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Megan Dieu feels that stepping out of her personal comfort zone and learning how to be globally engaged were important aspects of participating in a GlobalResolve trip to Nepal last April.
Dieu, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in chemical engineering, was among a group of students that traveled to several villages in Nepal, a small country located among the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains in South Central Asia. They were there with GlobalResolve, a social entrepreneurship program designed to enhance the educational experience for Arizona State University students by involving them in real-world projects that directly improve the lives of underprivileged people locally and in underdeveloped nations throughout the world.
Dieu, along with other students, spent time in Kathmandu and in a district known as Nawalparasi, in the south of Nepal bordering the Chitwan National Forest. In the village of Amaltaari, they focused on biochar research involving surveys, biochar used for cooking, and a safari to inspect invasive plant species in the jungle.
The village is battling invasive vegetation (Mikania Micrantha and Lantana) that is covering up the food for local animals including the one-horned rhinoceros. The GlobalResolve project goal is to help the community reduce these species to open up the food source. The project also aims to help create a business that uses the invasive plants as a cash crop by converting the vegetation into biochar that can be sold. Biochar is a charcoal produced from plant matter that is mixed into soil to boost its fertility.
In another community called Rajahar, they mapped local homes, irrigation systems and wells as part of a project involving the use of a new solar irrigation pump. The project was led by Prof. Netra Chhetri, a faculty member in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society who is from Nepal.
“Personally, this project was a powerful learning experience. It required me to step out of my comfort zone. Projects like this help broaden students’ global perspective by putting them in situations that invite them to understand, empathize with and learn from individuals of different backgrounds,” Dieu said.
“The relationships I have made throughout my participation in the project over the last year are priceless and have forever changed my worldview. Where ever you go, people all have something in common: the desire to feel safe, loved, valued, and have the opportunity to learn, grow, and make a better life for their children. This is the most important thing to understand as a citizen of the world,” she added.
Dieu said she also appreciated the opportunity to work with students from Tribhuvan University in Nepal and community members who are directly impacted.
“It is a unique opportunity that fosters an environment of learning, growth and understanding beyond anything I could have ever achieved in a classroom setting. Participating in programs like this helps students understand that all problems are complex and cannot be solved with Band-Aid solutions. Applied solutions should always keep the people - their values, culture, opinions, and beliefs - at the center.”
Joelle Cayer, an honors student majoring in chemical engineering, took her second trip to Nepal with GlobalResolve last spring.
“This is my second time working in these locations and the visible changes in these communities has given me so much perspective. I would encourage students to get out there and be global citizens, not just to help others, but to make connections with people. Returning to Nepal and reuniting with friends and community members was a gift,” she said.
“One of Netra's favorite quotes is "Minds on the margin are not marginal minds." This saying has described my experience because the largest impact we have in these communities is the empathy we create by listening to people’s stories and needs, and working in these communities for solutions they actually want. It helped me grow and listen to others,” Cayer added.
According to Mark Henderson, co-founder of GlobalResolve and associate dean of Barrett Honors College at the Polytechnic campus, the program creates teams of students and faculty to help reduce the effects of poverty in underserved communities and to provide students with life changing experiences. Currently, the program has 50 students working on projects in Nepal, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia, South Pacific and Peru.
Henderson said students can join GlobalResolve projects by enrolling in the course, Design for the Developing World, offered every semester as a HON394 and also as a EGR307/317. The class has no prerequisites so all majors are welcome. There also is a GlobalResolve club on Facebook that students can join. The club is working on water purification in Peru.
GlobalResolve project teams are going to Nepal, Kenya, South Pacific, Mexico this summer on study abroad trips and Peru and Indonesia in 2019, Henderson said.