I know you haven’t heard from me for a while, but I really don’t like writing when I am traveling. I feel like if I’m spending time writing, I’m missing out on something else. I like writing when the trip is already over; the excitement has settled down and I can enjoy reflecting on my experiences. I am also finishing my internship now and looking for a new job, so job applications take all my time and energy now, but I’m gonna try my best to spend some time writing, have so much to tell you 🙂
So what did I do this summer? I spent over six weeks in Nepal doing volunteering and travelling. I had an absolutely beautiful time there, met some amazing people and hopefully made some positive impact through my voluntary work.
A bit of background. I applied to do a voluntary water research project in Nepal back in November 2014. It was a long wait, but in June 2016 I finally made it to Nepal. I joined Volunteers Initiative Nepal, which seemed to be a quite reliable and transparent NGO.
After couple of days of training I was placed in Kavresthali – just several miles outside Kathmandu. So suddenly I had a new family: two brothers – Pradip and Dipesh, sister Jyoti and Amma – grandmother. I did not get to meet my new mother and father until much later when they came back from India (father has a job there). There were also two other international volunteers living with me – Morgan from US and Karin from the Netherlands.
I was one of the first volunteers to work in the area, so my main role was to collect data. Jyoti and Morgan were both working with me on water research as well. First couple of days we spent going up and down the hills through the forests full of snakes, locating and mapping water sources, which often looked like tiny puddles and only some of them were at least a bit protected from possible contamination.
Then we started a WASH (water sanitation and hygiene) survey and interviewed over 200 households in five villages. It turned out that 15% of people did not have toilets (instead they were using fields), over half of them drank direct water and a large number of people were frequently getting sick due to the water quality and poor hygiene. A majority of them said that they were washing their hands with soap, however we could rarely see any of the soap bars next to their taps. There were also several areas that suffered from water shortages.
The last bit of work that I did was water testing for chemical and biological contamination. A number of people mentioned that they usually get sick during monsoon season, so it was a perfect time to test water samples. Almost every sample contained bacteria, however I cannot give you the exact results for that, as I left just after we started water testing and I left Morgan to continue working on it.
The data I have collected will now be analysed by the organisation I worked for and they will prioritise the families for toilet construction and will decide what else needs to be done in the area. That could include hygiene campaigns, workshops on how to make a water filter, they might find the ways to improve water source protection or try to eliminate water shortages.
The survey was definitely my favourite part of the work there. We had to visit so many houses and were welcomed in every single one of them. A lot of houses were destroyed by the earthquake in 2015, so a large number of people were living in “temporary” houses made mostly of bamboo, mud, bricks and metal sheets. Some of them were sharing the same space with their goats and cows and some families really did not have much, but they almost always greeted us with milk tea, cucumbers or roti (local bread).
People there work really hard, especially women – my host sister would wake up at 4am to go to the college, then she’d work with us on a survey for a few hours, spend the rest of the day working in the fields, milk the cow, cook dinner in the evening and only then go to bed.
I am going to stop here now and next time I will tell you a bit more about my life in Kavresthali, people and local traditions 🙂