Charlie, 31, lives in London and works in a school that helps young people to reintegrate back into education after they have experienced a mental health breakdown. After a devastating earthquake in Nepal, he decided to spend his summer holidays helping to rebuild a school.
I love asking young people what they want to be when they grow up, because I’m still looking for ideas… However, when the opportunity to rebuild a school in Nepal caught my eye, I told myself, “I’ve found my calling!”
After the earthquake, I felt completely hopeless and honestly didn’t even donate a penny because I have worries about who actually decides what to do with the money. Through careful consideration, I decided that I was going to give up two weeks of my summer holidays and go and help in Nepal myself. Friends, family, and my local church were exceptionally supportive, and generously donated to my Just Giving page to help me pay for the flights and any school resources I felt would go to good use out in Nepal.
The project took me all the way to a small village called Panauti, which is situated 32 km southeast of Kathmandu valley. When I arrived I was greeted by a local representative, who gave me the shocking news that unfortunately I was the only volunteer for the summer. Thank God I’m an optimist, as I didn’t let this affect me, since I was there to do a job, even if that meant single-handedly! Fortunately, a private donor approached the school the next day, making an awesome donation which enabled them to hire professionals and get the job completed more quickly.
Seeing the local children for the first time was a morale booster, and I knew it was onwards and upwards from this point on. Temporary classrooms were already in use and lessons were back to normal, but the children deserved more. I was eager to teach English and some new games to the children with the resources I bought to donate to the school. The children were fantastic and fully engaged in all my lessons, including an interesting game of ultimate frisbee which saw the girls beat the boys with their eyes closed. I even learnt some Nepalese games too, and all lessons in English were informative.
I was blown away by the local library, where I was fascinated to see bundles of children’s sandals outside. Of course, the TV room was the most popular, but the bag of soft toys my colleague donated was best suited for the children’s book room, where children can read books with the teddies or even complete their homework knowing Minnie Mouse is helping them. It was exhilarating to observe a free space donated by the government for young people to complete homework, socialise with friends, and even learn how to dance the traditional way going to good use! Schools and libraries are vital establishments within Nepal, and are key to enable people to recover psychologically. Brave young children of the village always had a smile on their faces, and I pray the new classrooms will inspire them to flourish and gain a good education, which will give them the confidence to shape their future.
My grandma always used to say, “Don’t rest on your laurels – keep going.” Anyone reading this article who feels inspired: just remember the way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.