Miss Bailey Carpenter sent The Foundation an update on her summer travels and upcoming studies!
.:See her full letter below:.
For Mr. Paul Kratzig and the Meridian Public School Foundation
This past summer I spent just over a month in Pokhara, Nepal with Global Vision International, a volunteer organization based out of the UK. I travelled there alone, leaving the United States on July 5th and arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal on July 7th, a whole 12 hour 45 minute time difference from home. My adventure started as any adventure should, China Southern Airlines lost my duffle bag (they sent it to Istanbul for no viable reason), the ATM took some 25 minutes to accept my card and spit out 4,000 rupees, and the often warned about taxis were every where trying to sell me something or get me into their taxi. Wide-eyed and exhausted I found a taxi that took me to the bus park. It was an 8 hour trip from there to Pokhara, no water, no duffle bag, and no one speaking english. The view along the way though was incredible, Nepal is known for its beautiful, rolling, green hills that captivate any traveller. Truly a gorgeous country, populated with amazing people. Despite no english the locals on the bus noticed I had no water and shared their own supply with me. A few times we would attempt conversation, although it usually didn’t go very far and it always ended with laughter on their end.
Once in Pokhara all was well. I met up with the other volunteers and started the trip of a lifetime. I started out volunteering for the childcare project. At 6:30 in the morning four of us and our project manager would leave for Boys Home. This was a place for boys that had been kicked out of the house or abandoned to live and attend school. It was a half hour walk from the homestay, armed with bags full of toys, puzzles, books, and the soccer ball, we arrived at 7:00 to see the boys come running out of the house. We spent the next hour and a half playing games, working on homework, playing chess and soccer, coloring, and building lego battle ships. Five young boys filled with more energy then I ever imagined possible, with kind hearts and bright minds.
After Boys Home we walked back to the homestay for breakfast. Following that it was another 30 min. walk to Male Patan, a community run school for 2-3 year olds. If you think you have seen chaos, I can assure you, you haven’t. Thirty or so tiny Nepali children that barely speak Nepali, let alone English, in one room for four hours. There were two Didi’s that ran the school along with GVI’s volunteer support. We played with the children, sang songs, taught them about fruits, animals, clothes, and cars, brushed their teeth and taught them to wash their hands, and fed them their snack before nap time. We swept, mopped, and cleaned the classroom each day before leaving while the children went down for their nap. It was exhausting work, and yet the most fun I have ever had dealing with children.
While half of the childcare volunteers went to Boys Home in the morning, the other half went to Conversation Club (CC) in the afternoon, following Male Patan. For two hours the volunteers played games, did arts and crafts, or played soccer with the kids attending CC. It was a time for any children to come and work on their english with the volunteers. About fifteen kids, always eager, harassed the volunteers for more games, harder quizzes, tougher puzzles, and more soccer in the park every afternoon.
After the first week I transferred to the Women’s Empowerment Project (WE). They didn’t have enough volunteers, while Childcare had plenty. This was an experience I had never encountered. I had taught children of various ages and backgrounds at home for many years. However teaching a 55 year old woman how to say, “This is my book,” was an entirely new adventure. Each day we began at Male Patan, the same school for the small children but upstairs, a half hour walk from the homestay. Each volunteer had a student, an older woman coming to learn english to keep up with the times of tourism, which we taught for two hours. My student was Ganga, 55 and stubborn beyond her years, I had a blast teaching her. We started with pronouns, finding an infinite amount of ways to explain the difference between “he” and “she” and “we” and “they.” It was an incredible teaching experience. We worked hard together, her learning the english, and myself learning how to teach across language, age, and culture boundaries. One day she was trying to understand “water” and I said, “Ganga, pani! Pani, Pani.” Her face more than lit up. Pani is the Nepali word for water. The fact that I had translated a word into her terms instead of my own was a big deal. I won’t ever forget the women that taught me to teach and showed me gratitude and love for such simple knowledge.
On Mondays WE went to SASANE, a home for survivors of human trafficking and sexual enslavement. We taught english there for two hours, working through adjectives, pronouns, sentence structure, and verbs. We read books, told stories, and had conversation. These resilient women, intelligent and eager to learn, worked hard to learn english so they could finish the equivalent of a high school diploma. Most of them were sold before finishing school. Most of the girls worked for the organization that housed them, fighting human trafficking and helping other survivors. To say they are an inspiration would be an understatement.
Three Sisters Trekking Co. was the third destination on our Monday schedule. We taught in a classroom next to the guides office for another two hours. Originally GVI was teaching the guides and incoming guides english so they could make conversation and lead their clients better, although by the time I got there it wasn’t just guides. All kinds of girls and women came to learn english. We worked on basic english with some and more advanced english with others. Regardless of level, each was more than eager to converse with us. They wrote stories and read books, filled in sentences with the correct pronoun and verb. I was constantly inspired by these women that cooked, cleaned, did laundry, raised children, rose at sunrise to do yoga before chores and yet always made time for their english lessons. Or the younger girls that became trekking guides instead of wives to make an income and go to school. I began to appreciate the gift of a college education more than I ever had before.
The last place WE taught was a school called Little Daffodils English Boarding School, or Pame. There were two women that came to the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to learn english. I taught Trishana, an older woman with very good english. We read books, learned new words, and conversed. After Trishana and the other woman left for the day we would help the other volunteer project at Pame, teaching children in one-on-one sessions or sometimes entire classrooms. Although it is a boarding school it is poor and even more poorly run. The teachers show up occasionally to teach, otherwise the children are left without a lesson for the day. We usually taught a class called Math-5. Although completely chaotic and disorganized, the children were bright and worked harder at school than any other children I had ever seen at that age. We wrote math problems on the board that they completed in their notebooks, the moment they finished the problem they would scream they were done so we checked their answer. They thrived on the approval, most would trick us into checking it twice so they could hear the praise again. They shouted for more and more problems even after the bell rang for the end of class. The eagerness of these students never failed to make me appreciate the education I had received.
We played volleyball and soccer with the children during the lunch break. Arts and crafts were held in the GVI classroom. Never an end to the amount of energy within these children, we made friendships bracelets twice over in the 40 min. time period. They constantly wanted to learn a new craft or new game. Although exhausting it was fulfilling work. I appreciate the time I had in Nepal like no other, I learned so much about the world and other cultures, but mostly I learned who I am and what I want to do with my life and education. Instead of just hearing about a water pollution, or listening to the issue of pollution, I saw it. I lived these problems: trash burning in the street, water contaminated by numerous diseases, food unsafe to eat, rapid dogs, sick people, and poverty. All around me these problems became daily life. At home each of these things had a structured system leading to a solution: trash services, water cleaning services, food regulations, pet services and rules of ownership, doctors and medicine. It was all taken care of. Living there showed me how much I can do with my education and compassion.
I am excited to begin my degree in Biological Sciences with a focus toward Medical School, a minor in Psychology to become a certified Social Worker, all with the goal of going back out in the world to help people. To educate and serve those without a voice. A degree out of medical school has weight internationally and a social work certificate allows me to work and communicate with a variety of people and trauma levels. I so look forward to making a change in societies around the world and contributing to the health and happiness of so many. Thank you to the Meridian Public School Foundation for supporting me and my education.