My Village Stay – Day 4

I woke up really, really early at the crack of dawn and went for a walk around the village. Everybody was still sleeping and thus it was a perfect opportunity to have some personal time to myself and to take some photos.

As the sun was starting to rise, I could here people from across the mountain side away stirring around as well. I made a surprise visit to Tlell’s house, much to the delight of her host family (yeah, the shreeman is visiting). Tlell has older kids in her family, 10 year old boy and two teenage girls aged 12 and 14 years old, and I provided the social distraction that she desperately needed at times. I couldn’t stay long as I had to report back to my family for 9am breakfast.

My morning rituals always included an ever so curious Bikita coming into my room. She is definitely the comedian of the family and my escape from my daily trials of communicating in Nepali. There were many occasions where we would play roll the basket cover, wander around the village, or I would help her practice english alphabet writing. Sometimes I would catch her poking around things that were around my room. She would wonder what they were and ask me how to open or turn whatever gadget I had on. Bikita can definitely be a handful.

The Community Project

This morning’s Nepali language class had us playing fun games about the words and phrases that we already know. The afternoon however started off on an interesting note as we began to talk about our community project. One of the goals of the project is to enhance interactions and relationships between the volunteers and community members while trying to contribute something good back to the community. Ideas ranged fromĀ  organizing health and safety workshops, educating teachers and cultural entertainment skits to school facility improvements and community garbage clean-ups.

The problem is, along with many people having grand yet best intentions, we only had 2 days to organize everything as well as a very limited budget. Furthermore, most of were not even sure what the community members even wanted or felt about these ideas. Thus, we all decided to gather all of our available host families to have a quick meeting to hear what the needs of the community were. Lets just say, that quick meeting opened up whole new can of worms.

Community meeting

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About 20 people, including numerous young observers from around the village attended our meeting. Interestingly enough, the women gathered on one side and the men gathered on the other with most of the intense conversations coming from the latter. After an hour or so, we got the final prioritized “wish list” of needs from the community.

In retrospect, we should have seen something like this coming.

The community’s first priority and greatest need was to rectify their water access issue. A year ago, their municipality and federal governments built numerous water storage facilities throughout the village. Apparently due to some sort of dispute, the water storage facilities and related connecting water pipes were not completed and thus the village was left with poor water quality and limited access.

The second item on their list was much needed repairs to their local school building and related facilities, most notably their separate washroom facilities which needed a roof. The school building itself also required repairs to its walls as well as ANY visual facelifts to make the school more attractive.

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A short side note: most of the villages who could afford it send their children to private schools and thus leaving the poorer families to send their children to the local community school. Because of poor funding, the local community school only offers classes from Grades 1 to 3 with minimal resources. I have seen textbooks, maps, and illustrations that are years out of date and most of their teaching and visual aids are falling apart. Their is also a stigma that private schools are better. Nonetheless, local community school teachers do the best they can with what they got.

Finally, an item that is very familiar to me is that the community desperately wants to start up a library. A fellow volunteer and I have a keen interest on this project and have lots of ideas on how to proceed. Unfortunately this will have to be done sometime after our village stay; fortunately we both have two years to implement it. More on that later.

In the end, we had to make a quick decision as we only had two days to prepare, a small budget, and limited knowledge and capabilities. Without a doubt, we were not able to help resolve their water issues and we were saddened about raising their hopes about it. But we can do possibly address some of their local school communities woes while having some community fun at the same time.

Thoughts?