A career-changing experience

I went to Changu Narayan in January with the modest hope that I could encourage disadvantaged children to improve their English. Nothing prepared me for the life changing experience that it would be.

Kerrie Sullivan with her pupils

Nepal was my first experience of the developing world and the level of poverty was shocking; families piled on motor bikes, cafes disguised as sheds, women washing at communal water pumps and dusty garages that advertised sim cards but sold only calor gas and chickens.

The culture of the education system too was so different that I’m sure my “noisy” lessons were frowned upon. The most upsetting moment came on World Book Day in March when I asked the children about their favourite books and they equated “book” with “school subject” and all answered “English” or “Maths”. This was something I was able to rectify with plenty of Winnie the Pooh and I managed to find illustrated fairy stories in bilingual English and Nepali books in Bhaktapur.

What really surprised me though was how happy everyone was despite having so little. The children skipped into school with grubby noses, dusty uniform and smiles beaming from their faces. Every day they would bring meagre lunches of beaten rice and plain popcorn in their pockets and be desperate to share it with me. “Khanna khannu bhayo Miss?” “Have you eaten Miss?”

I couldn’t help but rethink my career plans and I’m starting a PGCE in September.

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HELP is rare for an organisation offering volunteer teaching in that it puts the needs of the local people before the desires of the western person wanting ‘the experience’.
Alastair SkeffingtonSaraswatimata Yumahangma English School