Meredith Rogerson, Class of 2011
"Thinking that I would like to pursue a career in public service, I am utilizing my Summer Experience Grant to fund volunteer work in Kathmandu, Nepal. I am working with an organization called Volunteer Society Nepal (VSN), which is based in Pepsicola Townplanning (just outside of Kathmandu) and supports volunteers in areas all over Nepal. Like many VSN volunteers, I decided to stay in Pepsicola, where I live at the volunteer coordinator's home with his family and four other volunteers. After a week-long session of Nepali language and cultural training, I was assigned to a local orphanage and took over two classes at the local Women's Center. I spend my mornings at the orphanage, assisting the children (ages 5-15) with their homework and otherwise helping them to get ready for school. Last week, the children were on their summer holiday, so another volunteer and I held English classes and other activities such as football and dancing for the children (their favorite was freeze dance!). After walking the children to school at 9:30, I go home for breakfast, and then head over to the Women's Center. There, I teach an hour-long English class, followed by an hour-long math class to Nepalese women in their 20s and 30s. I usually spend my afternoons planning future lessons, working on a longer-term curriculum for the Women's Center, or reviewing my Nepali so that I can better understand the local culture and can be a stronger teacher for my students.
When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I said to myself, "What were you thinking?!" Kathmandu is completely unlike any other place to which I have been. Nepali is spoken quickly, traffic is chaos, and the bus system is utterly confusing. Gradually, though, this foreign placehas become familiar to me, and as a result, this trip has been one of the most tremendous learning experiences of my life, and it continues to be; I will admit - the days are difficult, trying to explain English to women who cannot even read in their own language, or watching a child be beaten by an elder or teacher for misbehavior (this is hugely common in schools and orphanages and is, I am told, "just part of the culture"). No matter how difficult things get, though, a child's smile or a small breakthrough of one of my students makes it all worth it.