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Photo by Catherine Von Holt, Nepal Semester.

An introduction to your Instructor Claire

A heartfelt namaste from a fresh cold morning in Nepal!

My name is Claire, I am originally from the UK although I have for many years called Kathmandu home, and I have the great privilege of being one of your instructors for this wonderful journey to discover the ashrams and artisans of the Kathmandu valley. I am so excited that we will be embarking on this wonderful journey together.

I have had a very special relationship with Nepal, and for me it started when I first came here as a teenager. That trip was more or less the first time I had really traveled outside my home country, and it totally blew my mind. The year was 2001, a challenging and eventful time for Nepal, the year when the royal family were massacred amid speculation and intrigue. Those first few months I spent in Nepal were not easy. I was challenged, I reassessed my values, and ultimately I became disillusioned with many things from my previous life. However through that disillusionment I somehow became empowered too. Many of my assumptions about my values, worldview and identity had been smashed, and it was down to Nepal.

I learned so much from the country and many people in it. I experienced the extremes of sorrow and joy, of despair and hope, of death and rebirth. Many of the guidebooks will tell you that Nepal is a beautiful country, of majestic peaks and subtropical jungle, the people humble and smiling. I would say that these qualities are meaningless unless you open yourself up and reflect on your deepest values of your authentic self. This is what I hope we can all learn and rediscover through this trip.

After falling in love with Nepal, in the most literal sense, the first time I came here, I have spent my life finding ways to meaningfully return. My deep bonds with the Nepali people I know found me spending increasing amounts of time in this country, to the point where I now consider it home. In 2005 I became a founder member of an NGO, called PHASE, an organization working towards the empowerment of some of Nepal’s (and the world’s) most remote and isolated communities. I would love to share more about the work that they do when we are together.

I have spent most of my life working in the field of international development, with all the richness, frustration and complexity that accompanies that. In Nepal I worked with several organizations before founding PHASE, and I also spent several years working in remote Cambodia, another place close to my heart. These days, when I am not working with Dragons I work as a consultant, usually in the fields of anti-trafficking and gender-based empowerment. I have also spent lots of my time abroad reflecting on international service, and am the author of a forthcoming book called “Learning Service” – which you will definitely hear more about on our trip!

2015 was another was a challenging year for the people of Nepal and those who call it home. The earthquake was a disaster that left Nepal reeling, and although the infrastructure is back up and running, the country still hasn’t really recovered from the shock. We are all still healing and processing the impact and we invite you to join us in that! Although it was devastating, I have found solace and inspiration in the calm resilience of the Nepali people. Communities were ripped apart but not broken. On this trip you will get to see the incredible strength of the Nepali communities that are rising from the ashes and getting the slow work of rebuilding underway.

I want to thank you for making the choice to come on this program. Our hope is that this trip will challenge you to step outside your comfort zone in a big way, and if you embrace it, you are likely to have a most profound learning encounter.

I can’t wait to meet you in a few short weeks, to discuss our hopes and goals and views of the world over a hot cup of ‘chiya’ (something that the British and the Nepalese have in common – the cultural significance of TEA!)

With excitement for the trip ahead, your instructor

Claire