I was initially drawn to volunteer in Nepal as a result of the earthquake that struck last year, devastating the developing country. Yet further research revealed many Nepali children didn’t have a reasonable level of education due to lack of financial and physical resources, and Nepal’s remote mountain geography. What’s more, Nepal was still recovering from a bloody civil war.
Despite this, it wasn’t until we reached Heathrow on the evening of my departure that I began to worry. The closest thing to teaching I had done before was gymnastics coaching, and whilst I had always loved working with children I wasn’t sure if I could remember anything I was taught in maths, English and science at primary school. Let alone teach it myself!
Our orientation days in Kathmandu (the volunteer group pictured above) were a blur of temples, feral monkeys and local beer in the tourist district of Thamel.
On our 5th day in Nepal the real work started. We left the buzz of Kathmandu on a bus that elegantly labelled us as ‘tourist’ in big yellow letters across the front, making our way 8 hours west to Pokhara. From here we followed the dusty track to our homestay in the tiny village of Ghatichina.
The sign outside read ‘Dal Bhat power, 24 hour’ (referring to mammoth portions of the rice, curried vegetables and lentil soup we would be served twice daily for the next three weeks). It could not have been more accurate.
On arrival we met our homestay family. Mia and Hari were both teachers. Their son Anous was 7 and attended the local school we would be teaching at, and their daughter Anousa was two and half. She was looked after by Amma, or grandmother, (pictured above) whilst Mia and Hari worked. They welcomed us in like part of the family, but we were seriously rural and the accommodation was basic, this was without doubt my first moment of any culture shock.
The next 3 weeks were spent teaching in the mornings, followed by afternoons making carbon copy worksheets for the following day and exploring the mountains by foot in-between the monsoon rains. We even washed in the river, preferring this to the unlit, creature ridden, cold shower under the stairs. On my last day I was given a traditional send off –I was covered in tikka and given more flowers and drawings than I could hold. But I left feeling accomplished.
My year 3s understood the conjugation of the basic past tense and the year 2s could name everything in their basic classroom, small victories, but nonetheless I had taught them something useful for their exams. And I’d done it with no internet or no videos to show them. I didn’t even have any worksheets.
I myself had learned to live simply, enjoying my Wi-Fi-free, hot-water free, sometimes even electricity-free time in Ghatichina, so much so that I have vowed to return to Nepal one day.