The following is an interview with Maia Pandey, the HCC Summer Intern for 2017.
My name is Maia Pandey, and I am a rising sophomore at Buckingham Browne & Nichols school. I was born in Lexington, Massachusetts. Both of my parents are from Nepal, so we often visit there in the summers and for hiking trips. At school, I’m in the speech and debate club, write for the school newspaper, run track and cross country, and play the viola in my school’s orchestra. My favorite subject in school is English and in my free time I enjoy reading books, watching movies, hiking, rollerblading, and seeing my friends.
How did you first hear about HCC?
I first heard of HCC through my parents; my dad has a health care software company based in Kathmandu and one of his co-workers actually ended up sitting next to [HCC Founder Bruce Keenan] on the plane to Nepal! I met Bruce through my dad in Nepal in March 2016 and also met some HCC students when we visited Khushi Ghar during the same trip.
What prompted you to want to work for HCC?
I decided I wanted to work for HCC after my first visit Khushi Ghar in March ultimately because of the students I met. I knew I wanted to work at an organization in Nepal because I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is for vulnerable parts of the population, women and children living in poverty especially, to succeed. However, I was nervous about the idea because even though both my parents are Nepali, I speak the language, and we’ve been coming to Nepal every few years since I was born, I’ve felt slightly out of place in Nepal and wasn’t sure how I would do going into a workplace here by myself. What made Khushi Ghar and HCC so appealing to me was how each student was so friendly and outgoing and, even by simply asking me about my favorite subjects in school, they allowed me to become part of their community, and I felt involved in the Nepali culture in a way that I never have before.
You’re spending the first part of your internship on the ground in Nepal. What have you been working on while in Nepal?
I just finished compiling and writing a master list of profiles for the students in the DCI and REEP Programs [HCC’s earthquake response scholarships], and writing profiles of the graduate students and what they’re currently working on, both of which will go on the website. I’m now beginning to update the already-existing biographies of the students in the Signature Program, according to both recent sponsor updates and by asking the students themselves questions. It’s really helpful to be in Nepal while working on this because I can easily ask the staff (primarily Mun Maya and Khil) a question to fill a hole in one of the profiles and they will usually answer it on the spot or can pull out a recent report that will have the information. I also helped pull together a pamphlet on students who currently do not have sponsors to show at HCC events in the US. Lastly, I’ve been working on workshops for the students, which has been quite possibly my favorite thing so far about working at HCC. I helped coordinate and run a workshop on impromptu speech and debate for some of the students at Khushi Ghar who were on break. This then inspired us to create a week long job skills training for older students, in which, to summarize, every student submitted a resume and interviewed for a made-up position at a company.
What’s been your favorite experience in Nepal so far?
The end of my first week here, Khushi Ghar threw a birthday party for Khil, a graduate of the program and now a member of the HCC staff as a programs officer. I met a lot of Khushi Ghar students that I hadn’t met yet and the entire first floor was bustling with people, creating a wonderfully chaotic environment, alight with spirited banter that, even while I struggled to follow along at points, made my cheeks hurt from laughing! There was cake, ice cream, and Khil brought in a bag of coffee-chocolates, determined that everyone get a piece!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started in activism?
I think it’s most important to carry a strong sense of self-confidence. The experience I’ve had with activism has been centered on telling other people about the issue at hand and why it is worth our time and attention. In middle school, I gave a speech in front of my grade on the glass ceiling for women and how that manifests itself even within our school. I found in doing that I had to speak with a conviction and confidence- even if I didn’t completely feel it in light of how vulnerable I felt in front of my classmates. Even starting work at HCC, although everyone was so welcoming, I still felt shy the first few days and this was most remedied by forcing myself to let go of any reservations and just talk to everyone else. While this wasn’t necessarily activism, I still was able to put myself out there and, in a sense, prepare for a future situation where I will need the confidence to represent an issue much larger than myself.