EVS in lovely Okhaldhunga
Now that we returned to our European home, all my friends ask: “woow Nepal, and how was it, it must have been very difficult to live there for so long!”. And all I feel is, no it was completely natural. It was our life, it became part of us. This does not mean that we never felt isolated or fed up with all the cultural differences. There were times I was daydreaming in my bed, listening to our loud rat family, which lived in the ceiling and probably had a conflict about who should eat our last banana, having my headlamp on because electricity just cut off. I was remembering with great longing to the sauna and swimming pool in my city, about having a hot cafe latte next to the fireplace with my sister and so on. But most of the times I didn’t even realize that I should be longing for something and we lived our lives there as if it was the most natural thing to do. We made friends with the local crew; Sarmila, our local volunteer and Ramesh, our local coordinator who brought a lot of fun in our lives and never stopped being patient with our increasingly innovative ideas. We had our special moments with the other 5 volunteers from Europe: we had a lovely romantic spot close by with beautiful view, we celebrated birthdays with the biggest devotion and made the most resourceful Christmas dinner I have ever seen. In our free days we did a lot of trekking, visited incredible places with views to the Himalaya, climbed up to 3450 meters, slept in a monastery and eat all varieties of ‘dhal bhaat’ (the local dish). I fell in love with the people; grandmothers kept on smiling at us in every corner, children always asked where we come from, the young girls were shy but smiley and the jeep driver guys always had one of their nails longer and painted red and wore jewellery.
We lived and worked together in groups of two, my mate was Monika, who became like a real sister to me during these five months. My feelings about our mission are mixed. I think we made a great effort to do the best we can and stayed serious about the work until the end but of course, that does not secure that it will make a real impact. Now, that we started really understanding the language, converse with the locals and got into the culture, it is over. I wish we could have stayed longer because our work from now on could become even more effective.
During the on-arrival-training in Kathmandu we developed three projects but as we arrived to Okhaldhunga we realized that although we made a plan, we have to bring out our most flexible side, because reality is different and everything is very spontaneous in Nepal. Therefore, we kept on changing our project plans until it was best suited. In the first two months, we conducted a research on women’s health in the community visiting the local households. This was a great chance to get into the culture and improve our Nepali language skills. The next project was making hygiene sessions for children in the local schools. It was a lot of fun and I had the chance to improve personal skills like organising and managing small children, teaching and multitasking. Our last project was conducting awareness campaigns for local women on health topics like breast cancer and cervix cancer prevention. I think it was the most important and effective part of our 5-month-long work in the meaning of making an impact. We visited women in all wards of Thulachhap and Taluwa where they waited for us and gathered in groups of 15-20. I was happy with the prepared plan because it was colourful and we could keep their attention well enough. I was stressed in the beginning, because nor Monika nor I was experienced in teaching but it went well thanks to the women, who were interested and welcoming. Of course, it wasn’t easy because often some arrived later or left earlier and they had to bring their babies, which made the sessions rather noisy. We made the teaching in Nepali language with the help of our coordinator, who translated every sentence for us and of our local volunteer who corrected our pronunciation from time to time. Women were very active and funny moments often occurred when for example they started the self-breast-examination during the classes or started to undress to show us some ‘suspicious signs’. It was a very rewarding feeling, that now we could understand their jokes and humour and we could laugh together with them. The sad thing was, that a lot of women told us almost sarcastically “Haha, you should tell this to my husband!”. Because thing is, that in rural Nepal it is the man who makes all decisions, including the ones about health and health services. Hospital services have a fee, which makes the matter even worse. This feeling of ‘not having the opportunity to make your own choices’ is part of the life of young girls and women in this region. Seeing them putting up with that was distressing and it was hard for me to deal with it emotionally.
The final evaluation went well and it was quite productive. This is partly because with the other volunteers we became a real group working very well with each other and partly because VIN was open-minded with our ideas and proposals. I think we worked hard to prepare a smoother ground for the following volunteers, I hope they will be as inspired by Okhaldhunga as we are.
Steady, ready, go!
Who are we? We are two volunteers from Lithuania and Spain and we spent five months volunteering in Nishanke, small village in Okhaldunga region in Nepal. We got the chance to make our European Voluntary Service (EVS) in this region, and concretely we have been working in a project called “Children’s Development”.
So what we did? We basically walked up and down, always looking directly to the Himalaya Mountains, from school to school and there we had the chance to work together with children improving personal and social skills, to support teachers and give a helping hand to them if needed.
But what does this exactly mean? It means, we squeezed our brains every day to prepare lessons where the children could play games, have fun, laugh, learn and express themselves freely.
What was the biggest challenge? Cultural differences! We come from different backgrounds and we do things otherwise. Opening minds and be ready to adapt is the best friend in these cases. But don’t worry! Warmness of Nepalese people will melt all these differences, eventually!
What was the best we take home? Smiles, hugs, friends. The feeling that we did an impact because we put our hearts in it, feeling that we took part of something that can continue and is very big. Remembering forever a lot of smiles we shared with these beautiful kids and pleasant teachers. Views, traditions, treks, small and yet very magical aspects of life and culture. Arising values, assessing different realities.
Do we recommend the experience? ABSOLUTLEY! Living this experience, getting to know the reality of Okhladhunga from inside, sharing the daily life in the village like one more neighbour, being able to communicate a little in Nepali language, listening to all of what they have to teach us, sharing thoughts with them and much more. Nepal is unique, and the only way to discover is to dive in their culture together with their people, overcome daily struggles together and most importantly be happy together!
Paulius Pakutinskas, Monica Muriel Rios