I was thrilled to embark on my 2-week Overseas Community Service Project in Nepal in my first year of University. The ancient city of Nepal is so rich in culture and history — it was a breath of fresh air (not literally though), yet so foreign and exotic to me. 

The village of Bhakunde Besi, Nepal.

Nepal is picturesque in her own unique way! The village of Bhakunde Besi is vibrant with colours and we were always graced by a backdrop of mountains wherever we go. The landlocked country is surrounded by mountainous terrain where the locals settle down amongst to build homes, schools, shops and cultivate crops.

In the centre of the dish we have poha — flattened crunchy rice, on top of which is black beans and nuts. In clockwise direction:hard boiled egg, bean pancake, peanuts, sweet yogurt, sambal chili, assorted vegetables and buffalo meat.

                                                                                                                          

We were hosted by a local Nepali and his Singaporean wife. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to Nepalese dishes – most of which are made of beans, lentils and potatoes and other grains. The dishes were very strong in flavour, be it sweet, spicy or salty. It’s very different from what we have back home in Singapore — but when in Rome, do as the Romans do right? 

There were certain areas where there were no barricades at the edge of the road on the mountain.

We kicked off our service project with painting a school that was built by the previous batch of volunteers. In order to reach our destination, the bus had to drive on narrow, rocky mountain roads daily and also reverse to the edge of the cliff in order to make a sharp turn (this was common for large vehicles on these roads). The first time we experienced this, I just had to pop my head out of the window to witness how close to the edge we were! I watched in apprehension and most of us were scared stiff. Fortunately, we had a very skilled driver that brought us safely to our destination, phew! 

Painting was physically exhausting but definitely worthwhile! We had light-hearted conversations, blasted music and sang along to songs whilst painting. 

After days of painting, we finally got to interact with the children through the lessons that we planned on our own.  We wanted our lessons to be value-adding to the children, not merely a touch-and-go curriculum that leaves no impression. With that, we attempted to incorporate moral values like forgiveness, kindness and patience and hone their interpersonal skills with our English lessons. We also had them take a personality test so that they can better understand themselves, their family members and peers. The flexibility to structure lessons allowed us to come up with engaging ways to teach the children.

Sharing our local games with the children

We made use of song and dance, games and arts and crafts. We thoroughly enjoyed the session and I’m sure the children did too!

In Nepal, water is rather scarce! It is stored in large container tanks and is limited for every household. We showered with pails and icy cold water daily and there were even days when water ran out. Ever since that experience in Nepal, one thing that stuck with me was my water consumption habits, I became more conscious about my water usage!

In the background, behind the girls, is what the water tank in Nepal looks like.

I recognize that water is an invaluable limited resource and the realities of the water shortage crisis have made its first hit on Cape Town in 2018. Commonly known as Cape Town’s Day Zero water crisis, there were mandatory water restrictions and rations imposed. Therefore, I believe that no matter how small the efforts may be, we as consumers have a part to play in ensuring the sustainability of this Earth. The water scarcity in Nepal changed my perspective; the contrast in lifestyles helped me recognize how comfortable I am in Singapore.  (Here’s a little tip from me: during showers, we don’t actually need to open the full tap, half the tap is more than sufficient!!) 

In retrospect, my greatest takeaway was the friendships forged through this trip. I will never forget the day my friends and I saw the moon set and the sun rose, one after another – it was beautiful. At that moment I felt so thankful to be given the chance to be in Nepal with the amazing people I was with. We all stood there in comfortable silence and in awe of what was before us; I wanted to soak it all in and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else. 


This article was brought to you by Grace Lee who was an intern at SNCF during her university semester break from June to August 2019 and is currently pursuing her degree in Singapore Management University.

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