Monday, August 26, 2013

MySmallHelp Nepal Volunteer Aaron Rai

by: Aaron Rai
For many years I have been involved in the care of people in England, UK.  The house I grew up in was attached to a Nursing and Residential Home run by my parents. Instead of going through the car park to collect my lunch from the kitchen, I'd go through the home.  Not entirely sure why I did this, but the residents enjoyed seeing and all too often feeding my dog.  As I got older I wanted to buy CD's, so I got a job cleaning in the kitchen, and doing the tea round twice a day.  I ran the risk of being too slow in my work as I listened to their stories.

Whilst completing an undergraduate course at University I found the most interesting subjects to be 'Child Development' and 'Abnormal Psychology'.  Inspired, I found an open Volunteering position at a Children's Home. Thus started a career in Children's Care that saw me move location within England and see the benefits and drawbacks of rapid growth of a company.  In England there are fantastic support networks in place from the Government and Governing Bodies ensuring quality care for children and families in all circumstances.

A friend had visited Nepal and told me about Marybert Orphanage, and a child he sponsors.  Whether it be my blood being ¾ Indian or not I'm not sure, but I took an immediate interest in the neighbouring county.  Researching the social services in Nepal was enlightening.  There are many charitable organizations and without these and the people who run them, those in need, it seemed, would struggle to survive.  With a little help from my friends, I booked my flight.

Touch Down
Landing in Nepal I found a smiling man holding a sign with my name on it. 'Namaste Aaron!' and Raju made me feel welcomed at once.  The country is very different to England, but being on the road was reminiscent of past visits to family in India.
Looking cool with Raju; Stray cow crossing the road

On my first day I saw some tourist attractions with Raju and sampled some of the city life, even receiving an unexpected lecture on Buddhism from a stranger, but a friendly one…  It was especially interesting as I already had intent to visit a Buddhist monastery at some point during my stay.  Then it was time to visit Marybert.  I was overcome

with the welcome.  All of the children were smiling and so welcoming.  It's incredible when these children all try to insist you get your food first, and then continue to ask if you would like some more.  So friendly!  'Moleye Phu-ghio t/dimmi chow' – I wrote this down on a piece of paper as I would use it every evening when eating at the Orphanage; 'I'm OK, you can have it'.

Warm, friendly, loving, family environment

Settling In
I found I was to be teaching at the School.  I am not a teacher and would soon find out just how difficult the job can be when a colleague said ' You can teach this class now'.  I didn't even know what subject it was!  I'm still a long way from being a teacher, but it is good fun at Marybert as the environment is so warm and friendly.  I regularly play football with the children from the Orphanage after school time, and blame the altitude for my breathlessness, not my fitness level.  I was challenged to a game of table-tennis.  Years of competitive spirit with my elder brother meant I was not prepared to lose.  I'm happy to report I came out victorious.  Camera phones are so useful to capture these moments!

Victory; Teachers' Day poetry competition; Out collecting drinking water with the boys

The longer I stay here the more relaxed I feel.  I remember being woken on the first night because my body was covered in mosquito bites, and the first class I taught at Marybert was so daunting.  The children's kindness does not dissipate though, and the more people I speak to the more people I like.  I enjoy eating out with Noel (22 yrs old; vice principal) and Man dai (24 yrs old; staff) from the Marybert team.  Every time we go out we order extra chili out of competitive nature, dangerous but fun!  Raju and his friends have organised a trekking mission for 5 days which I couldn't be more excited about. My brother is so interested he plans to visit Nepal before I leave.

Kathmandu; Street Food with my brother Noel

On my first day out in Patan Darbar Square (was a king's palace) I asked Raju to take me to sample the real local cuisine.  Here I found there are many places to eat, but the real gems are in quiet dark corners.  Somewhat confusingly they call these places 'hotels'.  They are normally one room affairs with many locals occupying the small space eating traditional food.  Many different forms of buffalo 'meat' are on offer.  My favourite experiences thus far have been lungs, marrowbone wrapped in 'stomach' and a tomato/mushroom dish.  I have been lucky avoiding food poisoning and not had a bad stomach yet, I accept this will not last forever!

Blood and middle of spine (yellow); bone marrow and lung

Working with MSH offers opportunities to visit different locations where sponsored families live.  It's an amazing insight into how different life can be, and how much of a struggle it is for some.  I have been to Kathmandu to visit a mother who earns less than 2 pounds per day and can't afford to send her children to school without MSH sponsorship.  The cast system can be very cruel in these situations as it seems to unfairly hold people down.

Another family in Bhaktapur had ambitions blown away by the father discovering from a medical examination that he has HIV.  His health has deteriorated since, including thus far unexplained pains to his left leg.  This means he struggles for employment, and his wife earns around 50p on a good day from making hats. Without MSH sponsorship there is no way their daughter would be able to attend school. The families I have visited so far are unbelievably nice people.  They all offer food and drinks, which we decline every time as we can tell they haven't got the money to pay for it.  Their gratitude is unquestionably honest.

Lovely people; I cannot make a carpet