In August 2017, after fundraising and receiving a bursary from the Calne Foundation Enrichment Scholarship, three UVI 2017 Leavers (Eve and sisters Jess and Sassie) returned to Nepal to volunteer with The Charitable Foundation for the Education of Nepalese Children (CFENC). Here is their account of this memorable experience:
"Our inspiration to return to Nepal was fuelled by the school trip to Nepal in 2014 which the three of us were lucky enough to go on. It was then that we fell in love with the diversity of the country and were truly inspired by the work of Lisa Whitehouse-Foskett, the founder of CFENC (The Charitable Foundation for the Education of Nepalese Children). CFENC has built a school in the mountainous village of Bittahaka in Solukhumbu and sponsors 36 children to go to school in Kathmandu.
As soon as we heard about the opportunity to apply for a Calne Foundation Enrichment Scholarship, we knew this would be our chance to return to Nepal. We applied for the scholarship in the Summer Term of LVI (2016) and were successfully awarded a bursary which covered the cost of our flights. It took us 18 months to fundraise and organise everything that we needed for the trip. In total we raised £2,217.60 (including our bursary from the Calne Foundation Trust) and on the 22nd August, 2017 we departed Heathrow for Kathmandu.
We spent the first two days in Kathmandu sorting out supplies to take to the mountains for the four schools we visited. In total we took over 200kg of aid with us which had been shipped from England. This included 69 jumpers, 107 blouses, 82 skirts, 15 sports jumpers, 47 sports tops, 11 sports jumpers, 11 sets of drama kit and 7 blazers, all from St Mary's Calne. In addition to this, we took toys and games donated from the Paragon School in Bath and medical supplies.
We departed Kathmandu on 25th August at 4am, heading for Khotang, which took 13 hours in the Jeep. We spent 14 days and nights in the mountains, mostly camping in the monsoon rains. Leeches were a big problem and the rain made everything incredibly slippery, so navigating our way over the numerous landslides we were faced with was rather difficult!
Most of the trekking was either straight up or straight down and, due to the monsoon, whole trees had been ripped from the ground and swept down the mountainside. Humongous boulders balanced precariously above our heads which was rather terrifying! On one day we descended the steepest ridge I've ever seen in my life and crossed incredibly rickety bridges which linked one mountain to the other.
Physically and mentally the trip was incredibly hard. We were soaking wet for about 70% of the time during our two weeks in the mountains and the leeches got everywhere - for example Lisa found one inside her tummy button whilst in her sleeping bag- and it took three 18-year old girls and a pair of tweezers to get the leech out.
Those of you who have ever been to a festival or participated in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award may have just about been able to survive three days without washing, but 14 days is quite different. On our second day we actually came across a wide river where we managed to get a full body wash, but we were soon joined by the whole of the village who found the sight of four Western females washing fully clothed in the river rather hilarious.
Some of the lasting memories which will always stay with us, include laying scarves on the body of a man who had recently passed away. In Buddhist religion it is tradition to put the dead body into a meditative position and lay scarves on the body as a sign of respect. Monks will then sing and pray for the body for the following few days after the death and the body will remain inside the family home (in the room where cooking, eating, sleeping and other activities occur). Other wonderful memories which we look back on fondly were from the two Sherpa parties that were put on for us. The first was at the monastery in Toribari and the second was at a Sherpa family's house. Both parties consisted of five hours of dancing (Sherpa style), hundreds of yellow scarves and dodging flying insects as big as our fists! The Sherpa people, who are all Buddhist as they originally came from Tibet, were some of the kindest people we have ever met and whenever we passed a house we would always be invited in for tea and boiled eggs (or baked corn).
The girls clearly made an excellent impression on Lisa, who posted on Facebook:
"Thanks to Eve, Saskia and Jess for making this short film and for your support of #CFENC's work in Nepal; for your friendship, humour and humility during our time together. I Lisa Whitehouse-Foskett, was proud and privileged to share the experience with you. It was incredibly tough in many respects and you handled everything wonderfully and literally took everything in your stride.”
Please click here to see the video from the trip. (Please note this video can only be viewed on PCs)