My placement was cut short by COVID-19, but I’m proud of what we achieved

24th April 2020

Nick volunteered on a Raleigh ICS programme in rural Nepal at the beginning of 2020. While his volunteer project was forced to finish early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he reflects on the positive impact that his team made to develop sustainable livelihoods for local farmers.

The journey from Kathmandu back to Manchester was a difficult one. I’d been part of a team working to enhance livelihoods in the rural Nepalese community of Ghyapring, however, the project had been terminated halfway through due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a crushing disappointment. During the flight home, I reflected on the last five weeks of my Raleigh volunteer placement.

My Raleigh project involved working with a local community to support them to build sustainable livelihoods. To do this, we worked with local people to build polytunnels – which are greenhouses made from bamboo and covered in polythene sheeting – which enable farmers to grow crops all year round.

Volunteers work with local community members to construct nursery beds

We supported in constructing nursery beds for growing tomato plants which would be transferred to and grown within the polytunnels. By supporting local people in the building of polytunnels and nursery beds, they would be able to grow crops across the year which they can take to the cities for selling, creating a sustainable and reliable source of income for local farmers.

Our team worked together to achieve this. We split into four committees – infrastructure development, community development, awareness raising and training. I was on infrastructure development alongside my teammates co-managing the building of eighteen polytunnels for the community.

Nursery beds allow local people to grow crops

On our project we completed construction of eight polytunnels and five nursery beds. We held a focus group with local youth to gauge whether our ideas had their support.

Raleigh volunteers support in the construction of polytunnels

On top of completing the construction of polytunnels and nursery beds, we planned to set up a sewing group, restoring the local youth group and improve methods of waste management in the community. However, our planning was interrupted when we were given the news we’d have to go home early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We had a strong connection with our community and were full of optimism for the project, so this news felt worse than losing the World Cup Final by a last-minute own goal.

The work of volunteers improves livelihoods in rural Nepal

While we left the project earlier, we still made a difference. One man, Chetra, who lived next to my host home, worked with us to build a polytunnel so he could improve his growth of crops. It was great to see how happy he was when it was complete. He was one of many to have benefitted from our project.

From a personal perspective, I improved my communication skills, hands-on skills, practical problem-solving abilities and adaptability through the project. I also had the privilege of being immersed in and learning about Nepal and its dazzling culture.

Leaving Raleigh is a bittersweet feeling as my thoughts yoyo between what we achieved and what we couldn’t have. But we made a positive impact in the community and it left me with the confidence to continue making a difference back home. I was sad to leave wonderful Ghyapring, but I made friendships that will last and did work that will too.

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