Despite being 9,724 kilometres apart, I felt connected and part of the team every step of the way. As a student who knew little about humanitarian and development work, I was unsure what to expect working with Accountability Lab, let alone how to complete a virtual three-month internship from Sydney, Australia, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, the moment I met with Narayan, Soni and Bikin, they eased all my concerns. They were so welcoming and excited to have me on the team. 14 weeks later, I completed my internship, and could not be happier and prouder of myself and what I was able to contribute.

My roles, responsibilities and key learning experiences

During my time with Accountability Lab, I worked with the team on various current and future projects. I edited and summarised documents for numerous projects, in particular, Gov-HER-nance and Integrity Icon. I compiled research for programs and reports, such as ICT grievance handling mechanisms and gender issues in Nepal. I attended various workshops and online events, including ‘Securing our Digital Future’ run by Foreign Policy and Microsoft Office, gaining new insights and understanding of critical issues. A major project I worked on was a research report titled “Challenging COVID-19 “Infodemic”: a six-country comparison.” This report is co-authored by Narayan Adhikari, Accountability Lab Nepal Country Director, and myself, with contributions from Accountability Lab team members of Nepal, South Africa, Pakistan and Liberia. We also had support from Western Sydney University’s Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI) and HADRI Director Associate Professor Nichole Georgeou.

Completing my placement with Accountability Lab Nepal has been a valuable learning experience, both professionally and personally. I have gained new skills in working virtually across cultures, gaining skills in time-zone management, and working as a team member in a professional civil society organisation (CSO). Furthermore, I have gained an understanding of the importance of CSOs and their role within the community. I understand the critical need for local organisations to actively work and support communities when striving for change and the incredible role citizens and communities play to help achieve positive and lasting change.

During my placement, the team launched Integrity Icon Nepal 2021. I helped with the campaign by editing the Icon’s bios, which explored the roles they play within their communities, how they have implemented development strategies and overcome adversities. For example, Shila Sharma provides aid and support to violence survivors despite constant threats, and Manamaya Bhattarai Pangeni learned a new language to help convey critical health messages for pregnant women. Learning about all the Icons, their stories and watching them being celebrated at the Integrity Icon Award Ceremony was a highlight. It was fantastic to see all their hard work being recognised and celebrated.

Oshin, Ashmita and Aayush in Hetauda filming Integrity Icon stories.

Any students or prospective fellows thinking about interning, volunteering or joining the Lab program, do not pass up the opportunity! Not only will you work with a fantastic, friendly and supportive team, you will also have an incredible experience and contribute to inspiring programs and projects. You will learn the importance of working as part of a community, striving for good governance, having the government work for people, particularly those from marginalised and gender-diverse communities, and the vital role youth have as drivers for change.

Virtually connected

Despite completing my placement virtually, being 9,724 kilometres apart, I felt connected and part of the team every step of the way. While I could not physically interact with the team, go into the office, or attend events, I could connect with the team via digital platforms. This enabled me to develop relationships with the team and learn about Nepalese culture through weekly team meetings, fortnightly check-ins, and WhatsApp phone calls and messaging. Being part of the Team Chat allowed me to feel as if I was present in the everyday operation of Accountability Lab Nepal. It allowed me to receive videos and photos from the team celebrating festivals, carrying out projects and holding Accountability Lab events.

Oshin, Prekkshya and Sabi celebrate Tihar, creating rangoli.

Being part of team meetings, working with numerous team members and helping them with projects, seeing the daily ins and outs of Accountability Lab, its role within the community and passion for helping people has been a pleasure. I am fortunate and delighted to have worked alongside such devoted civil servants working with the community to make positive and profound changes. I am thankful for the opportunities and responsibilities and the team’s trust in me to complete such important projects.I want to thank Narayan, Soni, Bikin and Prekkshya and the Nepal team for their support and guidance during the internship. I wishAccountability Lab Nepal and the team the greatest success for the future!