This is the experience shared by one of our volunteers, Clem Yong, from Australia. He volunteered at Shanti Primary School in Ramche, Sindhupalchowk, Nepal in March 2011.
This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and my only regret is that I didn’t stay longer. Like many people looking to volunteer, I searched the web looking for volunteer programs. However, I didn’t want to get involved with big organizations. I felt that with big organizations, things are too regimented and that the volunteer fees were not trickling down to the grassroot level. It was only later that I came across the Santi School Project (SSP) and it felt right to me. I liked the way Chris (SSP President) and Rajan (Project Coordinator) communicated with me directly. Over several months, we bounced ideas via email and I was able to plan my own volunteer program which played to my strengths. That way, we were able to make the most of my time and skills at the school. I ended up 1) teaching the children to write letters 2) conducting English lessons for the teachers and 3) running a short first aid course.
The children are wonderful, and they have a very special place in my heart. They smiled and laughed and accepted me so freely into their lives. It was amazing to see them so happy and contented, it was a truly humbling experience. Every morning, some of the children would come to my room to talk and then walk me to school. There, it was pretty much fun and games revolving around major topics such as letter writing skills, prepositions, adjectives and public speaking. Some of those games included ‘Simon Says’, ‘Treasure Hunt’, ‘Wild Goose Chase’ and ‘Show and Tell’. I think the children really love the ‘Treasure Hunt’ where they had to look for a hidden item based to a series of clues. I will never forget that at one point, they almost upended all the tables looking for a clue under the carpet. The children love games, and it was one of the best ways to learn English.
In the beginning, I was worried that I wasn’t doing a good job and that the children would get bored of my lesson plans. It was only at the end when I realized that I was my own worst judge. The children will always be happy, always smile and always participate. Just do your best and play with them. Often, we would even play games after school right up until dinner time.
As for village life, it was better up in the mountains than it was in Kathmandu. The air was fresh, the water was clear and the electricity supply was more reliable. One of the best things about Ramche is its people. They are very closely knit and friendly. I have sat in so many houses and drank even more black tea that now, I have a better understanding of their lives, families and struggles. Even walking home from school, it is difficult not to be invited into someone’s home for tea. I love the fact that people come and go so freely and many children would gather in a single house to watch cartoon. I loved playing cards outside the shop in the evenings and then chatting with the older folk who would speak to me as if i were a local fluent in Nepali. I also love strolling around and the school children running up to join me for my walks. For the next volunteer… do be ready to only shower once a week, use a squat toilet, have dirty feet for your entire stay, think why your belongings are getting dustier everyday, wonder why the diarrhoea never stops and last but not least, remember to never never never touch the sisno plant.
If you are thinking of volunteering, my advice is to stop wondering and to simply go for it. Just be accepting of the village lifestyle and you will have a blast. Love the children and they will love you back. I had so much fun in Ramche that within a week of leaving, I returned for a few more days. A truly exceptional experience…
Watch his experience below: