A snapshot into Spring 2016, volunteering with ICS Raleigh International on a sustainable livelihoods project. I spent 3 incredible months with a mixed Nepali-UK team in the breathtakingly beautiful village of Bhalu Khola in the Makwanpur region of Nepal.
By Sashi Thapa and Vicky Bennett
The fun and games were over when it was our turn to lead team NC1 from 2nd – 10th April. Average temperature: 36 degrees. Wind: none. It was not only the last week of Nepali calendar year 2072 but also the final week of phase two, marking 66% of our cycle’s completion. We had three training events and one awareness-raising day to pull off before we could re-orientate ourselves with social media, beds with mattresses and bucket-free showers at phase review. To our team, we promised neither mercy nor respite.
And so we meditated every day. For ten minutes at around 12:30 we breathed deeply and sonorously. We felt good. We then facilitated an Introduction to Entrepreneurship session to 14 youths on day 1. After this, we organised a day-long, local expert-led training session on the use of chemical fertilisers. The following day saw a practical offshoot from this, in which organic farming techniques were demonstrated and herb-based liquid pesticides were concocted by all 27 participants. According to the feedback, all three of our training sessions were found extremely fruitful and we could see for ourselves that ideas had been planted and that the stares were far from vegetative.
World Health Day flanked the organic farming session in two parts. We met at 6am for part 1, in which we capitalised on the village’s ‘dairy rush hour’ – everyone’s milk deliveries to the dairy – and held a fair on the theme of health. We presented 5 interactive ‘stalls’, covering the following topics: menstruation, hygiene, diseases, contraception and nutrition. Part 2 was held after the organic farming session had concluded. In World Health Day alone we engaged over 125 people and were impressed anew with the turnout and active participation of the community. What was most unexpected was the dominance of the menstruation stand, which sparked heated, but useful debate between generations and genders on traditional Hindu attitudes to the ‘curse’ or ‘blessing’ which is the menstrual cycle.
This week, NC1 was also treated to a seminar on nutrition by Nirali, a musical session led by Mark and Amulya, and even an impromptu Spanish lesson by Phil. We also introduced volunteer 1-2-1s, some new energisers and fuelled ourselves with an industrial-sized fruit salad. The last night was a celebration of Phil’s birthday, in the form of a BBQ by the river, as is now tradition for the last night of each phase. It concluded thoughtfully with the individual hand-feeding of cake by the man of the moment. Unfortunately mouths were often missed and even the guitar became collateral damage in a brief rendezvous with chocolate-flavoured cream.