Halifax News Net
By Jon Tattrie – The Weekly News
A Halifax resident has been named Nova Scotia’s Volunteer of the Year by the non-profit development agency CUSO-VSO.
Dalhousie University student Sunisha Neupane got the honour for her “commitment and passion,” said CUSO-VSO’s Sean Kelly.
“She just jumped into it and was effervescent and committed. She helped volunteer, helped come to events and was part of our Stand Up Campaign (in October), which was to draw attention to global issues,” Kelly said. He noted it’s part of a family tradition for Neupane, as her father volunteers with CUSO-VSO in Guyana, working with micro credit and offering small-business advice.
Neupane, who is taking a double major in international development and chemistry, is from Nepal, giving her a clear perspective on how to help developing nations. With a population of 27 million, Nepal is the poorest country in South Asia and ranks as the twelfth poorest country in the world.
“When you’re in the Third World, it’s like you’re waiting for someone else to come and help … I’m not waiting anymore. I am that someone,” she told DalNews. “Here, we have too much of everything. In Nepal, we lack everything … I think the place to start is with awareness. We have to learn more about how other people live.”
Interviewed by The Weekly News, Neupane was quick to point out that anyone can help developing countries, but that she may have a special insight when it comes to grasping the issues first-hand.
“I think the difference comes when talking about volunteering in Third World countries. I think I understand quickly (and may be understand better sometimes) because I have seen the needs of people as I grew up in Nepal,” she said.
Neupane remembers a time when she and her father went to a rural area near Katmandu, where she grew up. She was “shocked” by the health post, which had some medication, but no medical professionals. Sick residents had to take a risky, arduous trip to the city for help.
Neupane was modest about her achievement, saying she helped CUSO-VSO “whenever they need anything done here in Halifax.” She also volunteers as an interpreter for Metro Immigration Settlement Association and helps foreign students learn English at Dalhousie’s International Student and Exchange Centre.
On top of that, she pitches in to help patients at meal time in the QEII Health Sciences Centre every Sunday.
She’s especially excited about the life skills support training she’s working on now at MISA, an organization that helps newcomers settle into life in Canada. “These facilities are for Nepalese-Bhutanese refugees who come to Halifax,” she explained. “I just love helping people. Even if a single person can benefit or feel helped, loved by my work, I get really satisfied.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, Neupane has plans to become a doctor. Her work will keep her based in Canada, but her roots in Asia will keep her heading home.
“I shall never forget my obligation toward Nepal. I plan on dividing my time among both countries,” she said.