I am inspired by the kindness, decency and warmth of the people of Nepal: DeLisi

DeLisi 2Kathmandu: As Nepali people are sincere and hard-working, they have been receiving support from different quarters. Many foreigners who come to visit Nepal have found their heart in Nepal. Scott H. DeLisi is one such person who came to Nepal as a diplomat and continues to support the country even completing his assignment as US Ambassador to Nepal. He has been raising funds and continues to support the poor and deprived people of Nepal via the Soarway Foundation. Nepalekhabar have a brief chat with him about his initiation to support Nepal. Here are excerpts:

Your Excellency, you have been raising funds for Nepal after the massive earthquake of April 2015, what has motivated you to engage in such philanthropic work?

When I was Ambassador in Nepal, one of our primary concerns was the work for disaster risk reduction and preparedness. We know that an earthquake was inevitable – just as we know that there will be other earthquakes in the future. We knew then that the time to act, the time to make a difference, was not after people died and villages were destroyed; the time to act is now, when we can save lives and have an impact. We have the chance to change the narrative of the future. We have the chance to make people safer and to save lives. Even if we save one life, that is a wonderful thing. That is work worth doing and if I have the chance to be part of this effort to make a difference for the people of Nepal and for the future of a nation I have come to care about deeply, then that is what I will try to do.

You have served as diplomat in different countries but what motivated you to work for Nepali people at a time there is high demand in other countries as well?

It is indeed true that there are many challenges in today’s world and that help is needed to address them all but, in the case of Nepal I have a personal connection and commitment shaped by my previous work there and inspired by the kindness, decency and warmth of the people of Nepal. When your heart has been touched by the people you meet along the way then the choice to work on their behalf is an easy one. For me, the people of Nepal motivated me and the knowledge that we can, with commitment and hard work, make a difference. I’m honored to have the chance to do so and I hope that others will join me.

How much funds have you collected so far and how you are utilizing them? Do you think you will continue raising funds for Nepal?

We are constantly trying to raise funds to support a range of projects in partnership with other donors and increasingly, as we build our base, to look at capacity building efforts. We have provided support to a range of efforts already. We worked with the Empower Nepal Foundation to fund a medical mission to the Tsum Valley. We have supported Mission Rebuild Nepal’s efforts to build temporary shelters for people affected in Sindhupalchowk. We have contributed to the Nepal Youth Foundation’s program to help children orphaned in the earthquakes. We are working still with Maiti Nepal to protect and help vulnerable girls. Last year we made a concerted effort to reinvigorate tourism in Nepal, including a major program related to inclusive tourism in which we helped to send a group of Wounded Heroes to Nepal to show that the nation is open for business and even those with disabilities are able to participate. We also provided support to an effort to identify new trekking routes in Upper Mustang that will help to bring new resources to the area and keep villages – and the region’s culture – vibrant.

Most recently, we have been supporting Nepal Rises, a promising new organization led by young Nepalis in their efforts to rebuild a school destroyed in the 2015 quakes and we are proud to be partnering with the Nepal Ambulance Service in their expansion of service to Butwal. We are also excited to be working with the International Development Institute to support an outstanding Women’s Entrepreneurship Program that is empowering women to pursue their dreams and turn them into income generating business opportunities. Finally, we are doing our part to be advocates for Nepal and the Nepali diaspora community in America and are unceasing in our efforts to make Nepal safer and stronger and to partner with its people to create a future that they can face with confidence rather than fear.

As you spent quiet a significant time in Nepal and are very familiar with it, what is your suggestion for the development and prosperity of the country?

I am hesitant to try and offer a formula for prosperity and development. I will leave that to the experts whose job it is to focus on economic growth. I will note, however, that a prosperous future must be predicated on engaging the youth who make up more than seventy percent of the population. We must enlist their energy, their vision and their creativity and we must listen to and empower their voice in the same way that we seek to empower women entrepreneurs. That broader engagement of people from across society is critical to a prosperous future.

DeLisi 1United States is the largest donor of Nepal and there are many projects currently running with support from the U.S. In this context, why you have decided to run separate charity projects for supporting Nepal?

I was proud of the truly outstanding development programs of the US government in Nepal when I was Ambassador and I know that they continue today with the same commitment and positive spirit that have always characterized our engagement in Nepal. But I also know that to address the complex problems we face in today’s world we need the commitment and support of many actors. Partners in academia, in the non-profit community, in faith communities, and the private sector all have a role to play. There are things that a small foundation like Soarway can do that inspire, inform, and even transform communities. The bottom line is that there is much need, much work to be done, and there is room for all of us to play a role. That is what Soarway seeks to do.

It is common knowledge that development projects have very less impact as compared to the money spent on it. Do you agree or if not why?

Again, I would leave this for development experts to debate. I would just way that I am proud of the work that the United States has done in the development arena and I am proud of the work that we do as part of Soarway. I know that our Embassy’s engagement on disaster risk reduction and preparedness, for example, has saved lives and that, to me, is the measure that matters. At Soarway too our goal is to touch lives and to save lives. To make a difference. We may not have millions of dollars but we put our resources to the best use that we possibly can and I’m confident that the money is well spent and I’m proud that we care, that we engage, and that we try.

The funding for Nepal by donor countries is decreasing in recent days due to large emergencies in different parts of the globe. In this context, what could Nepal do to make its development sustainable?

To be honest, I think that the questions that people need to be asking is not how can we get donors to help Nepal but how do we help ourselves. What do we do as a nation to build for our own future, taking the responsibility to develop policies that grow the economy, that create jobs and opportunity, that empower citizens and that ensure that corruption is no longer strangling economic growth. Donors can and will continue to help, I am sure, recognizing that Nepal is still a country that needs the partnership from its friends but the leadership and vision must come from Nepal and the nation cannot wait for others to come in and solve its problems for them.

Tourism is the backbone of Nepal but many tourists still hesitate to visit Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake even though most of the tourism destinations are safe. What is your message to the people who are thinking of visiting Nepal?

We were very clear in our message last year as we advanced the program for inclusive tourism. Nepal is open for business and it remains one of the premier tourist destinations in the world. It’s natural beauty, its geographic diversity, it rich and dynamic cultural heritage, and its wonderful people make Nepal a country that must be seen!

Do you have any message to the readers?

I would simply say that every day we continue our efforts on behalf of Nepal. Our motto is Engage Nepal. And that is what we seek to do. But we cannot do this alone. Every day as well we have to reach out to seek the funds that will allow us to make a difference and to expand and grow our partnerships. We need your help. For those who wish to become part of our movement, for those who want to “Engage Nepal” they can contact us at info@soarway.org and together, we will continue to make a difference.

(Editor’s Note: How do you find this interview? Please send your comments to editor@nepalekhabar.com or editor.nepalekhabar@gmail.com.)

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