Two-time Global Volunteer Pastor Debbie Michaels says she journeyed to Nepal “to make the world a better place.” She has some experience with that. With her focus on retreat ministry occupationally, her “com-passion” was evident as a Tanzania volunteer in 2016, and again recently in Kathmandu. Always a seeker, Debbie admits she was uncertain what she’d encounter. After a “false start” alone in the city, she was grateful for the arrival of her teammates and the start of the service program. And, soon, the children “won her heart!”
By Debbie Michaels
I arrived earlier than the rest of the Global Volunteers team for my adventure in Nepal, so I was a bit uneasy about being alone in a foreign land. However, the warm hospitality of the staff at Hotel Buddy made my first days in Nepal quite pleasant. I stayed safe in my “bubble- of- a- comfort zone” for the first day and when I did finally venture out, I made the mistake of getting on a tour bus which I assumed was a day tour but ended up being an overnight tour to Pokhara! When I discovered my error, the travel company graciously returned my money. Returning to the hotel, I got lost, but encountered a very kind elderly man selling vegetables who knew enough English to point me in the right direction. I was mesmerized by the lights in the streets, the rickshaws, the hustle and bustle of people, shops and taxis. A Kathmandu experience!
As Saturday arrived, I awoke early and began preparations for my teaching project at St. Joseph’s Academy Play School. I became more and more excited as my teammates began arriving and was especially overjoyed to see my roommate, Linda. Linda and I had served together in Tanzania on a previous Global Volunteer experience back in 2016. Saturday evening, we gathered together as a team for the “welcome” dinner. We were blessed to be joined by Buddhi Man Shrestha (Nepal’s Country Manager assistant) and his wife Madhu, (who together founded the Papa’s House Children’s Home where they care for five orphaned boys.) We had a fabulous meal and each volunteer was presented with a traditional Nepalese welcome scarf. Sunday included a full day of training and orientation for our adventure in Nepal: learning some basics in the Nepalese language, setting team goals, scheduling team journals, and thoughts for our days together. Then we were introduced to our individual host partners and had the opportunity for questions and clarity about our assignments.
“The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.”Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Century Dalai Lama
After meeting with Principal Dunbar KC at St. Joseph’s Academy, we were introduced to the Play School teachers. My co-teacher, Mary, was over 80 years old, an experienced world traveler and wonderful support as we worked with the children on their alphabet, numbers, identification of body parts, clothing, parts of the classroom, etc. They loved singing songs like Wheels On The Bus, Baby Bumble Bee, Baby Shark, and If You’re Happy and You Know It. Their excitement and enthusiasm were a joy to witness, and it didn’t take long for them to win my heart. The youngest children had a room with more space, so we were able to play more games with them. They loved Ring Around the Rosie and were delighted when I fell on the ground with them and found great joy in helping this “old Grandma” back to her feet. They loved playing with balloons, and the soft toys I brought along for an “alphabet bag”. They enjoyed the Hokey Pokey, Head- Shoulders -Knees and Toes, Duck Duck Goose, and pointing out colors around the room with “I Spy”. The teachers were all very helpful, experienced, and helped calm the children when they got too rowdy.
As we waited for the team for lunch every day, the older children would flock around us like chicks around their mother hen. Boys, aged 8-12 gathered around to find out more about me and wanted to see my “pictures from America” curious about the games I had on my cell phone. I showed them two different word games which they seemed to enjoy. The girls were so friendly too, introducing themselves, asking our names and where we were from. They loved the face glitter which I’d brought along with me. They were very excited about it. At first, I put one spot on their forehead, but then they wanted it on their cheeks, chin, nose, and hands as well. Every day they would run over to replenish their glitter.
The meals in Nepal were delicious. We enjoyed lunches of vegetable momos with veggie or cheese sandwiches at a nearby restaurant close to the school, and dinners at wonderful restaurants. One night, our adventure in Nepal took us to a wonderful restaurant where we enjoyed a traditional Nepalese meal accompanied by a live show of traditional Nepalese dances. After the show was over, some of the dancers came down from the stage and asked if we would like to join them. I was hesitant at first, but ended up joining them on stage dancing along with them. It was such fun!
“The planet does not need more “successful people,” The planet needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds”Dalai Lama
For our last weekend adventure in Nepal, my roommate, Linda and I, decided to fly to Pokhara to see another part of Nepal. Our travel guide from Hotel Buddy was both experienced and wonderful in making all the arrangements. While in Pokhara we had a beautiful view of Lake Fewa and the Himalayas. We enjoyed visiting the waterfalls, one of the local Caves, dining at a local restaurant, and walking the many shops along the lake. The next day we took a boat ride on the lake and visited an island where the people were bringing their offerings and joining together in prayer at a small temple.
In conclusion, and as a team regarding our team goals, we finally agreed that:
1. A positive contribution was made by every person on the team, even though it may not have felt like it at first.
2. In helping the community to meet their goals, Global Volunteers continued to discover more of what those goals are.
3. On learning about Nepalese culture and society, Keith offered: ( “That’s what the weekend is for,” ) but agreed with others that the rich elements of the Nepali culture was gained through our work projects.
4. When we asked about our fourth goal – to have fun – there was a resounding “yes!” by everyone.
5. We believe we promoted peace, and in the words of one of our Nepali students: “If everyone knew each other, there would be peace.” How could we say it better?
Overall, the service program in Nepal was both wonderful and exhausting. It’s always a joy to experience another culture, but especially rewarding when you fall in love with the children and they with you!
Photo credits- Debbie Michaels.