I have always loved education and learning. When I was growing up in a poor rural town in the mountains of California I had this dream of going to school, learning, becoming successful, and eventually becoming a teacher myself to help provide the knowledge that was needed to bring others like me out of poverty. My dream of becoming a teacher who helps inspire and educate people out of poverty partially became true when I taught in a poverty stricken area of Arizona last year. While that was a rewarding and wonderful experience, this past week has changed my life and was everything I have dreamed about and hoped for my whole life.
This last week we did an outreach, an extended volunteer trip, to a rural village called Kumari. The village is an 11 mile hike from the nearest city, Dharke. To get to the village we had to take a bus from Kathmandu to Dharke, which took about an hour, and then begin our long and difficult trek to the ruggedly beautiful village. We started early in the morning and it took us just over 7 hours to finish the trek to the village. We stayed at a health clinic that was started by one of our in-country partners. While we were in Kumari the volunteers participated in a variety of things but I think the most impactful and memorable was the experience that we had at the local school. The school in Kumari is, in many ways, exactly what you’d expect to see in a rural Nepali village, a series of small buildings with classrooms filled with bright eyed students sitting on wooden benches with a teacher lecturing about whatever the lesson happened to be that day. We had the chance to go there and help teach classes about science, health, physical education, and English.
It was amazing to see the students eagerly learning and laughing. The teachers were kind and supportive. All of the volunteers were thrown into the classrooms with really no idea about what was going on or even what was expected of them. However the volunteers did an incredible job of connecting with and inspiring the students. It was a fun experience to work around the language barrier, most of the classrooms had a teacher who could translate but there were one or two that had to make due without one, and they did a great job in spite of the very real language barrier that existed.
At one point I was speaking with the principal and another teacher about the school, its challenges, and what kind of assistance would be most helpful. It was fascinating to get an inside look into the functioning of a rural school. Some of the things that the principal mentioned were a lack of funds, each teacher only makes about $50 a month, and there simply isn’t enough money to pay the number of teachers that is really needed. The school has over 260 students with 11 teachers, but the lower grades often go whole days without having a teacher in the classroom because the teachers are already stretched so thin. Some other major issues are a lack of teacher training, most of their lessons were lecture based, wrote and very dry. The other big challenge that was mentioned was the absence of any of the performing or fine arts. They have no musical training, acting, choir, or anything like that. It is tragic to think that those kids will potentially never learn to play the flute or be in a school play. In addition to those issues, many of the students are nowhere near really being trained or ready to have a successful life. The skills that they need the most, computer and English, are not being provided to the extent that the kids really need to become successful either here in Nepal or abroad.
I walked away from that experience in Kumari knowing that a little bit of investment, of time and of money, into the school could make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds and eventually thousands. The goal of education is to help human beings reach their highest potential and build a viable and successful economy. The education in Kumari is very much lacking in both of the primary goals of education. However, the desires of the principal and teachers are in the right place and with the correct resources and help will be able to make a huge difference in the lives of the children of Kumari and many others in Nepal and around the world. It was such an honor to spend time with these incredible teachers and students. I am so grateful for the opportunity provided by HELP International to be able to go to that beautiful school in Kumari. A large difference in the world is made up of many small changes and improvements. I know that is true for the students of that school in Kumari. Each child loved and each lesson taught, collectively over time, can and will be one step closer to making this world the place we hope it will be.