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Salghani School Development Project

Nepal - November 2013

The Salghani School Development Project was successfully completed on 23 November 2013.  Following on from the project one of the volunteers Myra, kindly agreed to write about her experiences from her own perspective.

Hopefully, she won't mind us telling you that Myra is 79 years of age and one of our oldest volunteers. However, as you'll read, this didn't hold her back from joining in the hard work or enjoying every minute!

" I expect you have heard the term ‘a life changing experience.'  I've just had one. 

Last February I decided to go to Nepal in November with the charity AidCamps International.  I was thrilled with the idea, but when October came and I was due to fly to Kathmandu imminently, the nerves set in.  I knew that I would not back out, but I was full of misgivings.  I am rather scatty.  Would I have the right insurance, I asked myself? Had I got the right injections?  I am very mature and wondered how I would fit in with the other volunteers:  some were married, some travelled in threes.  No-one was travelling on the same day as me and I faced a long journey alone.  I found out later that I had got the date wrong and I was a day late!

Kathmandu is like being in a Bruce Willis film.  Traffic everywhere:  many, many motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, no obvious order, everybody all over the road; buses stuffed with people and the unlucky ones sitting on the top of the bus cradling their luggage.  I loved it.  I was hooked!

The next day we made the six hour journey to Chitwan, close to the Chitwan National Park.  We were down in the valley, among the rice fields, helping AidCamps add three classrooms to a school.  The children were from very poor backgrounds – fathers with no skills, often mothers had died or hoped for a better life in Dubai, but they were lively kids who wanted to learn.  They wanted to speak English and constantly asked questions.  Personal questions!  ‘How old you?' they asked me, I answered honestly which caused great concern.  ‘Why you no dead?'  The average lifespan in the countryside is fifty-eight. 

Our quarters were nothing like as rough as I had expected – an elegant house with outbuildings.  We had meals outside on the terrace and at night we slept under mosquito nets.  The electricity was intermittent, (very,) and the water was constant.  It dripped everywhere.  Our food, though odd to us, curried vegetables and rice for breakfast, was good.  We graduated to omelettes and porridge with a little gentle persuasion.

I can tell you that a trumpeting elephant at 6am is a good alarm clock.  There are elephants everywhere, huge black shapes that creep up behind you, silently.  They are gentle giants, used for the tourist trade.  We did an elephant safari through the overgrown forest, and sat on the great beasts as they bathed in the river.  At a word from the Mahouts, the elephants obligingly got a trunk full of water and showered us.

We were transported to the school by what we called ‘the Limmo,' an open back truck with a tarpaulin.  All along our route we were cheered, every day. We worked hard:  manual labour.  AidCamps paid local builders to do the building of walls and roofs, but we mixed the cement, shifted rocks by chain gang and ducked under scaffolding made of bamboo.  We attempted to make a good job of painting the ceilings and walls with a scrubbing brush nailed to a stick.  B and Q was a pipe dream. 

My companions turned out to be a great band of characters, sixteen of us, plus the AidCamps coordinator.  They were like-minded people, willing and able to do something for somebody else.  What laughs we had.  There was a twenty-one year old; next in age were a couple of 50 somethings, and the rest of us were in our sixties and seventies: but we were tough - and had muscles like Popeye by the end of the project.  One of our number constantly quoted from Kubla Khan and Kipling.  She wasn't fazed by our lack of knowledge, and explained the texts at length.  Pat, in her seventies, left a day early to travel alone to where she could go sky-diving, and then she was off to India! 

In our spare time, the highlights included a ride down the river in dug-out canoes, literally hollowed out logs, an oxen-cart journey, and a visit to Devgat, a shrine to Shiva, who had six million wives!  No point in being a god and then going short!

Then there were the Rhinos.  We heard a lot about them, and I thought they were rather a myth.  Wrong!  One of them came into our village one evening and scattered the shopkeepers.  We went on a foot Safari and encountered a whole group of Rhinos, taking an interest.  ‘Run,' said the guide, and we took off like Olympic sprinters.

My abiding memory of Nepal is a land of kind, gentle people.  The women do almost all of the work, but Women's Development is making headway.  I gave up hiding my wallet after three days, because there was nobody around who would steal from us.  The children fell in love with the song, ‘She'll be coming round the mountains,' mostly ‘ey ey yippee yippee ey.'  We wrote it out endlessly so they could sing it when helping us on the chain gang.  We saw mountains every day in the foothills of the Himalayas:  Machapuchare, the fishtail mountain was particularly beautiful with its snow cap.

I said it was a life-changing experience, and it was.  Our twenty-one year old team member declared it had been the best weeks of her life.  A sad little boy we called Nickerless, because he had no trousers, became a bright, happy child.  The closing ceremony when the school was completed turned out to be traumatic.  We suddenly realized it was all over, and we cried!  The children didn't want to believe we wouldn't come back, and right now I'm filling up again!

I hope I'm able to go back.  I know that AidCamps spends its money wisely and makes sure that it goes to the right place.  I will never, ever moan about our roads again.  I won't forget how well off we are, compared to the developing world.  It was a life changing experience for me.
I wouldn't have missed it for the world!"

Myra

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