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Nepal, a Life Changing Trip
Twenty students from Croydon High School recently embarked on a 12 day expedition to Nepal. The group immersed themselves in many activities, ranging from volunteering in a school, to meeting Buddhist monks and experiencing elephant safaris. “We really enjoyed the trip as it was extremely insightful, particularly in areas such as: sustainability within less economically developed countries, land use, water security, biodiversity, earthquake resilience, poverty reduction and women’s rights in Nepal. We were impressed by the level of the workshops such as the one on gender equality presented by DFID in the British Embassy. I found the experience not only humbling, but I felt as though I have become a more socially aware and empathetic individual.
For the first two days we stayed in Kathmandu, and despite the exhaustion of a 13 hour journey, we had an amazing time. We had the opportunity to visit the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) – an integrated learning and knowledge sharing centre of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, which gave us a better understanding of what sustainable development and land management involves in such remote and specific landscapes. We explored the colourful streets of Kathmandu, looking at the beautiful architecture such as the small carved wooden buildings, and engaged in conversation with some of the local people, who were incredibly friendly – and of course left some time for plenty of shopping!
We then said goodbye to Kathmandu and travelled to a nearby rural area to begin the ‘School Project’. Here we worked on two separate projects: painting the dining hall of a school for Tibetan refugees, and digging a hole for a water storage tank at a nearby secondary school. In our free time we played games with the children. Although the work, especially the digging, was very strenuous (most us had never done anything of this nature before, and we had to learn how to use a pick axe from scratch!). It was entirely rewarding because we were always surrounded by the children, a good reminder of why we were there. A highlight of this part of the trip was the cultural exchange on the last night. Both the Nepalese children, and our group from Croydon High, presented a dance and song which represented our culture. The general consensus was that this was the most powerful part of the trip as we formed very strong bonds with many of the children, leaving most of us in tears on the day we continued our journey.
We travelled further down south to another region of Nepal called Chitwan; here we were given the opportunity to see the wildlife in its natural habitat and go on many wildlife safaris. We explored thick forests on a jeep safari, meandered down a gushing river on a canoe and rode and washed an elephant. Our collective breath was taken away by the beautiful and majestic creatures we saw; crocodiles, rhinos, elephants and an eagle. Although an incredible experience, the elephant ride sparked fruitful debate as the activity did not sit well with many of our moral compasses. It was interesting to look at the impact of tourism economically, socially, and environmentally. Our local Nepalese guides were amazing; they had so much knowledge to share.
We then travelled back to Kathmandu to spend our final few days. Here we enjoyed many interesting tours and talks which helped us to develop a richer understanding of Nepalese culture. We went to the Boudhanath Stupa, visiting the Buddist monastery – even taking part in a ceremony! We visited the British Embassy, receiving an eye opening talk on women’s rights in Nepal and on how British tax money helps in Nepal. Another highlight of the trip was walking around the city at night during the festival of Diwali when the goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into people’s homes. Every shop and house doorway is decorated with a mandala and lights. It was dog Puja day too, so all the dogs were adorned with vermillion tikka and garlands of marigolds. Kathmandu was very busy! The city was full of colour, beautiful lights and a really joyous atmosphere – something unique to Nepal. It then came to the time that we all dreaded – saying goodbye to Nepal and going back home …
As a group we formed strong friendships and bonds – becoming lifelong friends. Personally, although I’m certain the rest of the group would agree, I thought it was a life changing trip; I have been reminded of how lucky I am and have been inspired to try and make changes in the world. “