Care in Nepal by Ryan Kam
The founder of modern Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah, once described his country as a yam caught between two boulders. In the past, it was being forced to live in the shadow of India and China, but it managed to hang on by utilising its geographical situation, and benefited as a trade hub. However, after years of political turmoil, it failed to keep up with the rapid pace of development in the modern world, and the country soon became one of the poorest countries in the world.
The reaction most of my friends and relatives gave me as I let them know that I would do volunteer work in Nepal for a month, was that few people in their right minds would put themselves in such challenging situations, given that there was no need for me to engage in these activities at all, I could easily just sit back at home or use the money to pamper myself in some exotic resort.
I had read plenty of literature about similar journeys and adventures other people have taken before, as well as other volunteers’ accounts of what it is like working and living in such environments, which they all seemed to have genuinely enjoyed their time and found it to be an invigorating and rewarding experience. These gave me the courage to take the step and apply for a month of Care work in Kathmandu, yet there was still doubt in my mind if it would be a right choice… and this was not helped by my first impression as I arrived in Kathmandu.
Basking in the polluted haze of the country’s capital city – where the roads are cracked, the power lines unstable and the air filled with a relentless cacophony of horns, whistles and bells – it’s hard to share in other‘s optimism. Serenity and order seem not to exist in this place. As a person who has already been to different parts of the world, this could not have been a cultural shock, but it really made me wonder if this was the promised land.
Luckily, I soon started my placement at Snowland Ranag School, where I met probably the most amazing children one could ever encounter. It is not difficult for anyone to realize that they do not live and study in the most hospitable environment in developed world terms, but somehow they still managed to make the most of what they have, and enjoy it. Most of them come from remote villages in Nepal, they were brought here by the Rimpoche (Tibetan high priest), supported by funds from sponsors. Yet because of the huge travel distances and probably lack of money, the children do not have much option but to stay at the school, some have not been home for years, so they made the school their home and the place for everything.
The children have managed to set up a system that runs the school, with everyone helping out and sharing all responsibilities and properties, but rarely do they get into fights or disagreements. This definitely is not the case in most if not all schools in the developed world. One would reflect whether our education and so-called development has really enhanced us as human beings. The level of obedience and sense of responsibility these children have is truly wonderful.
The weekdays soon passed as I enjoyed myself with the company of the school children and other fellow volunteers. And as I look back, I could not imagine how the weekends could have been any better. Various activities were organized by Projects Abroad - trekking, white water rafting, safari, bungee jumping to name a few. We volunteers were also encouraged to arrange our own weekend getaways. From snow-top mountains to swamps filled with crocodiles and rhinos, the mesmerising natural beauty in Nepal untouched by humans, (outside Kathmandu of course!) and is definitely a must-see for anyone who enjoys travelling.
The month that I initially thought I would be dreading soon passed without notice. Nepal is still very much a third-world country, but I think it is fair to say that one can still have a very enjoyable time there as long as you go in with an open mind and embrace the experience.