VEGA Volunteer of the Year for Farmer-to-Farmer 2016
Nominating Member: Winrock International
In May of 2016, Neelam Canto-Lugo completed her first Farmer-to-Farmer assignment with the Women Development Advocacy Center (WDAC) in Nepal to assist youth, women, and community organizers by providing training on technical proposal writing, career development strategies, and effective communication techniques. Neelam’s time in Nepal had such a profound impact on her that she returned home determined to raise funds and collect computers for WDAC’s digital literacy project, which provides computer training to economically disadvantaged women in the Dhanusha district and places them as teachers in rural schools. She also raised funds for WDAC’s micro-enterprise acceleration project that helps empower and provide resources to select small business owners. To date, she has raised $9,800 and received a donation of 11 laptops for these projects. After completing her first assignment in Nepal, she returned just over three months later to continue her work with WDAC, training staff to better assist rural entrepreneurs and boost the growth of the small enterprise sector. She conducted several well-attended trainings, one of which attracted roughly 150 women.
Neelam often goes above and beyond the call of duty. She consistently participates in various outreach activities including an appearance on Nepal TV to discuss her work in country, several rotary and university speaking engagements to share her experiences, and she was even invited to a small Nepali village to participate in two blog conversations about her work.
Neelam’s dedication to serving the people of Nepal has not gone unnoticed, especially by her own beneficiaries. She was recently notified that WDAC is creating a “Teacher of the Year” award and naming it after her. “They’re in love with me and I am in love with them,” Neelam said of the honor. “Very rarely have I encountered such kindness and affection in the countries that I have traveled. I encountered so many young men and women who have become my lifelong friends.”
Neelam Canto-Lugo is a retired professor of Yuba College, in Yuba City, California with more than 36 years of experience in education, communications and global business consulting.