This is a rare moment of reflection. With 3 young children life in Nepal has been very busy over the past 5 weeks.
My partner Som and I arrived in Nepal on the 28th of November with our 3 children Tara, Tashi and Ciaran — we were anxious to get to Batase village to meet up with our Take on Nepal group of 6 volunteers. There is always a feeling of returning “home” for me when we arrive in Kathmandu. I am always at peace and excited about the journey that lies ahead. This my my first time back to Nepal post Earthquake and the devastation of the Earthquake struck me as soon as I came out of the airport — my brother in law Amber was not there to meet us. Amber was always at the airport to welcome us and to organise our transport into the city. 24 year old Amber’s life was tragically taken by the Earthquake. It was with a heavy heart that we left the airport and arrived at the hotel.
The following morning we packed our bags into a 4WD and made the bumpy journey up to the village. It was heartbreaking to see all of the devastation caused by the Earthquake. Som had told me about it, I had seen images, but I was still not fully prepared to see so many homes destroyed. The closer we got to Batase village, the worse the damage was. Driving through the mountains, I couldn’t help but compare the villages to shanty towns — there are endless little villages comprised entirely of shacks built from corrugated iron.
What a joy it was to arrive in Batase and to see all of Som’s beautiful family. Our volunteers came to greet us with smiles on their faces — they were very happy to be in Batase and had thoroughly enjoyed their trek up the mountain. One group member described the trek as one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences of her life!
At sunset we ventured up to one of the villages high in the mountains where Som shared his emotional and inspiring story of overcoming many difficulties to now be in a position to give back so much to his community. As the sun was setting over the spectacular Himalayan Mountain Range, we learned about the social issues facing the children of Batase village, in particular girls and the issues facing them when trying to access an education. Som discussed why Batase needs volunteers at the village school. It is simply because without English, the young people of Batase do not have any opportunities beyond the village. Som talked about the impact that Take on Nepal volunteers were having in Batase village and how meanginful, challenging and rewarding their experience in Batase will be.
The volunteer group went above and beyond what was expected of them in their role. Som and I were amazed and inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment towards helping the children of Batase. 2 group members were nursing students and when medical issues arose in the village, they quickly attended to these in a professional and caring manner. Our teaching student volunteer went through a very challenging time supporting the Grade 3 school teacher to manage difficult behaviours in her class. One of our volunteers spent the school lunch break teaching the entire school dance movements. It was amazing to see. All of the volunteers worked closely together to ensure that their time volunteering at the school was productive. Posters were developed with the students about the importance of washing hands and in the evenings the volunteers would meet with the teachers to work together on the following day’s plans.
The school closes on Saturday but instead of taking a well deserved rest and sleeping in, the group were up and ready to distribute donated items (beanies, scarves, blankets and jumpers) to villagers in desperate need. I felt proud to be among such an amazing group of people who were happy to carry heavy backpacks in order to make the long cold Winter more bearable for many villagers who had lost everything in the Earthquake.
The time went quickly and before I knew it we were spending our last night around the fire, it was an emotional Goodbye but I felt incredibly happy with all that had been achieved and the friendships that had been made between everyone.
The volunteers returned to Kathmandu before beginning the journey to Chitwan where they would enjoy 3 days of Jungle Safari’s and bird watching.
Som and I spent time in Pokhara and Chitwan meeting with people who have requested our support with their projects. These meetings will result in Take on Nepal offering volunteer placements in Chitwan and Pokhara in 2016.
We returned to the village to continue our charitable work with the organisation founded by Som “Friends of Himalayan Children” before returning to Kathmandu to meet with our next group of incredible Take on Nepal volunteers. I was overjoyed to meet the group at the hotel and very excited about the journey ahead. We will be traveling to Batase Village tomorrow to meet them and to work alongside them in the village ensuring that their time is productive and meaningful.
One of our volunteers described her experience as being “one of a kind … an experience of a life time and one that I don’t think that any other volunteering program for students could ever offer”.
We look forward to welcoming you to Batase village for an experience of a lifetime.
~ Susan Devitt
© Take on Nepal 2023