Jhanak Karki, dZi’s long-time Operations Officer, recently transitioned to the next stage in his career. As we reflect on all that he has contributed to dZi and his community, we celebrate Jhanak’s journey from a remote village in Eastern Nepal to launching a successful international business.
Born the youngest of eight children, Jhanak grew up amidst the care and affection of his older siblings. In the village of Rakha, Khotang, Jhanak’s home had no electricity, no running water, no road access, and no access to safe school. But what Rakha lacked in infrastructure, it made up for in beautiful rhododendron forests and rugged green hills that he would wander as a child, seeking grazing spots for his goats.
Jhanak began his education at Janahit Primary School. The one-story building made of mud and stones was badly in need of a renovation, and in the monsoon rains of his second year, the building collapsed beyond repair. With nowhere else to gather, classes were moved to a nearby field. Jhanak remembers their outdoor classroom well; even how a large stone in the corner of the grounds served as the teacher’s office area. Nowadays when Jhanak returns to Rakha, the sight of the new Janahit Primary School, built with dZi’s support, makes him wonder what life would have been like with a proper classroom.
As he entered the fourth grade, it was time for Jhanak to move to secondary school. Every morning, Jhanak would start the one-hour journey, hurrying to keep up with his older brothers and sisters to make it to class on time. It was during this year that Jhanak represented his school in the Community Envisioning Program conducted by Porter’s Progress, one of dZi’s former partner organizations. In this exercise, community members worked together to build an aspirational plan for their community’s future. Together, they envisioned what they wanted their village to look like in 20 years. And as dZi and community members worked together to make their vision a reality, Jhanak saw the 20-year goals they had set for themselves completed in less than ten.
In 2008, the pursuit of higher education brought Jhanak from his village to Kathmandu. On his arrival in the capital, Jhanak recalls his first visit to dZi’s Kathmandu office with his father. He was astonished by how Ang Chokpa Sherpa, dZi’s Nepal Country Director, could prepare a letter in no time with a large boxy-looking computer. Leaving the office that night, the idea of something as foreign and revolutionary as a computer made him restless with excitement and fright – he was truly far away from home.
Jhanak had just finished his final college exams in 2010, when he learned about a vacancy in dZi’s Kathmandu office. Interested in hiring a Logistics Assistant, dZi’s staff asked Jhanak to pass the information on to eligible candidates in his village. But, right after he had shared the vacancy with his community members, Jhanak applied for the role himself. “Jhanak was smart and dressed up in formals when I saw him in the interview. We knew he would be a good fit for the organization all along,” says Ang Chokpa, recalling her interview with Jhanak. His curiosity and drive to learn new things helped him grow quickly, earning a promotion to Logistics Officer before taking on the responsibility of Operations Officer in 2019.
Jhanak’s new pursuits are just as inspiring as his work with dZi. Currently pursuing a master’s degree in sociology from Delhi University, his ‘spare time’ has been spent on entrepreneurial ventures. After starting a cafe and a consultancy firm as side hustles, his enterprises have grown over the past ten years and are now full-scale businesses that require his full-time involvement. Although his businesses are a shift from his development career, he believes his time at dZi instilled in him the values of integrity, growth culture, and responsibility towards society that he will always work to advance.
The ten years that Jhanak spent at dZi saw rapid transformation arrive in Eastern Nepal. With roads expanding, increased connectivity, and the looming climate crisis, partnering with communities to create the future they envision is needed now more than ever. Just as Jhanak experienced the importance of reliable infrastructure and access to resources as a child in Rakha, his tireless commitment to dZi supporting other remote communities helped shape a more prosperous future for the next generation of changemakers. As Jhanak reflects on his time at dZi, he is most proud of being able to serve the community where he was born. When asked what he will miss the most, he says, “[The] warm welcome and love that I have received over the years in my community, which wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t worked with dZi.”
Thank you, Jhanak, for all that you have done for dZi and your community. We know our paths will cross again soon!