Swapnil’s story: “Either everyone succeeds or no one does, so the best thing we should do is help each other out. Not just during trek but during everything you do.”

10th December 2017

Swapnil taking a handwashing education session on the first phase in Kamero Tol. Swapnil is currently on phase 3 in another community, Bimiri Gaun. Image by Jake Rowles, photographer for expedition 17O.
Swapnil is from Kathmandu and lives just outside of Kathmandu Durbar Square which is within the world heritage where the most ancient monuments and temples in Nepal were destroyed. Swapnil’s family home was seriously damaged and they couldn’t live there after the earthquake. This experience has been influential in Swapnil’s determination to come to Nepal and contribute to one of the Raleigh Nepal programmes which operate in Gorkha, an area greatly affected by the April 2015 earthquake. The water, hygiene and sanitation facilities we are building are often required as a result of earthquake destruction in these areas.
Upon arrival in Bimiri Gaun Swapnil and his fellow volunteers made their way around the community talking to different families about their water supplies. Image by expedition 17O photographer Jake Rowles.
“There were some very important monuments and historic sites around my house which were damaged by the earthquake. At the time, all I could think about was, if these things that people have been trying to preserve so hard are being destroyed all around me, everything else in the country must be devastated. All I could think about at first was the historic importance of those monuments. And then I thought about other cities, everything. We have a lot of poor, rural areas here in Nepal so you are kind of forced to think about the people and how they have been struggling with everything. I have shared my experience of the earthquake other volunteers too. I can help them understand that problems have always been here in Nepal; the earthquake just magnified those problems.”
Swapnil whilst on community phase in Bimiri Gaun. Image by Jake Rowles, expedition 17O photographer.
After the trek phase, Swapnil has been reflecting on his time in community and what skills he has gained along with attributes which make the Raleigh projects so effective in rural Gorkha. “By installing handwashing stations we can encourage community members to maintain their hygiene regularly. Handwashing stations just in front of their houses stops them neglecting their health because they are so easily accessible. It feels good, knowing you are actually making a difference in someone’s life. I see the volunteers feel so happy to build a physical thing that will stay there for a long time.”
Swapnil chatting with a community member bout her handwashing station. Image by expedition 17O photographer Jake Rowles.
Swapnil signed up to Raleigh whilst on a break after his bachelor’s degree thinking about what he wants to do after his computer engineering degree. The recent trek phase has allowed Swapnil to work on himself as a person, to recognise how he can work within and lead teams to contribute to problems he cares most about. 7 weeks later he has completed two phases of the programme. For the first phase he was based in Kamero Tol working on a WASH project improving access to safe, clean water. He has also now completed the adventure phase which involves a 21-day trek through one of the most underdeveloped, remote parts of Nepal, the Ruby Valley. “When you are a team you don’t have an option as to whether to support each other. You have to. Either everyone succeeds or no one does, so the best thing we should do is help each other out. Not just during trek but during everything you do. In the community where we are building facilities to enable safe washing practices this mentality is everything for our Raleigh teams. No one can do anything on their own, you need people around you to help support you.” Despite still being in the middle of the programme Swapnil can see what a huge effect Raleigh is having on his choices of what he wants to do. He’s even suggested that he and others could do Raleigh programmes every few years through a career as a means of stopping to think about where life is going and what you’re contributing to the world. “Raleigh has a serious impact on the way you take on life. You see things so differently out here: I have been thinking about where I’m going in life and what I’m contributing.” “On Raleigh it doesn’t matter where people are from. I notice their approaches are similar in the sense that we all want the group to achieve things together, rather than because the day leader enforces it. Nothing is separated by where the volunteers are from.” All volunteers are encouraged to work with Raleigh Nepal’s project partner, Goreto Gorkha, to achieve improved WASH facilities. “It was not just Raleigh and not just the community; it was the two of us working with each other in harmony; bit was cooperating with each other that made the process.” “The community really help each other out and we learn from their closeness. My first group in Kamero Tol. Everyone accepted each other and communicated with each other, just as the community interact with each other. We felt like a team.” Swapnil’s quickly come to realise that what he is gaining from the programme is not just understanding of his own country and the problems they face, he is also gaining skills and new perspectives himself. Whilst out in community, a lot of the work we do revolves around encouraging the volunteers to participate in discussions about development and their place within this sphere.
Swapnil and communications officer Rebbie.
“We did active global citizenship work. Everyone listens to each other and it changes our opinions on issues because of what each other say. It changed the way I look at certain things with regards how developed countries are working, how developing countries are helping each other out. It has changed my personal views on certain things and I know it has, to some extent, changed the other volunteers’ views as well. Changes don’t happen just overnight. We are individuals that make up the world. Change has to come from a person and then that passes on to everyone else. The discussions we have and the environment we work in encourage everyone to take responsibility. Everyone is influenced by everyone else here in Nepal on the Raleigh project. It will change the way they look at the way they lived their life up to now and it will change the way they live after this.” We will be in community until 14th December. As expedition 17O comes to an end we will be posting blogs about the past 10 weeks, stay tuned for updates on social media (Facebook & Instagram) and our blog!
Image by expedition 17O photographer Jake Rowles.

Youth Economic Empowerment Raleigh Expedition Nepal