Metamorphosis in the poorest country in South Asia
Nepal is the poorest country in South Asia and one of the poorest in the world. It is characterised by low incomes and irregular, insecure employment. In the hope of a better life, many families flee from the villages to Kathmandu, where they encounter high living costs, inaccessible government aid and poor hygienic conditions. In order to create a dignified life for these refugee families, the non-profit organisation Happiness for Nepal does great work there and supports with projects for education, reconstruction of villages and opening of kindergartens.
Living outside the slum
In 2018, I volunteered in Pokhara (200 kilometres west of Kathmandu), teaching English in a monastery and helping with the cooking and daily tasks of the varied and very structured days. I lived with Bhagwan and his family in Kathmandu and had the privilege of being part of the otherwise closed community in the monastery school.
Volunteering is giving and receiving. I passed on my knowledge to the children and in return I was able to learn a lot about religion, culture and Buddhist philosophy from the older monks. It was a valuable experience and a special way for me to get to know myself better.
Even though schooling is free in Nepal, children often have to support their families financially from a very early age and go to work to do so. Compulsory education for 6- to 11-year-old children is not enforced and so most children, if they attend school at all, leave before the age of 11 to help with the harvest or weave carpets. Some of them even fetch heavy stones from the mountains. All of them are exposed to dangers such as child trafficking and marriage, in addition to malnutrition and work-related diseases or accidents. There is no law against paedophilia in Nepal, so some girls as young as seven are already working in brothels.
Most of the time, the families lack the money for school materials or, conversely, the labour of their children to be able to provide themselves with food at all. Some parents look for child traffickers themselves in the hope of a better life. Others send their children to convent schools, where they then live and learn free of charge in a safe environment, but separated from their families, in the convent boarding school.
In addition to the usual subjects such as English and mathematics, the curriculum also includes Buddhist teachings, prayer and daily meditation. I taught the children English as a second language, as this is essential for their professional and academic success. Often, however, the students have difficulty getting started in English. Teaching with volunteer teachers from abroad makes the language and application more accessible to them.
When I arrived, the young monks were very grateful for the change I brought to their strict daily routine. After just a few days in the monastery, I felt the omnipresent effect of inner peace. An indescribable feeling.
The Bhikkhuni, Buddhist nuns are wonderful and always devotedly help each other with everything. There is a lot to do in the monasteries, which explains the strict daily routine. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is invariably devoted and the prevailing peace is priceless. It brought me new perspectives and impulses for my private and professional everyday life.
To this day, I support the Happiness for Nepal association as a sponsor, because I know that the projects really benefit the children and free them from poverty and dependence. Through the convent schools and the support of the association, the children in Nepal can lead a free and self-determined life and experience a holistic metamorphosis.
The Caterpillar Neverending
To develop from a caterpillar into a butterfly, children need access to education.