Mr. Fontana is introduced to the WAWCAS team and program over a 2-day visit.
By Sirish Shrestha, Program Manager, Nepal
Mr. Mario Fontana arrived at Kathmandu on November 15th, 2015. We had been well prepared for his visit. We picked him up from the airport and went to the office after dropping his baggage in the hotel, and it was straight to work as we had planned. We first had a short introduction about the whole WAWCAS Team in Nepal and what the WAWCAS program is about. I am pretty sure he too was interested in listening to the program and the nature of work we do. And we even got a chance to learn about what he do in Bhutan and various other programs that he is funding in many other countries.
For an experienced person, it is not difficult to sense the nerve of a program and the women´s situation, and Mr. Fontana did exactly that. Even though he appreciated the information we gave him, he wanted to see for himself in the field. We went for a field visit on that day, and we visited some of the women who are in the WAWCAS program. Mr. Fontana interacted with them and got to know from them how the program had brought changes into their lives. Moreover, one question that he asked was how they liked the program. The women were very confident in giving answers even to a person whom they had met for the very first time.
The visit continued for a second day, where Mr. Fontana met with more WAWCAS women. We could see his interest in the program and meeting the members building up. We could not see a single moment where we thought he had enough which, of course, was reflected during lunch as well. All of our team had a nice and warm lunch in a small eatery owned and operated by one of our members. He really enjoyed the lunch. Mr. Fontana’s interest truly built up during the short visit. While we all were having lunch, the mood was like that of a group of friends enjoying a good conversation.
After completing the field visit, we had a short meeting at the office where our team presented Mr. Fontana with the current facts and figures about the WAWCAS program and what our targets are. The thing he was most impressed with was the facilitation that our team did with the women groups and the repayment collection percentage. He then talked about how other add-on programs could be new business ideas for the women in the WAWCAS program.
The 15th and 16th of November, 2015, went excellently with Mr. Fontana. We walked around and had lunch together, and continued sharing about WAWCAS. It was quite an interesting and educational time for our whole team. It is very inspiring when a person from a funding organization is that easy going and interested in understanding and getting involved.
Mr. Fontana had a flight to India on the 17th at 4:30 pm. We still had half a day on 17th. I picked him up from the hotel at 8:00 in the morning and we went to Kalimati, a wholesale market in Kathmandu for vegetable and fruits. I must say he really enjoyed the walk around. Since he is starting a Potato Chip factory in Bhutan, he was most interested in seeing the quality of potatoes from Nepal and was very impressed. What was more interesting was the way he talked about the potatoes. Potatoes are just potatoes for us, but for him, they are business and I could sense that.
After the visit to the market, the two of us went to Mangalbazar – an ancient place built by the Malla Dynasty centuries back. We visited many temples from the Hindu and Buddhist religions. We walked through many small alleys that went through old houses. One very interesting question that he asked “Sirish, I hope you know where we are. I don’t want to get lost here.” I assured him that the place is my native place and we won’t get lost; a funny moment though.
The visit concluded with a nice cup of coffee. As I had to go to Lamjung the same day, I dropped Mr. Fontana back to the hotel at around 11:00 am. We had our goodbyes, not the last ones though.
As I was on my way to Lamjung, I reflected on how the days had gone. Our whole team and I were very satisfied by how Mr. Fontana’s visit went. We were able to present the exact picture of the WAWCAS program and the women, and the whole team did very well.