Katie Gilmour - Care & Community in Nepal
After a few months of nagging my parents they finally agreed that I could go to Nepal with Projects Abroad and I'm so happy they did; my two weeks there were without a doubt the best two weeks of my life.
I stayed in the Hotel Excelsior and shared a room with two lovely girls, who I still consider close friends; one from the Netherlands and one from Hungary. That night all the volunteers headed up to the rooftop. The view of Kathmandu from the roof was spectacular; it seemed to just go on forever, a muddle of colourful orange buildings. We sat up there for a long time that night, trying to mimic each other's accents and spending half an hour trying to figure out how to put up the umbrella.
The food at the hotel was pretty good, it wasn't solely dal bhat! The supermarket round the corner was well used; nutella and crackers became a favourite amongst my group. The shops around Thamel are great for souvenir shopping in the evening and the shop keepers are more than willing to talk to you about Nepal; some aren't so willing to give you a discount but persistence does pay off!
There are also a few tourist attractions to make time for. The Garden of Dreams is a quiet, peaceful sanctuary in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, and they have a great restaurant. Near the end of our trip, our co-ordinators took us to the Monkey Temple, and there were so many monkeys! It had amazing views of Kathmandu and a lot of us bought paintings. I was also lucky enough to have a trip to a tailor in Patan one afternoon and get some Nepali clothing.
My 2 Week Special Care and Community Project
I volunteered at Nava Suryodaya English Secondary School. The children were simply lovely, they greeted us on our first day with flowers and weren't too shy to say hello and were happy to teach us their games, especially "coco" which took a very long time to understand but was great fun! They also loved to sing and were eager to hear us sing; one afternoon a group of us were desperately trying to remember the actions to itsy bitsy spider.
My project entailed painting a classroom; we cleaned the walls, whitewashed them twice, painted the bottom half blue, and then decorated the top with murals or scenes from our countries. I painted a Scottish scene, complete with a piper and the Loch Ness Monster! The school seemed very happy with the classrooms and began using them as soon as they could.
Our last day was bittersweet. The school put on a show for us and gave us certificates and more flowers and we signed their books - and their arms in some cases - but we all felt sad to be leaving them.
Nepal Youth Foundation Projects
When I was in Nepal, we visited some of the projects that NYF run; they are an amazing charity and I'm so glad I had the chance to find out about them.
I spent my lunchtimes at NRH, a malnutrition home for small children. Again, everyone there was incredibly welcoming and the children were all fantastic, some were very underweight and it was quite an eye-opening experience to see; we are all used to seeing the images of malnourished children on charity adverts on television, but actually seeing them is a much more intense experience.
One afternoon we visited J and K House, a boys and girls children's home. I went to K House, where I was given a tour of their house and we also learnt to make momo’s.
On our second to last day we went to MSPN, a home for children with AIDS. We learnt about the lack of understanding of AIDS that still exists in Nepal which was very upsetting to hear. We toured their home and met the children.
When we arrive they were playing a board game, like disc pool. We played a few rounds and were then told by one of the ladies who worked at MSPN that the children were playing with their left hands to give us a chance, even with this obvious disadvantage they were still winning with 100 points to 0!
Chitwan was much warmer and much more humid than Kathmandu, which was made worse by the fact that you have to wear a thick layer of mosquito repellent and sun cream.
Our first day in Chitwan was relatively quiet, after 5 hours of travelling we relaxed at the Jungle Sunset Camp for a few hours before going a sightseeing walk, where we saw crocodiles, a baby rhino, elephants (including a very cute one day old elephant!), king fishers and a lot of mosquitoes. That night we went to the Tharu Culture show which was very impressive and ended with all of us trying to dance along with the performers on stage.
On our second day we canoed down a crocodile infested river. The sense of danger made it all more fun, especially when you are told not to turn round to look at anything with your whole body or the boat will capsize! Having safely remained in the boat we went to an elephant breeding centre and then began a jungle trek where we saw 3 rhinos.
On the way back one of the vans got stuck and couldn't move, this only added to the hilarity of the day. The drivers tried to free the van to no avail and it took until 9pm before the last group was back at the hotel.
We woke up early the next morning and headed back on the road to Kathmandu. One van got a flat tyre, which led to the co-ordinators trying to direct the traffic for an hour before we got back on the road. When we got back to Kathmandu we were all surprised at how cold it felt!
And so, after two weeks my little adventure in Nepal came to an end. We were all upset to be leaving each other and 28 hours after saying goodbye I arrived home. I really loved being in Nepal and have made some amazing friends! One of which I bumped into recently, completely by some surreal coincidence which involved an initial burst of screaming and then a lot of hugging and laughter! I really hope that at some point I can go back to Nepal, it's now a very special place to me.
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.