Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I was able to travel to Nepal this summer to complete a year-long charity project run in association with the Nepalese charity KEEP (www.keepnepal.org). A team of 9 Edinburgh University students raised over £10,000 during the academic year to rebuild a primary school in a Nepalese village that had been destroyed in the earthquake. We travelled out to the village of Adhuwabari, Dhading, straight after exams at the end of May and spent 10 weeks living in the village and helping to reconstruct the school building.
Dhal baat o-clock
As this was an entirely student-run project, we had to raise the costs of our flights and accommodation in Nepal ourselves, as well as book our flights, coordinate costs and details with KEEP and arrange our homestay. This was understandably pretty stressful and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! The language barrier was an obvious concern, as well as where we would be living in the village and the state of our food and water. Our whole team had also never assembled all together until we arrived in Kathmandu, so we were all still relative strangers.
Team work makes the dream work (or at least the cement)
However, within a few days we had settled into our new home thanks to our wonderful hosts and some interesting sign language skills! Our ‘Ama’ (mother) cooked ‘dhal baat’ (rice with lentil soup) for us twice a day, at 10am and 8:30pm. If at first we were less than enthusiastic about the cuisine, hopefully by the end of our stay we had convinced Ama that her cooking really was ‘mito’ (delicious)! Ama’s ‘chia’ (hot spiced tea) was a divine treat of a wake-up call before we headed to the worksite, although our habit of dunking biscuits in it was something of a novelty to her.
The foreman and engineer were amused by our initial attempts at shovelling sand but took us under their wing and we were soon laying bricks in (reasonably) straight rows. If ever a house needs building, we will now be first choice for cement mixing team. The schoolchildren were ever present during our stay and they were endlessly friendly and energetic! Hopefully some of the classes we taught will stick with them…
(Almost) Finished! The doors and window shutters will be brought up to the village as soon as any vehicle can make it up the track.
Due to monsoons, the track up to the village from the main road was essentially destroyed, so the doors, window shutters, desks, chairs and other classroom supplies will arrive as soon as truck can make the journey up.
The team on our final night at our favourite Thamel eatery