Tayla Scholefield - High School Specials, Care & Community in Nepal
I signed up with Projects Abroad in order to help people in disadvantaged circumstances. Not only did volunteering allow me to contribute to a community overseas, but my time in Nepal was also a great opportunity to get to know more about a different culture and country.
Volunteering in Kathmandu
In our first week in Kathmandu, the High School Group painted classrooms in an outer district school to enrich the student’s learning environment and their exposure to the English language. The school differed from those in Australia, as the classrooms were built of cement and rudimentary wooden-framed windows. Lunch breaks were spent interacting with the children of the school, their vibrancy and willingness to learn and welcome foreigners shone through their actions despite the language barrier. By the end of our first week, we had painted five classrooms to encourage education for all students, and had experienced the welcoming Nepali culture.
In the second week, our time was spent across three Nepalese organizations. The first was an HIV/Aids support center providing care for children and mothers infected with the virus, as the government provides minimal care to support those with the disease. Many of the children had been shunned from schools and communities due to the lack of social understanding as to how the virus is contracted and spread. Despite the exclusion these children had faced, all of them were exuberant and excited to play. The second center visited supported children with severe malnutrition, nursing the children back to healthy weight and educating mothers in regards to correct diets in order to maintain their child’s health. Despite the challenging circumstances within both of these establishments, the staff were caring and supportive of all volunteers and children in their care.
We spent the second half of our week working within a school teaching children from pre-school to year 6. We split into small groups and spent time playing games with the students in English to develop their language skills. Even the youngest children had good English skills and could follow our instructions. Both the teachers and students were eager to learn English and understand more about the countries we were from. The time spent in these classrooms both enabled the children to develop their English skills, and allowed us to develop our understanding of Nepalese life and how to work with children.
Between two busy weeks of volunteering, we ventured to Chitwan National Park for the weekend. Because we were only in Nepal for two weeks, every moment of our time packed in as much of Nepal as possible. Over the weekend this included a canoe ride, a jeep safari, bird watching and cultural dancing in Chitwan. Although the car ride to Chitwan was especially rocky- seven hours of winding roads in minivans- the experiences in the valley were well worth the drive. While on safari, crocodiles, bears, deer, and even rhinoceroses were spotted. We also visited the monkey temple in Kathmandu in our second week and experienced an onslaught of monkeys, while admiring the beautiful infrastructure and views from the higher altitude. From up in the temple you could see that despite the destruction and devastation of the recent earthquakes, the city was full of life and movement.
Kathmandu was constantly busy and moving, much like our trip which packed an array of incredible experiences into the two weeks. Experiencing the Nepalese culture as a volunteer was an incredible experience where I was able to meet people who had suffered but who were still welcoming, supportive and optimistic. My time in Nepal helped me to realize what is truly important in life is the people in it, rather than the things we have, which is most highlighted by the welcoming and caring nature of Nepalese culture. The best way to experience any country is to completely immerse yourself in its culture as completely as possible, and I recommend volunteers to not be afraid to try new things and meet new people, and to truly embrace the country, no matter where it is you may travel to.
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