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Youth of Shangri-La is Empowering Youth to Create Social Impact

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The Youth of Shangri-La is a collaborative initiative started by 11 young entrepreneurs. They were seeking to inspire and help the youth in need, by encouraging them to learn, grow and achieve their goals. This student-led enterprise has helped many projects achieve success, for various entrepreneurs, governmental bodies, social communities, and youth-led startups too.

Vice President, Bibek Thapa spoke with us about the inception of Youth of Shangri-La and also discussed some of the ups and downs in their journey.

  • How was Youth of Shangri-La started?

We all were students from the same university and would hang out with each other. One day, while conversing, we struck up a topic about the youth. Then, we had returned from a rural camp in Sindhupalchowk where we learned about the importance of a youth’s educational attainment and their role in the community. This trip made us realize we were privileged in comparison to the youth of Sindhupalchowk.

Coming back, we thought about how we could promote the youth including the underprivileged ones. This is how we came up with the idea- ‘Youth of Shangri-La’. Earlier, we named the initiative ‘Roots of Shangri-La’ where “Shangri-La” means the life of people replicated by the life of a tree, in Buddhist Philosophy.

  • What is the main focus of the organization

Our main focus is to mobilize the youths of Nepal in different sectors, to streamline the development of the country. We also focus on social issues, helping entrepreneurs, encouraging hourly wage systems and supporting women empowerment. We help youth find their passion so they find their Shangri-La among themselves.

  • What are the works of Youth of Shangri-La? How old is the organization?

We have our culture code i.e. AWE where ‘A’ means ‘Awareness’, ‘W’ means ‘Workshop’, and ‘E’ means ‘Entrepreneurship’.
Initially, when we were not officially registered, we used to help a guy who runs a startup called ‘One-o-one monkey.com’, an online shopping site. Back then, he was trying to establish another venture called ‘One-o-one Kitab’ where he aimed to supply books online for school students. It was not a common practice in Nepal, so, to help him communicate his idea, we mobilized about 120 volunteers who were sent to 35 different schools to distribute brochures. This was our first project, and doing it motivated us which made us start a lot of other projects.

We are also working on one of the SDGs- ‘Quality Education’. We did a seminar for about 150 youth to help them recognize their roles in SDGs, this, in turn, becoming our current focus. In the past, we have also conducted workshops on Entrepreneurship by gathering different entrepreneurs in Nepal.

One of our ventures is with the Chepang Community, a minority community of Nepal. There we worked with the women and gave them classes on reproductive health, leadership, elections, and voting. We registered our organization 2 years ago but we have been working for nearly 3 years.

  • What are the challenges you have faced or are facing now?

The first challenge we came across was the legal status of the company while we were simultaneously struggling with team management.

Being a business formed by students, economic challenges are always prevalent. Another major challenge that we constantly faced was because of our age. Since we are youngsters, people had little faith in us. Sometimes, a few of our members would drop out of a certain program, which gave people even more reasons to not trust us.

Another challenge is our limited network which came in our way when we tried to drive the hourly-wage system.

  • How do you choose the project under AWE code?

When it comes to designing a program, all the board members gather together and select a cause and identify the problem. Then the problem is discussed every weekend and we make a plan to implement a solution regarding society’s problem. Any idea that pops in our minds, we collect it and then shortlist ideas. The top idea is discussed and then we come up with the project by doing some assessment.

For example, one of our projects is a cleanliness campaign which comes under ‘Awareness’. We assembled 50-100 volunteers every Saturday for the campaign. We were able to bring six different ministers for the first six weeks of our campaign, as chief guests. Even the ministers helped out by sweeping the floors which motivated us even further. We have worked in collaboration with Nepal Police for Cleanliness Campaigns too.

  • Can you tell us about your team members at Youth of Shangri-La?

We are a group of 11 board members including Sunil Chimariya, Bibek Thapa, Rahul Dewan, Kunal Thapa, and Shreda Shrestha.

Other Board members are Shruti Shrestha, Darshana Chand, Sindhu Thapa, Aarati Bista and Susmita Rana. All of us are from Social Work background. I basically take care of the technology of the Youth of Shangri-La while the rest of us handle the operations part.

  • How did you come up with the structure of the board members?

Our working module is like an NGO and we made our organizational structure accordingly. If a young person wants to become a member, they can approach any of the board members. The respective founder will act as a mentor or advisor.

  • How does the organization sustain itself?

Sustainability is a major concern for us. Hence we take projects with certain corporate houses for promotions, also providing the corporate office with human resources, for which they give a certain payment towards the foundation. A certain portion is then retained for administrative cost and the rest is distributed to the human resource.

Shibori Nepal is a youth startup that makes shirts that are unique for the Nepalese market. We helped them on a project where we designed a shirt. It was made with 4 different colors- blue, maroon, green and black, each standing for a different cause. Blue represented education, green represented the environment, maroon represented youth empowerment, and black represented women empowerment. The commission we received by selling those shirts was utilized for 4 different projects addressing the about 4 causes.

We did a movie premiere of Avengers and sold tickets for about Rs. 3000 per person. The money earned was utilized to provide a platform for youth by collaborating with filmmaking academies and production houses. This is how we raise funds, not preferring to directly approach foreign donors or sponsors.

Furthermore, we have started a Pote (beads) project. We are working with women of Thapathali settlement area, providing the women training and now they earn up to Rs. 50 per Pote. After the completion, we sell the Potes to vendors who then sell them at a retail price. We charge them Rs.60 per piece. So, we get Rs. 10 from each piece and the collected money is again used for the administrative cost.

  • How do you balance your education and running your entity?

We can balance because the working field and our study area are quite similar. Furthermore, our college is supportive of us, which makes it easier to work and study simultaneously.

  • When you work in the social sector, you create a certain kind of impact. Do you measure what kind of impact the organization is creating?

We are aware of the impact assessment tools but due to the lack of time and a systematic economy, we never assessed our impact. Impact measurement is the process of systematizing the organization and we are trying our level best to do so.

For more information about Youth of Shangri-La, directly email them at youthofshangrila@gmail.com or connect with them on Facebook at Youth of Shangri-La.

Interviewed and Article by Thryza Dow
Edited by: Yangzum Lama
Originally Published on blincventures.com