A typical morning for the volunteers in Batase began with an 8am (Nepali time) breakfast made by the lovely chef Norbu who specialises in all things delicious. Pancakes, porridge, beans, rice pudding or Tibetan bread were just some of the things we could look forward to each morning. Often accompanied by multitudes of jam or honey, or chilli sauce if you lean more in that direction. And a cup of tea. Sometimes people woke up early to watch the sun rise over the Himalayas. Would recommend.
We would set off to walk to school around 9:20 and arrive just before assembly which starts at 9:45 each morning. At assembly the kids all line up in long, straight, year-level lines and perform stretches to the beat of a drum. It’s fun to watch and even more fun to join in. This is followed by the Batase village song and the national anthem. The inclusion of the Batase song in the daily assembly is a big nod to Som and his involvement in the local community as it was written by some of his team in Cairns.
At 10:00 we would go into the classrooms and begin the first lesson of the day. As I love the kids in Class 4 so much, and because they are the biggest class and require some crowd control, I spent most of my time in there assisting volunteer Sam. The day would begin with Science, where we covered nutrition and communicable diseases. Listening to Sam try to teach the pronunciation of com-mun-i-ca-ble was more than a bit hilarious. Next followed English where we had a bit of free range to the teach whatever we fancied, and then we had General Knowledge, or GK, where we decided to teach the names and locations of the continents and some countries. This was my favourite class, and by the end most of the kids could point to each continent on the map correctly, which was a huge deal.
Then there was a short recess break, followed by either more teaching, observation, or filling out the reflection journals that the Monash students had to do as part of their placement. Usually this meant chill-out-in-the-lovely-sun time for me, except for the day when Sam and I went into Class 3 and joined in on a dance lesson. Everyone was super impressed by our new moves when we showed them off later… We wished!
Lunch usually consisted of either bread, rice or noodle with some form of potato. It was always delicious, and there were always seconds.
The afternoons were often pretty chill. Some would go for a sneaky nana nap, others thought it was preferable to go for a run. But the best time to be had was with the hostel kids. Som’s charity, Friends of Himalayan Children (FHC), has raised money to build a house in Batase for children who come from disadvantaged families. Some are orphans, some simply cannot be looked after by their families. Many of these children were dragged into these unfortunate situations by the 2015 earthquake. The number of kids in the FHC hostel has significantly increased in the last two years and there are many more on the waiting list. Soon a new building will be ready for them and they will be able to accommodate 100 kids rather than the current 42.
After school the volunteers usually spend time with the hostel kids helping with homework or chores, or simply reading, colouring, dancing or singing together. Strong friendships are formed between these kids and the volunteers, and by the end of our stay in Batase nearly half of our 16 Monash volunteers had decided to sponsor kids through the charity. They are the most beautiful and loving kids you will ever meet – ranging in age from grade one to grade 10 – they are the most enthusiastic dancers, and they give the best cuddles. I think almost anyone who spends time with these kids becomes a better person because of it. Building relationships with these kids also helps you in the classrooms at the Batase school as there are a few hostel kids in every year level.
Dinner is around 7pm, and as we were there in winter dinner was usually accompanied by a fire in the dining room. The fire is fully enclosed but the room does get a little smokey sometimes. It definitely makes the building a lot warmer which is nice because the dining room is directly under some of the volunteer bedrooms.
After dinner people would again split off into different activities. Playing cards by the inside fire, chilling upstairs, having a dance party with the hostel kids, star gazing, or chats outside by the kitchen fire. The stars are pretty amazing out there.
This was life for us for 17 days. Many of us formed friendships in Batase that will last long after leaving Nepal, and we have certainly all had experiences and positive influences that we will never forget. I for one will definitely be back.