I know it’s been a while since my first Nepal blog, and many of you have been asking when the next one is coming, so here it is! Sorry for the wait…
Since our first days of the program were Saturday and Sunday, the new volunteers had time to get to know the area, the people in charge, and the project details. On Saturday morning, we had a run down of rules and safety and were introduced to our project leaders. My project was Teaching and Healthcare, which consisted of a group of five people, including myself. We were to go to a nearby school and teach children about the importance of hand washing to stay healthy and perform one on one tutoring with students in any subject area. I mostly chose to tutor science because that is what I’m best at. After receiving instruction on what our project goals were and what types of activities we would do with the kids, the whole volunteer group left to visit a temple right in the middle of Fewa Lake. We took vibrantly colored canoes manned by preteen boys out to the temple to receive a tikka, which is a red powder made from yogurt and rice used to mark the forehead as a blessing, and spin the prayer wheels for good luck. When visiting any temple in Nepal, always spin prayer wheels with your right hand, moving clockwise around the temple. Next, the group of newbies and I went exploring around Pokhara. We went shopping and stopped for a snack before returning to our homestay.
Fast forward to Sunday, we had a whole new adventure planned by the staff. First, we had to go over more orientation business, then the we were led onto a bus to visit a buddhist monastery at a nearby Tibetan refugee camp. The monastery was ornately decorated with images of Buddha’s life and golden statues dedicated to Buddha. It looked as though building and decorating the monastery could have taken hundreds of years. When I asked how old the temple was, our guide did not even have an answer. It was as if it was ingrained into the landscape, forever stuck in between the rolling hills of the Himalayas. After entering, I participated in the prayer to Buddha in which you bow with your hands together, then place your head on the ground in a child’s pose, and finally stand and bow with palms together once more. You repeat this three times to complete the prayer. We left the monastery, after catching a few glimpses of novices donning their maroon and yellow garb, and headed to our next stop.
We headed to a home for women, called SASANE, who survived human trafficking. This experience was sobering after the light-hearted introduction to Buddhism, but it opened my eyes to the dangers that girls all over the world face. The women at SASANE taught us how to make Mo:Mo and gave us a presentation about the prevalence of human trafficking. Human trafficking is the second most profitable crime IN THE WORLD because sex can be sold again and again (unlike drugs or guns). To learn more or donate to help end human trafficking click here.
Now is time for the actual project details. As I said before, I was volunteering at a school (grades 1-9) in Nepal to help teach about healthcare and tutor students individually in any subject of my choosing. I’ll start with the healthcare aspect. In Nepal, common diseases people get are cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid. These diseases are caused by a lack of sanitation and clean drinking water. To prevent children from contracting these diseases, which would cause them to miss out on school and valuable education time, GVI has a program to help educate children on how to keep germs away. We told the children about the importance of hand washing, purifying drinking water, and eating fresh food. The kids loved when the Healthcare group would come in for one of their class periods to teach them, and they seemed to learn a lot. We visited each grade once a week with a new lesson plan revolving around ways to stay healthy in their environments. I feel as though I made an impact, especially with the younger kids, because not everyone knew about all of the things they could do to keep from getting sick. As I looked out at the kids during recess, I noticed more and more children washing their hands before going back into class and sneezing into their elbows to keep from spreading germs. Now onto teaching. I was able to pick which subject and which grade level I wanted to tutor for each class period. So, I would usually pick science or math, go to the classroom and have the teacher choose a student in need of help, and take the student to the playground to study. I taught in the playground to subliminally encourage the kids that learning can be fun. When teaching biology, I would point out different animals and plants around for examples, and when teaching harder subjects like physics or chemistry, I would draw pictures or have the student think of experiments to prove ideas. Each tutoring session lasted about 40 minutes, and I tutored 2-3 times a day. For our lunch breaks, the group would head over to a nearby cafe. I always ordered the Roti Curry (SO GOOD) with either tea or juice. Being able to teach these kids basic skills to avoid disease and also educate them about science made the entire trip worth it to me.
Ever since I was young, all I have wanted to do is make a difference. So, I try to make my life as meaningful as possible in all aspects. Knowing that I was able to impact these children’s lives, even in a small way, gives me so much happiness. If you want to volunteer abroad, or even at home, I say go for it! Sure you are doing work for free, or even paying to do work, but the happiness, friendships, and experience you gain along the way will be priceless.