Nepal Reflection, by Eabha Bortolozzo

  • Eabha with local Nepalese Women from the Host Community

Eabha Bortolozzo, student from Dublin, volunteered for 6 weeks in Nepal:

I landed in to Tribhuvan Airport Kathmandu at around 6.30 am on the 9th of May 2016 eager to finally see and be in Nepal after what seemed like months of dreaming about it. I remember expecting something awful to happen, my bags being lost, the pickup not being there on time, my visa not working etc.. but everything was fine. I strolled through and found the taxi man sent from the host organisation waiting for me with a sign. The drive from the airport to the volunteer house was, looking back on it, slightly terrifying. By 6.30 am everyone seemed to be awake. The tiny taxi swerved through motorbikes, pedestrians, trucks, minivans and cattle, on roads that seemed to be without lanes, road signs or traffic lights. It was a 15 minute drive before the taxi turned into the maze of houses and the narrow roads of Chuchepati where the hot organisation camp was. It was about 7am and we met the 13 other volunteers who were already up and awake for breakfast. 

It wasn’t until my second week really when I really got into my project. I was working in a school for lower middle class society which had under a hundred student aging from 2 year olds to 14 year olds. It took me about 2 days to absolutely love it. I ended up splitting my time between two classes; the youngest group ‘Playgroup’ which consisted of ten 2 year olds already being taught the alphabet, basic counting and basic English. The other class I was with was the ‘Nursery’ who were slightly older at 3 years and already learning to read, write and count. I was also incredibly lucky with the two teachers of those classes who not only let me bring my own skills into the classroom but also taught me all about childcare and Nepali culture.

As an art student I was able to help my teachers with decorations, colouring projects for the children and generally just increase art and craft in the school. In return they taught me loads about childcare, I helped out in every aspect I could, nap time, toilet training, lunch time as well as teaching and dancing. I learnt a little bit of Nepalese traditional dance, I learnt how to control 10 kids when they all decide to scream crying simultaneously and how to sing the Nepalese alphabet. The teachers I worked with brought me home to their families for dinner where I learnt as much as I could about the castes, the significance of marriage and the Hindu religion.

Apart from adoring my project work I really loved the Nepalese people, meeting and having fun with the other volunteers and  was extremely grateful for the support if the host organisation team.

Nepal as a country is just as beautiful and amazing as the people who live there. The Nepalese from my experience are filled with a simple desire to be kind and helpful. If you find yourself on one of the crowded local busses travelling across the country for 10 hours without a seat, not only will someone pull you on their lap but they will give you snacks and wipes to stay refreshed. If you are lost in either the city or in the beautiful countryside they will point you in the right direction and on many occasions offer you a lift. I expierenced such kindness and was always greeted with beautiful smiles and a cheerful Namaste!

The volunteer house and the host organisation have a lot to do with the how much I enjoyed my trip to Nepal. Meeting such a variety of people from all over the world who were all engaged in different projects in Nepal was incredible. I spent the evenings talking about what we all did during the day, playing cards, planning weekend trips, going out for dinner in Thamel or stocking up on mini snickers bars and watching movies. We spent the weekends travelling and exploring. The volunteers are a great support system and I made some incredible friends. The host organisation team members were equally as amazing. There was also always someone from the host organisation in the camp if I ever needed help with planning a class or organising a weekend trip. They’re support extended past our projects, if we ran in to any difficulty while out on the weekends they were always available to call and help us (especially with translating!).

Looking back on my trip it’s hard to remember the bad things as it all contributed my incredible experience but obviously there were difficulties. The heavily polluted air and piles of rubbish, the unfair difference between here and there, and  the poverty. I especially struggled with the difference between a women’s place in society over there and here. Comparing me and my life to the teachers I worked with was challenging for me. I really had to work hard to help in realistic ways and not get caught up in what I saw as unfair but what they saw as not only fair but what was expected of them and what was their life and culture.

I have learnt so much from my time in Nepal and I can’t encourage others enough to head out and volunteer! You won’t regret it. The people you will meet, the things you will learn will impact you like nothing else. Just do it!!