Linda Masterson - Care, General Care Projects in Nepal
After being retired from primary school teaching for four years and having previously volunteered with Projects Abroad on an Archaeology Project in Peru, I decided that I wanted to volunteer with children for two months in Nepal.
Arriving in Nepal
My first impressions of Kathmandu and Patan was of a noisy polluted city full of beeping motorbikes, barking dogs, thick exhaust fumes and rubbish lying everywhere but once I got to know the city and the people, my feelings changed.
My host family, the staff at my placement and the other volunteers from all over the world were delightful and the accommodation was simple but comfortable. I shared a twin room with a Korean girl for a week and with a lady from UK closer to my age for two weeks but I had a room to myself for the rest of my stay!
My Care placements
Working at a special school in Patan was an interesting experience. The children and young adults ranged from 6 to 26 years old but they all had much lower mental ages and capabilities. The daily minibus trip that picked them up around Patan was an education in itself, the bus driver and supervisor showed great compassion. I found a really good educational resource shop in Patan where I bought several games and puzzles for the school. A lot of patience was needed and without speaking Nepali, communication was difficult but they enjoyed it when I sang simple songs. They also loved to dance!
During Nepal’s two-week Dashain holiday, I worked with the children at a care centre who had just moved into brand new buildings. I bought equipment such as balls, skipping ropes, skittle games and bubbles which the children loved. We played these games on their outdoor court and when it became too hot we went inside their new buildings and drew, painted and played matching and memory games.
My Teaching placement
As I have 38 years’ experience and had spent time mentoring teaching students, the deputy head was keen for me set about some changes in the school. He wanted to bring in more play for the younger children and more creativity for the older children. Although the school teaches ages 3 to 16, I only worked with the primary range. All the teaching was in English apart from the Nepali lessons.
I was asked to teach the teachers which was challenging to do sensitively. I explained the methods we used in the UK and why, and discussed with them how to incorporate their Nepali curriculum. With the infant aged children, I helped the teachers develop a rotational play system and bought a lot of equipment from my favourite shop. During the remainder of my project, I worked with the children in two different classes, basing all their work on two fairy stories, ‘Rapunzel’ for one class and ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ for the other. This made the work more fun for the children.
They loved acting out the stories and making sandals! They then wrote their own versions in English which were of a very good standard for a second language. There were other volunteers there who helped plan activities for their classes. The teachers were all very amenable, willing to learn and try new ideas. There was also a Japanese volunteer with limited English who did a lot of creative work with the young ones, such as origami.
On my last day, I even spoke to a group of parents with the deputy head acting as a translator. The school gave me a ‘Token of Love’ plaque and I am now serving on their advisory committee via e-mail. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school and I hope my ideas are developed.
Leisure time in Nepal
Even with all this work, there was plenty of leisure time, although you did need to have extra money to do many things. I did a three-day trek in the foothills of the Annapurna Range near Pokara and spent a weekend at Chitwan National Park.
I also enjoyed looking around the temples; my favourite was Swayambhunath, the Monkey Temple.
The weather was beautiful for my second month as it was trekking season and I took the Everest flight ‘to Mountain’ as they say, with clear skies the whole way. I flew back to beautiful Pokara and the Fewa Lake for my last weekend and had a wonderful white water rafting trip in turquoise water with a stunning mountain background.
Although the local food was - dalbat, rice, fried potatoes, pancakes, rosti - it was great to go to Thamel or the centre of Patan for some more western food and some cheese and chocolate! I do enjoy my coffee and luckily there were several good coffee shops around for my after school drink, otherwise it was water or black tea!
I was ready to come home after my two months, especially to enjoy a hot shower, but I had the most amazing experience and met some lovely people, both from Nepal and the rest of the world. I do intend to go back in 2018 on holiday to see the school once more. It was really lovely to teach again!
What I really like about volunteering with Projects Abroad is that your age doesn’t matter - you are just another volunteer doing a job and are treated as such. Despite my 64 years I got on really well with the other younger volunteers and I also got to work with some older volunteers closer to my age. I have made some good friends whom I hope to see again.
We had regular contact with our local Projects Abroad team and could always call on them for help. They even retrieved my jacket which I had left on a tour bus! I would thoroughly recommend volunteering on a Teaching Project in Nepal. You do not have to be an ex-teacher like me; enthusiasm and willingness to speak English with the children and try out activities is what is wanted by the schools. I am sure, like me, you will remember the amazing experiences you had.