Reflections on volunteering in Lamjung, written by Rebekah.
Once we had conquered the dizzying heights of Mardi Himal’s ‘Super Viewpoint’, our next challenge came with our arrival in Besisahar, a village about 4 hours from Pokhara, and the task of working at a combined primary/secondary school for the next 9 days. The bus journey, complete with an escaped chicken flying around, was our first encounter with a slower-paced and more traditional, rural way of life.
Our introduction to this way of life continued with a visit to New Era School, to meet the principal for a ‘chat’ – or at least that is what we had been told it would be! On our way to the school we spotted the students lining each side of the school’s outdoor space and simply assumed they were still in the middle of an assembly. But as we rounded the corner to the school’s entrance, we quickly realised we were mistaken – they were all lined up to welcome us!
After shaking the hands of various teachers, being decorated with handmade flower garlands and traditional scarfs, and walking between the lines of clapping children, we made it to the office, feeling very honoured. Our chat with the principal resulted in an immediate start to teaching. Slightly terrified, we made our way to Class 6 with the teacher Ausmita, – who was to become one of our good friends – where we were met with 40 shy but smiling faces, eager to chat to us. 40 minutes later as the bell sounded, we were in the middle of singing the British national anthem (after Rach was asked to demonstrate her singing abilities and roped the other two of us in!). It was hard to think of a song that all three of us knew when under pressure!
Lunch came as a very welcome break! We were welcomed by the Kim family, and met with the three Kim girls’ excitement at having three new “aunties” to play with. The Kims are a missionary family, working in a hospital in Besisahar while home schooling their children. Their Didi’s dal bhat proved to be one of the best that I’ve had so far in Nepal, and I looked forward to it with much excitement each day!
After lunch we made our way back to New Era, after a quick run back to our hotel to pick up what proved to be essential supplies… a parachute and five inflatable balls. The afternoon saw great excitement for students and teachers alike, with parachute games of ‘fruit salad’, and ‘parachute volleyball’. By the end of the first day we had established a system of 2 of us at the school and 1 of us helping with the Kim girls’ home schooling, which was rotated each morning and afternoon.
The next few days brought more parachute games; introductions of Duck Duck Goose, Father Abraham and the Hokey Kokey; and being quizzed in English on what seemed like every topic under the sun. If I told you about every activity of every day, I would keep you reading for about a week! So I’ll sum up some of my highlights:
- Being placed in a class and asked very expectantly if we had any games related to first aid. This led to my first aid training being put to good use in teaching the recovery position to a class of 30, with Rachel lying on the dusty classroom floor acting the ‘victim’ – which seemed to be their name for a casualty. It wasn’t a ‘game’ exactly, but then what games are related to first aid?!
- Teaching our youngest class – Grade 1 – the parachute game ‘fruit salad’ and seeing the teachers adapting it, so their classes understood it better, and then leading it whilst we sat back and had a cup of tea. I found it very encouraging to see the teachers getting to grips with the new games and songs we brought.
- Teaching the Hokey Kokey to grades one, two and three proved to be great fun. The children absolutely loved running into the middle on ‘ohhhh the Hokey Kokey’ and dragging each other back out again. The fun reached to the English teacher as well, as he enthusiastically joined in during one of our lessons. He later explained that he had learned it when he was a boy at school, but had since forgotten it. He thanked us for bringing it back!
When we got brave enough, we decided to teach dodgeball to grade seven and six! After an initial demonstration by Rachel and I, the girls looked very skeptical as to whether or not this was a fun game, whereas the boys were raring to go. Thankfully, less then a minute later, everyone was having a great time and the teacher decided that she should also join in! Despite the chaos of balls flying everywhere, the children shouting and laughing made it very much worth it.
My last highlight from New Era was ceilidh dancing! After having many classes perform dances to us – including one very enthusiastic class where dancing broke out during a maths lesson, resulting in children jumping over and on top of desks to get to the ‘dance floor’ at the front – it was good to be able to teach them some dancing in return. Rachel did a great job teaching pairs of children (and me) how to ceilidh, at a moments notice.
Our time in New Era came to an unusual end. We were taken to the schools’ canteen for a staff meeting which, an hour later, turned into a thank you and goodbye to us… a speech from the principal, yet more scarfs and a series of photos.
After this, our time in Lamjung was unexpectedly extended (woooo!). We found the extra day to be a great blessing, enabling us to spend extra time with the Kim family and our Lamjung supervisors, Simon and Wendy. Hanging out with the Kim girls outside of the homeschool involved playing at the local sand field, watching movies with massive amounts of popcorn, and going for dinner at a local tandoori. Happily, we also managed to squeeze in a walk up to a traditional Nepali village on Tuesday morning, where we were able to take some time to appreciate more of God’s great creation and meet some very friendly locals. The Kims’ thank you and goodbye involved no speeches, scarves, or photos, but an apple crumble, which Jenny Kim made for us on our final afternoon. This came after two weeks without pudding – a perfect way to end!
My personal highlight from Lamjung was feeling so close to God, for with the daunting task of having to teach 6 classes each day, I really had to rely upon God and his grace to get me through and provide some much needed inspiration (this inspiration even seemed to come in the form of the ‘the wheels on the bus’ and ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’!). Through my morning devotions God gave me the verse, Joshua 1: 9, which was a real encouragement. The evening ‘sungatee’ (fellowship) meetings which we went to were a blessing to me as well, as despite understanding only the odd word, it was a place where I really felt the presence and power of God in fellowship with Nepali believers.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9 (NIV)