Sunday, February 7, 2016

Volunteer testimonial Koseli

During February and March 2015 I had the pleasure to visit Koseli School and work as a volunteer. In fact this was not the first time that I visited the school; In August 2013 I first came to know about the foundation through a college exchange programme, then later in April 2014 I volunteered at the school for a short two week period. Because of the great experiences on my previous visits I wanted to spend more time at the school this year, so I had arranged to stay there for almost two months.

Before arriving in Kathmandu I had made a few thoughts about how I would like to spend my time at the school. Under my previous visits I came to the understanding that because of language barriers it can be quite difficult as a foreigner to teach certain subjects – in many cases the children are actually much better off with the regular, local teachers. Imagine having to explain students in grade 4 the difference between area, perimeter and volume in a language they only have basic knowledge of. A native Nepali speaking teacher would be much better qualified for this purpose.
With that in mind I came to Koseli School with the hope of encouraging the students in arts and crafts activities, physical education and sports along with improving their spoken English skills. Earlier I had realized that because of a tight budget the school only has limited funds to buy materials and equipment, meanwhile employing teachers for these specific subjects are even more difficult.

Being back at the school and meeting all the students and teachers again was so wonderful. Entering the school ground and watching all the happy and curious faces turning towards me was a unique experience. Most of the older children even still remembered my name (although sometimes slightly mispronounced). They would come to me and with their particular Nepali accent say: “Hello Daniel Sir. How are you? Where have you been?”
After chatting with the students for a while I sat down with Deepika – a local volunteer who helps the school with administrative tasks, and we came up with a schedule for me to teach arts and crafts. After a few weeks the school would participate in an exhibition, and they were hoping to produce different items such as paper bags, decorated wrapping paper for gifts, friendship bracelets and other jewellery to exhibit and hopefully sell. During the following week I started teaching the students from grade 2-6 to make friendship bracelets made of thin nylon strings and rubber bands, and later on we decorated paper bags with rags from different clothes and fabrics. We would either sit on the floor in the office/library or outside on a blanket in shade of the sun. For the bags we also made our own glue to stick the pieces of rags onto the paper bags, and in general there’s a big awareness on the school to recycle and upcycle, which I think we could learn a lot from back in Denmark.
 The students showed such an energy and passion for making these crafts, and they were overwhelmingly happy to get to do something different and entertaining that it was rather difficult to get them to stop and start tidying up when the time was up. However, when I finally got through to them, they would clean the entire floor with all the strings, rubber bands, rags and other items within few minutes, being very disciplined about it.

After a couple of weeks I came up with the idea of holding a sports day with the theme Olympic Games. In preparation of the Olympic games I held training sessions for each class in the disciplines they would participate in, meanwhile we also created medals for the winners and flags for the countries, into which the students would be divided. After a couple of weeks of training the day finally came for Olympic Games to be held. The board members of Koseli Foundation and other associates were invited, and it was arranged as a big ceremony. The students were very excited about the day and were all cheerful and smiling. They would each sit in one corner of the school grounds with the other students from their given country and cheer for the participating students. In the preparations of the Olympic Games I had tried to teach the students about team work and team spirit, and it seemed like it had affected them a great deal; by the end of the day some of them had almost lost their voice caused by singing and cheering.

In general I had an incredible volunteer experience at Koseli, which completely exceeding my expectations. This was the third time for me to visit the school, and every time I go there I grow fonder of the place. There’s definitely changes that still need to be done – the foundation is relatively new and with a recently change in the administration of the school it’s clear they are still in the initial phase of establishing a proper education institution. After having met Neelam, the lady who now runs the school, I’m sure the foundation will have a bright future though. She is so passionate and sincere about helping the students, and she does everything within her power to better their lives. The teachers are likewise incredibly hard working and it’s clear they want their students to do well – the teachers come from similar backgrounds as the students and they know from experience the importance of education.

One thing that I’d advise the school to improve is the level of the spoken English. The children know surprising many words in English, and most of them are not even shy to use them. However, there’s a big difference between their level of understanding and their level of speaking – this goes both for students and teachers. If the school really wants to get the maximum effect of the help from international volunteers, they would need to help students and teachers to enhance their English speaking skills, so they will be able to participate in educational discussions. This progress is already initiated; twice a week a local volunteer hold English lessons for the teachers, and hopefully they will gain more skill and confidence in speaking English, which will affect the students as well.

This was definitely not the last time I volunteered at the school, and I’m excited to see the progress they have done on my next visit.


By Daniel from Denmark

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