Ms.Tessa Van Doesburg

What CAC has taught me

Working as a volunteer for Community Action Centre during my formative teen and early twenties I was able to experience many paradigm shifts. The things I witnessed, the stories I heard and the acquaintances I made, all have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

It all started with helping around the office with small menial tasks such as typing out the minutes, drafting letters and reports, participating in many of the workshops, acting as the camerawoman or translator, and running errands. After several summers of this, I was allowed to also work as an outreach educator, walking for hours and
disseminating our knowledge on safe sex practices and distributing condoms. I met people of all faces and standings; 1 interacted with women, children, and men from various backgrounds and upbringing. This up close and personal involvement has led me to a better understanding of the human race. It taught me to understand the
context in which they find themselves to be in, which leads to an even more in-depth perspective in to the actions and decisions these people take in their everyday lives.

The taboos associated with sexuality and insecurities of people all lead to unsafe (irresponsible) sexual practices and suppression or abuse of many of our humanrights. Factor in the economical aspect and human nature for instant gratification based on all the Bollywood movies so famous here, and you get a society that wants
to modernize but still holds fast to traditions. Into this environment, add in the oldest profession in the world and you get a situation that is very volatile and prone to STDs and HIV. This is not a problem that can be solved with the snap of our fingers but a gradual rehabilitative and educative process stringed throughout many years before
you even see the fruits of your labour.

I remember a 12 year old girl working in a brick factory, who came to participate in 10 day child empowerment training. She was shy and timid at first, scared to say anything or pose any queries. After learning about our rights as a child, about the natural changes occurring in her body and the choices she was responsible for and the knowledge that should she ever require any support we would always be there for her, she left with a sense of self-awareness, confidence and determination to spread this knowledge amongst her friends. This girl kept coming in to the (Bhaktapur) drop in centre between gaps of months and added on to her own knowledge pool other
educative materials the likes of which incorporated safe sex practices and female health issues along with economic empowerment trainings like candle making and beading techniques. I met her several times after the first meeting and saw the change that CAC was able to bring in her. I saw her come out of her cocoon and blossom into a teenager that was an agent of change. This is not an overnight process it took many tireless hours talking to her and her fellow companions, convincing her parents and employer, incorporating them into the process to bring about this change. This event is just one of the many I witnessed during my volunteer work at CAC but it
is one that sticks with me in how with kind words, proper explanation and tireless effort one can help another to become better.

Acting as a tool to push someone to a higher self-worth or pulling someone out from their misery is what we as humans should all do. Not because we have to but because we want to make a difference in the lives of these people. A small act of asking people how they make their homemade “kajol” (eyeliner) to act as the
barrier breaking step-into them opening up, and presenting us with the opportunity to approach them and converse with them is another life lesson I have learned. I am still using this method to approach people and to be able to easily interact with them. These are just several examples I give to show you the difference this organization
has made in my life and what I have learnt from working at CAC. I know that I am not the only one touched by her hands; I only hope that she will be able to continue her good work and bring about this much needed change in all the years to come.

Ms. Tessa Van Doesburg
Industrial Ecologist,
The Netherlands
Former Volunteer of CAC-Nepal