When Prajwol Gurung was studying in Belgium, he was impressed by how people gathered in parks to talk, share, and just be neighbourly. Inspired, he decided to do something similar in his own tole, Gyaneswor, when he returned.
He knew there was a big empty space there, in which he had played as a child. It was overrun with weeds, and was part-parking lot and part-junkie haven. Today it is home to a chautari for people to sit around, slides, swings, a funhouse for children, and a basketball court for the teenagers.
Gurung and a few others of Gyaneswor started a community drive to make something out of the space. Many residents were apprehensive but, once they saw the park take shape, jumped in eagerly to participate in the now-formal efforts of ngo, We Are The One (WATO).
Longtime Gyaneswor resident Bishnu Neupane, managing director of Jagadamba Cement, offered to take care of the parts that needed cementing over. Even the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works and the District Development Committee contributed some resources towards the construction. The rest of the money came from the residents of Gyaneswor, contributing whatever they could. The Rs 800,000 budget was made up, and the park was completed in 2004.
People feel invested in what they help build. Today, Gurung, says, the community takes care of everything in the park, the shopkeeper next door helps weed the park, and teenagers take care of everything from fundraising to opening and locking up the park. "People saw see that the power to change things for the better is in their hands," says Gurung of WATO's efforts. "Only we can improve our own communities."
For more information on WATO\'s activites, www.watonepal.org.np