An ‘Eye-Opening’ Experience.

Two months on from an extraordinary adventure and I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and reflect upon the events of my trip to Nepal at the end of 2017. What a truly mountainous task our somewhat unruly bunch of volunteers were presented with when we walked inside the worn-down community hall at local secondary school, located just outside the small township of Dhulikhel. With limited resources available, we got to work right away, and what ensued was three weeks of sweat, laughter, pure drudgery, clambering atop tables, ladders (and even people), and all kinds of painting, from bands of children manning rollers on sticks, to fine brushes requiring a degree of finesse overseen by our team mate Sharriah, our resident artistic mastermind.

M Bartlett 1 The teaching, taking place in a more condensed time frame than we had anticipated due to exams and national elections, was an equally challenging yet rewarding and insightful opportunity. We found that, as much as we were able to share our own knowledge about English, sports, health and well-being, internationalism, sexual responsibility and dancing, the children were able to teach us about themselves, their lives, their families, their ambitions, principles, beliefs and their own conceptions of demographic issues. I made friends with incredibly bright and passionate children who I know will go on to make the societies they live in a better place, and I feel very privileged to have worked with them for even a short period of time.

The highlight was our final day at school, where with the help of the Principal we ran a showcase for the children’s work in the freshly renovated hall. Seeing children who from the beginning might not have said ‘peep’ but now had the confidence to present their work in front of all their teachers and peers was heart-warming and inspiring. I think I speak on behalf of all my team when I say we were very proud of our hard-working students! The cherry on top of course was that this all took place in the community hall we had invested so much of our time and effort into during our stay in Dhulikhel.

The experience was (excuse the cliché) a real eye-opener. We faced our fair share of resource and environmental challenges when it came to carrying out the work we intended to do (be it renovating or teaching), however it became apparent that these were only a taste of the sorts of barriers people in regional areas of Nepal are required to overcome on a day by day basis.We also had to come to terms with the nature of the work we were doing there, as we realised soon enough that 19 university students- despite the biggest of hearts and the brightest of heads- were not about to single-handedly upheave poverty in regional Nepal and enforce systematic change to the education system. Rather, the work we did was addressing the immediate needs of the local community. The hall was at best a mess and at worst a collateral safety hazard prior to its revamp job, and the school, despite being government funded, did not receive enough funding to tackle such a large job.M Bartlett 1

I hope that the work that we did in improving this learning space and running workshops inspired passion in the students for positive development through an emphasis on education. Perhaps one of those cheeky kids we chased around the auditorium with a paint roller may grow up to attain a government post, whereby they will be in a position to enforce systematic change that focuses on education as the key driver for economic and social development. Irrespective of what their exact futures entail, I do not doubt for one second that the future of Nepal is in good hands with these smart, kind-hearted and driven young men and women preparing to step out into the workforce. Despite the natural and socio-economic adversity they have had to overcome, it seems that with these children preparing to take the reins, things will be “all coming up Millhouse”, to quote one of John’s favourite sayings!

I want to thank all involved in the work we were able to do in Nepal. Thank you to Challenges Abroad and the Future Sense Foundation for providing us with a platform to carry out the work we did. Thank you to the relentlessly charming and helpful staff and students at the local school who were so welcoming and eager to learn. Most of all, I would like to thank the people I went with – my team who worked so mind-numbingly hard and invested heart and soul into making the school hall a bright, healthy, inspiring and safe learning environment, and into teaching the children, no matter how hard each of these tasks proved to be at various times.

Back here in Australia I’m having withdrawals and planning what I can do to continue to support the school where we worked in Nepal. So stay tuned folks, because I’ll soon be raising funds to fix its broken windows!

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