My time volunteering
I worked as a Teacher Trainer for 12 secondary schools in a program called Sisters for Sisters in Birgunj, a small town in the district of Parsa, Nepal near the Indian border. I also had a job teaching English to students at all the schools I visited. It was an amazing time, I had the most wonderful time and made many lifelong friends. For marginalized girls in rural areas such as Parsa, who have no access to media, the internet, books, theatres, or museums, my greatest surprise as a VSO volunteer was how boys and girls can find almost infinite ways to learn; helped of course by the relationships that are built with the volunteers.
The impact of my placement
Sisters’ for Sisters’ II has focused not only on formal schooling with remedial classes for girls held within the Leaning Support Classes (LSC) but also non-formal learning for out of school boys and girls for placing them into the school system within Class 1 – 3 or higher. I and my fellow volunteer together with Aasaman Nepal, had introduced a range of teacher training measures to address the lack of both materials and pedagogy at all schools.
My unforgettable moments
There are so many! One unforgettable moment was the instant bond on meeting the Mayor of Birgunj for the first time. He was concerned with the education of girls in the government schools and had already pledged a number of initiatives such as giving of bicycles to the girls (including VSO's target schools).
Schooling is also a privileged environment for learning to live together—a SfS II benefit, capitalised on the concept of Big Sisters looking after the educational and social needs of Little Sisters. Big Sister and teacher training is not for the sake of training, but for the girl’s identity, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging that goes beyond the family and immediate community and is at the heart of the SfS programme. It is a web that breaks down the barriers that hold children in cultural and traditional beliefs that harm them, such as early child marriage, elopement, child labour, and attitudes around menstruation to name a few. These have been tackled by Aasaman and the volunteers with some success. But the purposes of schooling girls is so that their goals are enhanced by such things as understanding the natural and social world in which they live—an often hidden benefit provided by an international volunteer working with both boys and girls in the Terai.
The impact my placement has had on me
This was my first volunteer job, and I did not know what to expect, but it set me on the path for further education and development work in other countries--an experience I do not regret. Almost 3 years later now, I often reflect upon my time in Nepal and how it helped shape my life.