Rob and Elena
Goljung 14th March – 14th April 2007

We got a very warm welcome the first day we arrived with a meal at a local restaurant. It was very nice to meet Asim’s wife and son and also to catch a few other volunteers who were just finishing their placements and were leaving Nepal. They gave us some useful tips on what to expect, what not to expect(!) and how to deal with everything.

The next couple of days were sightseeing, with a few different members of the Info Nepal team, to various different places around Kathmandu. Pratik and Bicky were great with their knowledge of every little detail and we got a very good starter in understanding a lot of Nepali culture.

After that the language classes started with Rama. She would meet us every day, normally in the mornings, for about 2 hours. We started off very basically with “hello’s”, “how are you’s” and basic introductions, but very rapidly over the 5 days of lessons, progressed to “how to barter for the best price”, “likes and dislikes”, “food and drink” and much more.

During this time we visited our training village family for two nights which was a really good insight into what to expect from the actual placement. At first we both felt a little uncomfortable as our Nepalese was still a little shaky and the family’s English wasn’t that good. Also as they were such good hosts they would not let us help with any jobs and as this wasn’t our placement there was nothing for us to be getting on with immediately. However, the more we chatted and spent time with them, the more we felt at ease and welcomed and in the end we were very sad to be leaving so soon!

Next came the project in Goljung and our first real shock. By this time our Nepalese was coming on a little better and we were feeling more confident to get stuck into communication……only to find that in the village very few people spoke Nepalese! Goljung is a Tamang village and they have their own dialect. Our host family spoke Nepalese so this was not a problem but when we got to the library on the first day, we found that very few of the children understood our Nepalese or our English. We did find that some children spoke better Nepalese and English than the others and so they became our invaluable translators for all lessons.

We have thought about how this problem could have been avoided and have realized that it would have been impossible for the staff in Kathmandu to have taught us any Tamang as this isn’t their language. The only thing we can suggest is that future volunteers could be given a little more warning of the language difference and perhaps a small booklet with some basic Tamang expressions and useful phrases could be prepared for volunteers going to that placement.

Our work in the placement differed from what we had been expecting to do. Elena had been planning to spend most days working with a health centre in the village but found that it only opened one day while we were there, and I had planned to assist with some construction but found no projects/work to help with. Having said this we both had a fantastic time opening the library twice a day and teaching the children. We tried to impart some of our joint professional medical knowledge onto these lessons rather than just straight English. We introduced basics of self-hygiene, basic treatment of minor wounds, ideas about infection and cleanliness. These we felt went down very well and were absorbed by some of the children.

After our project and for a two days in the middle we took ourselves away to do some trekking in the local area and were rewarded by spectacular views and great mountain experiences.

On the whole we both feel strongly that Info Nepal is a fantastic organization and is doing a great job in trying to improve the quality of life of poorer people in Nepal. One thing we did notice was that there are very many villages which now have Info Nepal Libraries but these only open when Volunteers are present. This we feel can lead to a lack of continuity of learning for the children in those places. Two ideas we had of how to solve this problem were:

1) - A system of handover from one volunteer leaving a project to the next one arriving at the same place.

Ideally this could be done if they overlap their time at the project or meet in Kathmandu but obviously this will rarely happen. The best other way would be to start a formal handover book to detail, for example, times of opening of the library, lessons taught, levels of attentions and speed of learning of specific children etc etc. We detailed much of this is our report in the logbook already in the library in Goljung but perhaps it would be better to have a centrally held one in the office in Kathmandu so that observation can be made about progress in the different projects and comparisons made.

2) – A system of involvement of a local resident to open the library.

There a several obstacles to overcome with this idea. The local person must be trusted with a key and given responsibility for maintaining the library in a good condition. The local person would need to be paid for this. However, the benefits of allowing the children regular access to resources held in the libraries, even it were only for a piece of paper and a pen to write and practice English, would be great.

If we have any other ideas that come to us we will definitely get in contact with you to pass them on. We will also get on thew internet at some point in the near future and write some reports on the chat rooms etc about the work that Info Nepal does – in both English and Spanish!!!

Thanks again Info Nepal for giving us such a special experience. One that will stay with us for the rest of our lives…..or until we are next back again with you!

Rob – jones_2k@hotmail.com
Elena elenagilz@hotmail.com


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