By Poonam Deep Wadhwa (Nov 2011 team, Indian, Barcalays Finance Product Control Group)
When I got to know about the teaching trip to Future Village at Katunge, I didn’t think twice and signed up readily for it. It seemed like a good opportunity not only because I could travel to the picturesque Nepal but because I was to teach kids there, a very appealing situation. I appreciated that my teaching the children for 4-5 days, along with the other team members, was not likely to make any significant difference to their lives but at the same time, it could add to my learning experience. Having been born and brought up in India, I was quite prepared for absence of certain basic conveniences such as power, a proper bed etc (the village had solar power and we were carrying our sleeping bags with us). I was also aware of poverty and illiteracy which existed in many pockets of my home city, New Delhi, and by extrapolation, in India. But I had taught kids from the slums while in school in New Delhi and was aware of the tremendous enthusiasm of the kids to learn. In short, I felt good at the mere thought of contributing.
Before the trip started, we raised funds by selling raffle tickets in a lucky draw. We also had meetings with Jessie, who made the trip possible, the group who went to Nepal in October and the group i.e. us going in November. The idea was to come up with a teaching plan and with a list of tasks that would make the trip most beneficial to everyone.
Over to Future Village: The car ride from Dhading to the village was the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced! But when we reached the village, the 2 storey house with the 2 classrooms and the 2 bedrooms did make me smile. The Future Village was a 45 minute trek for the kids and their school was another 90 minutes. The long walk in the dark and the lack of winter clothes and proper books didn’t dampen their spirit. Their loud Namaste when they would come to Future Village would bring a big smile on our faces. Their exposure to the outside world was limited. In this situation, charting out a career was obviously a far fetched thought. Despite the harsh conditions, the kids were receiving education so that they could become better guides or more educated farmers.
The kids were divided into 2 groups – the younger group and the older group. 3 of us decided to teach the older group. Some of the kids in the class were extremely shy, some were very smart and could easily answer our simple questions, some would just copy from the kids sitting next to them. Our aim was to make the kids feel at ease and in the 2 hours that we had, make them practice conversational English in class in front of others to become more confident and talk about things that interested them.
On one of the days after our teaching sessions, we had to paint the classrooms. In that process, we ended up taking out all the books from the classroom, sorting them and re-arranging them. The aim was to encourage the kids to borrow from the library and find something more suitable for their age, easily. We did tell them about the importance of borrowing from the library and reading the books. I hope the kids make good use of the library.
The day after the painting, the classrooms were still wet. So we decided to organise games for the kids. It was one of the most fun filled sessions we had organised for the kids and the smiles on their faces said it all. After the games, we were off to the high school. It wasn’t an easy walk for sure! It made us realise how tough life is for the kids and how much effort they put in for a good education. We had a very interesting chat with the principal during which we realised that the school did not have such basic facilities as a library or science lab!
Evenings were spent interacting with the rest of the group (4 other colleagues from Barclays Capital, a freelance photographer from Malaysia and another volunteer from Macau). It would get dark at 5 pm so we would chit chat a bit, have a quick dinner and be off to sleep by 8 pm as we all had to get up at 6 am the next day. Each day had something new in store for us.
All in all, the teaching trip became a different kind of learning experience for me. As a mature adult now, standing on my own feet and responsible for my own self and my parents, I began to appreciate the true meaning of education as well as the sacrifices that my parents made to provide me the gift of education that has made me what I am today. I will miss the kids and hopefully can do something for them in the future.