With the Children of Dalchoki – Palistha Shrestha (ECCA Counsellor)
[WASH and Life Skill Camp was held at Shree Gothbhanjyang Higher Secondary School, Dalchoki, Lalitpur from June 7 to 9, 2015. The experiences of a camp staff …… ]
5 teams began their journey to the rural areas of Lalitpur on June 6, 2015. The teams had prepared their session plans and the required materials as per the trainings they had received few days ago.
As we made our way towards the rural area, we were reminded of the devastation caused by the earthquake of April 25, 2015. The road was covered with dust from the debris of the collapsed houses. Some houses were being demolished at several places while many had temporary supports to prevent them from collapsing.
My team was assigned to Dalchoki, Lalitpur. The massive contrast of the standard of living between the city and the villages of the same district was unexpected. In just an hour ride, we reached a village so rural and under developed, it was hardly believable that it was only about 30 km away from the capital.
We unloaded all our supplies on the top of the hill and began our descend to the school located below. The steep slope of the road made it increasingly difficult (and tiring) to make several trips. With the help from the villagers, we were able to take all our supplies to the school in two trips.
We began exploring the school premises for a place to pitch our tent and to assemble our supplies. The school had generously arranged utensils and a gas stove for our use. We decided to pitch our tents inside the Temporary Learning Centers as there were no other open spaces and fierce winds usually dominated the night air. We decided a session plan, divided our responsibilities before dinner and called it a day.
Early the next day, we disassembled our tents and began preparing the materials needed for the sessions. After a quick breakfast, we headed for a short meeting with the teachers and staffs of the school to introduce ourselves as well as discuss about our session plans.
Together with Yangji Sherpa, my first session started off at 11am with the students from Grade 1-3. With their classrooms destroyed by the earthquake, they were assembled under a temporary shelter outside. We began our session with a short ball game but the small children were hesitant to play with us. Next we played ‘Balloon Blast’. This game requires students to burst each others’ balloons tied to their legs while saving their own. This game was an instant success and the children enjoyed it immensely. The teachers also participated in the games, which encouraged the students to approach us. The prospective of bursting balloons excited not only the small children but the higher class students as well. A small group of students from other classes gathered to watch the little kids play.
My next session was with the students from Grade 6. After waiting eagerly for their turn, they hurriedly entered the class when I approached them. With almost 50 students, the task was a little exhausting but the students were very cooperative and eager to learn and play games. This greatly reduced the difficulties arising due to large number of students.
We provided biscuits and juice to all the students as well as the staffs during the lunch break. My second session with the students from Grade 1-3 started off with fresh enthusiasm from the students. They were more lively and active while coloring and tracing. They began calling us “Miss”. Being called upon when they had doubts and difficulties was a proud moment for me. Getting accepted as their teacher and guiding them as they colored was a joyous moment.
My last session for the day was with the 6th graders again. Yangji accompanied me as the number of students was large. We taught them Future Ladder, an activity where the students establish their goals and learn the steps they have to climb to reach their ambition.
The day ended with loud farewells and promises to play a lot more the next day. With a little rest, we decided to explore the surrounding areas. The cool wind blowing through was refreshing against Kathmandu’s dusty and warm winds.
After a group discussion on the day’s sessions and some planning for the next day, we cooked our dinner, pitched our tents and slept soundly.
The next two days were filled with more interesting games and activities like puppet making, wall magazines, science show and wall comics for students from Grade 6-8 and mask making, clay work and rhymes for students from Grade 1-5. The number of students attending the classes started increasing as the days passed by. We organized an exhibition on the last day where they displayed all their activities done in the camp. Students from Grade 4-5 eagerly presented the new rhymes that they had learned in the sessions. We handed over game materials to the school as well.
The students showed more enthusiasm as the day went by. Some of them arrived almost an hour early and stayed back after the school and insisted on playing with us. Some of the students gave us fruits and potatoes grown locally as gifts. A few even came to see us off. Such positive responses from students made our exhaustion worthwhile.
“My daughter who normally does not like to go to school has been very eager to leave for school in the mornings. She is always asking me for the time”, a mother said to us. The teachers and parents gave us positive feedbacks as well.
We were constantly supported by the school’s principal, Mr. Laxmi Timalsina and the staffs.
The program ended with a bittersweet feeling of completing it successfully but leaving warm smiles and laughter behind. Going to remote areas and sharing our knowledge to uplift the spirits of bright young students was truly a refreshing and satisfying experience.
I would like to thank ECCA for giving us this opportunity to go and conduct camps in rural areas. It was truly a momentous and memorable experience.