The Sampanna Campaign (April 2011 – March 2014) was led by the Tewa Land & Building Development Project (TL&BDP – since 2000) Co-coordinators, Founder Rita Thapa, and the then Chair of the Executive Board, Meera Jyoti. The SC was coordinated in the USA by Louise Davis (one of the campaign Nava Durgas). The SC had a goal to raise US $ 900,000; complete remaining infrastructures & landscaping; delink the Tewa Centre (TC) from Tewa the Nepal women’s fund - while still under the legal & fiscal oversight of Tewa; promote the TC modeling self-reliance, organic and naturally harmonious way of life, and an ethically grounded Centre; still managing the multi aspects of a residential facility. Supported by the entire Tewa Team, the campaign was further held together by the “Nava Durgas” – 7 in the global North, and 2 in Nepal.
During the campaign period, US $ 996062.55 was raised, out of which US $ 113142.62 was gifted by Nepali donors alone. During this period 100+ grantee groups, also became donors to the SC. Furthermore, almost all of the staff & members of Tewa became SC donors. The remaining money was gifted by individual activist donors, funds and foundations, in the global North and organizations globally.
Two major buildings, the Aanandi & Aanandi 2 were completed within 1 year each from start to finish. Furthermore, the 2 kitchen annexes, along with all other remaining infrastructures, the grotto, and Goddess Saraswoti shrine, the rebuilding of the front parking lot and the other remaining landscaping were also completed.
This was only possible owing to the cooperation and support of the AM Construction Company, the dedication and hard work of the skilled workers and labourers, led by the site supervisor Lahasim Prem Maharjan & sub contractor Deepak (Sainla) Tamang. The Tewa Centre owes this space to each one of them!
Tewa, honours each one of those workers, the campaign Nava Durgas, grantee donors, donors - both Nepalis and international, Nepali and international organizations/funds, Tewa volunteers, members and staff of Tewa, and importantly, the SC leaders and their team, without whose support and trust, the Tewa Centre could not be possible today.
The SC Monument
A hand sculpted stone monument spanning 54 feet in length and 14 feet in height sits on the retaining wall in front of Aanandi 2. It magnificently documents the Sampanna Campaign, all its donors, and some fine traditional Nepali stone carving skills.
Note: The SC 36 Monthly Updates are available for your resource & Interest.
25 April 2015 Earthquake
The Tewa Centre was lucky not to suffer any structural damage. But the Aadhar building needed to pull down its walls on the 3 floors starting from the ground. Aadhar was once more in full operation and service from the middle of September 2015.
A Brief Story of the Tewa Centre and the Sampanna Campaign
March 2011-March 2014 1
“When you know, even for a moment, that it is your time, then you can walk with the power of a thousand generations”
- Bruce Cockburn quoted by Rita Thapa in her Founder's Story
The Correct Flavour
In just three years, the Sampanna Campaign raised over $1M USD to finance the building of the Tewa Centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. The story of this campaign is a story of inspired and empowered women who surpassed an implausible goal in a nearly impossible set of circumstances.
In Sanskrit, the term sampanna describes something or someone who is endowed with, equipped with, or possessed of a certain quality, especially the correct flavor, who is accomplished, realized perfect, or excellent. All of these descriptors can be applied to the successful Sampanna Campaign carried out in support of the Tewa Centre between 2011 and 2014. The story of the campaign is full of rich lessons for social change leaders, women's activists, international development proponents, fundraisers and researchers in organizational development. It is a textbook illustration of Margaret Mead's oft-cited quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
This version of the story is short, intended to give the reader an executive summary, to invite you to ask more questions, to pique your interest in the rich set of relationships and lessons that are between the lines, to suggest possibilities for applying the experience in other contexts, for teaching, for research and for a deeper understanding of the key principles of effective social change.
The story is based on the monthly updates of the campaign, written by Rita Thapa, Co-Coordinator of the campaign and on conversations with Rita.
Nepal in Search of Itself
Every story takes place in a context, which is essential to understanding the story and its meaning. The context for this story – Nepal in the early 2000s – is confusing, chaotic, and almost impossible to describe or decipher.
The ten-year Civil War in Nepal ended in 2006. The Maoist rebels laid down their arms and agreed to participate in a Constituent Assembly to draw up the foundations of a new democratic dispensation. The country was starting anew. Only of course, it was not a new beginning: Nepalis have inherited a past of trauma, deep mistrust, and a war-torn economy. To lay new foundations they would have to overcome that legacy and find strength and inspiration where these had been denied.
A visitor to Nepal is struck by the problem of foundations. Everywhere one sees damage done by the April 2015 earthquake. But that great natural disaster brought into focus what is an ongoing slow-motion disaster epitomized by failures of infrastructure, especially electricity, roads, health, and education. And the absent or crumbling physical foundations have their political equivalent: the government is either unable to work on solutions or, Nepalis suspect, conniving at failure because it is profitable. Currently an unofficial blockade by Nepal’s great neighbour India, tied to the Constitution process (so it is said, but the lack of clarity about what is at stake compounds the problem), is causing a fuel shortage from which Nepal is reeling. The costs in energy and resources (as everyone’s time and efforts must be diverted to finding fuel) as well as in credit and good will (the black market flourishes amid rumours of corruption) leave the country gasping. Imagine: a modern economy deprived of fuel! The politicians appear paralyzed as everything grinds to a crawl.
New foundations cannot be just the work of elected representatives and political parties. Indeed, the moment of a new constitution is full of risk if the participants are just the political parties concerned with their access to power, including their control of their own constituencies, and the representatives of ethnic groups based on language or religion. If foundations are to be deep and lasting, the basis for a just and peaceful society, then they must be laid in local communities and hearts and minds as well as in law. That is the task that Tewa has taken on. Tewa has always recognized that key to the transition to a more equitable and just peace are women. Tewa is based on trusting women's resilience, proven through the years of chaos and violence, and also empowering them, when so many social forces have conspired to silence them.
A Sustainable Nepal: Visionary, Visible, Vocal Women
The Sampanna campaign was rooted in Tewa's vision and plan for building a sustainable Nepal. At the core is a commitment to (1) empowering women to exercise their full rights as citizens and leaders and (2) nurturing the practice of philanthropy as a fundamental pillar of self-reliance for Nepal.
Tewa's vision and programs focus on giving rural women the tools they need to control their own economic and social destiny and on engaging all Nepalis to take responsibility for donating the required resources. Tewa strives to embrace diversity and to act in ways that are inclusive, non-hierarchical, transparent and accountable. The story of the Sampanna campaign shows how the leaders dreamed of a Centre where this vision could be shared, shaped and cultivated, how they moved from words to action and how they were able to engage hundreds of supporters in achieving the goal.
The First Step: Recover the Meaning of Philanthropy
For Tewa, sustainability for the organization and for the country means recovering and practicing philanthropy in its original sense. For many, the word is synonymous with names like Buffet, Rockefeller, Soros, Gates, Ford, Carnegie and the work of wealthy individuals and large granting bodies in the western hemisphere. For Tewa, it means forgetting the Webster dictionary definition of the philanthropist as "a wealthy person who gives money and time to help make life better for other people". It means recognizing the wealth of every individual and inviting her/him to participate in a mutual act of giving and receiving.
In fact, the Greek word means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing "what it is to be human". Thus, the practice of philanthropy deepens the sense of citizenship and belonging in both the benefactor and the beneficiary. In practicing philanthropy, each party experiences anew her/his membership in the global community and recognizes our mutual dependence on each other and our mutual responsibility for the welfare of all. In its most powerful expression, it moves beyond charity and the relief of the pains of social inequity to create solutions that eliminate the root causes of injustice and suffering.
Too often development aid is experienced as a one-way gift, from the North to the South. This makes some givers and others receivers. But, to be truly human, we must each be both giver and receiver. At the heart of human relations is the two-way gift. That is the Tewa understanding of philanthropy. Nepalis must be givers in order to be receivers. As a matter of principle, the Sampanna campaign pushed as hard for donations from Nepalis as from international donors.
If I Had A Million Dollars
There is an iconic Canadian song entitled If I Had $1,00,000 in which the composer makes an amusing list of things he would buy with a million dollars – a house, a sofa, a tree fort, an exotic pet, a limousine, etc. The leaders of the Sampanna Campaign had a much deeper and more compelling vision for the million dollars they set out to raise.
The goal of the campaign was to create a welcoming space where women leaders and their supporters could gather to learn, share experiences, restore, plan and hone their skills for action. The Tewa Centre was envisioned as a garden where a new generation of women leaders could be cultivated. The space was designed to give a feeling of peace and tranquility, as accessible as possible but away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It would be comfortable, surrounded by landscaped gardens abundant in good food and colorful flowers. Each room would express Tewa's commitment to simplicity, respect for Nepali culture and heritage, hospitality and community living. The facility would include individual rooms, dormitories, a children's house, ramps to enhance accessibility, places for prayer for all faith traditions and operational systems (rainwater harvesting, solar panels, a deep bore well, generators) that reflect Tewa's fundamental commitment to sustainability. This was a very bold vision for a country facing so many economic and political obstacles.
In the Hindu religion, the Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe and has nine manifestations. Each one is different and has a special significance. By invoking the Nava Durgas with fervor, we awaken the divine in us, which fills us with renewed happiness and fulfillment. Thus, the campaign started by identifying nine women committed to women's empowerment each of whom pledged to lead and support the campaign from their respective places bringing their wisdom, strength and genius to this work. These Nava Durgas were the foundation for the campaign.
The campaign strategy was rooted in Tewa's core understanding of philanthropy: affirming the wealth of every individual and inviting her/him to participate in a mutual act of giving and receiving. The strategy identified three prospective donor groups: (1) Nepali donors beginning with the Tewa staff, partners and recipients of grants from the Tewa Foundation, (2) individual donors and foundations in the global North, and (3) the Nepali Diaspora in Tewa's networks. The campaign was built on a set of underlying principles that included a commitment to equality and justice, the empowerment of women, mutuality in the relationships between the global South and North, accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility. The Nava Durgas and other campaign leaders engaged with donors with respect, persistence and passion over the three years of its lifetime. They nurtured relationships and cultivated the will to give by arranging visits to Tewa wherever possible and by sending out monthly updates penned by Rita, which gave compelling snapshots of the political context, the construction work and the progress of the campaign. Through the updates, Rita wove a story that made readers want to contribute in whatever way they could.
It's Not About Bricks and Mortar
Yes, Tewa is built with bricks and mortar. When you arrive there, you feel invited, protected, calmed, ready to listen and to learn. You feel comfortable and comforted by the simple, warm charm of the architecture, the plain, elegant furnishings and the peaceful setting overlooking the hills surrounding Kathmandu. But Tewa is not simply or primarily a set of buildings. It is above all a heart that throbs with hope and determination. It is pumping blood into a vision for a Nepal and a vision for the role of women in building strong democratic societies. It is a source of energy, inspiration, learning and wisdom. These bricks are the foundation for a new way of living and acting in community.
The expression "Don't Blink" expresses the vital importance of keeping your eye on the goal. It is a central tenet of any successful enterprise, especially fundraising campaigns. The Sampanna campaign is a textbook example of this principle. Rita and her Nava Durgas got the campaign off to a strong start with donations and pledges from committed donors in the North. And the construction started. Not surprisingly, there were regular crisis points where the giving plateaued and/or the cash flow lagged behind the invoices for the work. The leadership never blinked. They continued to tell the story, ask for support, cajole the suppliers and builders so they continued to work even when there was no immediate cash to pay bills. Above all, they stayed true to their vision of philanthropy and raised very significant amounts of money in cash-strapped Nepal. Every one of Tewa’s staff, partners and grantees contributed – over 90 groups in all. Every one in Tewa’s extensive internal networks contributed in spite of the economic pressures in the country. Together, Nepalis donated an extraordinary $130,000 to the campaign.
As the final weeks of the campaign approached, donations and pledges had peaked at $700,000. It seemed almost inevitable that the target of $900,000 would not be met. And then, word came from the Empowerment Charitable Trust that it was making a gift of $300,000 to the campaign – taking the campaign total to $1,000,000!
Remember sampanna describes someone who is endowed with, equipped with, or possessed of a certain quality, especially the correct flavor, who is accomplished, realized perfect, or excellent. It was the perfect name for a perfect campaign.
We Shall Not Cease From Exploration …
And, wrote T.S. Eliot, "the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time". The story of the Centre does not end with the opening celebrations that took place on April 2, 2014; rather it is the point where the women of Tewa arrive at where they started and know the place for the first time. The story ends with many beginnings …
- a journey of discovery among the staff on how to make this place run on a daily basis
- a new generator of ideas, community, leadership and sustainability
- a new community of practice focused on the creation of a sustainable Nepal where women can take their full place as leaders, advocates, agents of change, peacemakers and futurists
- development of a model that can be shared and replicated
- a new catalyst for citizenship and mobilization.
At the end of the campaign, what had the leaders learned? Rita names four key lessons:
- Sincere and transparent engagement of all is essential to full ownership.
- Trust and faith are the foundation for a successful outcome.
- The process needs to be flexible, fluid and creative.
- Consistency and perseverance pay.
Of course, the story does not end and the exploring does not end. There are many questions to ask, to meditate on, to study, to explore in the years ahead. Among them,
- Who will come and why?
- What will they learn and how will they contribute to building a sustainable Nepal?
- How will the vision be sustained and how will it grow?
- How can creativity flow and dreamers thrive?
These are important questions for the leaders present and future, for the people who come to the Centre, for students of development and organizational change, for all who practice philanthropy and for … Those who are willing to pursue these questions will have the privilege of writing the next chapter of this amazing story.
1 This account was written by Michael Cooke PhD who held various senior positions in postsecondary education and international development and Neil ten Kortenaar PhD who is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Toronto and has extensive experience living and working in Africa and Central America. They were part of a group of Canadians (artists, educators , writers and administrators) who visited the Tewa Centre in October 2015.