Peace. Acceptance. Love. Three words that sum up my time in Nepal.
In the beginning, Nepal was a hard place for me to be. I come from a small town where everyone knows everyone and I had never really left my small community bubble. Like anyone, I had fears about traveling to the other side of the world. Especially since it was my first time out of the country. I remember landing in the Tribhuvan Airport and thinking, “put me on the next flight back to the U.S. I can’t do this.” The following week was hard. We will just leave it at that. I didn’t know anything, everyone had relationships with the children at Raksha (since I came mid way through the program), with each other, I didn’t feel like I fit in or belonged. After that first week of feeling sorry for myself, something switched in my brain and I said to myself, “you’re not here for yourself, you came to help. Help in any small way.” In that moment, I tried connecting more to the children of Raksha. I grew to love them to a capacity that I never knew existed within myself. I learned about their stories, and I felt for them, my heart would ache and I would become angry that anyone would ever hurt these pure and innocent souls. Then I was inspired by them. If they could have something so traumatic happen to them and still see the good in others, then I could too.
My time with HELP International came to an end, I went home, but my heart was still in Nepal. I would go to work, and everyone around me could tell that I didn’t love my job the same as before. I would dream about the girls of Raksha constantly. My mind and heart were always elsewhere, and it was obvious to everyone around me. I knew I would eventually go back, but that was when I knew I needed to come back now. I re-applied, I fundraised all the funds again, I bought my plane ticket, and I came back to Nepal.
This time, flying into Nepal I never got the “I can’t do this” feeling, I got the “I’m finally home” feeling. I felt a sense of comfort looking over the Kathmandu valley as my plane descended. The only other time I have gotten this same feeling is when I drive into my hometown. A few days later, I was able to go back to Raksha and see all the girls that I have spent so much time thinking about and waiting to see again. I told myself that I would hold it all together, that I wouldn’t cry. I didn’t stick to that plan and I cried, it was an indescribable feeling seeing the faces that I came to know and love and had to leave, then come back and have them show such loving emotions towards me as well. To know that they did not forget me and that they were excited to see me again, was all I could have asked for.
To say each experience in Nepal has been different for me, would be an understatement. They have so many differences and there are so many challenges that have come with each program. Each have had such broadly different people, and I have learned how to navigate relationships with my teammates. Another difference that has been an adjustment is living in a house with 11 other females and only 1 bathroom. And I thought sharing a room with 3 people at Raksha my first program was tough, let me tell you that I was definitely wrong. But I have loved the differences. I feel as though I really have grown as a person. I’m not the same nervous, anxiety-ridden, homesick girl I was before. I have found that I can be strong, I am independent, I can do anything I put my mind to, and that’s because I have been blessed to be in this beautiful and wonderful country doing amazing things for amazing people. I have felt non-stop peace within myself. I feel as though I have been accepted by the locals and I accept them as my brothers and sisters. And I have given love to others and I have had love reciprocated to me.
Nepal HELP Volunteer, Camille Cluff