Ritanjali Hastir, Associate Editor, March, 2019, Shimla
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart and on your body. You take something with you and hopefully, you leave something good behind.
A group of 16 students from Loreto Convent Tara Hall, Shimla, along with their three teachers took a journey of their lifetime. A journey – that not only changed their towards life, but even brought them one step closer to self-realization.
A team of 20 people began their journey with the motive to help, observe, learn and preach as they visited the Loreto Education Development Center, Dharan, Nepal, to not just represent the Loreto Shimla, but also change the lives of others for a good cause and serve the students and little children awaiting them. However, the experience turned out to be more than a mere interaction that changed them all as individuals, as the students shared.
“We all expected it to be a simple trip where we were supposed to extend a helping hand to the students and young children who are less fortunate than us. We were all prepared to spend some time with them and adjust to the situation around as we were told that we might not get the best facilities as we are all used to. However, the hospitality of the people took us by surprise.”
Students were divided into three groups of five each, with different groups visiting morning tuitions, evening tuitions, self help groups or field locations and regions like the Sagarmatha Basti where little children were being weighed in order to check the ratio of underweight children to that of the healthy ones. Along with working specifically for the betterment of the female strata of the society, Loreto Dharan also encourages health and hygiene by providing free ration to pregnant women, underweight children and tuberculosis patients. Other places we visited included Noula Basti, Sauni Basti, Gauri Gaon, Ritting and Kuvirta Chowk along with some local markets and the Gorakha Departmental Store.
“We were taken aback with the way these people deal with life, in spite of having so much to cry about. Children do not have good facilities but their zeal to learn is beyond expression. They all do their work themselves and even clean the classes after their tuitions are over. In spite of living in so much poverty, we really appreciate the fact that none of them beg. Each one has self-respect and they want to earn their living no matter how small a job may be,” the girls added.
“As Nepal is known as the land of rivers it was sad to see that the rivers have dried up and it shook us too to realize the way we are wasting our resources. We need to look at them and learn how to wisely utilize the natural resources,” shared all.
“Nepal is having a year 2075 as per their calendar and we are somewhere in just 73, which shows how far behind we are to them not in just numbers but in an actual way. The nation that is far ahead of war and crime and has its own secret beauty. When it comes to traffic, people use bicycles and public transport facility. There are hardly any traffic problems and we don’t get to see any filth or dirt anywhere unlike in our cities,” they felt.
All of them learned to value life, parents and wonderful life which they now believe is heaven after seeing the poor little orphans and disabled children who didn’t even knew who their parents were. They all learned the lesson how hard dark life can get without parents – the guiding light in ones’ life.
If given an opportunity, each one of them wishes to go back and lend a helping hand as they all know feel more responsible and concerned about the society as a whole and not just about their own family . It’s more about Vasudev Katumb – one world one family – for them as even their teacher shared, “They felt homesick when they went for this trip but after returning back they are feeling even worse as they have established a new bonding with the people there that was not by blood but simply by humanity which is the height form of bondage one can ever get entangled in.”
Sharing her vision School Principal Sister A. Nirmala said, “Today the young are very vivacious and talented. They are our future. Often we say that our adolescents are troublesome and conceited, maybe even lacking empathy, but not many of us dare to give them an opportunity to practice their humanity. One can even say that our education system also fails in giving these children a firsthand experience of what they study in classes. Service learning experience bridges this very gap between the academic content and practical skill building. It helps them to think and analyse practical questions. It not only motivates the children to become responsible citizens but also challenges them to not be critical about government schemes but to ask themselves what they can do for the society. It diminishes fear and enables them to interact with other members of the community. They become more aware of pertinent social issues and learn to empathize with these issues. For a few children it gives them the opportunity to know what career options to embark upon. It makes them well-equipped with the 21st century skills to face challenges especially while working in a team and collaborating. It gives them a sense of confidence and self worth.”
To conclude she said that each child should strive to be the reason someone feels heard, seen and supported by the universe which is only possible when these children are given a platform to render these services to the community. I would also like to thank the parents for allowing their children to be part of this service learning experience.
Sometimes we let life guide us, and other times we take life by the horns. But one thing is for sure: no matter how organized we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected. Students who took up this enlightening journey included Yasharui Gupta, Sanidhya Sharma, Vaishnavi Thakur, Parul Chauhan, Vriti Tangri, Manasvi Chauhan, Japneet Kaur, Inaya Azmi, Smayra Mittam, Anagha Chauhan, Vedika Negi, Rhythm Mehta, Tanisha Chauha, Prizul Kashuap, Mayanka Sharma and Digisha Sharma. Teachers included Monika Sharma, Sister Pushpa and Arvind Kaur.