The poet Madhav Ghimire indicated the pipal tree, which can grow through boulders, to illustrate the power of creation. So it is that the five students from the Seti-Mahakali Nursing College in the far western Tarai district of Kanchanpur have won the British Council's Enterprise Challenge 2009, to claim Rs 100,000 as well as a video camera. The nature of their project proposal - a career counselling centre - has allowed them to realise not just their own considerable potential but also paved the way for other young students to do the same.
The Enterprise Challenge is organised annually by the British Council's skills for employment program. According to project officer Tsering Gurung, "Our principal aim is to create opportunities for the new generation by supporting social and economic development." The Council has made special efforts to reach youth outside the Kathmandu Valley, and the results are there for all to see. This year, entries included students from the Seti-Mahakali Nursing College, the Far West School of Medicine, Trade School-Sunsari, Balaju School of Engineering and Technology and the Pokhara Tourism and Training Centre.
The winning team was announced during an event held from 16-17 November at the British Council in Kathmandu. If creativity, entrepreneurship and financial sustainability were to be rewarded, Sukarsha Ghimire, Sunita Chaudhary, Madhu Gurung, Babita Bista and Meena Chand's project had it in spades. As their instructor Rusila Paudel explained, "It's tough for SLC and +2 graduates to decide on a career. We wanted to help them." Given the difficulties these nursing students had faced themselves, they readily understood the needs of a career counselling centre.
Meena Chand explained the counselling centre's two-year business plan. About 300 youths will be counselled every month at the centre, to earn Rs 1,080,000 a year, of which over Rs 800,000 will go on expenditures. The balance will be ploughed back into the business as well as scholarships. The team also plans to expand operations to other districts.
The girls from Seti-Mahakali Nursing College now have an opportunity to expand their horizons yet further. As winners of the Nepali Enterprise Challenge, they have been tasked with making a five-minute project video that will be aired on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in competition with projects from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The team netting the most votes will travel to the United Kingdom in March 2010 for further training.
Last year's winners from the Balaju School of Engineering and Technology made it past the regional competition to travel to the United Kingdom. Project Officer Gurung is confident such successes will inspire others in Nepal to believe in their own potential and work with others to set up projects. Equally important, the success of Seti-Mahakali College has proven wrong the stereotype that Nepal's all about a Valley-centric patriarchy. There's plenty going on out there.
Suresh Raj Neupane