Volunteer Report 2 from Jake
Jake's Report 2
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Owing to the fast-approaching exams and school holidays, Grace and I could offer little assistance in Gorkha so we decided to head to Kathmandu for Holi to regroup. The teachers had asked us to head to the school on our last day to "say goodbye" and I was absolutely blindsided by what followed. The whole school was packed into a narrow area, with chairs for us to sit in, and the English teacher thanked us for what we'd done for the school before rubbing a red line across our foreheads (picture Simba in The Lion King). The headteacher's daughter then told us that Holi was coming, wished us a happy one, and covered our entire faces in red powder. It took at least twenty minutes to leave the school gates for the sea of high fives and handshakes, and a group of students followed us halfway home asking questions and posing for selfies. It was far more moving than I could possibly have imagined.
It was excellent timing for us that our search for a new assignment meant that we'd be free to spend Holi in Kathmandu, particularly in Thamel. Holi is simultaneously easy to explain but nigh on impossible to do justice. The streets are packed with both locals and tourists who are rubbing various colourful powders on the faces of every passerby and wishing them a Happy Holi while people on rooftops and balconies throw water onto unsuspecting crowds. Everyone outside is fair game (except police - they will not see the funny side) and very quickly anyone's attempt to do stylish patterns or war paint will be one layer of a hundred. I had so much colour that it merged into a brown paste, before a bucket of water from a rooftop turned me back into a fresh canvas. Maelle and I even got interviewed by a local news station. The camaraderie is intoxicating, and by sunset there was a ceasefire after everyone's vain attempts at washing away their colours. Exhausted, the whole city seemed to agree "we'll clean this up tomorrow."
Shanta (Nepal's most resourceful woman) got us set up quickly in a School Plus program, "In Giving We Receive." We live and work with about fifteen volunteers, almost all of whom are students ages 16-18. We were very, very impressed with what we saw. The first thing students do on arrival is brush their teeth and wash their hands, and then activities vary. At present they are revising for exams, but throughout the year they have done art, sports, music, etc. The most impressive feature is that all of this is done in English. All the signs on the walls, all the posters regarding hope and teamwork, and the class rules are in good, but simple, English. The confidence this had given the students in their language ability is immediately visible.
We had a meeting with all the volunteers on our third day to discuss ideas, and they did not seem to understand what a good job they're doing. Our main three suggestions, which will be implemented over the following weeks, were:
Vocabulary-specific artwork made by the students (for food, sport, anatomy, etc.)
Computer literacy lessons, including typing games and possibly pen pals in the UK.
World history lessons taught in English, so they can practice their language while broadening their worldview.
We're very excited to implement our ideas, and deeply flattered that IGWR were just as excited.