Volunteering in Nepal
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
In the summer of 2018 I visited Nepal as part of a recovery earthquake team, teaching young children in schools and refurbishing classrooms.
This was the sole purpose of the trip. To help children that had been affected by the earthquake. Words cannot even begin to describe the feelings I felt during this time. It was inspiring, enlightening and eye opening.
The children were the most selfless people I had ever met and it is the level of selflessness I aspire to have. They had little to nothing, yet they were willing to give it away to members of the group. They may have only had that one meal a day but they tried to give some to me and others in the group. It was truly heart-warming. During the day, we had 3 lessons to teach, English and life lessons. This allowed them to gain extra experience talking to English people and gaining new literacy skills. The purpose of the life lessons was to educate them on important lessons that would make a difference and were not in their curriculum. This included bullying. A concept that was rather new to them. Physical bullying especially. After spending more time with the children and being at the school the reason why became apparent. They were hit at school. This was a devastating experience to endure. Seeing small children beaten for making simple mistakes, and the feeling of being so powerless, unable to help or intervene was gut wrenching. This was part of Nepalese culture. It was the norm. Every day I was greeted with a bunch of flowers in grade 5 from several of the girls. It’s the small acts of kindness. I kept some and pressed them in my notebook. For one of the younger classes their lesson plan was to draw one of the leaders and write descriptive sentences about them to practice their literary skills and including creativity, a principle that was not part of their curriculum. Creativity was not encouraged and lessons consisted of copying from a black board straight into their books. This led us to discover they did not fully understand the context of many words. Some of the drawings were unbelievably adorable and they wrote the sweetest things. These I also kept in my notebook. They drew me as a princess which was so precious. This may have been because most princesses in their books were white, including; Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. This is where representation matters and its heart-warming that recently Disney has created more diverse princesses. However, there is room for a lot more diversity. It may also represent the admiration these children had towards us.
The level of admiration shown by the children was further show with all the ‘presents’ they gave us and the constant effort of trying to gain our attention. This went as far as the grade 4 boys clicking their tongues to the roof of their mouths and shouting Hannah just to try and get my attention. They were always trying to impress us by showing us their dance routines which were unbelievably cute. One of the members of our group was male and the younger boys in the school admired him so much. Constantly asking to play football, it was clear that he was a role model to these boys. During some spare time, we were able to witness a dance class that taught traditional Nepalese dancing and a Thai chi class for the boys. The one thing I loved the most about this was that there was this young girl that was in the boy’s class, she was the only girl whilst the others participated in dancing. She was rather tom boyish and it was amazing that she took no rubbish from the boys when they tormented her. This girl was going to go places.
The relationship we had with the older children was different. Some members in the group found it difficult to lead the sessions and it was hard to establish control of the situation. It was found that once you had gained their respect they listened, most of the time. After one of our painting sessions I walked into the room next door, that we had previously refurbished, full of grade 10. It was their free period and they were singing songs and banging on the tables. We never had the opportunity to speak to this class before-hand and it was full of personality. It was a room full of hope. I spoke to one of the girls and she was telling me that she wanted to be an interior designer, whilst the rest of the class showered her with praise telling me how amazing her drawings were. I also had the chance to speak to a boy there and he expressed his interest in physics whilst asking thousands of advanced quantum physics questions. He was 14. The knowledge he had was unbelievable, showing me his text books and explaining his own research which was way more advanced than the further physics I did in GCSE. The questions he had were so advanced, especially for his age. He explained that whenever he asked his teachers these questions they could not answer them, they only knew the course content. He wrote down a few questions and when we returned to the guest house I tried to find as much as possible on the internet to help answers his questions. His thirst for knowledge was admirable and led me to the realisation that we take the education system for granted. We had amazing teachers and amazing facilities and we took it all for granted. There are children that would want this opportunity more than anything and some lessons felt like a chore to me, especially physics. This child was unbelievably clever and I hope he goes far in life. It is sad because if he was given the same opportunities that we had then I know for a fact he would go far.
When we were not teaching we were refurbishing classrooms. This included the sanding of the walls, filling putty into the holes in the walls, sanding down the putty, painting the walls, and decorating with creative themes. This was not my area of expertise, so I spent more time in the classroom and contributed to the less creative aspects of the refurbishments. Some people preferred the teaching so they did that more and some preferred the refurbishing more so they spent more time there. Luckily there was some talented and creative people within the group, creating the most beautiful rooms. One theme was the Nepalese mountain range, with the 8 tallest mountains in Nepal, including Everest obviously. All were drawn with the height of the mountains in metres and feet, with their names.
After spending three weeks with these children my heart was full. Volunteering is such an incredible experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.