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Noel Lai - Care & Community in Nepal

Another volunteer and I

Namaste! This is the greeting I heard every day during my two-week stay in Kathmandu, Nepal in June 2012. As a soon to be first-year university student from Vancouver, BC, I came to Nepal for several reasons. I wanted to be able to give back to the community on a larger scheme, immerse myself in a brand new culture and also challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Projects Abroad’s Care and Community placement spoke out to me as it touched on these areas that I was interested in. They also did a well-rounded job of ensuring my safety and comfort, as well as technical tasks such as booking flights and accommodations.

Janusz Drag, our placement’s volunteer coordinator, greeted me right from the start when I arrived at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Being a foreigner who didn’t speak the language or look like everyone else, it was tough and intimidating at first stepping out into a new environment. My flight had also been delayed for a few hours so I arrived a bit later than expected.

I had a few moments when I felt lost and confused waiting for my luggage at the airport. I mean, spending over 24 hours at airports and in airplanes was extremely tiring and restrictive. However, I had an opportunity to talk to Janusz and learn more about him as well as some basics about Nepal in the first taxi ride. I realized that this was going to be my home city for two weeks and I was also pretty excited to meet my fellow placement volunteers.

Children painting

Upon arrival at the hotel, I dropped down my bags, shook hands with my three fellow placement volunteers and checked out some places and locations around the hotel that we had to be familiar with. The staff and volunteers who I had a chance to meet that first day were extremely welcoming, friendly and approachable.

The Care & Community placement

Projects Abroad allowed me to work with malnourished children at a nutritional rehabilitation home. We painted walls and terraces, played with the kids and learnt to cook traditional Nepali food and work with the mothers and children there.

When we were painting, we were able to use our creativity and paint sea animals like octopus, jellyfish and other creatures that the kids would marvel at. A memorable experience would be a young boy putting his hands on wet paint only to get his whole hand covered in blue paint. He would then walk around and get some stains around the paintings, which we easily covered up.

We also learned about how the nutritional rehabilitation home was teaching the mothers how to take proper care of their children’s diets and the foods and kinds of cooking that were introduced to them. For example, they learnt about the importance of a balanced diet with food including meat, vegetables and other sources that could provide vitamins and minerals on a fundamental level. The mothers were encouraged to cook food for specific amounts of time so as not to overcook and deprive the food of its natural nutrients.

I especially found this important and relevant to life, as nutrition is something I am interested in studying. As well, I believe it is an essential life skill to understand and carry out, whether through cooking a meal or learning about which foods to choose. We also had a chance to visit an HIV home for kids and learn to make traditional “momos”, which are similar to dumplings, and also try them after they were cooked. They tasted delicious!

Painting the walls

Janusz proved himself to be an amazing leader throughout the placement. His sense of humor resonated with us and the kids and he got along well with the Nepali people as well as maintained a sense of knowledge and fun. Afterwards, I learned that he would be leading more volunteer trips and placements to Tanzania as well as other places around the globe, which I would love to be involved with one day in the near future.

Free time in Nepal

We also hiked through a jungle-like forest with lush trees and unique animals like hippos, elephants and exotic birds.

With a lower standard of living, my most stunning images of the busy city capture the dusty streets, non-existent traffic lights and warm smiles of the welcoming Nepali people. I realize now that there is something so powerful about the connections I have had in Nepal. The whole experience has granted me an ability to be present in the moment and create life as it happens. I will continue to be thankful for all the things in life that keep me grounded to my happiness.

I definitely recommend Projects Abroad to anyone, youth or young adults, who want to try something new in a country and learn wonderful things. This was an incredible two weeks I will never forget and I look forward to more of these experiences to come!

Read more about Care & Community High School Specials in Nepal

Noel Lai

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