Dickinson is made up of a wide variety of people that have moved to North Dakota. For some, it is for job opportunities in oil but for others, it’s an adventure to be on the Western Edge. For Urja Aryal it has been both of these but in the most unique way. Aryal is a volunteer for multiple local non-profits but dreams to take her humanitarian effort on the road.
She is originally from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, but has found Dickinson to be a special place where she can help others and continue to grow.
“I originally moved to Minnesota to go to school but my sister convinced me to move here to Dickinson, where I transferred over to DSU,” Aryal said. “
At DSU, she acquired a degree in human resources and business to help her achieve her life-long goal working in health care administration.
“Growing up, I always wanted to work in a hospital, because of the magnitude of what is happening within their walls,” Aryal said. There are people dying but then there are also babies being born, I can't help but find them intriguing.”
“In Nepal, the hospitals aren't as organized as they are here, you would literally see people laying on the floor because there aren't enough beds,” Aryal said. “I don't really care to be a doctor but I know I could help with the management part of it.”
During her time at DSU, Aryal found herself capable of helping people before ever stepping into her career in administration. She became familiar with local organizations like Best Friends Mentoring Program, Dickinson Rotary Club and Able, Inc.
Aryal first started mentoring for Best Friends as a student in early 2016 after Mark Billings, the program’s coordinator, visited her’ intercultural communication class. She met her mentee, Brittany, in February of that year and has continued a great relationship. So much so, that Brittany's family dogsat for Aryal recently.
“People talk about how a mentor can benefit a child's life but it goes the other way around, too,” Aryal said. “We are more than friends, I can definitely say that her family has become mine.”
Aryal is now a board member for Best Friends and works along Billings and Kris Fehr, the program’s executive director.
“I think being a mentor has helped her and has definitely helped Best Friends Mentoring. … She has brought a great perspective, maturity and dependability to the program,” Fehr said. “She is always volunteering for every activity or event that we have, from Santa photos to the Chocolate Affair to Family Fun Day, whatever is going on, you can count on Urja to be there.”
Around the same time, she began her mentorship with BFMP so also started her employment with Able, Inc.
“Coming to the U.S., one of the biggest things I notice was people really try to advocate with people with disabilities, to encourage them to be independent and to have fulfilling social and work life,” Aryal said. “Back home, I have a cousin with Down syndrome who has so much potential but never had anyone show him that there are opportunities for him. … When I saw a flier for Able, I decided to apply and now it's one of the main reasons I love being in Dickinson.”
She started off part-time at Able four years ago as a direct support professional, but quickly moved to higher positions. She soon became the residential manager for one of the group homes and a year after she was offered the support coordinator position.
Aryal has found her supervisor from Able, Inc., Sarah Carlson, to be a mentor and wants to pick up the positive habits of being positive inclusiveness towards others, that Carlson demonstrates.
“Of course, I look up to my mom and dad and my sister but beside my family (Sarah) has made a strong impact on me,” Arya said. “I feel like everybody at Able has influenced me in one way or the other but one of the things that Sarah had said that stuck with me is, ‘Able as a company, is not only about supporting people with disability, they also support their employees.’”
She has also found a sense of purpose of empowering others through her work and various volunteering works. Last year she began her involvement in the Dickinson Rotary Club.
“I love helping people, it is in my nature to do things for other people, it is not just about me,” Aryal said. “Everyone, especially my supervisors are all so focused to empower the people we support and how to help them be more independent and to live their best life.”
Plans are still undecided for Aryal but she holds a dream close to her heart that involves traveling, volunteering and a makeshift camper van.
“I have heard of this term, ‘Voluntourist,’ and it fits what I want to do... Growing up I never dreamt of having a big house or wanting anything big ... I am very much a minimalist,” said Aryal “My favorite part of traveling are the views and just being able to enjoy my own company while driving on the road.”
“I highly value experience over material things, I have been blessed with so much in my life and I want to give and see the world.”