Volunteering as a teacher at the Hindu Vidyapeeth School in the rural province of Dang (Nepal)
Evie Robertson (2013, Human, Social & Political Sciences)
This summer, I spent six weeks volunteering as a teacher at the Hindu Vidyapeeth School in the rural province of Dang, located in the Southern Terai region, about 12 hours from the capital, Kathmandu. Alongside 3 other girls from Cambridge, I taught English to Nepali children of all abilities and ages, whilst living and volunteering in the nearby Children’s Peace Home, home to 34 underprivileged children that the HVP Charity support.
My six weeks in Nepal gave me a vital insight into the crippling effects of April’s devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that struck the Kathmandu Valley, and the more recent political protests,’bandhas’over the drafting and subsequent creation of a new Constitution. However, what was apparent to me was the amount of pride the people have in their country and hope that recent events will lead to a better Nepal. My time in Nepal was truly life changing, through the people I met, sites that I visited, teaching and volunteering experience and culture that I got to be a part of.
HVP – The Charity
The Hindu Vidyapeeth charity, or HVP for short, that I volunteered with is a UK based charity that Cambridge has had a long partnership with. Through Cambridge Volunteers in Nepal (CVN), a student run organisation dedicated to sending 20 volunteers to Nepal each year, I became aware of the charity and its work. HVP supports the Hindu Vidyapeeth movement in Nepal, an organisation that runs 3 charity schoolsin Nepal – one based in Kathmandu, one in Thali on the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley, and one in the rural province of Dang. In Nepal, government provided education is under resourced and has low levels of academic attainment; therefore charity schools such as HVP provide a successful alternative without the costs of private education. Education in Nepal is a gateway out of poverty, and HVP aims to offer a holistic education that also promotes a love and respect of Nepali culture and traditions. For many years now, Cambridge has been sending volunteers over the Summer vacation to support the HVP schools’ work, with students like myself spending 6 weeks teaching English in one of the 3 schools.
Children’s Peace Home, Dang
In Dang, we lived at the Children’s Peace Home, run by the headmaster of HVP Dang, Bhola Ji Yogi. CPH is located in the heart of Dang’s beautiful scenic countryside, and the children were free to run around and play in the most idyllic of locations. CPH is currently home to 34 children whose families are unable to support them. The children range from the ageof 4 to 17, and actually, beyond, as many of the graduates of HVP and CPH return as teachers.
Arguably the Children’s Peace Home is the most blissful place to grow up as the children spend their life running around wild, like headless chickens, climbing trees, chasing the dogs, before sitting down in chattering groups to help with chores such as shelling the corn picked from the fields for the coming winter. On Sunday mornings, we would take the children down to the river for morning swimming lessons, mud baths and take down catching games, which all got very competitive. It was wonderful to see the children simply being children.
Their everyday lives are somewhat exceptional when you learn of their backgrounds, and it helps to reiterate the importance of the work of the charity. Without the love, care and support of CPH and HVP, these children would not have had a childhood, access to education, and possibly some may not have survived.
For sisters Arati and Jyoti, aged 12 and 10 respectively, the threat of being sold into the family trade of prostitution by certain members of their family still looms large. Before coming to CPH, Arati and Jyoti were left on the streets after their mother and older sister left to pursue their trade and their father was nowhere in sight. Bhola Ji took them in, providing them with an escape, giving them back their childhood and access to invaluable education.
Ramesh, aged 8, began education for the first time last year when he came to CPH last year. Before then he had been sold by his father and worked as a child labourer.
It is to the full credit of the HVP, CPH and the Yogi family, that the children are so hard working, generous, fun, clever and somewhat cheeky. The charity gives them a chance to succeed and provides them with both education and valuable life skills. The children have huge respect for their elders, and help with chores and the running of the Peace Home – from cutting and shelling corn, to learning to cook in the kitchen. Each activity is completed with a smile. Bhola Ji told us whilst we were there that past Peace Home children have gone onto complete degrees in subjects ranging from management to social work in both the local university and beyond. The Peace Home children are supported to allow them to achieve School Leaving Certificate, and if they have nowhere else to go, can stay on for further study.Looking at little Ranbir, an energetic 5 year old, and his older sister Ranjita, a generous, hardworking and conscientious 13 year old, you would not believe that their Father killed their Mother, however HVP has provided them with a new cherished family, and education. These examples of the children’s backgrounds are not uncommon; many were from backgrounds of abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, poverty or child labour.