Cecilia Doucette – Teaching, Himalayan Mountain Conservation and Building in Nepal
My name is Cecilia and I’m from Ontario, Canada. I’ve always loved travelling and exploring new corners of the world. My mom and my sister both inspired me to do mission work as I grew up. I have been especially attracted to the idea of making a difference in another country, learning new languages, experiencing a new culture, and making life-long friends from around the world.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad
I arrived in Nepal with another organisation and switched to Projects Abroad about a week into my trip. Projects Abroad were incredibly understanding of my situation and processed my application in under 24-hours, which usually takes a few weeks. They sent a taxi and picked me up from the other organisation in under 48-hours from first contacting them. Everyone I was in contact with from Projects Abroad was so incredibly friendly and helpful. I instantly felt safe and secure as soon as I was picked up in the taxi. I was then taken to a hotel in Thamel, where I spent the night. I received my orientation the next day. That evening, I was taken to my new host home, where I was introduced to my host family and two other volunteers.
My Teaching Project in Nepal
The first of the three projects I did was the Teaching Project. I join this for five weeks. When I arrived on my first day at the placement, I was greeted by the principal and vice principal of the school. I was given a beautiful yellow flower, and they put tikka on my forehead. (This is a typical way to show respect and to welcome a guest). I was then given a tour of the school and introduced to the staff and students.
The next two days, I was allowed to sit in on different classes and decide which ones I wanted to help with. I spent the next two weeks in the kindergarten class. I helped with writing and pronunciation, and taught them nursery rhymes and songs. This was one of the most challenging classes I taught because the kids were too little to speak English, which made communication very difficult. For the next few weeks, I taught grades two, three, and five. I taught English and helped with other subjects.
Unlike most Western schools, the teachers move between classrooms throughout the day and the students stay in one place. Because there are not enough teachers, there were many points throughout the day when a class would be without a teacher. It was my role to fill in. When it was just me teaching, I would teach about different festivals around the world. The kids loved this. It was a really easy way to engage them all and teach them something interesting and different. Every Friday, I would quiz the class on the festivals they learned about that week. If they did well, they would get a prize. These were typically colourful pencils or animal-shaped erasers.
On the last day of my placement, I took all my classes outside and taught them different games. That afternoon, I was given another beautiful yellow flower, tikka, and a small Nepali flag. I walked away from that school knowing I had made a difference and having a very real sense of accomplishment.
Himalayan Mountain Conservation Project
The second project I did was the Himalayan Conservation Project. This is based in Ghandruk, a small village in the mountains northwest of Kathmandu. The weekend I switched projects was very long. The first night I stayed at the hotel in Thamel again. The next morning, I took an eight-hour bus ride arranged by Projects Abroad. Although it was very bumpy, it was a beautiful view of Nepal. Every corner we turned, the view changed from cliffs to rivers to villages and so much more. When I arrived in Pokhara, I was picked up in a taxi and taken to another hotel where I stayed the night. The next day, I met local coordinators for the project and received an orientation. I was then sent on a four-hour jeep ride up into the mountains. When we finally reached Ghandruk, it was a one hour hike up through to the village.
When I reached Panorama, (where all the volunteers stay) I was stunned by the breathtaking view of the mountain range. I was greeted by friendly staff and other volunteers. They offered me tea (the best I’ve ever had) and I settled in. In the three weeks I spent in Ghandruk, we did a lot of work. Every morning, we would have breakfast and then go on a wildlife survey for a couple of hours. We would then come back for lunch and have a break. In the afternoon, we would go out on a second survey.
Once a week, we would go on a day trip and do one big wildlife survey. In our spare time, we would hang out at Panorama, or go to the German Bakery (a personal favourite) and have a cup of the world’s best Masala tea while watching the snow-capped mountains. I never felt bored once, the whole three weeks I was in Ghandruk.
Weekends in Ghandruk
On the weekends, there are lots of things to do. The first weekend in Ghandruk, we did a trek up to Muldai Peak. It was a two-day journey and was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. But it was so worth it. We stayed the night in a teahouse and climbed to the summit at sunrise the next morning. Being above the clouds and watching the sun rise up over the beautiful mountains with friends from around the world was an experience I will never forget.
My Building Project in Nepal
The third and last project I did was the Building Project. I was taken in a taxi from the hotel to my new host home. I was greeted by my host mom and shown my room. All the volunteers in the Building Project live in one house. Every day, we would have breakfast and walk about 10 minutes to the main road where a van would pick us up and take us to the building site. My first day of placement was the first day of a new project for all the other volunteers. So I was lucky enough to see the progress from the beginning. In the two weeks I was there, we dug trenches, filled them with concrete that we mixed by hand, and laid the bricks. It was hard work, but it was very rewarding. We were encouraged to take breaks when we needed to and had clean water provided for us. We were allowed to play music and chat as we worked. It was very relaxed, and a ton of fun.
Final days in Nepal
The last few days I had in Nepal were difficult. It was so hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful country with such amazing people. The night I left, I was picked up in a taxi from my host home, and taken to the Kathmandu airport. On our way, there was a traffic jam. We were stopped in the middle of the street and I could hear music playing and people singing. A few minutes later, a parade went by with drums, and everyone was wearing beautiful, bright, traditional clothing and I realised it was a wedding celebration. I caught someone’s eye from the parade and they smiled and waved at me. I smiled back and we drove off. This was my last bit of Nepali culture and I was so happy I got to experience it.
I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity I had in Nepal, and so thankful to Projects Abroad for making it work. The people and the culture are so unique and beautiful. You feel at home no matter where you are, and they always serve the best tea. It was a trip of a lifetime. I will never forget the friends I made that now feel like family. I can’t wait to go back someday.
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