A pair of teens feel like the luckiest girls in the world because they spent their spring break in a developing country.
Brianna Savery, a Grade 11 student from Timberline and Josie Simpson, who is in Grade 10 at Carihi, are just two of a group of 33 International Co-op high school students, chaperones and local volunteers who spent nearly two and a half weeks in Nepal.
The group provided valuable labour to the Nepalese who, along with humanitarian groups, are building an irrigation system for the small, poor community of Lahachowk.
The students were tasked with carrying rocks, sand and cement uphill, conveyor-belt style, to help build the canal, which will benefit two communities and increase food production for local farmers by 100 per cent. While in Nepal, the students finished 65 metres of the canal, which is contained by high rock and cement walls. The irrigation system, which will help contain water during Nepal’s monsoon season and direct it towards the farmers’ fields, is expected to take four years to complete.
“The work was not as bad as I thought it would be, you got a good upper arm workout from it, though,” says Simpson, who was amazed by the Nepalese’s work ethic.
“Some of the ladies carried flat rocks in their baskets which were strapped to their forehead. They’re very community-minded and everyone works together.”
While in Lahachowk, the students all stayed in the villager’s homes. Both girls say they were treated with so much hospitality. The only hard part was when it was time to take a shower. There are no bathrooms and no running water in Lahachowk homes. Shower’s are taken off the side of the road and shared by the entire village.
“They have taps off the road, where everyone bathes,” says Simpson. “We showered with our clothes on because you’re right out in the open.”
Each home has an outhouse with a toilet that does not flush and no sink to wash your hands.
Electricity was also no guarantee as certain regions of Nepal have power at different times.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” says Simpson. “We had headlamps and flashlights when we were outside and when we were inside, the families had candles.”
The highlight of the trip for both girls was interacting with and living among the villagers.
A trip to the orphanage in nearby Pokhara was one experience no one will forget.
“All the kids were so nice and they danced for us,” says Savery. “One little boy took me into his school room and read me his science text book and I read him Sesame Street and the Jungle Book. The kids also taught us their hand clapping games.”
The group also paid a visit to the school in Lahachowk. Simpson says the classrooms were bare aside from a chalkboard and long wooden tables lined up beside each other.
The teens brought along a map of Canada and took turns teaching the Nepalese children about different regions of the country. They also played word games with their young students and spent time playing volleyball and soccer, two very popular sports with the locals.
During the students’ time off work, they also did a three-day trek through the Annapurna mountains, where little villages are scattered throughout. Though it was a very steep climb, Simpson says the views were beautiful. Along the way, the students spent the night in tea houses, similar to little motels.
Both Simpson and Savery say they will never forget the people they met in Nepal and are still in contact with some of the friends they made there.
“I definitely noticed that if you’re someone’s guest there, they want to treat you like it’s the best place on earth,” says Simpson. “I just feel really lucky, it was amazing, and I really want to go back.”
Savery enjoyed experiencing another culture.
“I’m really glad I got the opportunity to go. Once I was there, I loved it and I didn’t want to go home,” she says. “I think I’m going to go back.”