Orphanage Library Project

Nepal - March 2011

The following account was written by Sandy a first-time volunteer with AidCamps. Sandy and 16 other volunteers constructed a library/study room at the Asna Orphanage in Rampur, Nepal.

"Thanks to AidCamps International I have just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Nepal where I was part of a group of l7 volunteers constructing a single storey building adjacent to the Asna Children's orphanage in the village of Rampur, some five hours by road from Kathmandu.  The building will provide a Library and Study Room for the 25 girls and boys from the age of 8 – 14 years who live at the orphanage.

As we got to know the children we were impressed and humbled by their enthusiasm and desire to learn together with their cheeky smiles and sparkling eyes and their constant willingness to help us anyway they could.

Our accommodation was in a student block at the Tribhuvan University of Agriculture and Animal Science set in acres of ground a short distance from Rampur.  Lack of funding had seen this once obviously impressive University campus sadly fall into a state of disrepair but still catered for large numbers of students from all over Nepal, some 1000 we were told with 400 staff.

The two storey brick building was quite impressive from the outside and rooms shared by two were adequate.  As we had been warned before leaving home, squat-style toilets with only cold water for washing and showering came as no surprise. Even the lack of electricity – only available on two nights during our three weeks stay – with everyone wearing headlights or carrying torches and scrambling round our rooms by candlelight became the norm.  Amazing what you can get used to so quickly.

Our working days followed a pattern of waking sometime between 6 – 6.30, having breakfast and setting off for the orphanage sometime around 8.00 am.  As we travelled the two miles or so to work through the village, we were greeted by waving and shouts of ‘Hello'.....we couldn't have been made to feel more welcome. 

The brick walls and roof of the building had been erected by local builders; our job was to complete the building.  From day one tasks included clearing the inside of the building of soil, bricks and stones and anything that had been left behind by the builders, bagging hundreds of bags of stone and sand, sifting sand through a wire mesh on a wooden frame to mixing cement, fetching buckets of water from the hand pump, the passing of hundreds of stones from one to another with shouts of ‘gahrungo (heavy)  to the not so often haluka (light)', until they reached the inside of the building where they were used  as a  foundations for the floor.

After the cement was mixed by hand, a very heavy and exhausting task in such heat, the cement was chain-ganged to the inside via large metal saucer shaped pans..........these processes went on day in, day out but again with laughter and a sense of achievement as we saw the building starting to take shape and our task became less insurmountable than we had thought on day one when everyone had quietly thought to themselves, will we ever finish in the time we have here?

Back at the student block we were lucky enough to have our very own chef, Bharat.  What a wonderful young man he was, catering for l8 people for breakfast, lunch and evening meal with a lovely smile on his face and never showing any signs of irritation or fluster.  There was a daily rota with three volunteers being on hand to assist Bharat with the preparation, laying of tables, generally keeping the communal areas clean and tidy and with the washing up! 

Some afternoons were free giving us time to catch up with our washing or just relax by wandering into the village or just sitting on the terrace reading or sleeping.  On such days we had talks on the role of RCDP, the history of Nepal and the Gurkhas, the changing role of Women in Nepal and a very enlightening talk by Steve on how AidCamps was established nearly ten years ago and its achievements to date........a very impressive legacy indeed.

In the afternoons, when the evenings were free to just sit around and enjoy each others company playing cards or engaging in a quiz, we visited other AidCamps projects and places of interest, including the Shree Gyaneshwor Community Forestry Project, the Gharial Crocodile Preservation project just to mention a few.

During our first weekend away we visited two schools, Debauli and Nipani which had benefited from previous AidCamps collaboration with RCDP.  While at the schools we were invited back the following week to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi.  People spend the day smearing coloured powder all over each other, having parties and dancing whilst copious amounts of coloured water is sprayed in all directions.  What a fun day was had by all; we followed the local women as they sang and danced through the countryside and were constantly bombarded with waterbombs by the children who delighted in our squeals of laughter and our attempts to shield ourselves............unsuccessfully, I might add.

Our second, long weekend away was pure enjoyment staying in Sauraha where we rode elephants, trekked the jungle where we had a brief glimpse of a rhinoceros, visited a traditional Tharu village, canoed on the river, spotted crocodiles and generally had a carefree time enjoying each others company and eating good food.

As our last four days loomed, work at the orphanage continued at a pace with liming of the inside walls,  emulsion of the outside, sanding down of the ornate grills and metal shutters heavily encrusted with rust, priming and painting of such and a general clear up of the site.  Large amounts of water had been put on the floor to help the concrete set hard and what a job we had to get rid of the water and then attempt to clean the floor – it was a hands and knees job for everyone but again with hard work and good humour, we managed.

Although I have rambled on and on it is impossible to portray an accurate picture of the fun, laughter and great sense of achievement felt by us all on our last day when the children, each and every one of them, performed traditional dance, street dance, sang, recited poetry, juggled and thanked us with their beaming smiles and sparkling eyes – we sat quietly and watched with more than one or two tears being shed. 

It is difficult to express in words all the emotions felt during the three weeks we spent working at the orphanage but I'm sure I speak for all my newfound friends when I say this is an experience we would not have missed for the world.  Would I do it again...........Yes, in a heart-beat."


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