Voluntary Service in Kathmandu (Nepal)
The first week was a big ordeal for me, I was hardly able to speak or to understand English, for this reason I felt a little lost, and I had to follow the others all along.
I spent my first week with other volunteers coming from the entire world in a hostel. There, during the mornings, they taught us Nepali and they showed us some places of Kathmandu and their habits in order we could get used to their culture before beginning our work in the orphanages where we were going to develop our projects. From this week I learned to speak enough English for being able to express myself and to understand what they said to me, I made new friends and in addition we made a trip together to the city of Chitwan, near a natural reserve, where we saw rhinos, crocodiles and we even rode an elephant.
The next week they took us to the orphanages, I was with a girl of Turkey. At that moment our true problems in Nepal began. We lived in a house with nineteen charming boys and girls between five and sixteen years old, and with the couple that took responsibility for them, who turned out to be a big disappoint for me.
I had already imagined the situation I would have to face, mainly with the conditions in which I would live; like the bed where I used to sleep that was practically a blanket that served as mattress, I had to shower off with cold water from a thin spurt of water -when water was available-, I used a community bathroom and, if there was water. I could eat white rice with a little broth and two or three vegetable pieces, this during every lunchtime and, in addition, seated on the ground. But what I couldn't imagine was that in that orphanage they would have so much shortage. They had to ask me for help to purchase the gas, to fill the water well, to buy rice, vegetables, clothes, medicines…
In that sense I felt like in a trap because obviously I wasn't supposed to help them with my money since the coordination was paying enough money to the orphanage because of my stay there, but if I didn't help on these occasions the family in charge of the kids didn't provide these basic needs, there were days in which I saw they did not eat until arriving the diner time or saw how a whole week spent and nobody could have a shower nor wash their clothes; because they withstood on with only some water reserves in bottles, thing that also affected to me.
In the meantime I also had a great time with the children and I felt like a member of this big family and I even get used to this way of life. When I tell this story to the people they can't believe it, you have to live it to understand it. It was so cold that I had to sleep with cap, scarf and short coat, I had to brush my teeth with bottled water that I used to buy daily and during the night I had to use the lantern of my mobile phone to see in the dark in order to clean the dishes or to cook since electricity was only available a few of hours per day.
I was able to forget all these problems when I was with the children, they gave their love from the first moment, I could notice the absence of a father and a mother in their life, somebody that spend its time to give them the love them that they need. During some days I was also as Spanish teacher at the school of the children until we saw the teachers beating some of the children of our orphanage because their uniform wasn't clean, the way in which they educate the children in Nepal doesn't seem logical to us, by hitting them. Bu that's something difficult to change because they like their methods.
We started to take it seriously, and we started to take care that the children always wore clean clothes and were cleaned up, although it was quite difficult because of the water shortage. It was incredible to see its faces of happiness when we prepared some different food for them or we bought school material for them, it didn't matter what it was, they loved it since they do not have anything there. Later we realised a bigger problem related with the Nepali culture in our orphanage The older girl of the orphanage had to work for all the orphanage, all alone, she cooked for everyone, she washed everyone's dishes, cleaned the house, she washed the clothes of the others and was always at ready for accomplish any favour that the man or the woman of the house could request. One day she came with a contusion in the face because of our advices, because we had tried to convince her to stop this abuse. She told us that they treated her in a really bad way; they used to hit her with no reason. She was there bearing until the moment she will be eighteen years old to leave the orphanage and start living.
I felt so stressed and trapped, I was too involved with the children, mixing my feelings instead of having a more professional position that what it had been assigned to me at first: creating with them artistic activities to develop their creativity. After all this happened, I decided to stay in a hotel for a time and to go to the orphanage in the afternoon. By this way, I could eliminate the stress because of living in the same place where I worked, a place where there were a lot of problems. I had a really good time in the hotel because I made a good friend. This boy worked there and he was the same age as me. In addition, I took classes of Nepali in the morning and I took classes of Jet kun do in the afternoon too, in the orphanage’s roof terrace where the teacher came to teach me it.
Later, something made me change my mind and I wanted to be in another orphanage. I called the coordinator of Nepal and I tried to look for another orphanage. Before (when I said to him that voluntaries shouldn’t pay for the orphanage’s food), he had already told me about the possibility of changing to another orphanage. But the last time, I said that I wanted to continue with my children, that I only wanted some sacks of rice and legumes, and finally I got them successfully. But I definitely decided that I wanted to “move out” when one night having a typical wine of Nepal with the founder and the person in charge. He proposed to me to do illegal business with him. He had been doing this kind of business for a long time and he wanted me to marry a Nepali woman and to take her to Europe. Before, he had proposed to me to go to prostitutes. He was really weird and I didn’t trust him. I didn’t want to see him anymore, so I decided to work in another orphanage. Besides, my mate was already tired and she couldn’t bear that. She came back to her country. I said to myself that I must continue because I know that all would change.
I felt, and actually, I still feel really bad and disappointed with myself for leaving those children who loved me and enjoyed with me so much… But, in that moment I only wanted to think of me, because I had been a month without enjoying the beautiful place where I was for all those children, although they merited it.
Just before my transfer to the other orphanage, two girls from Estonia who were working there offered me to go on a trip in Nepal going with a cameraman who was filming a feature on the culture and traditions of Nepal. The trip was organized for almost a month but we were only just one week because we got tired of the trip, we were all the time on buses. Anyway, we discovered fantastic places such as Lumbini, the city where Budda was born, a place full of Buddhist temples or Chispani, a little lost village between mountains and forests, with a wide river from where we saw magic sunsets.
When I came back, I went to the new orphanage directly with the Estonian girls. I was hosted by all the people. There were about thirty children and the family in charge of the orphanage had members: the couple, one son and one daughter.
This orphanage had better facilities and it could even afford basic necessities. This orphanage was better. Here, I spent my last two months and I grew fond of all the people, now they are always in my mind. There were children older and they said that they had never had volunteers who understood them so well how I did and that is the best thing that I brought to Spain. During those months, I was offered to paint the classes of a school because they knew that I loved mural paintings. So, I changed my project for a week and later I came back to the orphanage with the children. I was also with my parents during a week (they visited me) and we went to see Pokora a beautiful city between mountains placed on the shores of a big lake, a quiet and peaceful place where we can see the Himalaya.
There, I made a lot of good Nepali friends who were similar to me. I went out with them and my mates frequently, I painted graffiti. I also meet other volunteers working in schools and other orphanages, almost all of them working with children.
Those days with the children were great, what I received from them, I had never received here before. Every day I wonder if I did my best and I hope have helped them.
Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Intercambia Málaga