Saturday, 22nd of March kicked off with the Education team (approx 25 volunteers ) congregating at the United Trade World Centre to have a review & planning day. We went through the top line results from the community & school surveys that the volunteers in the four districts of Dhading, Lamjung, Parsa and Surkhet painfully undertook over the last few months. The soon to be departing volunteers and newbies like me, also discussed learnings and future ways that the team can work together.
Some of the Education crew
Raj, our programme manager
At the end of the day we waited for the bus, carrying the remaining volunteers to pick us up and we headed out of Kathmandu Valley (in the pouring rain), towards Nargakot for 3 day Annual Volunteer conference. Thankfully, the sing along, darkness and misted windows hid the scary mountain winding journey. After a three hour journey, we had to vacate the bus and walk the final hill to our hotel, as it was loadshedding on arrival, it was tricky to find our way around the hotel but the recompense was a sumptuous feast.
I woke up early the next morning and was welcomed to stunning snow peaked mountains. Sandy & Mandy, also early risers treated me to an ornithology lesson, lots of Kites and Drongos to be seen. The mist quickly came in and remained, so we were only able to get good views of the mountains on our day of departure.
Lots of cameras to take capture the group shot
And here’s the class of 2014
I could not begin to describe how enjoyable the conference was. Thanks to excellent organisation by the Volunteer committee VOLCOM, everyone participated and presentations were given by the departing volunteers that ranged from emotional digital stories from school teachers in remote regions, ‘the story of Poo’ from Victor, from Spain working on pioneering Biogas plants in Nepal, Jhon, from Indonesia as well as being a demon dancer, worked on guide on Sanitation in schools. We also had fun breakout sessions such as Jim, from Lancashire handing out florescent wool because his granny had knitted him and his brother florescent hats when they were young, whuch after some jibbing at school, kicked off a trend that resulted in zero road accidents. Perhaps the Department of Transport should link up with knitting groups on child road safety campaigns. A fair beers were consumed, the obligatory Karaoke and Bollywood last night, although it was the African music compilation that got the most of us dancing.
Arlene, our country director
Carmen playing at Buddha for the make an advert about the power of volunteering session.
Victor’s world of Poo
Jim handing out his fluorescent wool for the contortionist trick.
On our return to Kathmandu, we had a farewell dinner for Jimi, my volunteer predecessor at the Ministry of Education. He is so well thought of and loved by everyone, I wonder if I will ever be able to fill his very large boots.
The next day was busy with helping with final decorations of the VSO office, which has been transformed whilst we were at the conference. Our apartment kitchen was also a hive of activity as the Goan foods (I could not decide whether to be Tanzanian or Goan as they was already a large Brit contingency making high tea and Scottish Broth). Dutch foods were made in time for the next day’ s International food slot at the Anniversary party.
Let the party begin
With Rojina, the youth ICS volunteer and cake!!
I also got the Sanepa elephant tattooed on my foot instead, as starting work at the Ministry in a day
Not everyone was VSO branded
The donors, partner organisation, staff and their families all attended the Anniversary day and kicking off with cake cutting and the Kenyan contingency singing Malika and Jumbo Bwana. Finally a language, I can understand and join in on.
Foods, Dancing, Mural Painting, the list goes on, the party felt like a cross between a festival and wedding. We all then went home to spruce up for the formal dinner, which was held at the posh Shang-Ri- Lah hotel garden. Again, more inspiring volunteer experiences were relayed and a great video on the past 50 year of VSO Nepal.
Catering team preparing the lungs dish
The world map – even Leon has lots to write!
Felt items from the Women Social Enterprise Group
The Goan dishes
The Shang Ri Lah Hotel
Glammed up volunteers
The festivities did not end there, early next morning we all made our way to Jowpati to help on a National campaign to clean the Bagmati river. We were provided with gloves and wellies and joined the masses of scouts, army, police, children. A celebrity singer got us all in the mood. What a fantastic campaign, that takes place every Saturday! I got chatting to an enthusiastic women’s group. They live in the area and are come every week in their club Sari and just wear flip flops. We collected bags of rubbish, mainly carrier bags and sweet wrappers but also shoes and clothes, which I subsequently found out were probably from burial clothing,
The Jowpati womens group cleaing the Bagmati river
The Government TV channel, NTV are there filming every week and a we got interviewed this time.
The Sunday ended with Dianne and I moving to our new apartment. Astonishingly, we have amassed more luggage in just six weeks but very grateful for the cushions, kitchen ware and spices donated to us. Not only a new home, but I finally started my new job at the Ministry too on the Monday.