• Rajkamal Fakir

Let’s begin from the beginning by defining what is volunteering and particularly ICS volunteering ? Cambridge English Dictionary defines volunteering as ‘a person who does something especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it.’ Volunteering thus by definition is purely a selfless act with a motive to do good and more good only. Now, ICS volunteering is a global volunteering program which is aimed at young people and sees volunteers from UK working alongside volunteers from developing world which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). ICS is currently working in 7 different countries across Asia and Africa.

I am a VSO/ICS Q20 cycle volunteer who was placed in Lamjung III, one of the remotes of Nepal. It is a very interesting story from the date I knew about VSO to the date my placement ended and still now at home as memories bring back all the great happenings I got to experience then and there. How about starting from when I first heard about VSO? So, I came to know about VSO as one of my schoolmate did his volunteering in Kavre district and informed me to do one as well. I had every doubt in my mind about this strange appeal but on the same hand I was throughly amazed how he has gone a paradigm shift about his individual growth as well as his mindset about people and world in general. He kept insisting me and I kept ignoring it until it became too much to bear his nagging about this ‘mystical thing’ that volunteering does at our every meeting. Hence, I filled the formed via online which he forwarded me with no hope of getting calls and rest of the process. But as fortune favors the needy, I must have tremendously needed this as I got a call from unknown telephonic number while we were heading towards Pashupatinath. Though halfway and amid busy noises of buses and street vendors, I picked up the phone which immediately asked if I am the correct receiver and had applied for volunteering. I answered all that was needed, passed phone interview and was asked to come at face-to-face interview. Little fast forward here, I did interview feeling dubiety, went through all the tasks that was designed for us to perform to check our all required abilities for volunteering. Voila, got selected, three days pre-placement happened, went well but now with more clarity in the eyes more than ever before. Still, I was hesitant because I was youngest of all in the room and hasn’t yet got his degree but every coming day was bringing the bright moon to my side and all that dark and doubt was unveiling. Henceforth, the biggest game of all, playing the dice whether or not to cancel as the leaving date for placement was lurking in the horizon and was at just a hand distant nearer every passing day. Self-victory again, decided to go leaving all that was secured, familiar and comfortable to an uncharted (for me) land with a firm determination to destroy that I have always hold dearer, the home, the comfort of sofa, tv and internet and all rest of it that every one of us is closely familiar with and to seek not comfort but conscience, not security but susceptibility.

I think most of our volunteering journey is not the action itself but the mindset that we come upon doing it. I, although a complete freshman in volunteering found it extremely festive. The mindset that we carry decides our choices not us. So, if we are to do something as extraordinary as volunteering, most of our work should be focused on developing a fixed and open mindset which may sound contradictory but they are complimentary to each other if we give it a second thought. Thus, with a firm and flexible mindset I went about an absolute change from self-doubt to self-assurance, reluctant to resolute. As the bus started towards Lamjung leaving all belongings of kathmandu, the idea of vital, raw and fresh home kicked on my stomach. The never known people in the bus soon became little known friends. Name shared, experiences and studies with national volunteers barely keeping any conversation with UKV’s. The next challenges is the challenge of communication when every word that you speak is foreign to your tongue and new to experiences itself in its description. As soon as getting to know about UKV’s, I found them radically down to earth, pleasing and many other gratitude words but not as they show in mainstream western social media, MTV’s shows, Hollywood movies and rest of it. This is how volunteering changes our belief system.

Previous paragraph was needed because it’s all about shaping your mind before shaping your action. Fast forward again, On placement, the most intriguing moments of all is when the dawn knocks the door and sleeps shies making way for the most beautiful morning that you seldom get to experience given the circumstance that you were soaked in rain and tired of hours long off-road yesterday’s journey. Good morning and Namaste, freshly milked tea with encapsulating smell, towering Himalayas, aura of high hills, mustard field and rural setting is what you wake up to a morning. Host home in few days becomes home, host father becomes father and family. The very first week on placement is for inspection and planning for the rest of the placement. About school, unfriendly may it seems at first due to unfamiliarity which is totally justifiable but in no time you become one with school and
children. They were very curious about us. Every word that we spoke, every action, every game that we played with them made them stands in awe. We become the very centre of their existence for the remaining time of our placement in a literal sense. Then, comes weekly meetings, a time of union of all volunteers from all different placement allocated in that particular municipality when discussion are laid out, budgets are collected, gossips passed and shopping. School is the focused area where we worked, we meaning four volunteer, two nationals and two UKV’s under the theme of ‘Inclusive Education.’ Let me showcase our work history one from every week along with timeline in brief to give you idea about what we did and what can you do based on these action.

Date/DaysWhat out actions were?
Sunday 18th, Jan– Introduced ourselves in an assembly with the whole school.
– Met the women’s committee, played drama games with them to get them to know us and try new confidence building activities before watching the election of the new school chairperson.
Tuesday 28th, Jan– Introduced ‘poster week’ in assembly, a plan to promote creative and interactive learning within the school, whilst also helping to decorate the school. The morning was spent supervising this and explaining this to the teachers. Many classes were unstaffed so we also had to do last minute English lesson help.
Saturday 8th, Feb– Women’s committee meeting in the morning, discussing important issues such as the planning for IWD, domestic abuse and important skills that they possess to give talks on.
Saturday 15th, Feb– SPORTS DAY, the biggest and longest event we had yet planned. High turnout of pupils, parents and teachers. Multiple races and events as well as a large and tasty lunch provided to everyone.
Saturday 22nd, Feb– Saturday was focussed on the community alcohol awareness, we made posters against selling alcohol to minors and visited many of the village shopkeepers, informing them of the damage alcohol does to the community and threatening action from the head of the ward if they are found out to be selling alcohol to minors.
Friday 28th, Feb– Early morning Tapari workshop with the women’s group and Career prospects session with Grades 9 and 10. Long and detailed session on how to go about getting into further
education and job ideas/how to get into them.
Saturday 7th, Mar– IWD rally against domestic abuse which was participated by local village woman’s in large number.
Thursday 12th, Mar– Painted 3 out of 4 school buildings as well as staff room and girls toilet. Mural painting the school name in the front gate and different Nepali and English inspirational educational quotes on walls.

The afore mentioned table was just a brief work history of what we did. These activities were not initially in our head when we left for placement. I was also many of one who was unclear about what our action will be but this gets clear as soon as you are on field and you kick start the ball with a thorough observation of the ground you are standing on. It’s just a matter of time to get enough confidence to plan perfect your next action within the limits of budget to get optimum benefits. UKV’s were and are very practical in their decision making. On placement is the most shortest period of all if your are utterly joyful in your stay. Mid-phase review comes a refresher but this time with deluxe hotels, hot showers, luxurious shopping, darling food, dances and maybe birthday celebration of total surprise if you are lucky enough, Well, I was. After mid-phase, you are back again in your home, school and community. There certainly will be some disputes, if I have given wrong notion of this journey as merry-go-round. It’s almost an emotional rollercoaster. It should be enough to challenge your beliefs and shatter your expectation but if your open and flexible with self and surrounding it will make a wonderful story to share it back home. Last day on placement was a promise day, a promise to host home, school and the community. Tears flooding with great pangs in heart. So is same with leaving UKV’s. It’s even more greater with them because it was for me with this terrible picture that there is almost no or hardly chance that I will have second meeting with them cutting of media meetings. Thus, ended everything experientially at last like a boat sucked down into the vortex leaving only nostalgia and hoping against all odds memories to stay alive, experience lively and learnings propagating. This is my ICS journey and you filter the learnings. This is me, Rajkamal, Lamjung III, Q20.

Let me also share some photographs taken during placement.






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