (nun by Catholic nuns) supported by Caritas since 2009-10. Caritas started cooperative support to empower economically disadvantaged women like her benefiting financially, and building capacity in regards to leadership through involvement in various project activities, also including social activities.

“The land which was considered insufficient before is now more than enough after to address all my family needs, moreover children education through Integrated Pest Management (IPM)”

Caritas trainings and Agro-input support enable farmers like her to earn decent income to support their family. At present she grows organic vegetables, raises pigs and goats, and saves Rs. 500 per month in Navjyoti Women Cooperative, supported by Caritas. She has been educating her children; three out of four have already completed their education leaving her youngest son, who is studying in grade 11. She makes good income from sale of organic vegetables to a nearby orphanage (Kopila Valley School). Organic vegetables have high market value and increasing demand benefitting farmers with comparatively good income.

At first, the Homestay Project was not a clear concept to her community. Also they were hesitant about sharing the same roof with strangers, i.e.: with the homestay guests. They doubted guests from big cities liking their small houses, moreover their simple rooms without attached bathroom, and locally grown home made food. Therefore, a clear orientation on homestay project was provided that eventually led to the opening of homestay in Surkhet.

Though only few guests have made to her homestay till now, she is still able to see positive change in her community, moreover in her family. Apart from fair income, the project has been able to involve her family members, mainly her husband and young son where they are discerned catering service to homestay guests. Cleanliness activities are being carried out almost everyday, main focus is on the toilet/ bathrooms, which are kept clean and dry. Even young children in the community are happy to interact with the guests. She shares, “My teenage son despite shyness plans to participate in the cultural program”. She serves local organic delicacies, homemade alcohol and makes sure that guests like the taste for which she sometimes adjusts menu as per guests liking. She says she will be flexible in regards to menu to satisfy her guests’ taste buds.

The homestay project has not only benefitted her family, but benefitted the whole community at large, even to those that are not involved in the project directly. There is promotion of culture and preservation of local resources. Also the bond between family and communities have strengthened significantly. Lastly, she considers Caritas as the backbone for her community and hopes for additional support in near future.

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