I first decided to come to Nepal when I was unable to follow my chosen career path due to medical reasons. I was not happy with what I was doing at home and I knew that I wanted a change. My original thoughts were of a long holiday, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the best way to really experience a different culture would be to volunteer and have a ‘working holiday.’ I was looking for a physical challenge, and the thought of something on the ‘tourist trail’ made me cringe. With this in mind, I sent emails to a number of different volunteer organizations around the world. I eventually settled on Nepal after hearing about the placements in Dolpa and Bigu. The remoteness of these places was exactly what I was looking for and the descriptions of Dolpa seemed to be exactly what I had envisioned my time away to be. That night, I booked a ticket, so there was no way of getting out of it, and I began working 18 hours a day to pay for the trip. Six months later I was on a plane and heading to Kathmandu, and it was all worth it.
After a week of seeing the sights in Kathmandu, I was ready to leave the valley to see the countryside. With Narti being halfway to my dream destination of Dolpa and a Papa's House employee heading out to the small girls' orphanage, I packed up and took off. After an 18 hour bus trip on the local bus, I was glad to get to Narti. But not as glad as the girls were to see us. They took our bags from us and sat us down; they were all very excited to meet someone new. Unfortunately, all was not as it should be in Narti. We were asked to make the trip back the next day, and to see which girls wanted to come to Kathmandu to study. I was upset at first that everything was not going according to plan and that another full day on a bus was in the cards. The girls who came to Kathmandu were all very upset to be leaving their sisters to pursue a better education, and the first couple of hours were taken up by looking after girls who were travel sick and very sad. With 18 hours to think about it, I realized that I hadn’t wasted two days on a bus, but was lucky enough to be able to help 10 girls and 1 boy in their quest for a good education and a better life. Really, two days was a small investment from me to give this opportunity to these children. Every day I was able to see the children and see how hard they apply themselves to the opportunity they have been given. I think these were about the best two days that I have ever invested. I think I would walk to Narti and back to give these girls the opportunity they now have. It was a self-satisfaction I had never felt before, and in these two days, the idea of conquering mountains was overcome by the idea of investing my five months in the children of Nepal and quietly reaping the benefit of this new found self-satisfaction.
I went to Dolpa a week after getting back to Kathmandu and my thirst for a physical challenge was quenched with some incredible walking in what has to be the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. It was a place which, due to its remoteness, is like stepping back in time. No cars and no roads, a much simpler way of life in a beautiful part of the world. After nearly a month in Dolpa, I was beginning to miss the children at Papa's House. Very happy with my stay in Dolpa and very keen to meet up with the children at Papa's House, I headed back to Kathmandu.
Between my work in Kathmandu and some political unrest, I was happily stuck in Kathmandu for over a month. It was a great time and I really was able to connect better with the children. It is a time I will never forget and it was in this time that I really began to get to know the children better.
I stayed in other places in Nepal, including the monastery in Bigu, a medical center in the hills and the government-run baby orphanage in Kathmandu. All were incredible experiences that offered their own st of challenges, both physical and emotional. But with all of them, I found myself missing the environment at Papa's House and missing the time with the children.
Five months went all too fast. With my tourist visa expired, before I knew it I was booking a flight home and packing my things. I never thought it would be so hard to leave, but I really didn’t want to go. The children all asked me when I would be coming back and it was a question I didn’t have an answer for. “As soon as I can” was the best I came up with. Everyone asked me if I was happy to be coming home to which I had to reply, “I think I am leaving home.” I really felt like I was leaving my 140 new brothers and sisters behind and I was very sad, but it always came full circle back to what I had achieved and the experiences I have had.
Being with the children inspired me to write a book. Every child at Papa's House told an incredible story of their experiences before coming to Papa's House and I am determined to help them tell that story. Apart from that, my plans are basically revolving around how best to help out Papa's House while I’m living in Australia. Sam Isherwood (a great mate, a great volunteer and the person with whom I went to Narti) and I are looking into plans to finance the purchase of warm clothes for the girls in Narti and I hope I can continue to contribute from there. I still can’t answer the question of when I will be coming back, but I do know that I will be returning and already I have memories that will last a life time.