Girls Empowered by Travel.
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"Sustainable Tourism Initiative"

Participants receiving the certificate of Homestay Training
What comes in your mind when you first hear the word GRE? The image of grey colors hover over your mind? But it is the place for conflict management or to settle down the disputes in Tibetan language.

While it is pronounced the word “Gre” normally the image of GRE color hover around the mind. But what if it is said that it is known as the place for the conflict management in Tibetan language like when two people or different groups have to discuss or settle down the disputes.

We, seven in team members, reached in GRE after 7-hrs in the Jeep, then 3-hrs hiking. Which is 130 km from Kathmandu. We experienced the local cultures and lived the authentic lives of Tamang people in Gre village, Rasuwa district.  During our 9-days stay, we conducted a program to help prepare local entrepreneurs to build sustainable tourism business. The very first day started with kickoff ceremony by playing the videos from our last visit to Gre. They were amazed to see their own dance performance in the screen they were so excited to see themselves, and laughed and joked when each new face appeared!
The program followed with trash collection game. A starting whistle was blown and everyone rushed off to fill old rice bags with candy wrappers, Red Bull cans, plastic bottles, and garbage of all sorts. In just twenty minutes we filled 29 rice sacks with trash! We ended with a group discussion about recycling, reuse, and littering. After the exciting game, it was time for the seven steps of hand washing. Every participant was a winner so bamboo brushes all the way from US was distributed as a prize.
The second day started with more energy and excitement. They shared their dreams and vision for GRE after five years. Their dreams were simple: educated children, a hospital, a paved road, a clean environment.We discussed the meaning of homestay and it's the origin of homestay in Nepal.Community homestays runs with the proper utilization of local resources. It's more about cooperation over competition.The day ended with the formation of a Women’s Circle as a platform for uniting women’s voices. The first issue to address: how to deal with alcoholism and domestic violence so many face. It will take more than one session to change that one, but creating opportunities for women to earn financially and connect with one another is a valuable next step! The evening ended with our first English class where we covered basic greetings, and discussed learning goals. The villagers native tongue is Tamang, Nepali is their second language, and English will be (at least) their third!

Our next day started with the visit to local health post which was also glad to know that most of the villagers go to visit the post if they have small to big injury. Visma-dai, our Red Cross certified first aid instructor led the villagers through a series of simulations, teaching various lifts and basic first aid response. The highlight of the exercise was constructing an improvised stretcher and taking turns practicing how to safely use it! The second was cooking class where the importance of clean water and safe cooking was discussed. Our program coordinator, Kat, shared her perspectives on what attracts travelers to homestays. In small groups, each participant discussed about their potential names for their homestay.

Running a homestay is a big undertaking, and requires the support of the whole household. We worked in small groups to define the activities and resources needed to run a successful homestay. We were impressed to know their learnings and understanding to run the homestay like how different people from different skills and resources could be the help to support each other.  We also discussed about safe water, using curriculum developed by the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). The participants were fascinated to learn about the water cycle and how snow becomes rivers and rivers become rain! We focused on sediment filtration using a cloth filter, and boiling or solar disinfection (SODIS) for sanitization.
The day ended with a Women’s Circle where we held a reusable menstrual pad workshop with the younger women. Although menstruation doesn’t carry the same taboo in Tamang culture as it does in other cultures of Nepal, the women in Gre still lack access to any feminine hygiene products. They’re forced to use old clothing instead.
How exactly does a community homestay work? A traveler pays to stay in a homestay. The homestay owners keep most of the payment as income: to support their family, send their kids to school, and reinvest in their homestay. But a portion of the payment goes to a community fund, to support projects that benefit the whole community; like safe water, waste management, school improvements, homestay improvements, or whatever is needed most. In the last part of the session, different local herbs available in himalayan region were discussed to treat common illness.

According to research, there are no any single homestay in the entire Rasuwa district. Mostly people get confused in Tea house and real homestay. But our executive member became clear about the community homestay and its importance.  On the last day at GRE, we had a recap of the whole program and we presented 14 certificates of participation to those who met attendance requirements
On the last day, the villagers showed us the traditional dance wearing their cultural attires. We shared the food and smiles together. It is the beginning. The newly elected Executive Committee of homestay are already working to register the community homestay in local government officials. Our team are discussing new and innovative project for GRE in our next visit.

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