Arambha

Roosters crowing children growing, got big plans but dirty pants, with kids to teach life is sweet!

Tag Archives: Volunteers

What Am I Doing?

The length of the week here varies dramatically.

Things slow down considerably when you first arrive. Most likely because you aren’t checking your email every 15 minutes and there is no RSS news feed to bait you at the dinner table. You walk everywhere rather than drive, and even though your meeting is at 2:00 p.m., at 2:15 you know you’ve still got a few minutes to spare.

After a few days of sleeping at odd hours and unpacking into your home away, the moments speed up. There’s so much to be done – and much of what needs to be done will only keep you moving forward into more tasks and projects…. For instance admissions – while arguably essential – they only put us farther behind from an educational standpoint.

And then, without preamble, you’re sitting in the school office explaining that you’ll be gone in three weeks, meaning you’ll only be there for the first five days of real school. And you want to cry. Because, like with anyone you truly love, it could never be enough time.

After much Nepali/English calendar confusion, Libby, Tope, and I have come to this conclusion. The fact is my time is almost up, and there is so much I want to do.

It’s not that I’ve been lazing around. I and the other volunteers have been concerned with the small details that will help Kopila continue to develop as a school.

Jake figured out a great system for hanging charts and student work in the classrooms that is both cost effective and weather resistant. I’ve been cataloging the school library using software that will allow me to remotely view the library’s holdings so that I can recommend new acquisitions and, most importantly, help our teachers learn how to use literature in the classroom.

Caitlin is continuing our efforts to recycle and provide the school with much needed organizational supplies like pencil holders and book ends.

We’re continuing our computer training for the teachers. Migrating lesson plans to a digital format and teaching them how to use internet resources will hopefully save them precious time in the long run, and make teaching more interesting.

Tope and I chose canvas for the dust covers we’re putting in the library and the office. Dirt is a constant issue here, especially for electronics like copiers and computers. We’re also hoping they’ll make things easier for our house and school staff which work 16 hrs + everyday to keep the school in running order.

Libby and I are giving administrative and facilities management responsibilities to our oldest students. But that is a system in itself which requires oversight and planning. Wen haven’t quite figured out that piece yet.

All these things seem simple, quick, not a problem – but they take time here. And while small, we hope that they’ll foster the attitude of care and innovation which is so essential to the success of a project like this. We know we can’t stay forever, so we’re doing our best to create an environment which supports our teachers so they can continue to grow as educators. They’ll have to do the majority of the hardest work – the day to day – on their own. We’re here to help them discover the tools that will help them create their best work yet.

We’re trying to transform workers on assembly lines into artisans in studios. With string and job charts.

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Photos from our teacher resource fair, 2 weeks ago:

A Sprouting Bean

If you follow Maggie and Blinknow, you know that Namraj is a handful. Not being a talker hasn’t stopped him from letting you know exactly what he wants by pointing, scowling, whining, screaming, and – if necessary – delivering a pint-sized dose of Kung Fu with his mini-me Bruce Lee feet and hands.

I get along well with kids in general, but babies don’t take to me very quickly. It isn’t just Namraj who avoids my company. Monica doesn’t care for me to even looking at her, baby Madan ran from me every time I saw him during my last stay, and there were a few nursery class applicants this year who preferred anyone but me interview them.
So I’m not offended by Namraj’s wiley ways.

The fact remains however that Maggie is on sabbatical, Kusum and Ubji are visiting family in India, and the rest of us are really busy! In Nepal it really does take a village to raise a child, so Libby (who just came down with a stomach bug) has been leading the effort to change the baby’s picky ways and force him to like and accept all of us – weird white people included.

Last week he spent 45 minutes pacing up and down the third floor hallway and Libby’s room screaming bloody murder because she wanted him to play on his own and practice walking (he’s not as sure-footed as he could be, because everyone wants to hold him. He truly suffers from being so cute…I digress…) You would have thought she was barbecuing his toes. He banged on Kusum’s door hoping she would rescue him. He walked to the front balcony and wailed for help. We followed close behind as he climbed the stairs to the roof where he plopped down and screamed to the heavens for mercy. Finally he wore himself out and Libby was able to take him downstairs swaddled on her back.

Caitlin and I are the last adult frontiers. I don’t know if it’s because we’re so white, or Caitlin’s so tall, maybe my nose is too big…whatever it is, he just doesn’t approve. Today Gyanu had been with him all morning and had things of her own to do. I found her in the hallway trying to give the baby to Tope. He looked so tired and worn out from driving twice in three days to the Indian border that I just grabbed the baby for a guerilla-style daycare adventure.

He wasn’t too bad. In fact, he was kind of good. Just as he was drifting off to sleep, the lunch gong rang, and he woke up. He let me carry him all the way to the school for our meal. We shared a plate of vegetables and dhaal bhat. He listened to me when I said no to him bothering the other aunties and didis while they were eating. Washed his face and nose – no major issues. Checked his diaper – no drama. Carrying him back to the house and up to the third floor – happy as a clam. He fussed a little when he realized there was no one else around, but after telling him to be quiet and sleep – he did just that.

And now he’s sleeping on my bed – like a little lima bean, storing up energy for its next growth spurt. Kudos to Libby – her sink or swim approach is turning this quasi-neurotic baby into a healthy, well-balanced toddler.

If you really study his face for a few moments you'll see the potential for mischief that lurks inside....

Goodbye Volunteers

Frank left today. Kelly and Cristina are leaving tomorrow. And I will be gone on Friday. One minute I am so ready to come home and see everyone I love, and the next I want to change my ticket and stay another 2 weeks.

In any case, I wanted to share some thoughts and stories about our “Dr.” (med student extraordinaire) Frank.

He has been such a rockstar here at Kopila. EVERYONE loves Frank. He had a gaggle of little girls from here at the hostel that would follow him around, from clinic to house to the top floor and back down to the school, giggling and jumping. They just adored him.

All the grown up Nepalis loved Frank too. He was the first to buy a topi, and he wore it all the time! Everyone in the market got such a kick out of it. And at dinner time he could eat almost as much dhaal bhat as a Nepali – which is a lot. Once or twice even Baju (typically a poker face) expressed her approval at his ability to pack it away.

When Maggie introduced all the volunteers at the show last month, we all got polite applause. But Frank was hiding on the sidelines (the topi makes him invisible) and Maggie forgot about him for a sec. When she realized and introduced him – people stood up. They cheered. They roared. Hannah, me, Cristina, and Kelly just looked at each other. Where did that come from?

But more than his charm, humor, and digestive prowess, Frank was a lifesaver here at the house and school. Literally. He solved mystery illnesses (no wonder one of his fav shows is House!), he woke up in the middle of the night for vomiting children, he rode on the back of a scooter he barely fit on by himself in the rain at midnight to take sick kids to the hospital.

He was never afraid to say he didn’t know an answer, or that he wasn’t sure what to do next. So many times he and Kelly would say, “I know how to treat hypertension and diabetes – not tropical boils!” But they researched online, consulted colleagues, read Karen’s travel medicine book (PS Karen – we found it!), and trudged on. Sometimes I could tell it wasn’t easy. Getting an accurate history through a 12 year old translator isn’t the best scenario for diagnosing severe headaches coupled with leg pain and loss of consciousness. Or try suturing a 4 year olds’ head wound with a needle gauged for what looks like exotic veterinary medicine. Quick, what’s the toxicity of an entire tube of adult flouride toothpaste, because baby Madan – 2 years old and 17 lbs soaking wet – just ate one. The list goes on. Every day was something wild and woolly.

On top of what must have seemed like a 6 week long emergency room on call shift, Frank taught health classes at the school. Once hand washing and drinking water standards had been covered, he dove right into the good stuff – anatomy, pathology, and organic chemistry. One evening as Kelly and I ate our dinner roti, Shova told us she was studying for a health quiz. When we asked what it was about, she told us the types of foods. We understood from the blank look on her face after asking what kind of food roti was, that Frank had been up to his usual ways. Why teach the food pyramid when you can jump straight into carbon chains and peptide rings!

He even managed to teach the kids a smattering of Japanese, and showed the boys how to shave during he and Kelly’s special puberty talk.

Frank was a great volunteer teammate as well. He was always quick to pick up a treat from the market for Friday nights on the roof, or to listen to you vent about a project that just wasn’t going the way you wanted it to. His crazy ultra-capitalist schemes (what Surkhet really needs is a teaching hospital – and a CASINO!) became a running joke, as did his craving for cow meat. While waiting for a line of tractors to pass us on the main road earlier this week, I caught Frank staring off in the direction of a herd of cattle and heard him murmur, “Just look at all that meat! How can they not eat it!”

I just don’t know what we are going to do without him. I only have to give medicine to two children in his absence and I am already worried I’ll forget. He’s helped this community and this family so much. I walked by his room after he left and one of our Aunties was sitting on his bed sobbing. It reminded me how many great hearts there are here – people who open the door to their home and their family with the utmost trust and goodwill. Their kind and gracious manner masks the plain hard work that they do from sunrise to past sunset. Her sad crumpled face showed me that language barriers and different backgrounds are no match for the closeness that comes from living, working, and caring together.

To Frank, dozing at 35K feet in a cramped middle seat over the Atlantic right now (hopefully after having some meat based dinner), and to all the Kopila volunteers past and present – the best in us thanks the best in you.

Frank, Nisha, Cristina, and Kelly. Photo Courtesy of Frank Cioppettini

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