The Developing World Connections truly does provide an amazing opportunity to develop world connections. I was the team leader for 6 other volunteers to a newer partnership DWC has in Nepal. We spent some days in Kathmandu before heading into the Dang district for our project work, and returning to the capital city again before we left. Our project was lead by Creating Possibilities Nepal, our host partner organization that works for the realization of rights and education for women and children in Nepal, particularly working with education support for girls bought out of bonded labour and micro-financing groups in rural Nepal for women.
From our moment of arrival until and beyond departure from Dang, all of us were welcomed warmly and kindly by everyone. What we experienced throughout those next 15 or so days was life affirming, altering and amazing. Our hotel family in Lamahi (45 minutes from the worksite in Chainpur) opened their homes and hearts to us, learning our preferences for black and milk tea, accommodating our crazy Canadian requests (sleeping on the roof) and making sure our rooms were in top condition (which meant some very consistent air conditioning…what a bonus!). Our meals were provided by the family--traditional Nepali food of dhal bhat and occasionally roti, with our weekend excursions giving us the chance to try different things. I recommend trying everything (at least once!), but just a warning: if they say spicy....they mean it!!
Our purpose for being in Dang was to learn from Creating Possibilities Nepal (CPN) and help with classroom construction at Shree Higher Secondary School in Chainpur, Nepal. We were welcomed to the work site with beautiful flowers and tikkas that would become familiar to us over the next weeks from visits to the mothers that CPN supports through micro-financing groups. We worked for 6 days on brick laying for the second floor of the classroom, alongside two friendly construction workers and some of the girls whom CPN supports. We managed through pouring sweat and crazy heat to watch progress on the walls and the space we were helping create. Our typical day began at 6am, early enough to beat the intense heat, and we would work until noon, laying bricks, building scaffolding and mixing cement for our particular contribution. We played games with the schoolchildren after lunch (spicy, tasty, locally made by some of the mothers in CPN's mother's groups) before our jeep ride back to our hotel in Lamahi.
We spent another week teaching English for grades 7-10 in the school. Arrived around 10am and taught for two periods of the day (a special exception due to teacher's exams that week). There were difficult challenges for some of the volunteers in terms of how to teach and communicate effectively with such significant language barriers. It was fascinating to explore the differences between just speaking English (as it is all our mother language) and teaching it as a second or third language. This was a bonus project in our DWC experience, as things on the ground cannot always go as planned (i.e. we ran out of funding for more construction).
We worked with the guidance of Dinesh, CPN's program coordinator, while we were in Dang. He provided us with the inside scoop on development in Nepal and made sure we were comfortable and safe at all times. Great conversations, hilarious moments and some amazing experiences together have made us so thankful for having him there with us while navigating the narrow Kathmandu streets and open spaces in Lamahi.
Working so closely with our host partner was an eye opening experience into development and charity work in Nepal, allowing us to explore tough questions on the role of volunteers and foreigners as well as exploring this amazing country. DWC was essential in creating this opportunity for myself and the six other girls who volunteered and provided us with the chance for such an eye-opening and humbling experience. With the countless development issues out there that prompt severe criticality around volunteering abroad (and as a political science/international development student), I can safely say that this program with DWC was a dream for its dedication to fulfilling locally assessed community needs and remaining transparent in the learning process-- there was no "hierarchy of help" between us volunteers and the community. This is also thanks in part to Creating Possibilities, for being so willing to engage in the kinds of conversations we need to see more of in the volunteer and development sector. We were there on an amazing learning exchange that brought us unbelievable cultural experiences and created long-lasting connections with the community in Chainpur and our host partner. I would highly recommend a DWC program as your first introduction to volunteering abroad or a way to do something meaningful and conscious--the connections you will develop with the host partner and community will broaden your horizons, rearrange your perceptions and give you the chance to engage yourself in the world and realities around you.