Development Hour Volunteering Youth Program

Volunteering: experiences in 1st person

It was about one year ago when I began what turned out to be the most rewarding project I have ever taken part in. I landed in Kathmandu, the city of chaos, on March 16 th , 2017.

I was running away from Barcelona, from the hustle and bustle lifestyle and expected to find an oasis of peace and quiet in Nepal, with its high mountains and fresh air, as we see in documentaries or travel guidebooks; however, Kathmandu was not exactly that. When I eventually went out of the city I did find out that its landscape and mountains are unique and amazing, but my first impression was that I had just got deep into a lawless city, with lots of noise and unpaved roads lacking any sort of traffic lights. Cars, buses and motorbikes share space with cows, dogs and people, all of them under a grey layer of environmental pollution. I arrived in Nepal without a clear or planned objective. I was starting a new personal project and it was about time to go with the flow and adapt to a new reality.

I had agreed with the organization in Barcelona that one of my tasks would be to update their database and teach Kathmandu team how it worked so that they could keep it updated by themselves. Nothing else had been defined, but soon Miquel convinced me to cooperate with the Youth Program. It was clear to me that beyond sightseeing and visiting the country, my place was where I would be needed and could offer assistance. Therefore, after meeting volunteers, workers and the youth group in Kathmandu office, I had no doubts but to remain there and collaborate with them. The city was still an absolute chaos, but little by little I managed to spot its charm.

We lived in Boudhanath, the Tibetan neighbourhood and we could walk to the office and activities centre, which was a privilege. Taking public transport is quite an adventure because you never know when a bus or tempo is due to, or if there will be room for you and, much less, how long your journey will take (despite being short, distances can be never-ending; that’s why their value of time is different from ours). Boudhanath is a quiet neighbourhood, with its huge stupa, and walking round it is a ritual followed by either Hindu, Buddhist or tourist people; a moment of peace, disconnection, all focused on going round the landmark while listening to mantras coming from different enclosing premises.

I arrived just at the end of the school year (their term is different from ours). They don’t have holidays in summer time, so they start and finish before, yet they don’t follow a calendar as fixed as ours, from September to June. I got the impression that they had an endless amount of vacations and public holidays. There was no week without a celebration: Buddha’s birth, Nepali New Year’s Eve, Hindu God’s festivities…something which was shocking and afterwards learned about their culture and lifestyle. That’s why, within the association, we set up a class calendar and work schedule so everyone knew whether they had to come and not. There were enough external causes, such as power cuts and internet connection failures, which limited our daily pace of work so as to also add all the country festivities.

Students from class 11 finishing their course were a youth team between 16 – 17 years old. They did a lot of activities inside and outside the centre: tuition classes, women literacy program, cooking workshops in children care homes like Siphal, etc. It seemed to me that youth students were carrying out a very interesting work and they looked committed and cheerful. To achieve this, Amics del Nepal had been doing an amazing job in developing such a Youth Program. The association provides them resources to develop their abilities and inquisitiveness as well as their willingness to change things and move out of their comfort zone. They are encouraged to take responsibility, be punctual and have a cooperative attitude. I remember Miquel being very strict with punctuality and assistance as it was the only way to raise awareness about the importance of taking on a commitment with both the association and their colleagues.

I remember the first day with the new youth team class 11 very well. It was on 23rd April and the initial project was planned to last for two months. They were around twelve downcast and shy teenagers, hardly capable of pronouncing their names. Some of them came with their mums to check what kind of training they were joining in. I thought that it would be impossible to get a word out of their mouths and much less to do any activities, but Miquel, with his artistic flair, opened their shells little by little until a team with an extraordinary power and energy able to create and innovate turned up. They were doing workshops and performing drama to raise awareness about recycling. These activities were presented at several schools and centres in Kathmandu.

The role of the volunteers is to stay with them, help and stand by them but always keeping in mind that as we are trying to improve their personal development, we never have to do their tasks. They have the abilities, only need a little push to develop them and drama and music are the perfect base to achieve that goal.

I’m so proud of having been part of this project because any small action makes a difference and things which may be insignificant for some, can be very useful for others. In the end, you realise that less is more because with not many materials, little money and few resources we can get more ingenuity, solidarity, involvement, value and union. Eventually, one should observe: What is more important? I know it, and you? 😊

Thanks Amics, “dhanyawaad satis”

Ana Albajez, 1 year later…