June 14, 2016
Ursuline College Professor Katherine Jackson led a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal with the help of fellow professors, Yvette Nosal, Peter Finnerty and Heather Denning. There were 28 people total, 14 graduate students, 1 undergrad, 5 alumnae, 4 faculty, and 4 community members who joined the team to work with Nepal’s vulnerable children.
Professor Katherine Jackson reflects about the trip:
We joined forces with United Planet a non-profit service group who helps with projects abroad. United Planet brought us together with Social Tours who helped our “Counseling and Art Therapy” Team find suitable work sites. The two sites that were selected were PA Nepal and Samata School. PA Nepal helps children of imprisoned women by providing residential care and education. Samata School is a low fee school designed for children that would not otherwise get a good education due to poverty.
Once we arrived, we immediately got to work at our sites, met everyone and began planning for art therapy and counseling activities to help empower the children and bring them a little joy. The service learning team did not wish to change the children, or make things better. We worked within the framework that already existed at both sites to empower the children from within. Activities for both sites included cultural sharing, creating intentions, hopes and dreams for the future, sharing feelings, dialogs about education for underprivileged and girls, and an immersion into Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
While we were in Nepal we visited Pashupatinath temple- a sacred Hindu site. This is where Hindu's come to cremate their loved ones after death. The river is a holy river and after the cremation the bodies are returned to the earth through the river.
At the temple, monkeys and cows roam freely. Cows are considered sacred and holy animals and are allowed to wander freely, including in the middle of heavy traffic.
While working at Samata school we were able to dress in traditional sari’s. The three men on our trip also got to wear Dhaka topi hats, the traditional Nepalese hats for men.
We visited many Buddhist temple sites, visited historic Bhaktipur, and ate lunch at a bio- sustainable farm. We hiked through 4 different little villages (5 miles) and we viewed sustainable and eco-friendly bottle houses (houses made out of wine bottles) and a small lake.
On our last full day, we trekked up the Champa Devi mountain. The tallest foothill in the Himalayan range... 7,900 feet high. We managed to trek about 10 miles! Wow!!!! We learned that when a native Nepalese tells you the hike is easy, it means very difficult in USA standards!!!
On the last day at the school, we got to meet Uttam Sanjel - the founder and mastermind behind Samata School and Hospital. Samata means “equity” in Nepalese, and Uttam believes that everyone is created equal and deserves a chance to a good education and affordable healthcare, regardless of the circumstances individuals are born into. He has made tuition for quality education $15 US dollars a year. We also visited the new Samata Hospital. Individuals can go to the hospital for $1 (100 rupees) a year... A family is $5. It is amazing that programs like this exist!
Our group did some fundraising before we went to Nepal. We donated $1500 US dollars to be used to build a science lab at the Samata School, and to help the children at PA Nepal with food and daily expenses. We are actively working on continuing our support of Samata school by sponsoring teachers and children by providing money each month through the Samata School website.