When many people think of Nepal the first thing that comes to mind is usually the soaring Himalaya or Mt Everest. But to those who have traveled the country the amazing people come in a close second. The soft spoken and kind demeanor, their unrelenting helpfulness, and most importantly their positive outlook on life even when circumstances dictate otherwise. The cliche goes, ‘You come for the mountains, but return because of the people’.
I had planned to spend roughly 1.5 months wandering Nepal and knew I’d have 8-10 days at the end of my journey with no scheduled itinerary. So I poked around Pokhara (hehe) for possible volunteering opportunities at local schools, farms, orphanages, but nothing really popped up that seemed right. Then one day as I was surfing instagram a tag line caught my eye, ‘The_Help_Nepal_Appeal‘ liked one of my photos. So I pulled up the webpage, read a little more and was intrigued enough that I contacted the organizer Jody Dontje to see if there was anything that suited my talents and time I could help with. Surprisingly she got back to me very quickly and a long email chain back and forth ensued. See, when one is trekking (like I was), Nepal’s already unreliable Web Access becomes even worse, though it’s a wonder there is email at all. So just a few days before I finished trekking the Annapurna region it was settled that I’d be heading up to the village of Shishaghat to volunteer in the school and to observe and assess the new English program and special needs program.
I spent the 22nd lounging around Pokhara preparing to spend 9 days in the rural village when I came down horribly ill that night. No way I was going to be traveling in that state so I had to delay my departure 24h. Thankfully antibiotics work and on the 24th of November I was on a bus headed to shishaghat. Thanks to a helpful driver and my village liason Keshar I made it to the village without issue and setup camp for 8 days with Indira and her daughter Akritti in there lovely little home. After a short half day intro to the school and the programs, that saw me mostly observing, Saturday was a day off so Keshar had planned some festivities. Sadly my stomach hadn’t fully recovered so I came down sick again Saturday night. I struggled my way back to being healthy enough to join the kids at school Sunday afternoon.
Enough about my health struggle, which lasted several days, and on to the more important things; the school, children and community of Shishaghat.
My roll in the school was very loosely setup, but the few things I was setup to assess was the quality of the English teaching program, the special needs class and to interact with the kids to expose them to a foreigner. I was thrown into class 4-7 science lectures, talking about geology, basic physics, biology and ended each class talking about my life, American culture and traveling. In Shishaghat they don’t get much exposure to foreigners so simply hearing me speak and talk about many subjects is a lesson in itself. They have wonderful memories and are fascinated by many things, but don’t have the chance to implement and experience many of their lessons.
Both the students and my fellow teachers were wonderful, so friendly, so helpful and open. It’s not just a job, it’s a community and a family. In my short time at the school I made numerous new friends, learned about Nepali culture and village life and got a good dose of perspective. When you break it down, life is very simple, and there are so many wonderful things there is no need to focus on the negative. The children were so energetic, excited and curious, but they are working with such simple tools it’s stunting their development and learning. For them, simply being exposed to foreigners and new thought processes opens their eyes to new possibilities. Interacting with the teachers also helped us both learn about each others life style and teaching styles.
My words will never express my gratitude to the community of Shishaghat for taking me in for that sort time. The experience was more than just about teaching it was about cultural immersion for both myself and all the students and teachers. I’m hoping my sorry time was able to open up some of the kids to new possibilities and to help our world’s grow cost together. There are so many lessons to be learned merely by sharing ones life with others, and we’d be a better world of more people did so. So I’ll leave it at that. I encourage everyone to go out and give some time, share a story, no matter how basic. If you’re looking to work with some wonderful people, The Help Nepal Appeal is a great organization, Jody is working hard and making a big difference in many ways, and Shishaghat is an amazing community. Hopefully some day I will be able to return to Shishaghat and all my wonderful new friends, but for now is on to Myanmar to continue to share stories and cultures and hopefully continue to grow. Thanks to The Help Nepal Appeal and Jody for setting everything up, Zahariz for the great photos and Vfuel for supporting all my adventurous habits.