Professional & cultural exchange program for social workers and youth workers
Council of International Fellowship-United States of America
CIF Nepal: Reflections of People and Place
Submitted by Marcia Mauter, USA
CIF Nepal participant, 2017
A small country wedged between the giants of China and India,
our 2017 CIF group admittedly knew very little about Nepal.
But that would change quickly!
A gracious and welcoming CIF Nepal board provided the necessary structure and support to ensure that Monique and Reidar (Finland), Hetty (Scotland), and Danielle and Marcia (USA) would come to know the history, culture, landscape, the sacred and spiritual. We were informed, challenged, and inspired at every level; our professional exchange experience was as rich and life changing as we hoped it would be.
The first week we participated in a variety of cultural immersion experiences to deepen our understanding of Nepal. We were briefed by K&K College faculty (Head of Social Work) on all things Nepal, including the most recent earthquake that killed 8,500 people and impacted Nepal at every turn.
We visited sacred places including 1) the most important Hindu temple, Pashipanath where we observed grieving families and open air cremations, and 2) the sacred Buddhist shrine of Swyambhunath (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where we spun prayer wheels, learned about stupas and their symbolic meaning, and bought prayer flags to later hang in high mountain passes.
We engaged in on-site meetings with administrative directors of various NGO’s: The Butterfly Home ( and winner of the prestigious CNN Heroes Award), which houses and educates children whose parents are in prison…. Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) which addresses children’s rights, dignity, empowerment and protection…..SERC, a facility for handicapped children….and more.
We glimpsed, surrounded by a 360-degree view of the Himalayas, the early morning sunrise on Mt. Everest, the crowning glory of Nepal and the world! We savored momo’s (delicious dumplings), juju dhau (the creamiest yogurt in the world) and daal boat (traditional rice and lentils).
We concluded our week by choosing our own weekend adventure: Flying to Bhutan, adventuring in Chitwan National Park, or exploring charming Pokhara. There was so much more to our week of learning and bonding as a group….but time to meet our host family and work assignments!
For the next few weeks, our host families were tasked with sharing the pulse of daily life with us. I quickly developed a deep affection for my host family. Two accomplished university professors, together with their daughter-in-law, and an energetic eight-year-old granddaughter welcomed me unconditionally into their home, hearts and lives. No matter what we did together, there was always a free and authentic flow of conversation that kept us closely connected and the learning going forward.
I would ask:
My host family might wonder:
At the conclusion of our time together, all CIF board members, host families and participants gathered for a celebratory cross cultural meal, awarding of CIF certificates, and acknowledgement that we had all grew from meeting each other at life’s crossroads.
My parting gift to my host family was a set of large silk prayer flags. My goal was to undertake a two-week post Himalayan trek in the Annapurna Mt range - and hang them at the top of Thorung La Pass, 17,500 feet.
To know that today they are fluttering (or whipping furiously) as a way to honor my CIF Nepal family, my host family, and my family back in Cleveland, Ohio...to sweetly remember those family members, my Nepalese family and I both lost and grieve….and to celebrate all friends and colleagues who have supported and cheered me on to this point and place in my life fills me with gratitude as deep, wide, and high as the Himalayas themselves.