From Adventure to Achievement
4 years ago I thought that I really ought to start having adventures, after all I was not getting any younger and although I have lived a very satisfying life it has been risk free. So at 63 a spent a week sailing in the English Channel on Challenger2, an Atlantic racing yacht. Despite a force 5 gale I could thoroughly recommend it as an experience. It did give me a taste for adventure so the next year I set off to volunteer and travel in Nepal. I finally signed up with an organisation called Volunteers Initiative Nepal after countless hours on Google looking for reputable (and affordable) company. Why Nepal? Well, there had recently been a devastating earthquake, women were very poor, ill-educated and seriously second-class citizens. I also had a connection in Nepal through Soroptimist International.
Arrival in Kathmandu. Wow! it was Tihar: The festival of lights This festival lasts for five days and it was an assault on the senses, Kathmandu that most exotic sounding of capital cities, was awash with noise and colour. As a treat I stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House which has seen many famous individuals staying, not least the Beatles and JFK. This did not prepare me for my home stay…..
Volunteering induction, firstly I was quite put out to find there were 2 volunteers older than me, Daisy and George were 84 years old and had come from Canada to Nepal to support the training of teachers. The good news is that means I have at least another 20 years of adventures. I find myself with around a dozen volunteers from all corners of the globe (why do we use that phrase, it’s not as if the world is square?) Young French men have come to build toilets, young Americans come to teach English in Buddhist monasteries, young Antipodeans to teach women’s empowerment classes, a young Japanese girl to work in a nursery and an English and South African couple come to Nepal via China to teach in local schools, these are just some of the wonderful people I meet. We learn basic Nepalese words, get loads of hygiene warnings and instructions not to ride on the top of buses. We also firm up on our intended activity and I had signed up for empowerment and women’s enterprise training. Next stop Tinpiple and Rama’s house.
After a very bumpy hours ride out of Kathmandu, heading north (I think) dropped off at what I would describe as a modest dwelling and are warmly welcomed by the family especially their 11-year-old son Navin (a keen CR7 fan!) who becomes chief translator. A routine quickly becomes established, chocolate biscuit and black tea for breakfast and dal baht in a pack up and a walk down the mountain to work. Most of my time is spent working with Tina, a young Austrian woman putting together a fundraising proposal for the Jitpurphedi Women’s Agricultural Cooperative. We work in the VIN office or in a small hut in a nearby hotel with fantastic views over the valley. We meet with the Cooperative’s President and meet with the architect from Kathmandu and we measure the land and photograph the land registry document. We write to past volunteers and get over £1200 in before we leave. I promise to raise the money and the women invite us back for the opening of the building. Back in the UK, the promise weighs heavily on me and I am determined to fulfil it. I set up a not for profit (which takes nearly a year) Friends of VIN UK both to use as a fundraising vehicle and to support VIN. I am very lucky when my local soroptimist club SI Leeds makes a donation of £50,000. which means the project will go ahead. I get regular updates on progress and visit the site in December 2018 with my fellow soroptimist Anne. it is very exciting and the women are already using the building for classes even though it is only a shell and still a building site (so much for Health and Safety!) Finally, on 28th November, just 3 years since arriving the building is complete and formally inaugurated in front of hundreds of women and a number of VIP’s including a Minister of State. I feel slightly overwhelmed by it all and can hardly believe it. I take time to reflect, I don’t want to rest on my laurels and look forward to my next project in Nepal.