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Travel Talk

2 Sep 2014
Volunteering Trip to Fikkal (14 July – 6 August 2014)
Part I
Tiffany Lim Volunteer SingaporeI had always been adamant to travel to Nepal to volunteer my service, but having read about many scams of such organisations, I was doubtful that I would find a reliable one that could allow me to do that. After much research and disappointment, I was grateful to have a friend who had friends in Nepal, friends that could help me. They linked me up with a local school, Sheer Rastriya Lower Secondary School, at Fikkal, Ilam. With this, a whole new experience awaited me at Nepal.
My pre-trip preparation began.  I was told that football was the only ball game that the students usually play.  Even then, it was not with the “proper and accepted” rules.  It was played in a random manner.  Sheer Rastriya was also a poor village school with scare resources. My task was to plan a sports curriculum for a group of pupils with age ranging from 10 to 14. In addition, I had to bring whatever equipment I might need.  The upside was that I had total control and freedom to plan and execute the programme. On the downside, I had nothing to start with. I had to plan for a group of pupils that I had not met, and to bring all the necessary apparatus.  As I was going to travel alone, I would not be able to bring any bulky equipment. With the help and support from family and friends back home, I was sponsored a new volleyball and a few used netballs. In support of my mission, my friends also contributed to the purchase of stationeries that were given to the school for use by the pupils.  I was extremely thankful for their graciousness kind gestures.  This was my first trip to Nepal, and first time not travelling as a tourist. I had no idea what lies ahead and what to expect. As such, on 14 July 2014, with much excitement as well as a tinge of apprehension, I braved myself and left Singapore, alone, and headed towards the 24 days of unfamiliarity awaiting in Nepal.
Muskan Sewa Nepal Hamro GharMy mission started in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, before I embarked on my journey to Fikkal. I was blessed with an opportunity to stay in a local orphanage called Hamro Ghar, a subsidiary of Muskan Sewa Nepal. It was coincidentally their week-long vacation and gave me an opportunity to mingle with children. There were 14 children in the home, growing and learning well under the loving and nurturing care of Mamu (mother in Nepali). My stay at the orphanage was short but productive. I introduced basic Mandarin to the children.  My favourite was an art piece done by the children.   It was made up of paper cut-out left handprints of everyone, including the staff and children. 


Hamro Ghar Kathmandu
They then designed and wrote their names on them. As for the Mamu, I requested that she draw both her hands, design and write her name on them. I then cut out a big heart and wrote, “Home is where the heart is” on it. With the cut-outs of their handprint, I arranged all the hands together, starting with Mamu’s hands, holding on to the kids until a circle was formed. I explained to the children why I had asked them to draw only their left hand – the left hand is linked to the heart. Heart is where the love is and with the love from Mamu, they all have a place called home. Mamu told me a great deal about the organisation and the children, and through these conversations, it showed the vast amount of effort and love she, with the support of her family, had put in for the children.
After a few days stay in Kathmandu, off I commenced on my journey to Fikkal, Ilam. The flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur was 45 minutes, followed by a 1½-hour car ride to Fikkal. It was a long and winding road as the school was situated high up at the mountainous area. When I arrived in Ilam, the weather and scenery turned cool. IIam was famous for its organic tea and filled with tea gardens. Do visit the tea factory should you visit Ilam.
School in Fikkal Ilam Nepal
When I finally arrived at the school, I was totally overwhelmed by the welcoming ceremony. The students were standing in the most orderly manner like a contingent and awaiting my arrival. A banner was displayed to welcome me. The school committees, teachers and staff were present too. I was asked to give a speech and was taken aback as I was not prepared for this. Many students came forward to present flowers and khata (a kind of scarf) to me. I was speechless of the gesture and the warm welcome I had received. Thereafter, I checked into the guesthouse, Sunshine Villa, my “home” for the next 18 days in Fikkal.  It was a stone’s throw away from the school.
To be continued....
Text and Photos : Tiffany Lim, Singapore