Rebecca McCauley - High School Specials, Care & Community in Nepal
Namaste! Traveling to Nepal has truly been the most life changing, eye opening trip I have yet to embark upon. Without the opportunity in which our school has open for a group of students to volunteer in a poverty stricken country of our choice, myself and my friends would never have gotten to experience this overwhelming, captivating country, Nepal.
Conscious and weary of what I was letting myself into, I was constantly researching the country, however no amount of research would have prepared anyone for the breathtaking scenery, diverse culture, extreme poverty and the typical Nepali way of living. From the outset I knew Nepal would offer me both one of the best experiences in my life as well making me appreciate the little things we may take for granted.
Arriving in Nepal
Waiting anxiously from airport to airport, we made our way to Kathmandu; after two long days of traveling, we arrived at our destination intrigued and fascinated by everything going on around us, we were met at the airport by two Project Abroad members of staff. They led us to our mini bus, where we met other volunteers who were also doing the high school special project. Immediately I felt comfortable as everybody was so pleasant and welcoming.
As we traveled through the chaotic, turbulent streets of Kathmandu I was mesmerized with astonishment between the differences of our society compared to theirs and most of all by the incredible surroundings that were around me. Nepal had definitely gone beyond my expectations; it was one of the most beautiful countries I have visited.
My Project and Accommodation
Along with the rest of the high school special volunteers, we stayed in a hotel based in the area of Thamel. I shared a room with another volunteer and our rooms were well equipped for are needs - most importantly having a working shower. In Nepal the water is not drinkable; this meant using bottled water all the time, even to brush your teeth! Projects Abroad supplied every volunteer with as much fresh bottled water as you needed.
All the members of staff at the hotel were extremely helpful and very friendly! There was always a good selection of food, and facilities available such as a small living area with internet access, which allowed us to keep in regular contact with our families - this was very reassuring and comforting. It also had a roof top where we could sit and talk whilst enjoying the night life in Nepal. Surprisingly I even recognized some of the karaoke songs that they were singing!
For our placement we were located in a village outside Thamel, based in an elementary school. On our first visit we were welcomed by the principal and lots of smiling children, they were enthusiastic and keen to interact immediately with all of us. They provided us with an opening service, where they welcomed us kindly; they were so appreciative of each and every one of us! For the next two weeks we worked tirelessly to try to make our mark in Nepal - we built a playground for the children along with a painted mural on the side wall of the playground.
This experience was extremely rewarding as each day you could see the progress of your efforts as it was coming together. Whilst making this playground, we got to experience life in true Nepali style as we carried the bricks and sand on our backs with a basket tied round our heads. It was extremely tough, as the weather conditions were exceptionally hot (clearly I was not use to the sun from where I am from, Ireland) however been surrounded by the smiling faces of the school children made it all worthwhile. At the end of our two weeks we had a leaving ceremony which took place in the newly built playground, and the children performed traditional songs and dances and we got to all say our goodbyes.
For our weekend trip we visited Chitwan National Park which was undoubtedly the most enjoyable, amazing experience. After six hours traveling through the mountains, taken back by the variety of views on route we quickly arrived in Chitwan. After arriving and getting placed in our rooms, we went on a jungle walk where we saw rhinos, elephants and monkeys.
Being able to experience this once in a life time opportunity is something that I will remember for a long time. On the same day we also canoed down a crocodile infested river, but it was very safe as we were given strict instructions and accompanied at all times.
During my two weeks there we also visited many places of great importance to Nepal, such as the monkey temple. By visiting these places it gave me an insight into the Nepali culture; personally, I feel that by being able to experience such temples I have developed an understanding, admiration and appreciation for their religion and values. We also visited an orphanage where we met a lot of children and despite their situations on how they have ended up in care; they were smiling happy children, looking to have some fun! I had a brilliant day at the orphanage as we got lots of time to play and talk to the children.
Being able to say you have visited a country most people don’t know exists, and say that you have made an impact or a change in somebody’s life is incredible. I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity and to have chosen Nepal. I can bring great pleasure from saying I have embraced the Nepali culture and the beautiful nature of the Nepalese people and also gained many memories and life lessons which will stay with me forever. Looking back, I can reassure you that any negative is outweighed by the positive in Nepal, I recommend the country to anybody who wants to challenge themselves or perhaps just experience the beauty, culture and reality faced by many. I hope to visit Nepal again in the near future.