At the age of 22, host country volunteer Niraj already has a fair amount of experience working for charities in Nepal but he has found the Raleigh expedition project we’re working on in Gorkha completely unique.
Before, he participated in projects with other charities addressing the damage caused by the 2015 earthquakes, such as by rebuilding houses. With Raleigh, he’s been busy on a water, health and sanitation (WASH) project.
“This is a very new way of volunteering for me, living in the host home. This family I am living with, they don’t have reliable access to safe, clean drinking water. It makes me really value my own life to see how difficult their life is here,” said Niraj.
This Raleigh project revolves around the construction of safe water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, encouraging habits in communities which will enable the communities here to live happy, healthy lives.
“The difference with Raleigh is that we stay in the community and we communicate with the people who live there. Back when I did charity stuff before it was about helping the communities but with Raleigh we young people know exactly what we’re doing and we know what our contributions are being used for. We know how effective our work is and what kind of changes it brings. We are very involved.
“I originally got into social work because I enjoy that feeling of satisfaction, doing something good for others.”
Niraj has been reflecting on his life in Kathmandu and the differences between his home and the communities out here in rural Gorkha:
“I was amazed when I arrived in community at how insufficient the water supply is. They did not even have their own pipelines, rainwater collection units, water tanks or even handwashing stations. It was a shock for me to see how far the people there had to carry the water every day and the effort they have to go to to make it clean. We are just two or three hours out of Kathmandu and the disparity is so great between our lives.”
The expedition programme is helping volunteers like Niraj to further understand his own country. In a country where 1,500 people leave every single day to go and find work abroad, Raleigh expedition is helping young people to see where they can contribute in their own birth-country and find a key role to play in it’s development,
“The whole idea of being so involved, living in community like this, means we get some wider perspectives of life. This will be a life changing experience for me. I’m a Nepali but this is a completely new level of understanding for me of my own country.”
Niraj is hoping to continue working in development as he grows older. From a young age, Niraj has had a unique perspective on life and where he would like his career to go:
“The whole experience of life that I have had to face, I think that’s the reason why I wanted to work for a charity one day.
“Basically, it starts with my family. My mum was from a lower caste and my dad was a higher caste guy so we had lots of family problems with my dad’s family not accepting my mum. Then my dad passed away just before I was born and his side of the family did not care about my mum. I was raised up in a good house though, surrounded by people who had started from the bottom and worked hard to work their way up. Now we have a good standard of life but my mums family never forgets where they started from.
“I really like the fact that they know where they’re from; it adds so much meaning to my life. I was raised amongst the struggles of a hard life for my mum, understanding how important life is and how long it is. We all know that we will die someday but when I die I want to close my eyes and I want to feel like yeah, I did something good.
“On start of Raleigh I was worried that two months was a long time; I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, what kind of people I was about to meet – but when I look back, I think about why I was even that scared.
“The amount of friendships, the bonds, the things we’ve gone through – it’s been amazing. I never had thought about getting such deep connections with people, having deep chats – it is special. It is special to have good mates.
“Even guys from different countries. There’s me from Nepal, and then we have people from the UK, Amsterdam, America… The amount of similarities we have on our perspectives, the thinking – I am really amazed how you can relate with people with the same ideas as you have. It’s been an amazing journey.”