- Parent Category: ROOT
- Published: Thursday, 29 January 2015 17:38
Inspired to Create Change
How one Oak Grove high school student spent her summer
by Piper Stump
The small city of Surkhet, Nepal nests tucked away in a valley surrounded by verdurous mountains looming all around. Just a turn off the busy streets filled with colorful market stands and stray dogs, lays Kopila Valley. Behind the gates one will find the smiles of 50 beautiful children possibly playing with dogs, helping a friend, or maybe reading. Kopila Valley Children’s Home is where I spent a short month of my summer volunteering. Kopila Valley was started and run by a brilliant young woman named Maggie Doyne. During her gap year she visited Nepal for a part of her travels. After seeing the substandard living and working conditions Maggie was inspired to create change. What was once supposed to be a short visit to Nepal transpired into an on-going lifestyle for Maggie. She called her parents asking for them to transfer over her babysitting money to begin her adventure. After many years of hardship and love Maggie today has created the Kopila Valley School currently educating about 300 children, and has adopted 50 children who live with her at the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
I met Maggie about two years ago at a conference she was speaking at called the “Do Lectures” up in Northern California. She came with one of her daughter’s who was thirteen at the time who spoke as well. After both of the talks I’m pretty sure they had the audience balling tears of both joy and despair. Their talks were hard-hitting and illuminating and I knew at once I had to introduce myself to her and her daughter. Fast forward a year and a half later my friend and I both found ourselves online vigorously typing for an application process as a Kopila Valley summer fellow. Upon hearing our acceptance, we were both ecstatic and could not wait until the summer came.
The travel to Surkhet was a long one to say the least. It took 5 planes and about 2 days to reach, but it was absolutely worth it. I traveled with a good friend who was also going to Kopila, and it was nice to have company during that 12 hour flight (even though he slept through most of it.) When I reached Nepal I was already in complete shock at everything I was seeing. There was never a dull moment starting even before the taxi cab ride from the Kathmandu airport. Monkeys swung above luggage exchange, oxen, cows, goats, dogs, busy men, and rushing mothers hustled and bustled their ways through the streets, hasty taxi drivers honked and swarmed and sped their way through the streets, noise, color, and smell was everywhere. The week spent in Kathmandu was a week never to be forgotten. It was spent dining at places serving things like mutton and Mo-Mo’s (all delicious by the way) and touring multiple temples. My favorite being Swayambunath or “Monkey Temple.” It gets its name from the swarms of monkeys climbing all over the temples and prayer flags. After a week in Kathmandu we left for Kopila Valley. Unlike the tall infrastructure and city atmosphere of Kathmandu, Surkhet was still very beautiful, but in poverty. In America hear about poverty and deprivation, or you read about it, and you think you know and have an idea what the other places of the world are like, but nothing can prepare you for reality. Most houses were constructed of mud and sticks, barely withstanding the monsoon season. However, the most incredible thing I found about Nepal, was despite poor conditions the people of Surkhet were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. The second I walked into the school I felt as if I had walked into a room of best friends and family members. My heart was overwhelmed at once as a small army of children hugged me and shook my hand asking things like, how are you, what is your name, and when is your birthday? Their smiles were the most genuine I’ve ever seen in my life and they never seemed to falter. Maggie had cultivated pure magic in Nepal.
My jobs in Nepal varied between the school and the home. At school, so coincidentally, the third, fourth, and fifth grade English teacher was gone getting her own education the same weeks that I was there. I took over as the position of the English teacher, and occasional Health Class for my stay. Teaching two third grade classes, one fourth, and one fifth a day, each 50 minutes and each class holding about 30 students was a little overwhelming to say the least. I taught using a textbook as my basis, but encouraged the students to do things like write creative sentences and stories. Despite the rowdiness or “chuk-chuk” as they say in Nepali, their creativeness and passion for learning was always evident. In the home my job was to help out all around the house. In the mornings the children were to go to breakfast, be dressed, and be off to school by 9 am for morning assembly. An amazing thing was, in the morning even the youngest of children (three or four years old) didn’t need much guidance with their morning duties. After school I taught some willing children guitar and left three guitars and a ukulele with them to keep on practicing. One girl named Krishna, who spent most time with me and music was eager and learned quickly impressing us all with a cover of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” at good bye Satsun. Satsun was “family meeting” that were held at the end of each night. At Satsun we talked about a huge variation of things like the next days plans, recognitions of good-deeds during the day, song singing, and was closed off with prayer every night. After Satsun was a time of hushed giggling and storytelling. I would tuck into bed with children and read them books or talk about all sorts of things. I bonded with girls of all ages from four, to even fifteen. There was nothing strange or awkward about being with these children and even today I still connect with them. When bedtime came, I would check from room to room making sure everyone in the girls dorms had on pajamas and had brushed their teeth. Although it was my job to be with these children, it never felt like a duty. I loved being with every single one of the kids even through some rough patches, (which there were, i.e. sickness and stitches.)
Going to Nepal I didn’t have much expectation of what life would be like, mostly because I really did not know what to expect. Life was loud and exciting and at some points I felt very homesick and vulnerable, but the new experiences and perspectives that I brought home with me will be something I will hold and treasure with me forever. I am now so much more aware of world situations, and inspired to create change. Even Maggie’s story began with just something small. “In the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference” - Maggie Doyne, BlinkNow Founder. We all have the capability to generate unlimited change in the world, we just need something to spark that passion. Volunteering in Nepal was a life-changing experience which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.