Care & Community in Nepal - Jessie Veitch
I’m from a small country town in South Australia and making a difference in a developing country has been a dream of mine since I was younger. When I met a member of the Projects Abroad team at a careers expo earlier in 2015, I knew it was the right time for me to go. After looking on the website and months of consideration I decided Nepal was my country of choice due to its amazing culture and stunning landscape.
After reading about the high school projects, I thought it would be a great chance for me to meet new people and make new friendships. My friend Dylan, also thought volunteering would be an amazing experience and decided he would like to come along before he finished high school. We both decided to also extend our stay beyond the two week high school project and also do a regular Care Project for an extra two weeks. This also gave us the opportunity to experience traditional Nepalese life by staying with a host family.
Once I had applied, the pre-departure support from Projects Aboard was amazing, which made me feel confident in arriving and staying in Nepal. On the day of departure, I was full of excitement, mixed with some anxiety and nerves. After a 16-hour flight Dylan and I had finally arrived at Kathmandu airport. We experienced a moment of culture shock as soon as we left the airport… there were three men, along with four suitcases, all piled onto one electric moped scooter and driving off as fast as they could, it was a hysterical and really odd sight. After meeting up with the staff member and other volunteers at the airport, we headed to the hotel where we were staying.
The first morning we awoke to breakfast on the rooftop. It was truly amazing to eat breakfast and drink the milky tea with whilst overlooking the mountains and city views. All volunteers quickly got comfortable with one another and made a tight friendship group from the very first day. To this day we have all regularly contacted one another and plan to meet up in the future. After an induction and some quick tips and language lessons it was time to begin out placement that was at the ‘Yuma Puastiva Bidya Mandis Secondary School’.
We arrived at the school and quickly feel in love with the cute children who looked forward to meeting us each day. After seeing the dark, old classrooms we knew it was time to lighten them up with some fresh paint and art. After a few days the classrooms began to look alive and the kids were so excited to get in there and use them. During break times we ate traditional dumplings, rice or noodles. The kids and volunteers both looked forward to breaks, as we knew it was time for games! For me one of the outstanding things about my trip was the way the kids treated each other. They had so much love and hope even when it was clear they had very few belongings. One senior student stated “we are a family, they are my all my sister and brothers, I love them all.” This is something that has stayed in my mind ever since I left Nepal.
The next week we worked at another school, this time we played educational games encouraging English skills and also addressing health issues such as teeth hygiene. The kids were very eager to learn and said they “feel better” after having clean teeth. On the final days we visited an HIV/Aids clinic and a malnutrition center. It was very heart breaking to hear the stories of children who were affected and made us all think about how lucky we are in our home countries.
After the two weeks of the high school program was up it was time to say goodbye to some amazing friends we had quickly grown to love. It was bittersweet, however I was very excited for what else was to come. Dylan and I stayed with a host family on the outskirts of Kathmandu. We quickly felt a part of the family and looked forward to eating the Dal Baht (rice and lentils) we were served each night. This was a bit of an adjustment for us but this was just part of traditional life in Nepal.
We worked at a school across the road and each morning we were welcomed by kids yelling and cheering our names. This moment filled my heart with joy and love each morning. We quickly made friends with the children and made learning a lot of fun for them. Staying the extra two weeks may have meant we missed Christmas and New Years in Australia but it was definitely an opportunity I am so glad we took.
During the high school program we headed to a town called Chitwan. After a bus trip through the mountains we arrived at the Chitwan Rainbow resort. We went for jungle walks, jungle safari, watched a traditional dancing show, went bird watching, canoeing in crocodile waters and even saw an elephant and crocodile-breeding center. Chitwan was a wonderful experience full of exotic animals, running rivers and open jungle.
During the week, once work had finished Projects Abroad also gave our group fantastic opportunities including traditional clothes shopping, bartering with the street vendors, visiting a monkey temple (one jumped on my head!), seeing historical sights, going out to dinner and drinking at tea shops, watching traditional shows and singing and playing guitar with the locals from the hotel.
On the weekend of our general care and community stay, Dylan, Kyle (another volunteer) and I travelled to Pokhara, a tourism town of Nepal. During our short stay we visited waterfalls, a cave, a museum, temples, climbed mountains, watched the sunrise over the Himalayas and even had the opportunity to go paragliding.
Tips for future volunteers
Nepal was an amazing experience that will impact my decisions and how I view the world for the rest of my life. It is such a beautiful county that left me speechless and surprised each day. I faced many challenges while in Nepal mainly from the poverty and post-earthquake destruction I witnessed, I felt a real cry for help from the country and I urge people to choose Nepal as a country to volunteer.
If you are planning to volunteer I would recommend learning something about the language and culture before you go, a simple “Namaste” and smile will go a very long way. Other than that Projects Abroad makes the process so stress free and enjoyable, so most of all embrace the opportunity you are given, it’s a lot of fun and will change your life forever.