Shree Shakti LSS

Nepal - March 2016

The following account was written by George, one of the volunteers who took part in the AkzoNobel corporate AidCamp in March 2016 in Chitwan, Nepal.

The account is in George's own words and represents his view of the project and the experience he had of working in a less developed country for the first time.

 "Standing in the airport in Nepal I observed the chaos of people clambering over one another to get their luggage. Following months of preparation I was finally in Nepal ready to do my part in delivering a school that will hopefully serve the local community well over the years to come. Partly excited and partly nervous I carried on out to meet our AidCamps Co-ordinator Gilly, along with the rest of the team which I barely knew at this stage. We stepped out in to the sunny Nepal afternoon and so began the most amazing emotional journey I had ever been on. 3 weeks that would change my perspective on life!

The first part of our journey together was to spend 2 days in Kathmandu. This allowed us to be tourists and explore the vast maze that the city is. At this point we meet the team from RCDP. A team who are committed to changing lives in rural Nepal, inspirational people each with an amazing story to tell. Our team of 15 began to get to know each other while we explored the various temples and dined each night on the local cuisine. Laughter would fill the air each evening, a theme that would continue right up until the end of the journey. Obviously some people you instantly gel with and the banter begins, with others the process of getting to know one another can take a little longer. I really enjoyed the first 2 days, but things were only getting started.

The real journey began at 5am on the Monday morning as we set off for the village we would call home for the next 3 weeks. The bus journey was harrowing for a guy who would not be very fond of heights, 6 hours of a bus clinging to the edge of the cliff, but all so worth it when we landed in our village and instantly became celebrities. One by one we were introduced to our new homes and hosts. Each home so unique and different to the last, some with more hints of the west than others, the real bonus was to have a shower and a western toilet, thankfully myself and my roommate Paul had both! 

The village was a thing of such natural beauty that I fear any attempt for me to describe it would not do it any justice. Beautiful farm fields that rolled from one in to another, individually styled houses lined the streets where our house stood, but unfortunately once you explored beyond these roads you found the smaller huts where those struggling from day to day lived. It was clear that poverty was never far away and the real purpose of our mission became evident.

We were to eat and commune in a tent not too far from the school. Teams of 4 of us would be on duty to help our chef Prakash with our 3 meals a day and also to do any cleaning and washing up in the nearby well. The tent would also host some of the various groups who would give us talks most evenings on Nepal, politics, women's rights etc. These talks would be very interesting and you couldn't help but compare to life back home.

Our first day of work we were led by what seemed to be the entire village in a procession from our tent to the school. As we entered the school gates we were greeted by the dancing of the principal, something we would get very used to! As the joy of all those in attendance became so obvious at this point I couldn't help but get overcome by emotion. It was beginning to become clear that we take so much for granted back home. And just like that the ceremony ended and we rolled up the sleeves to begin the real work!

Work on site consisted of various tasks. These included filling bags with sand and stones and carrying them upstairs to whatever classroom required, mixing cement by hand, painting, plastering, shoveling and anything else we could do to assist the more skilled Nepalese builders on site. All the time the banter between our team was evident. There would be times when you would see people begin to fade as their thoughts of home would fill their minds. At one point I got to thinking of my family back home and my eyes began to fill up. I kept telling myself to cop on; you will see them in a few weeks. I was going through a homesick episode which was probably made worse by the many emotions being experienced on this journey. When you did go in to quiet mode there was always a member of the team to put the hand around your shoulders and comfort you. No words required as each one of us knew what the other was experiencing.

When we were not working on the school we had the opportunity to visit various previous AidCamps projects including schools and a visit to an orphanage. Again we were treated like celebrities on arrival.  We got a chance to play with the kids, throwing Frisbees, balloons and bubbles. The real popular game was the football though as each kid was keen to show off their skills. These visits showed the lasting benefit that the AidCamps' projects have and why they are so important. I found the visits very humbling and emotional. Again my mind filling with comparisons of home and how materialistic we have become. I begin to realise we have become too obsessed on wanting what we don't really need. It's time we were more thankful for what we have.

Each weekend we again switched to tourist mode. The most memorable being the weekend we spent at the Chitwan national park. The highlight for some being the canoe trip down a crocodile infested river. I can safely say it was a highlight for some, but for me it was harrowing! However, a trek through the jungle afterwards more than made up for it. The park is a beautiful place and it was great to relax before heading back to the village to resume work. 

Back in the village life couldn't be more different. Everyone was happy to see you and a simple "Namaste" to any of the locals would see a broad smile take over their face. The people were unlike anyone I have ever experienced before. They have genuine warmth which is really endearing. The kids of the village stop you at every opportunity and begin to quiz you in English with the few questions they know. They laugh and smile and again it is all very humbling. We were lucky enough to take part in the Holi festival which was quite possibly the largest water fight ever! Complete with coloured powder which ensured I would spend the next few weeks trying to get it off my skin!

Thinking about all the people I have met on this trip. The team of volunteers I shared this experience with really bonded well as a group and the banter was flying the whole time. Our AidCamps Co-ordinator Gilly was friendly and had a quirky sense of humour, but also kept the focus on what we needed to achieve as a group and always kept us on track. It cannot be an easy job dealing with so many various personalities! However together with our group leader Sally they did an amazing job.

And so the end was coming near and with the work completed it was time to hand over the school in a ceremony, and from there the journey home began. As I began the journey home I try to process in my mind just exactly what the time in Nepal meant to me. It meant I was able to give something to an amazing people, but I have also gotten so much out of the project. I realise that there is such a big world out there and there are developing countries that need a helping hand. I hope this will not be my last project. The personal experience has me looking at things differently. I feel I was maybe too self-absorbed and too preoccupied with living life always wanting things I don't really need. I want to slow things down. Explore more, not just the world, but even the country I live in. I want to be more thankful of what I have and to make every moment I have with my own children count. Make lasting memories for them.

Will the experience in Nepal make me achieve my goals? Time will tell. One thing I will say though. If you ever have the chance to volunteer, or are contemplating doing so, grab it with both hands. Go for it. As well as improving the lives of those who need it most, you also gain so much personally from a journey like this."


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