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Lessons from the Other Side of the World

By Dean Whittaker

In March of 2009, I met and hired a Nepalese Hope College intern by the name of Vidhan Rana. Vidhan came to me as an intern with a desire to learn about economic development so that when he returned to Nepal, he could help build schools in the rural area of his native country. While in college, a group of his Nepalese high school classmates attending universities in the US, raised $40,000 through campus fund raisers and built a school two miles from the nearest road. They bought books and funded teachers. Whittaker Associates donated the funds to create the Whittaker Associates Memorial 4-seat Outhouse. Twenty students walked miles (kilometers) every day to attend classes there. Later, the group found it was more economical to re-build schools that had fallen into disrepair following the country’s 15-year civil war with the Maoist regime. This work continues.

When Vidhan moved back to Nepal a couple of years after college, we collaborated on research, including opening an office in Kathmandu. Over the past ten years, Whittaker Associates has been fortunate to employ numerous outstanding interns, many of whom stayed on to become full-time employees.

As the last decade ended, it became clear that with software enhancements (predictive analytics) and better data services, the need for additional support for our US research team has diminished to the point where the services provided by our Kathmandu team has become economically unsustainable. So, with a great deal of gratitude for their contributions and no small amount of tears, I made the difficult decision to close the Kathmandu office at the end of January 2020.

Over the years, the Kathmandu office managers and I became friends. I have seen several of them off to graduate school. The team members patiently attempted to teach me (mostly, successfully) to pronounce their names. They taught me about their culture, customs and religions. They also taught me about compassion, empathy, patience and gratitude. I will miss them during our weekly team meeting when they would call in from the other side of the world. Everyone on our team here at Whittaker Associates wishes them the very best in their next endeavors.

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