My 2018 Story


After practicing my Nepali Dreamers pitch multiple times every day during February, I finally presented at the Oberlin LaunchU pitch competition. I was especially motivated because this was an opportunity to pivot my changemaking campaigns. However, I did not win. As I returned to my college dorm, I told myself, “This is going to be a great story.” Looking back at humbling lows like multiple shoulder dislocations and exciting highs like the GLAA conference, Ashoka and the development of Nepali Dreamers, 2018 been great additions to this story.

Last spring, my body weakened trying to maximize my changemaking on top of a full academic course schedule. This weakness at one point resulted into a shoulder dislocation which took a few hours to fix. However, I got an email as soon as a Campus Safety and Security officer brought me to my dorm after the relocation. One of my mentors offered me a fully funded trip to join her at the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA) conference in Pune, India. Then after a couple of days, I was further elated to be offered a summer internship at Ashoka. At the end of this short rollercoaster interval, I was in awe by how the universe was telling me to preserve as my story is much more than the lows. As with GLAA and Ashoka, it is also about great things that happen and the people I meet.

GLAA is an association of 29 liberal arts colleges around the world intended to strengthen education in the liberal arts and sciences. This year representative faculty, student and staff convened at Pune, India to identify strategies to magnify student leadership. The students, who were the most diverse I had seen, were assigned to different groups to discuss designated topics. My group was we asked to review the characteristic qualities of the great global leaders. We started communicating in four different languages and brought together contexts from four different continents, spanning Modi’s Indian government to the Saudi Prince’s monarchy. Although sometimes disorientating, it was inspiring. We unanimously valued empathy and the need to magnify the stories of the unheard. Recognizing that such diverse people believed in similar ideas was very empowering. Leaving India and starting my internship at Ashoka was the perfect transition as the organization has been a global leader in forwarding empathy and empowerment for 40 years.

Ashoka is an international organization that “identifies and supports the world's leading social entrepreneurs, learns from the patterns in their innovations, and mobilizes a global community to build an ‘everyone a changemaker world.’” I was an Impact Evaluation Intern with the Changemaker team that engaged thousands of changemakers in more than a hundred countries in the past three years. More inspiring than the numbers, the organization and the team underscored empathy. Everyone had an entrepreneurial or changemaking background. So, hearing their stories was very inspiring. My conversation with Kris Herbst, the Editor in Chief, was especially memorable because he was very approachable and shared what it took to establish the Changemaker team. Furthermore, growing up with a learning disability, I prefer piecing together information from different sources. Tasks like creating an impact report with limited direction were very energizing. Finally, I was able to put what I learned from social entrepreneurs into practice through Nepali Dreamers.

Nepali Dreamers is a college counseling and success program that is creating a community of Nepali changemakers to make theirs and others dreams come true. We work to ensure that deserving students not only get into but also succeed in high-ranking colleges around the world. In 2018 we worked with students from three different Nepali high schools. The students met three times a week for spoken and written American English classes, SAT preparation and reflection centered application workshops. Volunteers and partnering organizations supported all of this programming. Our goal for next year is to establish a library with relevant materials to improve access and continue fostering our community. We are also working to connect our scholars more with local civic organizations to move closer to our long-term goal of motivating the students to return home and to support others.

Stories have always been important to me: from Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist to the movie Pursuit of Happyness. They have always reminded me that I am more than my circumstances. They have also been essential tools in working with Nepali youth. Itsy Bitsy Spider taught 10-year-old Apshara to read for the first time, and reflection on his personal story helped one of our Nepali Dreamers scholars write a very inspiring college application essay. So, as I continue to connect with these stories and keep writing my story, I am grateful for all the people and learning in 2018.

Bikalpa BaniyaComment