An Interview with Jim Nowak, Co-Founder and President of dZi

Since 1998, Jim’s leadership has taken the dZi Foundation from a grassroots organization to a thriving non-profit that serves over 40,000 individuals in Nepal. dZi’s growth is a direct result of his knowledge, passion, and compassion for those dZi serves.

Jim next to a smokeless cookstove in rural Nepal.

Jim next to a smokeless cookstove in rural Nepal.

You’re based in Ridgway, CO, and all the work is in Nepal, why?

“I was based in Vail, CO. and had planned an expedition with my then wife and co-founder of dZi, Kim Reynolds. Kim and I learned of a safe-house for girls, which was failing financially and at risk of closing down. After returning to the U.S, Kim and I organized our very first fundraising effort — an expedition to climb a new route on the 23,443-foot Himalayan peak, Pumori. We raised enough money to fund the girls’ home for 2 years. I realized that I had the ability to make a real impact and shortly thereafter we moved to Ridgway and founded dZi”.

What inspired the name of the organization?

“When we first started the nonprofit it was actually called “Friends of Compassion” and during our first board meeting we realized we needed a better name and several of the board members were wearing dZi beads around their necks. The dZi (pronounced “zee”) Foundation is now named after the ancient Himalayan etched stones that bestow health and protection upon the wearer. We wanted to provide better access to health and prosperity for the communities we support and still do to this day”.

What are your thoughts on the new branding for dZi?

“I’m excited that after more than 20 years the new brand is helping us to move in a new direction. We are better able to start leaving a mark on the next generation of donors and partners of dZi. It’s also helping us to take account of all of our forward facing media and ultimately it’s a great reboot to support our move to impact more people. Much like our work in the most rural communities of Nepal, we believe that maintaining and preserving our heritage is vital to the longevity of this special place and its people”.

What are some of the areas of focus for dZi and why?

“It’s an interesting question, for example – if we develop a small community water access project, it leads to much more than water access. It may lead to the ability to build a small kitchen garden irrigation pond that leads to improved diet from better access to fruits and vegetables. It could also lead to water sealed toilets for the households that can drastically improve health and sanitation. The women and girls in the household may spend fewer hours in the day collecting water which means they can focus that energy elsewhere like education, play and even give them a voice in the community. All of our projects have a really positive domino effect.

What are the main obstacles that inhibit the fulfillment of your mission? How are you planning to overcome them?

“Funding is always an obstacle, but we are now uniquely positioned with an incredibly experienced and passionate team in Nepal and the U.S. We’re now able to support many more beneficiaries than ever without having to ramp up staffing and driving up overhead costs. This is all part of our 5 year strategy, now we’re thinking longevity and it all ties into our rebranding. We are encouraging the next generation of donors and partners to be as passionate as our current donors so we can reach our goal of serving 75,000+ individuals in our project areas over the next 3-5 years”.

Jim giving a fundraising workshop at a dZi staff summit in rural Nepal.

Jim giving a fundraising workshop at a dZi staff summit in rural Nepal.

In regards to dZi programs, do you have an area of focus that drives you more than other programs?

“All the years I’ve spent in Nepal, there has been a common theme and we hear ‘we want a better life for our children’ Education projects are a lever for that change. Before I started dZi, I was always a builder and building schools in our project areas makes a huge impact that has an even bigger ripple affect”.

Can you tell us a little about one of you most memorable experiences in Nepal?

“One of my favorite experiences comes form a small village in our project area, the community all got together to dig an irrigation ditch which was part of a larger irrigation project. This was difficult work, but everyone worked together and completed the project. When the project was over, everyone was sad that they would no longer get to hang out for a few hours each day and spend time together and some were even tearing up. This kind of community cohesion was not planned, but a really pleasant takeaway”.

What inspires you personally to continue the work?

“After more than 20 years of experience working with and being inspired by our really talented Nepal staff and building a strong team in the U,S., we have matured as an organization. Our proof of concept is strongly in place and we are confident in expanding and impacting more people”.

Can you tell us a little about how dZi preserves transparency and trust?

“Firstly, at the village level, each project is audited by the community and all expenses are published on a large public poster in the village. The Nepal government also audits all INGO’s (International Non Governmental Organizations) operating in Nepal. We also conduct our own financial audits, then we elect to have an outside audit of our U.S. accounting as well. Lastly, we are listed as a 4 star charity with Charity Navigator as well as being named a top 10 non profit by Global Giving. All of our financials are available for anyone to review on our website”.

What do you see for the next 20 years of dZi?

“I would love to see more people embrace community lead development, we call our working methodology ‘Deep Development’. We encourage remote communities to discover their own abilities and skills to create permanent solutions for their most pressing needs. We believe this is the best model to empower the communities we work within. This all ties into our newly branded slogan “Helping Communities Prosper, On Their Terms”

The Story of Improved Cook Stoves

“Our neighbors helped us carry mud required to build this improved cook stove because it’s only me and my husband here. My son lives in the city. This new stove has been a blessing for us. We can cook two food items at the same time quickly, and there is no smoke. I can see clearly what I am cooking. The pots do not get as dirty. I have been using this stove every day since I built it.”

–  Lalichandra Kulung from Chheskam

Lalichandra Kulung is satisfied with the new stove!

Lalichandra’s family is one of the 1,126 families who installed Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) in Chheskam and Gudel in early 2018. ICS are often called smokeless stoves because they make the indoor area smoke free by diverting smoke outside through a chimney. This has a significant positive impact on the health of community members, especially women and children who spend a lot of the day around the fireplace. It also uses significantly less firewood and cooks faster in comparison to traditional stoves. This has been an extremely popular program. During our survey in March 2018, more than 90% of households said they were satisfied with the program.

Our field evaluation assistant Bhalakaji speaks with elderly Dalbirata Kulung during the ICS program survey in Chheskam.

ICS have an abundance of positive impacts and community members are very happy with them. We have collected some testimonials from our community members regarding ICS use in one of our past web stories, which you can read here: “Smoke-free Stoves – Healthier Homes!”

Laptansukha Kulung and her family are very happy with their ICS!

The Improved Cook Stoves have helped reduce the drudgery and difficulty of doing something simple like cooking. As a result of the program’s popularity, our partner community Bung, which borders both Chheskam and Gudel, submitted an official proposal to start an ICS program. This is their highest priority project for the year 2018-2019. Between October 2018 and March 2019, we will be working with about 300 households in Bung to install the new stoves for the first phase of program. After that, we will be working with close to 500 additional houses so that the majority of households in Bung will be indoor smoke free.

A community member and students studying an ICS informational flyer in Bung.

In a short amount of time, ICS has become one of our major programs even though it was a remote idea for us as recently as 2016. In April 2016, we brought some of our supporters to our field area to show them our projects. During this trip, we had a meeting with one of our local NGO partners and community members to facilitate a direct interaction between community members and donors.

At that meeting, a few community members expressed that they wanted to build smokeless stoves in their homes. We didn’t have the technical expertise to build an ICS. Our partner communities had never expressed this desire to us before. It was a new idea for us, and certainly one we wanted to explore. As we continued to pursue this with our partner communities, we discovered that the people of Chheskam and Gudel were really interested in ICS. Many of them had heard about the benefits of these stoves on the radio or had seen them when they traveled to other villages. This same donor group who visited our working area also raised funds after their visit to Nepal as a “trekking party fund”. They were eager to let us pilot the ICS program with this fund.

The donor visit in April 2016 that inspired Improved Cook Stove Program.

For months we collected information, conducted research, had many discussions with our partner communities, and coordinated with multiple organizations with technical expertise before we finally came up with a plan for our ICS program. At the beginning of 2017 we started our pilot program. This involved training 54 community members from Chheskam and Gudel on how to build ICS. After their training, they became ‘stove masters’. They built ICS in their own homes and we monitored the stoves for a few months to see how they would perform.

The ICS in the stove masters’ homes were a success. Many others became extremely interested in building these stoves when they saw how well they worked in their neighbors’ homes. At the end of 2017, we launched our full ICS program. Now, a year later, 1126 houses (about 70% of all households) in these two communities have built and are using ICS.

Community members in Chheskam and Gudel with their Improved Cook Stoves!

We are forever grateful to our supporters from Vitol who not only inspired us to pursue the ICS program, but have also been one of our main supporters for this entire endeavor. We are proud to be partners with such visionary communities who not only have an idea about how they can prosper, but who are also working hard toward the actualization of these ideas.

Keep up-to-date with all of our Nepal program progress by following our social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter by emailing us at info@dzi.org

Youth Trip 2018 – Adventures and Achievements!

In the first week of August, 8 of our 30 and under youth team members in Nepal team embarked on an adventure travel. It is an unconventional way to keep our staff motivated and improve the efficiency but again, that is what we do – working in an unconventional way. Because of personal reasons, two of the team members could not attend it and hence eight of the teams members made the first ever youth trek of the organization during the month of August.

After the trek, each of them have created something based on their experience. Here we have collected all of those outputs in one place – click in the directed links to see each of them in detail

Rupak, our Program Officer, made a video based on the first leg of the journey. Check out in the link below

Mansu, our Social Mobilizer for Sotang (and now headed to our newest working area in Bhojpur) has written about her experience of visiting the Women’s Center in Nangi. She has become inspired and motivated by the achievements accomplished by the women of Nangi.

Read more about her learning experience at this post, Inspired by Women Entrepreneurs!

 Prashant, our social mobilizer for Chheskam, wrote a beautiful poem of the whole journey.

Enjoy the whole poem here, http://dzi.org/nepali-poem/

Saroj Bhujel, our agriculture technician for Sungdel and Sitaram Thapa, our newest team member and driver together created an awe-inspiring photo story of their journey. Click through the link or preview to see the entire photo story.

साहसिक युवा भ्रमण by dZi Foundation on Exposure

Nirmala, our Kathmandu Office Assistant and Chef Extra Ordinaire recounted her adventure in her popular food blog. Click on the link to see her full blog post.

Saroj Kulung, our Field Supervisor for Gudel (and now off to our newest working area in Bhojpur along with Mansu), wrote a travelogue about Nangi which was published by a regional Nepali news portal.

To read the full article, follow the link http://www.sagarmathaonline.com/33299/2018/08/14/

Meanwhile, Jhanak, our Logistics Officer, compiled the best fun photos and breathtaking landscape shots from everybody in the entire team to upload in our official facebook page. Check out our facebook page for the virtual tour. Meanwhile here is just a glimpse of Jhanak during the trek looking impeccable even while he was managing all the logistics required for the trek. We wouldn’t have expected any less from him, who also happens to be a part time Nepali film actor and music video model.

Besides these creative outputs, all the members of this trip also made a commitment to improve oneself as following in order to transform oneself into butterfly.

Inspired by Women Entrepreneurs!

“If we want to change something, we have to start it by changing the way we think. There is nothing in the world which is impossible if we have the right attitude and unity amongst ourselves. This is specially true for community development. In my position as a Field Supervisor for dZi, I discuss these aspects with community members constantly so as to motivate them during our projects. Sometimes, when I am knee-deep in the middle of a project and faced with many practical challenges, I forget to look at things from a bigger picture perspective. I forget that together we can do anything. I forget that however remote a community, if we really want change and are willing to change ourselves, we can achieve great feat.

Chairperson of the women’s handicraft – Ram Maya Pun – shows one of their painting made on locally crafted paper!

The past week has been a welcome reminder of just how powerful community unity, fortitude and positive attitude can be during the dZi Youth team trip. Nangi village of Annapurna Rural Municipality in Myagdi district was our destination. This is the home of pioneer social entrepreneur Mahabir Pun where he has engineered many radical social changes.

Everything that we had heard about Nangi was true. I was inspired to see such an active local community. The whole of Nangi population is dedicated to making their village prosperous by themselves. Women were at the forefront of this movement. In 2011, the women of Nangi village established a small handicraft industry called Indreni Handicraft Bags Sweater Shawl Center. They first taught a handful of women how to make little handicrafts and knitted products. As Nangi rose to prominence due to the work of Mahabir Pun nationally, people started coming to Nangi to explore and learn. The handicraft items became a good souvenir for them. So, the women members slowly built up their industry – creating diverse products and now they even process their own paper. In 5 years of its establishment, the center earned about Nrs. 18 lakh (~USD18,000). The profit is primarily used to support in various women’s health related issues. According to founder Ram Maya Pun, they donated Nrs 1 lakh (~USD1000) during construction of a birthing center in the local health post. They  give financial support to women during pregnancy and delivery. They also regularly support treatment of women and children.

The women who are running this industry are also the leaders in maintaining and upkeeping the local Magar culture. Like in other parts of Nepal, most of the men folk from every house here has gone abroad for employment. So, the women stepped up. They also run a fortnightly cleaning campaign in the village. It is because of the constant effort and vivacity of these women that Nangi has turned itself into an ideal home-stay village.

I learnt a lot from the women of Nangi. I am so looking forward to making similar contribution in the community where I work. I am more confident because I saw first hand that there is nothing women cannot do if they put a mind to it.”

Written By Mansu Khaling

Social Mobilizer

dZi Foundation

Visioning – Shared Dreams For A More Prosperous Community!

At dZi, development is something our partner communities initiate. In order to work hand-in-hand with these communities, we ensure that there is complete community participation in all of our programs and that community members are the principal players at all levels.

First, a community invites us in if they think our model fits with their beliefs around community development. Next, they create a plan and send us proposals for what they hope to accomplish by working together. Once we raise enough money to fund the proposal, the community leads implementation of the projects. After the projects are complete, they will also be responsible for maintaining and repairing them in the years to come.

A community member from Jaleshwori participating in our first visioning session.

Starting last year, we added a new step to our Deep Development model to improve the process of community participation in all of our work. Before we actually begin working, we sit down with community members and dream up a shared vision for the future. Together, we map out what a more prosperous future might look like for them. This collaborative exercise provides us with a plan for how we will spend the next 8 to 10 years in that specific community.

First ever visioning meeting at Jaleshwori.

In January 2017, we completed our first visioning session in our newest partner community, Jaleshwori. After spending 2 full days with more than 40 community members from all of the villages in Jaleshwori, we drafted a set of common dreams detailing what we would like to achieve together. We also wrote and signed a letter of understanding that holds dZi, the community, and our local NGO partner accountable to a mutually agreed-upon set of principles, which includes transparency, inclusion, ethics, putting the neediest first, etc. You can read through our detailed contract here.

Our first visioning session was a success! The community loved that they had the opportunity to create a plan for how dZi can help them on their own terms. This year, after we decided to partner with a new community, Bung, we began our partnership by conducting a visioning session with the community. We completed this visioning session in December 2017.

Community members in Bung signing the letter of understanding that we reached at the end of the visioning session.
Community members, local NGO partner members, and dZi staff with the final letter of understanding and common dreams for Bung, which will serve as our road map for future work here.

Enjoy this short video that showcases major highlights from our visioning session in Bung.

A Throwback to Gautam’s Awesome Trip

Gautam, our Chief Finance Officer in Nepal, took a one month whirlwind trip to the USA during May-June of this year. It was a fun filled work+adventure for him who was visiting the USA for the first time and who spent half of his visit working away at our Colorado office. Below we revisit Gautam’s visit through excerpts from his tour diary as we prepare for  another board meeting this fall.

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Leaving on a jet plane- Gautam takes a poignant shot from the plane

dZi Office, Ridgway
Date – May 23- 25, May 31, June 1-2 

I flew for over 40 hours and finally arrived  in Ridgway. It is just like our working areas in Nepal because there are snowy mountains and green hills all around. The town is smaller than I expected and people are very friendly. Worked with our US team, attended a fundraising event (also my first time seeing our Jim dai in Action), and learnt how the US side communicates with our donors and larger network. Our US team shows me around a lot during our evenings and weekends.  They also take me to the beautiful beautiful Black Canyon hiking.

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Board Meeting
Date: May 26-27

Even before being in the US, I knew the importance weekend held over there, so I am thankful to all the board members who came to the board meeting which was on a weekend. I meet all of our members and advisors. I got to be part of visioning sessions and discussion related to dZi’s sustainability.  On the second day, I also had to do a presentation on financial update of Nepal Country Office. I am quite nervous at the beginning, but in no time it becomes fun as everybody are so engaged with what I present.

Mountain Film
Date: May 27-30

We had been hearing a lot about Mountainfilm since many years in Kathmandu, and what I experience did not disappoint me at all. In Telluride, I watch a lot of amazing movies in different theaters, participate in different talk shows, even interact with so many random strangers on the street! I also participate in the ice cream social with Mark dai. It was enjoyable to see many social organizations (including ours) do their promotion in the street.  Mountainfilm is definitely a place where we naturally connect to a lot of diverse people from all corners of the world. Now I understand why it is a central theme for dZi every year.

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Gautam, along with our US team-Mark, Michelle and Elizabeth as well as board member Buck and his wife Holy Elliot. Photo by Melissa Plantz, Mountainfilm.

June 3- 7
New York City

After completion of my official time in Colorado, I fly to Chicago where my uncle, niece and brother-in-law received me at the airport. The next day, they we are on a tour of New York city. I meet my cousin who came all the way from Boston to meet me. He had left Nepal six years ago and we had not met since. I take a double-decker bus with my uncle, visit the 9/11 Memorial Center, Staten Island by Ferry, the Famous Times Square and other New York landmarks. New York is so different from Colorado – the huge buildings, narrow roads, heavy traffic. The next day of sightseeing is ruined by rain and we drive to our uncle’s house in Baltimore. The whole night we spend talking and catching up with each others lives.

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Gautam enjoying New York- in iconic Times Square (L) and View from World Trade Center (R) that he clicked.

June 7-12
Washington DC and Niagara Falls

There is no rest for me as my relatives have planned more touristy stuff for me. So, we drive to Washington DC, walk around the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and other famous tourist sites. I am sometimes a bit tired due to all the sightseeing, driving around, but since this is my first time and there is no saying when I would be back, I take it all in strides. My relatives also left no stones unturned to help me see and experience US as much as possible. I also visited my other cousins who were living on Fredrick, and who I had not met for 3 years. I also got to see and play with my nephew.

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Gautam enjoying Washington DC

The next trip on the list was Ocean City but it changed into Niagara Falls which took almost 8 hours of driving. But the driving was not painful like it usually is in Nepal. We went to the famous Maid of the Mist tour right after arriving there. We went to Cave of the Winds Tour next morning. This was a very refreshing tour for me, and I saw how well the natural landscapes had been preserved here.

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Gautam enjoys Niagara Falls with Family. Look, he even captured the iconic rainbow. 🙂

June 13-14
Mini US tour Comes to an End

It was nice to spend time with my family and relatives in a new place which made it feel familiar. I don’t remember if I had spent such quality time with them in Nepal, but in the US I also got that chance. I flew back to Nepal on 14th with many fond memories, lessons and a souvenirs for my friends and families.

My time in the US taught me that it is important to know about and be aware of different places and cultures of the world. It is also refreshing, motivating and important for personality development. This was once in a lifetime moment for me, and I hope we can keep doing this exchange to the USA so that other Nepali team member also get a chance. Such visits help us  to learn more about our US work, also helps the US side understand more about our work in the field, learn about US culture, and cultivate appreciation for our donor and support network in the USA.

I would like to thank all the dZi Nepal and US team for providing me this grand opportunity along with the constant support, encouragement and motivation which made my visit successful and remembering.

 

Written by Gautam Raj Silwal Gautam Raj Silwal

Chief Finance Officer

dZi Foundation

Seasons change.

We are proud of our mistakes. They are what help us learn to do even better. 

At dZi, we go to extra lengths to listen to community members, to learn from our past experiences, and to troubleshoot before we begin any project. However, despite this we still make mistakes. Sometimes a lot of them.

As we see it, the most important aspect of working with a community is to devote the time and resources necessary to identify these mistakes, and to fix them.

“It is so hard to close the windows of the school. We cannot do it alone; we need two people just to shut the doors and windows, because they are all warped”

— Female Teacher at Chitre Primary School – speaking about challenges they faced after some of the wood used to construct a school building wasn’t adequately dried before use.

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Everything in our projects – as with most human processes – is in flux. A late monsoon can severely lengthen the time it takes to move construction materials, a drop in exchange rates can raise budgets significantly, political instability can halt all staff movement.

We strive to be a true learning organization, and to be flexible and agile so that we can respond to changes as they occur. Our greatest teachers are the members of communities we work with – they have learned to thrive in tremendously difficult terrain, and to create highly-functional societies despite great poverty. Our long term partnership has built a level of trust where community members are equally eager to point out our mistakes as they are to support our efforts to correct them.

We continually fine tune our methods to improve our impacts, and we spend enough time in each community to know the people, resources, and challenges in depth. This allows us to come up with solutions that are local, grassroots and community driven.

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      Being part of the community is the first step of our “deep development approach”

This year, we made a massive organizational change to address a need that community members were voicing subtly over a number of years. As a US-based organization, it made sense to pin our fiscal year to the Gregorian calendar – starting on January 1st. This made financial record keeping and yearly auditing much easier on the US side, and we aligned our Nepal office records to match.

Accordingly, our projects all broke ground in January – right in the middle of the dry season. This then only allowed for five months of good weather before the monsoon rains began – not enough time to complete a major construction project like a school.

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Our original fiscal year was such that the monsoons interrupted the construction season

One unintended consequence of this short timeline meant that the wood used for construction often did not have time to properly dry after it was cut to specifications. This led to warped window and door frames which would only close with great effort.

Monsoon is also a time where community members are extremely busy working in the fields to plant their annual rice harvest. Asking for local contribution to projects during this time would put undue pressure on local families, not to mention the fact that working in the rain is miserable.

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                                      Monsoon is the busiest time for farmers.

Travel and transporting materials during the monsoon is extremely dangerous due to flooding and extremely slippery trails. Projects that carryover into the monsoon put local community members at greater risk of injury while contributing local materials.

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                         Commuting in monsoon is perilous, to say the least.

One of the major sources of learning for us is our project evaluations. We evaluate each project and collect community feedback to understand impacts, challenges, and what we could do better next time. When looking at our evaluation data, we noticed that 70% of evaluations noted that the timing of projects was a significant challenge.

In response to this clear message, we began the process of shifting our official fiscal year to match the Nepali fiscal year which begins in July. This required a fair amount of juggling and reworking our financial systems – but it was well worth it. We officially began our new fiscal year on July 1st, 2015.

 

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Our new fiscal year allows for at least eight months of uninterrupted good weather for construction projects.

 

Changing our fiscal year, and in turn, the timing of our project cycle will make our construction work even stronger and more in sync with the natural seasons in our partner communities. Now, our community partners can prepare for the construction season by purchasing materials and preparing construction sites during the monsoons. This is followed by eight months of continuous good weather and the bulk of construction happening when community members have more time to contribute.

While something like when we choose to close our books may seem at the outset to have little bearing upon the lives of our community partners, it can actually make the difference between a door that opens or a door that is permanently shut. We are certain, as well, that this isn’t the last aspect of our work that will need to be reflected upon and improved. Indeed, we are looking forward to our next mistake – as this provides us with another opportunity to listen, to learn, and to do even better.

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Help us rebuild 28 schools!

Help the dZi Foundation Rebuild 28 Schools in Nepal

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The Earthquake

As you’ve seen in countless headlines and news stories, Nepal was hit with two deadly earthquakes, one on April 25 and another on May 12, 2015. Nearly 9,000 people have lost their lives and the Nepali government estimates that the death toll could cross 10,000 once all rescue and recovery efforts are completed. While the destruction in the capital city of Kathmandu received the most media attention, the remote villages in the mountains of Nepal have suffered the most. Here, local homes and public infrastructure has been wiped out, and there are still many communities that have yet to receive any aid or assistance whatsoever.

dZi Foundation

dZi Foundation has been working in the most remote communities of Nepal since 1998. Even before the devastating earthquakes, the areas in which we work took up to three long days on foot to reach from the closest road, district headquarters, and international aid service providers. Our mission has not changed, but the need for our services has increased tremendously.

dZi works in partnership with remote communities in Nepal to create lasting improvements in their quality of life. For almost two decades we have been invited into local communities and partnered with them to meet their most pressing needs – including constructing local infrastructure such as schools, toilets, drinking water systems, and bridges. We have also provided training on essential soft skills such as agricultural training to increase incomes and food security, and forming parent teacher associations at local schools.

Four years ago, we began engineering all of our public buildings to a high standard of earthquake-resistance, and retro-fitted existing infrastructure to make it stronger. These buildings survived both quakes, and are being used as temporary shelters for displaced families.

 

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An Earthquake Resistant Building in Chitre Village that we constructed in 2013. This building undamaged by both the earthquakes.

The most important part of our methodology is our long-term approach. We commit to working with each of our partner communities for up to a decade, and using this time to provide them with the skills and experience to continue the process of growth and achievement themselves.

This has been the deadliest natural disaster in Nepal’s history, and the rebuilding efforts will take years. Amid the destruction, our community partners need us now more than ever.

Building Earthquake Resistant Schools

After the earthquake, life across Nepal ground to a halt. This included schooling for more than a million children across the country that no longer had safe schools to return to. While our engineered schools stood, community members identified thirty schools in our project areas that were no longer safe for students to study in.

Local community members have already approached dZi for support with the reconstruction of at least 31 local schools, and we have committed to doing everything that we can. Constructing schools hand-in-hand with local communities will help begin the long process of recovery, and will keep thousands of children in school.

We have improved upon our already-proven earthquake-resistant building techniques preparing for earthquakes in magnitudes much higher than the current ones. We continue to rely upon our proven methods of working closely with communities to ensure that they are fully invested in the long term maintenance and upkeep once the schools are completed.

dZi’s long relationship with our community partners offers an opportunity to provide direct support to communities that have little chance of receiving aid from any other sources. Our unparalleled track record ensures that your funds will go further and our commitment to transparency guarantees that every penny is tracked and accounted for.

How You Can Help

We need your help to rebuild the damaged schools in our project areas using new earthquake-resistant designs. Our construction estimate is $60,000 per school.

For the weekend of MountainFilm in May alone, we had secured a matching donation for all gifts up to $75,000.

Please visit dzi.org/donate to make a donation, or send a check to PO Box 632, Ridgway CO 81432.

dZi Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax deductible. A receipt for your tax records will be mailed to you.

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Fundraising Updates

This past week has been one of the most difficult of our lives.  We have been working tirelessly on relief efforts in Nepal, and on planning the long process of helping our communities and our country rebuild. One of the things that has kept us going has been the outpouring of support from around the globe – we have had amazing press coverage and campaigns to help from dozens of organizations and individuals. Here are a few examples of many.

Bake Sale

Fifth Grade girls from San Domenico School in California held a bake sale to help victims of the earthquake. With matching donations from parents, they were able to raise over $5,000 which they will be handing over to our US office. One of the girls is the daughter of our Board Member Robert Balmaseda.

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Instagram

We are getting a lot of love in the instagram community as well. Andy Bardon was one of the first to extend his support to us through his instagram page.

Everesting in the UK

Team dZi UK riders set themselves to the difficult task of everesting in UK’s toughest hill- the Bealach na Bà. They have been raising funds through their justgiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/dziearthquake. The team of 4-Kevin Connors, Charlie Sanders, Charlie Sanders, David Ward, and Matt Ray continuously rode the hill on May 2, 2015 until they completed a continuous climb and descent of 8,848 m in a difficult English weather.

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Team dZi UK riders!

Marmot

Our long time partner Marmot has started a Marmot-dZi Nepal Relief campaign, and they are raising funds through the crowdrise page at https://www.crowdrise.com/marmot-nepal-relief.

More than  $9,000 has already been collected through this.

Zeal Optics

Our recent partner Zeal Optics – the world’s most sustainable sunglass and most technologically advanced goggle company, are also helping us in our mission to rebuild. Zeal Optics will be donating $5 for every pair of shades purchased at MSRP from their flagship storefront to us. Check out their blog :  #supportNepal.

Mountainfilm

Our newest non-profit partner Mountainfilm has been constantly supporting us in getting the word out. They have given us a wide platform to send out a letter of appeal to help us in rebuilding and reconstruction of homes, schools and public infrastructure.

Any support, no matter cash or kind, no matter big or small means a lot to us and to the people of Nepal at the moment. dZi, as such is not a relief organization but we have tried our best to be there for our community members in time of this great need. In doing so, thoughts from around the world have meant a lot to us in assuring our communities that we will support them in getting back on feet.

Volunteer Colleen Mary brought tears of joy to our eyes when we saw this video.

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Rooted in the grassroots

How is dZi “rooted in the grassroots” you ask?

Well, for starters all our projects are truly based on community demand. Here, locals of Dipsung, Khotang are discussing things that needs to be done in their community. Together they will come up with high priority activities which goes towards forming our projects.

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Prior to the start of our project cycle every year, our staff and NGO partner members walk far and wide all over our working area to facilitate community meetings, collect idea, brainstorm and then come up with proposals that truly encompasses the needs of the community. This process has led us to have more local contribution in each project, which results in the ownership of them long after we have handed all the responsibilities to the communities.

 

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Community members discuss what crops could be commercially viable in their area

 

From 2014, we have started a sustainable agriculture program in 5 of our working areas-Dipsung, Sungdel, Rakha, Gudel and Sotang which is again, demand based and community centered. We sat with the local community to talk about what they would want to plant, learn to grow, which crops will have a market in the future, which crops are commercially viable in their climate and geography, and about the nutritional aspects of planting vegetables. We have collected the demand from community, which drives our agriculture program.

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Community members attend the Sanitation & Awareness Training

We make it a point to involve maximum community members in all our projects. For example in our One House One Toilet Projects, constructing toilet is only one of the many activities that we do together with community. We first run “Sanitation & Awareness Training” in all the regions where we are launching the project. This training will help the community members learn about the toilet designs, its benefits, and how to maintain sanitation of toilet itself. For building 385  toilets in 2014 in the village of Chheskam, we conducted training in 5 different locations so that every body could easily participate. Because our Toilet Projects, like all our other projects, are demanded by the community, the participation rate in such training is very high. Most of the time, at least one member from every house will attend. Here in the above photo, a lady from  Chheskam attends one such training with her baby.

While going grassroots, we also come up with all sorts of interesting community members. Here is a short video story of two locals who have helped us realize the immense potential rural communities have within themselves, and both of who have been inspirational to both us and their community for carrying our work forward.