Retired engineer and Global Volunteers alumnus Greg Enders has been motivated by a lifelong desire to support and help those in need. He first joined Global Volunteers in China in 2008 to teach conversational English in schools. His second service program in Asia came with the opportunity to experience more of the continent’s diverse culture – on the inaugural team to Nepal in March 2019. In this discussion with Volunteer Engagement Manager Maggie Bjorklund, Greg describes what most impressed him on that program.
Was the service program everything you expected it to be?
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this service program, but, participating on the inaugural team was exciting. I’d read about the country and Kathmandu, its people, and the culture. One thing was for sure, the country is struggling. Although the government is in chaos and does little for the people, they remain strong and resilient. It’s the Nepali people who keep the country functional. They are friendly and extremely hard-working.
What relationships did you form? Who most impressed you?
I worked with BuddhiMan, a pastor and head of the “Papa’s House” orphanage who has an incredible story. He told me about how, after the major earthquake in 2015, he had traveled to western Nepal (a week’s bus ride away) to rescue five boys whose parents had been killed as a result of the quake. All together it took him three trips to complete this task. All five of them were near death, with one in particular in shock and unable to speak. After BuddhiMan’s love and care in the orphanage, they’re now all healthy, thriving, and very active! BuddhiMan is a man with a huge heart and a vision of expanding Papa’s House in order to accommodate many more orphans.
What was your main assignment on the service program?
My contribution was to paint the interior of Papa’s House orphanage. It needed an extra coat of paint as the future plan is to open its doors to many more girls and boys, orphaned primarily by the earthquake. It’s funded by the Christian church and is fairly large and in relatively good condition. Working at Papa’s House was a wonderful feeling, an added bonus, and perfect opportunity to be able to interact with BuddhiMan and the children and expose them to Western culture.
Did this experience surprise you in any way, if so, how?
I was surprised to find myself playing the role of “ambassador”. The local people and children I interacted with knew little, if anything about the United States. It seemed strange to me as English is taught in the schools, and is the universal language in Nepal. It was relatively easy to converse with the local people especially at a higher level. They were very inquisitive to our way of life, believing that we live in a very “utopian state”, but that’s about it. They have no real details. I found myself explaining what Americans really stand for and how our culture relates to theirs.
“Alas, our tour in Kathmandu with Global Volunteers, Nepal Team #1 has come to an end. Individual members of the group began filtering into the area two weeks ago – and, with a few exceptions, as total strangers. As we say our goodbyes tonight, we do so with some sadness as we have grown into a close-knit team in this short time. New friendships have been forged not only within the group but also with our Nepali partners and students at the various schools. It has been a most enlightening experience.”Journal excerpt – Greg Enders
What has this service experience meant to you?
It’s been a great experience in that I had the chance to spend three weeks (one week of personal time) and two on the project, embedding myself in the community. My time in Nepal was a nice diversion from the daily politics in the US. I learned we all face similar issues and problems, though, for the Nepali people, theirs are quite low on the “hierarchy of needs” scale! And, I have certainly made some strong connections with a few Nepali locals, a journey I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to fulfill. WOW!
“This final day of visitation at the facilities was one of joy. Farewell ceremonies, dancesJournal excerpt- Greg Enders
andsongs were the order of the day. The children showed their appreciation with genuine spirit and laughter. The teachers and assistants expressed gratitude for the sharing provided by the volunteers. Memories of this cultural exchange will last a lifetime!”