Volunteering in Nepal
I finally arrived in Nepal for a full month of Volunteering and I must say it has been something beyond comparison in my life. I arrived in the remote village of Thulopakhar not really knowing what to expect. Surrounded by smiling villagers, extraordinary scenic beauty, and dozens of fellow volunteers, I grew to realize I was in for a special experience.
An earthquake of epic proportions hit Nepal in the spring of 2015. In its wake, it left over 9,000 dead and tens of thousands injured. It’s estimated that nearly 5,000 schools were destroyed, which only constituted a part of the 600,000 structures damaged or destroyed in the Kathmandu Valley. But no numbers or figures can really account for the human toll of this devastation. People lost their homes, their loved ones… their lives. It takes more than rebuilding schools to raise a nation from the ashes. It requires rebuilding hope.
All Hands provides an exceptional outlet for people who just want to help. There are some volunteers with backgrounds in engineering or construction, but a huge portion of the volunteers is an international mosaic of people who have a wide variety of disciplines. Artists, bakers, students, retirees, travelers and many more make up the family here. We may not have a formal education in engineering, but we know how to help. Six days a week we wake up and labor for eight hours a day. At night we have a meeting covering work completed, and work yet to be done. In the evenings, we relax, read, dance, and forge friendships with one another. We are about one hundred volunteers strong, and we have our work cut out for ourselves.
One of the truly special gifts has been working so close to the kids for whom our schools are being built. I get the privilege of sweating for a decent cause, and when I look up from digging a trench or painting a newly finished wall- I can see students of all ages. They’re either diligently attending their classrooms, or laughing playing between scheduled classes. It’s enough to make your heart soar. It’s in places like this that I feel I get to actually contribute something positive in the world. The unique characteristic about our school is that it’s currently in session, and we’re building more schoolhouses to accommodate future students. So when I look and see the kids so actively engaged in the development of their minds, I’m constantly reminded that I am helping to provide this exact experience for more kids. In essence, I get to create not just a place, but also a special time in the lives of future students.
Since we live where we work, we’re always able to ingratiate ourselves with the local community. There are several little storefronts and restaurants- but these are more than just places to buy things. Here in our village, every store and every restaurant is nestled inside the home of a community-member. So you never just order a meal or buy a snack. You always have the chance to see Didi (Nepali for older sister) or Dai (older brother) and share your lives with each other. In spending several weeks here, I have come to know the different families in town, which has made the work even more personal. I know that whenever I go sit down for tea, I can see the shopkeeper’s daughter, and know I’m helping her get a quality education. Or if I ever go get a drink at the local canteen, I know that Didi’s younger brother will be the beneficiary of my work, and he can soon have the opportunity to explore higher learning.
“Rebuilding Hope” is the slogan you hear around base often. I have to admit it seemed kind of hokey, as I first got involved. But the more you wake up early and work hard, the more you accomplish with people who were once strangers, you begin to realize that you’re all here for a common purpose. Many people have their own reasons for volunteering which drive them here. Though no matter what the reason, it all boils down to one key initiative: to rebuild hope. The sensationalism behind the earthquake may be long gone, but the devastation remains. We are here to outlast the shadow of destruction, and to shine a light on the better aspects of our human nature. Here we are at a special bridge in time, between a devastating past, and a bright future… and you and I can build it with our bare hands.