Takudzwa Chipamaunga - Disaster Relief in Nepal
Why I chose the Disaster Relief project in Nepal
After being in university for four years straight, I decided to take a big break and do some “travelling with a purpose”. After doing much research online and attending career fairs, I came across Projects Abroad. I was really impressed with the volunteering projects the organisation had but in particular, the Disaster Relief Building project in Nepal following the two earthquakes they unfortunately experienced in 2015. The purpose of the project was to build schools for the locals in the badly affected areas of the capital city, Kathmandu. Being a civil engineering graduate I was undeniably excited to do this project because I thought it would be a great way to put my skills into practice.
Hello Nepal! – My Arrival Experience
I arrived at Kathmandu airport in the early hours of the morning and I was greeted by a hired Projects Abroad driver. He took me to the hotel where I was going to be staying overnight and I settled in. I then got accompanied by a Projects Abroad staff member into Kathmandu for a quick visit and something to eat. My first day was an eye-opener because walking through the city, I could really see the damage the earthquakes had caused and how they devastatingly affected the living conditions for the locals. Nonetheless, my overnight stay at the hotel was really pleasant as I received first-class service (unlimited good food/drinks, Wi-Fi, comfy bed!) and a good rest.
Meeting my Host Family
The following day I was greeted by a Projects Abroad project coordinator in the hotel, who took me to my homestay host family. In the first few hours I got to know each and every one of the family members and found that I really clicked with my host mother’s son, Binayak. For the rest of the day, Binayak took me around Kathmandu to markets, temples and museums. It was a pleasure to see Kathmandu in a different light, absorbing its rich culture and wonderful surroundings.
During my stay with the host family, I was introduced to different traditional food and drinks. I fell in love with the Masala tea and the veggie momos (dumplings). My host family made me feel at home and looked after me like one of their own (on some days, I’d even cook with my host mother, and I can now proudly say that I can make my own momos!) In terms of the accommodation, there were days where we had no power in the house but I did not mind at all because we kept ourselves busy by playing games and telling each other stories.
The Disaster Relief Project
I worked for a month building a school for the locals in Lalitpur, Kathmandu. The work consisted of digging foundation trenches for the school, mixing and laying cement and concrete, and then laying the bricks. I really enjoyed working with the qualified civil engineers and architects on site as they gave me responsibilities with guidance, and explained to me in depth what I had learned in university. Prior to this experience, I had never worked on a construction site before so I was proud to see how the knowledge I attained in university was helpful to this project. On site, we had sufficient breaks and beverages were provided at all times. I really enjoyed team-working with the other volunteers and socialising with the locals. We never had a dull moment on site.
The Down Time! Travelling in Nepal
After getting to know some of the volunteers on the same project we decided to travel and see the rest of Nepal. Our destination was Pokhara and Projects Abroad was really helpful in booking the transportation, accommodation and a tourist guide for us. Our guide really looked out for us and took us to visit some of the most amazing places we have ever seen. In Pokhara, we spent a lot of time visiting the local bars with traditional dancing shows and lake-side “chilling”. There were plenty more activities to do, such as paragliding in the Himalayan valleys, whitewater rafting and zip lining. Our guide made sure that we had an excellent experience.
On my last day at the site, a gift-of-thanks ceremony was held where I received a warrior scarf and the Nepali tribal face marking (don’t worry, they just rub red powder on your cheeks!). It was a very emotional and kind gesture. My last night at my host family’s home, Binayak and his brother took me to watch a movie at their local cinema (we watched X-Men: Apocalypse) and then we had a very cheerful dinner at home with the rest of the family.
Although I didn’t stay to see the school completed, it felt good to know that I had an input in giving the local children another chance to learn in the coming future and helped restore hope where it was lost.
For final words, I would like to thank everyone for making this experience possible and an unforgettable one. I highly recommend Projects Abroad for any volunteer looking to help people and gain an amazing experience.