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Jamuna Maharjan Shrestha, Kathmandu, Nepal (English)

I currently reside in Jhochhen, Kathmandu, Nepal with my family of four. I got a married to Devendra in February, 1993 and am blessed with two daughters, elder one born in June, 1996 and younger one in February, 2003. My elder daughter is currently a student of BBA, and younger one studies in grade six.

I was born on 27th December, 1968 to a Buddhist Newar family, and married into a Hindu family, which was a so-called high class group of Newars. In spite of the different beliefs of my family and my in-laws, I believe that all humans are equal and have the right to live freely with dignity, regardless of religion, ethnicity, caste, gender or race. This belief is also what has helped me strive as a psychosocial counselor working for peace in the service of others.

I faced a lot of challenges as a daughter-in-law in my husband’s joint family, being a so-called low caste female. Quoting my elder daughter Juliana, “Women in the form of God are worshipped and in the form of normal human beings, exploited.” I also experienced discrimination, and so am always thinking about resolution of personal and interpersonal conflict nonviolently. As a working woman in my family, during the working hours I shared my emotions and feeling with my supportive friends that helped me feel relieved and relaxed. I am also involved in my personal interests including travelling, knitting, cooking and dancing to typical Newari folk songs.

With my professional knowledge and experience as a psychosocial counselor, I understood the individual differences with my in-laws, their perception and understanding, and tried to work things out. It can be difficult trying to understand them without judgment and take care of them. I would always think if I am working in a hospital setting, I would do all of it sincerely. So why not for my own family? Gradually they also understood, and the differences were bridged.

Jamuna with her family.

As a paramedical student, I started working in the social development sector in 1991. This was the time of the democratic movement in Nepal, and there were a lot of human rights violations. Since then I value a good listener and strive to be one as well. I am a strong believer that anyone can spot a fire blazing on a hill, but not everyone can spot the fire blazing in the heart; I am one who tries to understand the difficulties of the heart.

In 1991, Bhutanese refugees reached Nepal and were living in the Eastern part of Nepal in the jungle and edges of the river, under the open sky. Every day the number of Bhutanese arriving in Nepal through India was on the rise. After some time there was an outbreak of communicable diseases like cholera, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, skin allergy, etc. Medical teams from Kathmandu were sent to support these people for a week in the initial period. I was a member of one of these teams.

During the time we were there I had to visit from one hut to another to support the refugees. On my visits, I came across many cases of attempted suicide as a result of rape, torture, and human rights violations in Bhutan.  Some of these incidents occurred on the way to Nepal. Some had recently been sexually assaulted by relatives, and even a Nepali neighbor.  People were socially stigmatized and neglected by their families and society. Our team found many people who had committed and attempted suicide in different camps, most of them being women. A short session of good listening helped them relieve stress. This was my motivation to work in mental health and psychosocial support.

In response to the situation, we immediately designed a Mental Health and Psychosocial program to provide support which has been running since 1991. During these years, I was involved both directly and indirectly with Bhutanese refugees in different programs related to mental health and psychosocial problems, from the time they arrived Nepal to the time they were resettled in third countries.

Apart from my work with Bhutanese refugees, I have been working with conflict affected people during the 10 years armed conflict in Nepal, with torture survivors for 15 years, children and women survivors of sexual abuses, trafficked girls and women, and differently abled people, among others.

My AVP journey

My AVP journey began in 2008 when I participated in AVP basic and advanced level workshops. However, I was not able to receive AVP T4F at that time as my grandmother passed away at that time.  Fortunately, I was selected as facilitator, started facilitation from 2009 and have been facilitating untill now. During these years, I have worked with diverse groups including children, women, youth, adults, refugees in camps and urban settings, and vulnerable groups in communities in and outside the Kathmandu valley in Nepal. I got the chance to receive the T4F in 2012.

Jamuna with Bhutanese refugees in Morang, Nepal

So far I have participated in AVP basic level – 3, Advance – 2, Discernments – 1, Trauma  healing -1, and T4F – 1 and facilitated more than 80 AVP workshops with many local and international facilitators including Ken Woods, John Michaelis, Nadine Hoover, Carroll Boone, Bheena, Chris, Vidya Sutton, and Judith Simpson.

In July 2014, I got the opportunity to participate in the International Gathering (IG) held in Ireland, representing Nepal. A week before the IG, I facilitated the AVP discernment workshop in Rathmines, Dublin, with Nadine Hoover.  I also participated in the IG’s different mini workshops where I got the opportunity to learn and experience many new things.

On 25th April, 2015, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal affecting mainly 14 districts, where more than 9000 people died and more than 10,000 people were injured.  My house is also destroyed in the earthquake. I was fortunate enough to receive financial support from Friends Peace Team.

A week after the earthquake, I was involved in programs to support post-earthquake affected and effected people in different districts of Nepal. After a few months, international facilitators Vidya Sutton and Judith Simpson also came to Nepal, and we jointly designed AVP +TH (trauma healing) 2-day mini workshops, which were conducted in the affected districts for teachers and students, the results of which were very effective and useful.

I try to integrate the AVP model not only in my profession in mental health and psychosocial related trainings, workshops, orientation and support affected/effected people, but also in my personal life. AVP has been an integral part of my life and I intend to continue my AVP journey as much as I can.

 

December 2015