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Kisam Gurung

Nepal
Kisam Gurung is a great role model for many of us in social entrepreneurship, tourism, community development, and peacebuilding. Today, his village is empty, but Kisam returned to it 20 years ago when he graduated from a very well-renowned school called Gandaki Boarding School. During those day, he was very problematic for his parents and community due to his refusal to join the British army. His wife and in-laws were heavily blamed and discriminated against for having returned to the village and started a very unpopular hotel business. In a place like Ghandruk, one might have visitors for a day or week, but not consistently over the year. Kisam and his wife had chosen the most challenging way of life. 

In Ghandruk, Kisam started the Gurung Cottage by focusing on both Nepali and foreign tourism, which started organically in the Second World War through the friends of VC from this community. Due to not having hotels or a place to find accommodation or food, they would come with many porters and would bring all materials for tenting and camping, which was not easy at all. Kisam had been following these practices since childhood. He became determined to one day return back to the village and start a sustainable tourism project. When I asked about his motivation behind this, he would reply that he could earn bundles of money in Pokhara or Kathamndu as his relatives and friends did, but he had just as much potential to get second-level status. In his words, "yo paji bhote na ho paisa kamayer thulo hunkhochha" ("I am ultimately from the Ghandruk community, no matter how much money I earn").  He worked so hard, walked here and there, and didn’t sleep nor eat well. He was so busy trying to motivate villagers, bringing materials, arranging money, building trust within his family and community, bringing tourists, and providing them with the best service he could offer.

Gradually, he is succeeding. The other villagers follow him. Many youths are returning to the village and starting to build new hotels. He mobilizes the community people and comes up with ways on how to remain clean and why to do so. He explains that the Ghandruk community is made up of the best people in the world, so many people should come see them and they have to be prepared with clean faces and clothing. This is how the community started to wear Gurung’s traditional dress all the time and in a hyegenic way. Likewise, he leverages the resources from district development committee and facilitates the construction of toilets in poor and marginalized households. He has also been able to tackle open defacation without the involvement of political leaders.

Kisam has promoted local culture through song and dance. His mothers local singing and dancing club could sustain itself entirely thanks to the interest of the guests. Kisam is always worried about the sustainability of tourism and development, so he has further organized and mobilized all hotels to ensure the same level of price and quality. All hotels take care of their guests without pulling or pushing them. Furthermore, in order to improve the income and empower other villagers without hotels who produce local materials, hotels sell these materials directly to their guests. As local norms, guests usually walk around the villages, home stay, museum, interact with people and also get the opportunity to buy local materials directly from the producer. There is no space for middlemen or brokers. He also accommodates young girls and boys who discontinued their education for some reason by training and helping them to start their lives and businesses. On one occasion, two men came to discuss a broken wooden birdge. He fixed the issue by mobilizing his communitys people. He often organizes meetings to discuss how to maintain cleanliness, how to avoid abuses and harassment of guests and the entire community, how to develop more sustain development models, how to increase more guests, etc. Because of his efforts, the Nepali guests also get equal status and care in Ghandruk, which is not usually not common in Nepal because everyone so profit-oriented. He says that now the community realized that Nepali folks are the best for sustainability. The country has been in a very difficult situation for the last 5 months, but the hotels have been nevertheless fully occupied by Nepali folks.
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