Feedback from Jessie, who volunteered as a teacher in the project Working with Children in Nepal in early 2017
Nepal will always be an extremely special place to me. My experience was so amazing and I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to live and volunteer in a culture so different to ours. I have come away with a true insight into a chaotic, unplanned and loving culture.
There were times when I found it very hard being the only volunteer at the project and at my Nepali home and that might not suit some, but Steve was very supportive to me and my parents from start to end. I would highly recommend Outreach as an organisation to go with, the whole process felt very personal. If you want to experience a different culture, give your time to help others and are prepared to be challenged then do it. It was the best thing I could’ve chosen to do.
I always had my heart set on going to India, I hadn’t ever considered going to Nepal but after my first interview with Steve he suggested the Nepal project to me. I decided on going to Nepal because I really liked the idea of staying with a family and teaching English in a school was something that I wanted to do.
The pre-departure briefing made me feel a lot more confident about going away. Seeing the map of where exactly I was going and seeing pictures of the school and the area made me feel a lot more prepared.
[I wasn’t prepared for how hard I’d find it being the only volunteer at the house and project for the first part of my trip- but I’m not entirely sure how you warn people about that without putting them off.]
Outreach are very lucky to have Ram Hari and his family as their host family. Ram Hari welcomed me into his family and made every effort to make me feel at home in a country that is so different to ours. Luv and Kush (his sons) were really good company to have there. I was taken to weddings and other various festivals and celebrations.
I ate dal bhat twice most days (lunch at school and dinner at home) or vegetables and roti (bread) for dinner. Eating rice every day when we’re used to the huge variety of food at home got pretty dull, but food is a huge part of learning about a different culture, so I wouldn’t have wanted to be catered any differently from the family. Some of it was extremely tasty!
OGN was an extremely happy and caring community to be a part of. The teachers at the school became my friends.
The family would eat dal bhat usually around 9/9.30 which was too late for me as I’d leave at 8.30 so I bought bread and porridge to have instead (was not complaining that I missed rice for breakfast!)
I got the bus to school, Kush showed me the way on the bus at the start of my project. At the start I found it very difficult to know where my stop was as all my surroundings just looked the same for at least a week until I started to recognise small landmarks. My journey one way to school took about 1 to 1.5 hours. Quite often I’d walk to Thamel (to their office) after school and then walk/ very occasionally get a lift home.
Most days I’d teach 2 lessons, and sometimes a dance class. In between that time I would plan my following lessons, mark my class’s books and also help the teachers out if they needed any help with worksheets or marking which was pretty much always the case.
The family tended to eat at about 8/8.30pm, and then go to bed very soon after that. Having my kindle was a big saviour when I had time to spare and Luv and Kush weren’t about.
My laptop was extremely useful during my time at the school. They have a couple of laptops but they are almost constantly wanted so having my own was really useful to be able to research lesson ideas and make worksheets. I left my laptop at school so I didn’t have to transport it every day.
One of the biggest things I learnt is that the more you give the more you get back. Be respectful of their culture and the way they do things, at school but probably even more so at home. Ask the teachers directly if they want help with marking, worksheets etc. Some of the most tedious work I was asked to do was writing up and marking exam papers but I knew it was very useful- you can be a really good help to the teachers, it’s not always that you plan and teach your own lessons.
Be open minded, plans are not kept to! I don’t really like it when arrangements are made and then changed, but taking every day as it comes is a skill I really had to try and learn, arrangements change last minute all the time so be prepared! Some school holidays are not formally arranged and there were a couple of national strikes which happened without much warning. Travelling short distances (especially by public transport) can take much more time compared to at home. Being patient will save you a lot of annoyance.
Be honest to yourself about how you feel, putting a smile on your face even when you really don’t feel like it is one of the best ways to open yourself up to the positivity of others.
I am very grateful that I got this very special opportunity. I know that I will be going back to Nepal!
For more information on this project read about Working with Children in Nepal