Jacqui Cawston
Dhapaklel, Lalitpur, Kathmandu - July 20 July 28 2007

I was based with a wonderful family, who were very inviting and eager to learn all about my family and myself.  I wish I had brought more photos with me.  I dreaded the thought of dal/bhat every day, but my family produced some wonderful curries from the little produce they grew in their kitchen garden, including pumpkin, gourd, aubergine and potato, and this helped so much that by the end of my stay I was really enjoying it, and it was a treat to have a little chicken or mutton with it.

It was with much trepidation that I started this placement, as I had not read any reports or information about where I was based, or what had previously been achieved at the Children's Home.

The SOF Children's Home was next door, via walking around a paddy field so liable to be muddy.  The children were very welcoming and I found another volunteer from Australia there, (thought not through INFONepal) and he was able to fill me in with what was happening.  The children's home has been open for about six months and there are approximately 15 children staying there ages range from 3 / 4yrs to 11 /12yrs  with a roughly 60%/40% mix of boys/girls.  There is a very basic food preparation area on the ground floor, dormitories for the girls and boys (separate) a conference type room, and a roof terrace, with three toilet cum showers.  The accommodation is very sparse, but while I was there a number of beds appeared.  There is no feeling of home at the moment, and this is partly due to the fact that a mother type figure needs to be introduced.  At present English comprehension is very poor, the children are able to identify letters and very basic words, but are unable to comprehend much of what is said to them in English.  It would had helped if I knew a lot more Nepali then words could be taught, and simple phrases, but I think this is a little way off at the moment.

There are a couple of musicians who come and take a traditional music lesson with the children every week.  They are definitely benefiting from this as when there is no homework to be done they are often to be found singing together.

There is also no apparent religious basis within the home, eg Hindu shrine which was evident in my host family, and as I feel Nepali life does revolve around the Hindu/Buddhist religion I consider this an area needs to be sorted out.

The main problem that needs to be addressed is exactly what Rapu Thapa (Director) wants from the volunteers.  He was very friendly and appreciated that I visited most days to help the children with their homework where I could, and just be a friendly face around the place.  There also needs to be a big cash injection to help with the many resources that will be needed.  I think this is being worked on.

I also attended Mahendra Adarsha Vidyashram, Satdobato, Lalitpur, KTM which is the school the children attend.  This is a very good school, which I feel the children will benefit greatly from.  The teachers were very welcoming and encouraging and it was good to feel I was contributing to the education of the children I met even though I am not an English teacher.  The system of education seems to be through rote and continued repetition so that the child eventually remembers a little of what they have been taught.  The English teacher made use of English being my native tongue, and asked me to read many stories to them so that the stress on each word was correct, and of course pronunciation.  I was able to converse with some grade 9 & 10 pupils so they can obviously reach a pretty good standard by the end of ten grades.

I visited during the monsoon, and though I didn't find the rain a problem as such, the effects of walking through mud and deep water every day did affect my feet.  Leeches particularly found me very tasty!! as well as the mosquitoes.  My advice to anyone else coming at this time of year make sure you have some good footwear as it is very slippery walking around paddy fields and along mud tracks. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my placement and would recommend the experience to anyone.  Just remember the culture is very different here, and although everyone aspires to become rich like the west, and possibly travel to the UK to work and earn a lot of money, Nepal needs educated people and the many attributes that exist here shouldn't be lost, but encouraged.