“Namaste miss. Namaste sir. Welcome to our school.” When there are blissful tiny voices greeting you along with their tiny hands heavy with garlands that clearly define affection, plus those warm smiles loaded with innocence, you’re bound to forget all your fatigue and consider yourself blessed to be among those people with big hearts. Likewise, the moment we got an affectionate welcome at Kalidevi Lower secondary School of Mirge, Dolakha on June we felt that the challenges we faced on our way, which included of a massive rainfall plus a life-threatening landslide were all worth it.
But the next moment when we let our eyes wander, we saw true horrors of earthquake. The earthquake had left them nothing but a tiny building. All other school infrastructures were in rubbles. Although some temporary structures had been set up for running the classes, most of the students had no materials for study. Many students had their uniform and books buried during the earthquake. Desks and benches were made locally yet they were still not enough for students. We further discovered that the health status of all the children was in a risky situation. All the students and even teachers used tap water from the toilet directly for drinking. Moreover, the nature club of the school was already functionless long ago so there was no chlorine production and no use of chlorine as well. Hence, our foremost objective lied in reactivating the nature club and making all students informative regarding sanitation and healthy habits besides making efforts to take them out of the earthquake trauma.
Fun with Mask
We thus started our sessions as scheduled, with numerous games and activities. The children were surprisingly shy and there were few who volunteered for anything we asked. As we started our drawing and coloring sessions in pre-primary classrooms, they were happy beyond anything. Even the teachers told us that they themselves rarely taught children that way. On the other hand, older students seemed fascinated by things that could be learned through art and games.
Students enjoying with mask and characters.
On our second morning, we witnessed yet another suffering of the school. Previous night’s rainfall had pooled the school ground and half of the temporary classrooms were flooded with water. Students were busy ploughing around the ground for a water outlet and we got worried about our sessions. Despite everything, we were determined to place the students at ease and try sharing our earthquake experiences together so that they could free themselves from the subconscious trauma.
“During the earthquake of April 25, 2015 I was in maize field working with my mom. When the quake hit us, my mom started screaming and all houses around us started collapsing. That night all of us villagers slept in the maize field of our neighbors and ate whatever we had. Our home got destroyed and we’re now living in temporary shelter. I don’t think it’s ever going to be same again…” As Pabitra spoke these words, the whole class was silent. One by one, every student began to speak up and involuntarily there established a bond among us that reminded us of our common misery and then the strength that we could find among ourselves to overcome it.
On our third and last day, we reformed a nature club in the school. After teaching and demonstrating them things about WATASOL, its method of production and usage, they grew confident about producing and distributing it in the village for safe drinking water.
Students displaying about need of safe drinking water and chlorination as an option.
Meanwhile students from lower section enjoyed learning proper hand washing techniques and other creative activities.
On the second half of the day, the school held a short farewell programme during which we distributed copies and other stationery materials to the students and eventually handed over whiteboards, markers, game materials and a first-aid kit to the school. An exhibition was held at the same time which exhibited our students’ works. Parents observed and thanked us for helping their children. And when the teachers enthusiastically said that they were motivated by our work, we couldn’t help smiling. We were humbled moreby warm farewell given by the children. The moment was indeed very overwhelming because when those blissful tiny voices bade us farewell along with their tiny hands and hugs that clearly defined affection,we forgot the world for a moment and considered ourselves blessed to be among all those people with big hearts.
Thank you ECCA!
Students thanking our team after training program.
With students before departure.
[The experiences are based on a week long Life Skill Camp mission held at Kali Devi Lower Secondary School, Paile Mirge, Dolkha by Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness from June 23 to June 25, 2015]
by – Upama Tamla