After the earthquake that shook Nepal in April 2015, I decided to give my CIE* in October instead of May. This meant that I had to take a gap year.
I spent the first half of my gap year preparing for exams, and the second half applying to colleges in the US. This was definitely not what I wanted my gap year to be like – unvaried!
Aditi* suggested that I should intern at Karkhana. She gave me the name and contact information of the CEO and advised me to wear jeans (for reasons I still don’t understand). I fixed a date and time with Pavitra, did some research and decided on the jeans I would wear that day.
Pavitra was different from what I expected; she was actually a he. He told me that I wasn’t the first one to mistake his name for a woman’s. Having an androgynous name myself, I found I had something in common with the CEO who would later come to be one of the most inspiring people I’ve met and one of my many good friends at Karkhana.
*CIE – Cambridge International Examinations
*Aditi – a graduate student at Harvard; was once my supervisor on a 22 day volunteering trip to Dailekh; worked with Karkhana on Nawa Marga after the earthquake, good friends with everyone at Karkhana
After only two weeks of my internship at Karkhana, I got to go on a 10-day trek to Upper Mustang, a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalayas. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know everyone and for everyone to get to know me.
After my return, I was no longer treated like a newbie, which meant I could not get away with not following the Karkhana traditions.
People at Karkhana do not believe in hierarchy, therefore, everyone refers to one another as तिमी* and not तपाईं*, तँ* or हजुर*. Anyone who fails to do so is fined Rs. 10.
This was a difficult transition for me, so to help, Pavitra decided to guilt-trip me into saying तिमी by paying Rs. 10 on my behalf every time I called someone तपाईं.
I now realize why this was so important. It eases communication between people from different managerial hierarchy and makes working together more effective and friendly.
*तँ (ta) -You (Low Respect)
*तिमी (timi) – You (Medium Respect)
*तपाईं (tapai) – You (High Respect)
My first project was to find and collect data of every school from Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and Chitwan. It took me nearly two months to complete this for almost 1,500 schools, during which I learned different ways of collecting, representing and analyzing data, but working in a team made this tedious work fun, quick and a lot easier.
One thing that kept me motivated while collecting the information was that I was helping Karkhana reach out to more schools. Hence, more students would be able to experience its mode of learning based on practical application.
If you look up Karkhana online, you’ll read: “Karkhana provides after school co-curricular classes on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) by providing 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking) to middle school kids from different schools. It also runs teacher-training programs, organizes different events and workshops, and encourages initiations such as #MakerKT and Women Leaders in Technology.” This is accurate but for me, Karkhana did more than just teach, train, organize and initiate. Keep reading 😉
At the beginning of my internship, I almost felt lost among the tools. I had no interest in computers or coding. I thought I would never be able to fit in with the engineers, designers and programmers.
Soon, I realized that Karkhana has more to it than just tools and codes. It is a place where you throw out one idea and various other ideas bounce back at you.
I took advantage of this opportunity and conducted my own social experiment, which resulted in a video. I’ve always wanted to make videos/movies of some kind and I did just that. In fact, this inspired me to start my own YouTube channel.
I had an audience who was more than willing to let me know What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI). This is a technique that we use at Karkhana to provide feedback not only to each other but also to our students.
I worked as the social media personnel at Karkhana. I also assisted teachers in running BeeCreative classes at different schools.
Then I started working alongside Pavitra to plan, organize and run events at schools. I tried to engage myself in everything that happened at Karkhana, as much as possible, because there was so much opportunity to learn and grow with each involvement.
During those three months that I’d been at Karkhana, I realized how important connections are for a company to strive and survive and also how an office does not necessarily require good carpeting or proper desks to function because even a cardboard prototype can do wonders.
There were days when I came to Karkhana even if it meant for just an hour. Have you ever heard anyone say that office feels like home?
“Days I come to Karkhana, I always have a smile on my face when I get back home.” – Priya Di, Co-founder at #MakerKT
Whether it is writing a blog or hosting Dance Partay!, Karkhana encourages me to explore and try different things until I find the one that suits my interest.
I decided to take another gap year and continue to discover myself at Karkhana. Follow me on this journey, and stay tuned, for Karkhana has bigger plans for me than I could’ve ever imagined.
By Sagun Sharma