On the 7th July 2016, I along with a group of 12 other extremely excited Blackpool Sixth Form Students and 2 equally excited tutors set off on a journey of a lifetime. After a long and tedious journey, we finally touched down at Kathmandu Airport around 8 pm local time and were greeted with flower necklaces from our extremely selfless and smiley tour guide who instantly made us all feel welcome. The bus journey from the airport was truly eye-opening, even in the darkness we could see the bright colours of the local food, clothing and the smiles that seemed to grace every single local’s face, no matter what situation they were in.
Our first two days were spent exploring the local area, experiencing the culture and gaining an understanding of their religions, traditions and their way of life. We first visited Pashupatinath; a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati river, dedicated to a manifestation of the God Shiva, where we were all blessed by local Sadhus and spoke to the locals about their way of life. We then visited Durbar Square where we got a real feel for the old city by spending time amongst the beautifully adorned buildings of the main square, it was also here that the extent of the 2015 earthquake was visible - the bamboo scaffolding and crumbling, cracked walls showed just how much more work was needed to restore this beautiful country to its former glory. The next day was spent exploring two more temples, first Boudnath; the largest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal where we wandered around rubbing shoulders with the Tibetan Monks and witnessed Hindus and Buddhists worshipping in harmony with one another. Secondly, we visited Swayambunath; the infamous monkey temple where we climbed 365 steps in the sweltering heat to, as the locals believe, reach enlightenment. During our trip, we also visited a temple named Dakhisnkali, here they still host live sacrifices of chickens and goats to the Goddess Kali to appease her - the patience and dedication of the people at all these places was truly inspiring to us.
Monday the 11th July was the day that we had all been waiting for, after a very early get up and a very bumpy drive we finally arrived at Shubhakamana Academy we were greeted by lots of very excited, happy, young faces. It became clear very quickly how different this school was to any that we’d ever seen. From the tuition fees, along with savings plus donations from organisations such as Impact Travel- the company our trip was organised through - the headteacher had been able to commission a new building to be built to accommodate more children. This was an incredible achievement that students and staff alike were immensely proud of, but what surprised us was the fact that this building was where lessons were being taught already and where we would be spending most of our time, even though live wires were hanging from the walls and ceilings, metal welding was going on all around us, the toilets were not completed, no classroom had electricity and there was a single tap providing running water for the whole school population. However, despite all this, the students were some of the most joyful and positive people I have ever met.
We were welcomed with open arms by the extremely smiley headteacher who repeatedly thanked us for coming to teach his pupils and for the lasting effect he knew we would have on the children. Following a welcome assembly where we were greeted with cheers and chants from the children and presented with Kata Scarfs and tikka blessings, the hard work began, we began teaching our lessons. Each teaching pair was sent to a different class that ranged from containing pupils aged 6 right up to age 18 and each day we each taught 3 different classes. From teaching about out of space to Shakespeare, construction to psychology each person presented the children with a concept that was way out of their syllabus. I had the honour of being able to teach the children basic first aid, watching the joy on their faces as they realised that they could remember how to put their friend in the recovery position and when they found out how they could help their mum if she burnt herself was inspiring. The majority of the children will not have the ability to go into higher education and will most likely get a labour job at the end of the school education, however, they all have such incredible dreams that they truly believe will come true. When asked what they wanted to do when they were older, almost all responded with titles such as a Doctor, Scientist, Policeman, Pilot, Fireman, Nurse, with many adding on that they wanted to earn enough money to look after their families. One twelve-year-old boy called Manish deeply touched everyone in the group, living in a children’s home he had no family and very little possessions, yet the wisdom in the words that came out of his mouth inspired us all- ‘I want to be a doctor, a fireman, a policeman, I don’t know which yet, I just know I want a job that means I can help everyone in my country of Nepal.’
Before our visit, we got in contact with the headteacher and some of the other staff members to ask what would be the best use for the incredible amount of money that we had collectively raised as a group through our Christmas Quiz night, individual events such as cake sales and coffee mornings as well as extremely generous grants and donations from different people and organisations. It was decided that what was needed the most was educational equipment such as pens, pencils and paper and we were also made aware of the fact that many children were unable to complete their full years of schooling due to their families inability to pay, it was then decided that the majority of the money raised would go to sponsoring a child to ensure that they were able to gain a complete education. We had the pleasure of meeting the adorable little girl who we have sponsored Akrisha Tharpa whilst we were there, the knowledge that because of us this incredible little girl would receive a full education filled our hearts with pride.
Each day at the school brought new challenges and experiences, from attempting to teach classes of extremely hyper seven-year-olds who spoke very little English to meeting the 18-year-olds who due to the dedication to their studies knew things that in this country would not be taught until university. However with each passing hour, the friendships with the children grew stronger, their love and appreciation of their education became more apparent and the mark each of the children made on our hearts grew deeper. Our last day at the school was bittersweet, each one of us was devastated that our time with the children had come to the end but the happiness on the students as well as the teachers faces when we presented them with hundreds of crayons, pencils, colouring pens and notebooks lit up the whole school and ensured we all left with huge smiles on our faces.
This trip has taught me many things and opened my eyes to the world around me, it has taught me that positivity can ease the effects of poverty, that we have so much to be grateful for living in this incredibly affluent country and that if a negative situation is dealt with patience and a positive attitude is applied then its effects will be felt far less.