November 27, 2023, by Rebekah
Global Placement Grant – My Time in Nepal as a Volunteer Teacher
by Albert Salimov, third year Politics and International Relations student.
Over the summer, a group of students and I spent 15 days volunteering in remote mountain schools in Pokhara, Nepal where I taught children aged 7-11 English, maths and science and organised football and volleyball sessions. The team and I also worked on numerous maintenance projects, such as building the foundation for a school kitchen, painting classroom walls and resurfacing a playground.
The volunteering experience was with Travelteer, a charity that specialises in overseas volunteering programmes and who are partnered with the University of Nottingham. They have volunteering programmes in Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and Nepal and I chose the latter because I’m very passionate about community development and working with people. I also wanted the chance to see the Himalayas and to learn more about Buddhism and Hinduism.
My time in Nepal was incredibly rewarding. I had an amazing time teaching such enthusiastic and curious children, and I learned a lot about myself. At first, it was slightly challenging to begin teaching as we weren’t fully aware of how much they knew. There was also the language barrier, however their English was way better than our Nepali and we also had an interpreter who could help us out. Regardless, after a few exercises on arithmetic and brainstorming as many words as possible of each alphabetical letter we became very comfortable to teach.
I remember one moment in which we covered greater than and less than values in maths. When I introduced negative numbers (for instance, that negative 2 is less than positive 1), a lot of the kids were quite confused by this. After a lot of attempts to explain how this works, I thought the best course of action would be to use a number line to illustrate the value of numbers and why positive numbers are always larger than negative ones which did the trick – problem solving is one of many skills this programme developed for me. The most enjoyable aspect about volunteering abroad is the people. It made me more appreciative of the things we have in the UK that many other places in the world lack, such as safe to drink tap water. Nevertheless, I will never forget the kindness, hospitality, and warmth of the people I met in Nepal. From the bustling streets of Kathmandu to the stunning landscape of Pokhara and the beauty of Fewa Lake, nothing prepares you for the breath-taking scenery. I had amazing times walking through nature, trekking along the foothills, and exploring temples.
In terms of what to look out for, I would say be prepared to travel long hours. It was approximately twelve hours to get from Heathrow to Kathmandu, including the layover, and ten hours to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus. However, it makes many stops on the way, providing an opportunity to try delicious local food and look at the scenic landscapes. A challenge I faced was the fundraising journey ahead of Nepal. I began on Christmas Day the previous year when I went to a charity swim in Lowestoft, Suffolk to raise money which was then followed by a half marathon at the end of February in Nottingham. Although the half marathon and the training beforehand were great fun, in hindsight a bake sale would have required less effort. Also, when you’re abroad, definitely bring mosquito spray with you. Another thing I would say is be curious and embrace the culture. Try to learn some useful phrases and don’t be afraid to talk with locals. You’ll have some great conversations that may alter your perspectives and they will point you to the best restaurants and attractions during the weekends. Nothing beats that human connection.
Look out for the Global Placement Grant, you can find out more on the University website or from Steve Vaccarini, Faculty Placement Manager. There are also local charities or organisations who support young people in their leadership journey. I was very fortunate to have had Nelsonspirit, a Norfolk-based charity, offer me a generous grant towards my volunteering experience, as well as big help from friends and family. I’m very grateful for the generosity of the University of Nottingham. My time in Nepal as a volunteer teacher was very impactful and if you’re reading this now, I hope you consider volunteering or working abroad. If you do, you know where to find the support!
To find out more about Travelteer volunteering opportunities, check out their website.
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