Elaine Brown from Wilderness Expertise led a team of 11 students and 1 teacher from Blue Coat School, Reading UK for a month stay in Nepal. First they went to Mustang and then to Nuwakot for community project. They stayed in local home-stays for 7 days and involved in different community based activities (30th July -5th August).
EH: How are you feeling now?
Ms. Brown: Good. Thank You.
EH: When did you start the project?
Ms. Brown: We started in Nuwakot on 30th of July
EH: How was your stay there?
Ms. Brown: Food was really good, we felt very privileged during the stay in Nuwakot.
EH: Your accommodation was organized in local home-stays, how did you manage your stay there?
Ms. Brown: We separated into groups; everybody was placed single except for:
two girls (only two of them in the whole group), one of them having the habit of eating less, one boy with the problem of sleep walking, with me at Shyam’s house and a bit naughty boy with the teacher
EH: What’s the purpose behind this program?
Ms. Brown: After we were sure that we wanted to have such program, the students started fund raising, doing jobs. They were trained, we met with blank itinerary. Once we decided to come to Nepal we did research, identified the learning needs of the students. Challenge and community involvement are the two elements that should be in the program. We met each other in different intervals of time did costing, familiarization, training etc. Despite of having nominal budget left with us after our visit to Mustang, we still wanted to do it.
EH: Why Nepal?
Ms. Brown: I had been here before and I am passionate about Himalayas, especially I admire Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu culture. So it is partly because of the leader’s choice. I had positive past experiences. During the whole course of time the students transformed themselves to be self dependent…. Personal development! All we want is to build confidence, good attitude, respect their parents etc. After this visit the students are willing to come back to Nepal.
Nuwakot community service project- Garden being cleaned
EH: How did you find the community there?
Ms. Brown: The entire community was welcoming and gentle with strong community bond with each others. Community takes care of each other in contrary to UK…a good lesson for us. Technology has not overcome their lifestyle, 4 generations in a single family. “Small scale is sustainable”.
Don’t have to be big to be happy. Nepalese lead a very happy life.
EH: What is your best part?
Ms. Brown: Best part is always different for different people. For me it is quite emotional. The importance of building relationship during the home-stay with the family of Sharmila is so far the best part for me.
EH: How was it in Mustang?
Ms. Brown: During the trek to Mustang the tea houses contributing to the community was WONDERFUL.
EH: What are the areas of your focus in Nuwakot?
Ms. Brown: Our focus was on community activities like painting and renovation, interaction, clearing local historical taps (favorite activity), plantation, short health awareness classes. We also focused on community interaction, so we organized sports like football regularly in the evening at Tudikhel.
EH: Did you find it difficult to communicate with them?
Ms. Brown: Not at all. Only in the beginning when the students were nervous.
EH: Do you see any area of improvement?
Ms. Brown: Nothing. It’s a self-contented community….some youth want to settle in modern setting, getting ready to leave, but I think they are lucky to have such a life.
EH: Difference between Mustang and Nuwakot?
Ms. Brown: Mustang very Tibetan whereas, Nuwakot is a typical Hindu community. Besides highly contrast cultures geographically, Mustang is dry- desert like Tibetan Highlands but Nuwakot is lush green, almost tropical. I loved the thunderstorm in Nuwakot, which is the most memorable moment in Nuwakot.
EH: Any last words?
Ms. Brown: I would recommend, don’t expect to be working physically, rather emphasize in building relationship. My team is ready to work again, we expected to be involved more physically like 6 hours a day of hard work but we were involved just few hours a day, opposite to our expectation. But we also learnt to manage expectation…….at the end we learnt that building relationship is very important… and we are quite happy with the whole things.