Hannah Graham - High School Specials, Care & Community in Nepal
It is fair to say that traveling to Nepal this year was the best experience I have had in my life so far! The school that I attend traditionally send volunteers away to countries with Projects Abroad every year, and this year I was lucky enough to be chosen! Myself and the three other students who were chosen, researched all of the possible countries we could travel to but the fascinating culture, scenery and levels of poverty, drew us to Nepal almost immediately. Nepal was everything that I had expected and much more!
Before going to Nepal I had researched the country quite well so had a fair idea of what I was letting myself in for! I knew it was home to the largest mountain in the world and bordered India and China. I also had a fair idea of the type of climate to expect as I knew it would be quite humid. Students from my school usually travel to Africa; however Nepal was more affordable for us and seemed to provide a similar experience.
Arriving in Nepal
After a long two days of traveling I touched down in Kathmandu; the sights upon landing were fascinating! We were met at the airport by two Projects Abroad representatives who led us to our taxi where we met with the other volunteers we would be spending the next two weeks with. Everyone was so friendly and I felt comfortable straight away. As we travelled in our minivan through the bustling streets of Kathmandu, I could not take my eyes off the window! The sights were intriguing.
My placement and accommodation
For our placement we were based in a hotel in Thamel in Kathmandu where all of the High School Special volunteers stayed together. I shared a room with another volunteer. I had a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom/washroom; which contained a toilet sink and shower facility, two single beds, a wardrobe, two bedside tables and dressing table and also a small television.
The hotel on the whole was a pleasant place to stay. There was always a sufficient amount of breakfast to eat in the morning with cereal, porridge, fruit and toast, and in the evenings dinner was always good. The hotel always supplied us with fresh bottled water to drink as the water in Nepal is not safe to consume, even for brushing your teeth! There was also a small lounge area in the hotel with computers where you could get in touch with your folks back home in your free time.
My placement was in a primary school in a small village just outside Thamel, which was about a half an hour drive (taking traffic into consideration) every morning. Upon our first arrival at the school we were greeted by the cheery children who were eager for us to play with them. We had an opening ceremony where we were welcomed by the school. I was not expecting this reception; the whole school were so grateful to have us there! During the following two weeks we worked to rebuild a playground for the children of the school, and in the final two days painted a mural to go alongside the playground.
Here there was no such thing as cement mixers or any of the high tech building equipment there is at home, instead we mixed the cement with shovels and carried bricks and chips in true Nepali style, with a basket tied round our heads. Each day we began to notice the progress and the playground was beginning to take shape. With the constant smiling faces of the school children and their eagerness to assist us with our work made every day worthwhile and even more gratifying. We also had a farewell ceremony at the end of our two weeks where the children performed songs and dances and we all said our goodbyes.
For our weekend trip we visited Chitwan National Park. This was one of my highlights of the entire trip. The experience was truly amazing. For the full six hour long journey I was captivated by the magnificent views and scenery. Vast valleys, lush green mountains and foamy white rivers lined the route to Chitwan. Nepal never failed to enthrall me with its beautiful scenery and breathtaking views. After arriving in Chitwan, we went on a trek through the jungle where we saw an array of wildlife such as rhino and monkeys. We also canoed down a river where there were wild crocodiles! Although, I have to warn you about the heat! It was quite extreme, especially for someone like me who lives in Ireland, where we rarely see temperatures above 10 °.This was a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember forever!
During our time in Nepal we also visited significant landmarks in Kathmandu like temples, including the famous monkey temple. These places gave me a huge insight in the Nepali culture and religion which I have grown to respect and admire a great deal.
We also spent a day at a local orphanage where we got to interact with the children; we were welcomed with open arms! Many of the children’s stories as to how they ended up in the orphanage were a huge eye-opener, however they were all full of joy and happiness; all they wanted to do was play and have fun!
I am glad to be able to say that I have made my mark in Nepal, and I would love to visit again in the future. I am extremely grateful to have been given this amazing experience and opportunity. I have not only taken away fond memories, but gained valuable life lessons, friends and learned to treasure the essential things we all take for granted.