Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A blog from Sarah

Blog post written by Sarah West who volunteered with PoD Nepal for 5 weeks over the summer. She worked at Annapurna Primary School, the Street Kids Center and Asha Foundation. Here's what she had to say about her time with PoD...

Sarah getting Henna from one of the girls at the Street Kids
It is a cliché but volunteering in Nepal was the most amazing thing I have ever done. I was lucky enough (due to Nepalese summer holidays) to spend some time doing childcare and teaching, as well as at the Street Kids Centre. I learnt and gained so much from each placement and would be hard pushed to choose one which I enjoyed the most. The Nepali people are so welcoming and friendly, and this was magnified at the placements. The children were great, so eager to learn and participate; it was a very heart-warming environment to work in. 

Sarah and Crys with Tika a teacher from the school and her husband

Going with PoD was the best decision I could have made. Prior to leaving and once I was there, there was always someone willing to help me in any way they could. From the team in the UK answering all my questions and providing much practical support and reassurance, to the support and encouragement I received from Chrissy, I always felt confident and capable of performing to the best of my ability.

Staying with Bindu and her lovely family as well was wonderful. They created a home away from home for all of the volunteers and would go out of their way to make our time there as supportive as possible. Unfortunately, in my second week in Nepal I got a chest infection; it is never nice feeling  being poorly away from home however Bindu and her family really took care of me and did everything they could to make me feel as comfortable as possible. They were lovely and I cannot thank them enough!
Arts day at Asha 

There are obviously aspects of life in Nepal which can be challenging. Strikes, power cuts and monsoon rain can make seemingly simple everyday tasks difficult, as well as the countless school holidays which you are informed of that morning. However, I feel strongly that these very Nepali occurrences enabled me to become more flexible and less rigid as a person. The local people do not get frustrated by these situations, so as a visitor to a culture you are left with the choice; embrace them like the locals or find another way to cope. For example, the unexpected holidays became bonus days when we could climb up to the Peace Pagoda or go to the Bat Caves.
View of Pokhara lake.

Nepal gave me the opportunity to meet likeminded people, many of whom I’m sure will be friends for life. Staying in Lakeside Pokhara, there is so much to see and do, from yoga on the lake to open mic nights at the local restaurants. The mountain views never grow old, it is a simply stunning part of the world. I would really recommend volunteering with PoD in Nepal; I gained so much from my time there and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am planning to return as soon as I can! 

If you would like to volunteer in Nepal with PoD and see Sarah is talking about, then please contact Gemma in the UK on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last week at PoD Nepal.

Begnas Tal the 'other lake' about 20 minutes from where the volunteers stay

It's been a busy week here at PoD Nepal (I feel like I start every blog post off that way, as lets be honest, it's always busy here!). When the volunteers haven't been at work they have been spending their time visiting Begnas Tal, the Peace Pagoda, Chitwan Safari Park, Paragliding and Rafting (we've got an active bunch here at the moment) and we also had the pleasure of celebrating Laura's 18th birthday this week! 

On Friday's we always volunteer as a group at the Asha Fondation which is about 20 minutes by taxi and then a beautiful 30 minutes walk through rice paddies. This week we thought it would be nice to do tie dye Tshirts with them, but as I failed in finding the dye, we decided to do some painting instead. It was great to get ALL the children involved. The children at Asha are from 5 to 15 years old so it is often hard to find an activity that would suit them all, but painting is the way forward I think! They were all very creative and came out with some great artwork that hopefully will be up on the walls once it is dry. 

We have been working closely with SOSBahini, a girls refuge for a few years now, but previously only on Saturdays or during school holidays. However, Raymond, the director has recently asked me if volunteers would be interested in helping out between 3-6pm, after school either in the HUB where some of the younger children are, or in the Crossroads house which is where they older girls stay who are doing their nursing, or higher education studies. Most of the girls go to local government schools which means the level of English they are taught is generally quite low (you would be surprised to hear that many of the English teachers, do not actually know English themselves and simply read from the books) and so Raymond would like us to help with their homework and conversational English. By us being there, they chat in English, build up their confidence and improve their vocabulary. In Nepal, learning English is crucial for them for their future so obviously we are more than happy to help out.

I was in for a surprise when I visited Bahini on Monday however. When I went on Thursday I noticed how fat Luna, their dog had been getting, but was told she was just getting old and lazy, but then the very next day we were greeted by 9 adorable new puppies! Mum and pups are all doing well and they have made Luna a lovely little room with straw and blankets and are keeping her very comfortable. What a lovely surprise!

We also had the pleasure of taking ALL the children from the Street Children's Rehabilitation Center (plus one of the neighbour boys who snuck in!) out for pizza in Lakeside Pokhara. For those of you who already know the kids, will know that this is a great trip as they rarely get to venture into Lakeside and their normal diet is Dal Bhat (the Nepali traditional dish) twice a day. You can see from the looks on their faces how happy they were! They demolished 9 pizza's in under 30 minutes!! I'd like the say thank you to all the volunteers for coming along to this evening as it was such a great night (Although B.J, one of the youngest kids, might have over done it slightly as he vomited quickly afterwards!) 

I know many of you will be wondering how Annapurna Primary School is getting on since the burglary, and I am happy to say they are doing surprisingly well. We have re-stocked them with some basics (pencils, paper etc) and have told them that we will help get some items for the nursery once they have improved their security. Currently there is a gap between the walls and the roof and that is how the burglars got in, Bina (the head teacher) is having a meeting with all the Board Members to get this sorted. So that is good news as well. Two of our current volunteers went to Tika's house (one of the teachers at APS) for lunch at the weekend which was a lovely afternoon and a great way to get to know the teachers better.

It is slowly getting cooler in Nepal now and we are starting to see the mountains a bit more regularly.

If you would like to join our team out here in Nepal then please contact Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Its nice to be back!

Hello!! It's Chrissy this time, officially back to work with PoD for my second year. I have just arrived back in Pokhara and I have to say it's great to be back. although it is a lot muggier than I seem to remember! I had a wonderful holiday in the UK full of weddings, mini breaks, catching up with friends and family, and now I'm back and ready to get to work.

This is me with my family at my sisters wedding in the UK
 Harriet did an amazing job whilst I was away (I was pleased to see my flat still in one piece!) and it's clear that all the children LOVED her. Although I got a lovely welcome back, it was quickly followed with 'but why has Harriet left' !! I would like to say a massive thank you to her for taking care of everything so well out here. (Not only did she take over my job but she also had the task of keeping an eye on my dog as well and for those of you who have met her will know, that's not always an easy task!)

I've just about caught up with Bindu, Janice, Julia, Phil, the placement staff and the 4 volunteers we currently have in country and am delighted to see that things are going well. They are all really enjoying their placements and getting on very well.

However, on a sadder note, it was a shame to hear about the burglary that happened at Annapurna Primary School, one of the poorest schools we work with. They didn't have much in the first place, and most of what they did have (the toy boxes, books, pens and crayons) had been donated by the PoD Charity. It is devastating that this has happened to them and we are hoping that we can help get them back on their feet. I have a meeting with the chairman in the next few days to determined what is essential to replace to keep the school running and we are hoping that the PoD Charity can donate some emergency funds as it would be such a shame for this school to shut down. All the toys were taken from the nursery, they even took every pencil they could find. For those of you who have had the pleasure of going to Annapurna Primary School, you will know how devastating this will be for Bina, Tika and Anita. It's great that we have two wonderful volunteers at Annapurna at the moment to support them during this difficult time.

We've got several volunteers arriving in the next few weeks and lots planned, but for now I am off to the Street Children's Center to say hi for the first time in 6 weeks. Can't wait!

Fun and Games at the Street Kids

If you would like to join our team out here in Nepal to continue the hard work that we are doing, please contact Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org or call the UK Head Office on 01242 250901. If you would like to donate to the PoD Charity to help Annapurna School get back on their feet then please follow this link.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Highlights of summer in Nepal '13

I can't believe it is already time for me to leave PoD Nepal, after (the fastest) 6 weeks. 

It has been an absolute privilege to be given the opportunity to return to Nepal and see the invaluable work that PoD continues to do with the most deserving of children!

It has been a pleasure to welcome such hardworking, enthusiastic and talented volunteers and support them throughout their time here.

A summer in Nepal, however, is never all work and no play and am pleased to say I have had also had lots of fun!

Thought my last blog could show a few of my highlights from the last 6 weeks!

Current volunteers embracing the Nepali culture
1.Working alongside brilliant volunteers who have all put a great deal of hard work into the placements. Here is a few of our recent volunteers, embracing the Nepali culture, and trying on sari's from Bindu's impressive collection).

Our brilliant host family

Bindu and I

2. We are very lucky in Nepal that we are all welcomed into Bindu's family and made to feel like part of the family. Volunteers often comment on how "home like" their stay has been.

3. My main highlight: the incredible children we work with in a variety of different placements, who never fail to amaze me with their optimism, personalities and ability to cope with adversity.

Pupil at Annapurna Primary School

Asim at Asha Foundation 

A big thank-you to all volunteers, staff, and most importantly the children for making my time here so special.