Beth Kynaston - Care & Community in Nepal
In the summer holidays of 2016 I was lucky enough to travel to Nepal for two weeks with Projects Abroad. I’m 17, and live in a small country town in NSW, Australia. I love to travel, and I had wanted to go overseas, somewhat independently, for a while. I’ve been particularly interested in doing volunteer humanitarian work for the last couple of years, but didn’t think it would be possible until after I finished high school.
Then I found the link to the Projects Abroad website, and all of a sudden, I saw numerous options which combined travel and volunteer work, all of which were available for high school students. It took me a while to settle on a destination, but after deciding on Nepal, I asked my parents about it and within a week I was registered and ready to go!
Having been in contact with other volunteers via Facebook before we departed, I was able to meet with another volunteer on the same project, who I was able to go through the airports with, which made it a lot less daunting task. Flying over the Himalayas and seeing Everest on the way was incredible, we were lucky enough that it was a perfectly clear day, so there was great visibility. Walking out of the airport in Kathmandu was incredible; waiting for us was a Projects Abroad worker, holding their sign for us.
Crossing the street to get to her was the first difficult thing we faced-road rules (if existent) being fairly different to those in Australia. We met with other volunteers at the hotel we were staying at, and got to explore the streets the first evening. Walking down the streets was something that intimidated me at first, being much louder and more busy than anything I was used to, however, after half an hour or so, I’d become used to it. Shops lined the streets selling all kinds of weird and wonderful things-haggling was also something we had to get used to while we were there.
Painting Work in Classrooms
Our first week was spent painting classrooms in a school about 20mins drive from our hotel. It was incredible to see the bright classrooms that had already been painted by other volunteers, compared to the dull cement-walled rooms that we had the job of transforming. However, by the end of the week, we saw the difference that a few layers of paint and some murals can make. The classrooms looked awesome, a place where it seemed really pleasant to sit in and learn.
At lunchtime we were provided with food that was from a local café, notably momos (dumplings). We also got to play games with the younger kids during the break, it was heart-warming to see them so happy when they had so little. They played with rocks, and rubber bands, and didn’t seem like they needed anything more, they were happy creating games, and teaching us how to play along with them. We also had sing along with the older kids, and discussed our plans for the future.
Weekend trip to Chitwan
We spent the weekend at Chitwan National Park, where we got to be tourists for a while. We saw a cultural dance, went to the elephant breeding centre (where there was a baby which was only a week old, and super cute!), went on a walk through the national park, where our guide had only a stick to ward off wild animals (thankfully it wasn’t required), and who advised us to run in zig zags if we were chased by a rhino! We had a sunset viewing over the water, experienced a canoe ride (as alligators were swimming past!!) and went on a jungle jeep safari, on which we were lucky enough to see a rhinoceros, and a sloth bear, as well as several monkeys, deer and alligators.
Child Care Placement
In the second week we visited various children care homes. We spent time at J and K house, where some of the kids had been orphaned by the 2015 April earthquake, and spent time playing games with them, as well as running a dental outreach session to improve knowledge on personal health and hygiene. We visited MSPN, a care centre for children living with HIV/AIDS, and the Nutritional Rehabilitation Home, for malnourished children. Visiting these centres was quite confronting-knowing about issues and actually seeing them are two completely different things. It really made me reflect on how lucky we are in Australia.
We also got to spend time in another school, where we took classes for the day. We planned lessons and activities in pairs for the children beforehand. The children were eager to learn, and (mostly) excited to participate. Teaching for the two days was quite possibly my favourite part of my time in Nepal.
There were numerous activities planned for us for the duration of our stay, we went shopping in the streets almost every evening, purchased saris which we wore to dinner on the last night, visited the monkey temple, and a Hindi temple, had a yoga lesson and a language lesson, dined at a traditional Nepali restaurant, had a trivia night, and got Henna tattoos.
The group of volunteers I was in was small-there were only six of us, although some groups are larger. It was incredible to share such an amazing experience with a group of strangers, people I’d never met before, and come out the other side as friends.
For anyone considering volunteering while still in school-I can’t speak highly enough of my experience with Projects Abroad, everything was so easy and stress-free, the team takes care of everything for you and answers any questions that you have extremely quickly. I’d recommend doing a bit of research before going, learn about the culture, and possibly some of the language-as it greatly enhances your experience.
I highly recommend taking the opportunity to volunteer, it was an incredible experience, which has provided me with lifetime memories, as well as giving me an insight into a new and completely different culture. I would do it a million times over, and hope that I will be able to return to Nepal in the future. Happy and safe travels!
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.