On 10 November 2014, our large bus stopped in front of the village of Barkamuda, Nepal, where a large crowd of people waited to greet us. "Ram Ram", they said to us while placing their palms together and bowing slightly.
With huge smiles and giggles, we repeated "Ram Ram" and followed them into the village. We stopped in front of an old structure, which we found out was the school where 150 children studied. There were three small classrooms; very dark and very old. We stepped in to see the classrooms and one thing became instantly apparent: these were no classrooms fit for children to study in. The furniture was old and broken, it was very dark, and it was not big enough for all the children. At that moment, we understood that the purpose of our visit was indeed very important.
We were given our tools and instructions and started working on the work-site immediately. We all had one mission: to help the community build a new school. We had many tasks to complete; some of us were digging, some of us were carrying rocks, some were breaking rocks, and some were working with metal. We worked hand in hand with the community members, who were very happy with the support we were providing. The community, consisting of men, women, and children greeted us every morning with a kettle of Karak Tea (tea with milk) when we arrived at the worksite at 8:00am. We had limited equipment so we had to make use of our mental assets and physical strength for a lot of the tasks.
Digging was the hardest task but we worked at it diligently and did not stop until we had fulfilled our promise to the community. For five consecutive days we gave 100% of our time, our energy, and our devotion. We were on a mission, we had a purpose, and we were there to help.
Throughout the trip, as a group, we were extremely happy and our happiness spread to the whole community. We were able to interact with the villagers at the worksite and they also welcomed us into their homes and treated us to traditional meals. We also took part in a lot of local social customs such as weaving baskets and dances. I do not recall ever feeling as happy as I felt it in Nepal.
While there were language barriers, there were no communication barriers at all. We all had a small booklet that assisted us when we attempted to speak Tharu or Nepalese but we communicated a lot through smiles and gestures. We learnt words such as "Mor Naau", which translates to "My name is" and "Dhanyabaad", which means "Thank You". We dressed in the traditional clothes and jewelry and played the musical instruments. There were no reservations or worries or discomfort. Even though we were in Nepal to help a community, what we got in return was so much more valuable. We understood on a deeper level what it means to have dreams and the struggle to realize them. We understood that simplicity leads to contentment and that wealth is not measured by material assets, but by a sense of belonging to a family and a community.
On our last day, as we stood by the school entrance looking back at the past five days, we were filled with gratitude. We were grateful to the community for having placed their trust and faith in us, grateful for our own strength and commitment, and grateful for being part of a life transforming journey. While our hearts ached as we left the village on 14 November 2014, we knew we had been part of something special. We were confident that the villagers were going to complete the project, providing their children with a proper school and a good educational environment. As we departed the village, the sound of the villagers weeping echoed in our minds.