Faith, 18 from Dover, took part in a 10-week Raleigh Expedition in Nepal during her year out after finishing school. Through her volunteer placement she made an impact on various projects improving access to water and sanitation, while also learning skills for the future.
After I finished school in May 2021 I wanted to do something worthwhile. I researched several similar organisations, but I felt that I identified most with Raleigh International’s goals, particularly their focus on youth-led action and sustainability. So I signed up to a 10-week Expedition to Nepal and arrived in February 2022.
While volunteering I have been involved in six different project activities related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
I’ve been part of a number of WASH sessions, including a reusable sanitary pad making session with two different women’s groups, a menstrual hygiene session at a secondary school in the community of Harda and a meeting with Harda’s Water User Committee. With my team we have also been digging trenches for the new water pipelines to be laid in two rural communities. All of this work is important in their own way.
I feel that our handwashing and reusable pad-making sessions were particularly important as they have a visible and instant impact in the community here, either by reducing sickness or supporting people with skills that can be passed on for several generations to come.
I feel that overall that Expedition has had an extremely positive impact in the communities, one that’s been made up of a combination of smaller and larger events.
In the bigger picture, we’ve been part of an overarching network to bring clean and accessible water to villages suffering from water insecurity. But on a smaller scale we’ve had direct impact on individual lives.
The highlight of my experience so far definitely has to be the first menstrual hygiene and pad-making session with the women’s group in Jaljale community.
Our pad-making session went extremely well in terms of high community turnout and engagement. It was really lovely to join the community in a more informal setting. All the participating women took home a new skill which could either be passed onto their families or turned into a profit by selling the pads to their friends and neighbours. Menstruation is definitely regarded as a taboo in Nepal, so even if we only made a small chip in the stigma I’m really proud of what we achieved as a team that day.
I have learnt that I’m more of a leader than I thought I was.
As a part of Raleigh, you have to lead your team at least once and keep everything up and running for a few days, which is no mean feat. But it’s the kind of high-pressure situation that forces you to step out of your comfort zone and develop as an individual, and your abilities to communicate and compromise.
On a more personal level I definitely feel that I’m more open to new experiences and that my comfort zone has considerably expanded.
This is something I wasn’t expecting but I’m quite glad about it as I feel that once I return home I’ll be more likely to seize opportunities that are presented to me, as well as appreciating how privileged we are as a society to have the opportunities we have in the first place.
Before joining Raleigh I already had some knowledge of development and sustainability issues, but coming to Nepal has definitely humanised those for me and made me more aware of how these matters directly affect both communities and individuals.
After Raleigh I plan on studying archaeology and anthropology at university. Being here and living amidst Nepali culture has definitely confirmed for me that I made the right subject choice as I’ve learnt so much and found it fascinating to learn from local people here about their lives.
I decided to apply for the Raleigh Bursary Fund as it was unlikely that I’d manage to afford Expedition without it.
I knew that Raleigh was something I really wanted to take part in, so after finding out that I was eligible, I decided to take a leap and apply. From a practical point of view it was extremely important as I knew it wouldn’t be reasonable for me to join without the help of the Raleigh Bursary Fund.
For those thinking about volunteering with Raleigh, I’d say go for it 100%.
You’re going to have doubts and concerns but those will be massively outweighed by the friends and memories you’ll make on Expedition. It can be hard work but it’s such a positive experience that’s more than worth any struggle you might face.