As volunteers through BVDA we went to Nepal to work with our partner PSD in the aim of making a sustainable difference to a rural community in the Baglung district.
We arrived in Nepal feeling excited for our adventure ahead. We had 3 days of full training to get ready for the project in Sima. In the mornings we learnt Nepali with Sushila, which ended up helping us so much in the village to communicate and connect with the community. In the afternoons we learnt about Nepali culture, details of the project and different teaching techniques to make sure we were ready. All of this preparation proved so helpful throughout the project.
We then took a bus to Baglung and the next morning we took a jeep to the village and met our host family. Our host family had prepared the most delicious food for us on arrival. We loved living with this family, they were so hospitable, kind and always ready to care and look after our needs. Living with the host family was a highlight of the project, it meant we were immersed into village life and after no time at all were walking the buffalos and helping to cook.
Village life was very different to England and Kathmandu so it took us a few days to get used to the slow paced, relaxed lifestyle. However we slowly adjusted and were able to enjoy the beautiful views of the mountain from our house. On our first day we went with Bishnu (the chairman of PSD) to visit the village office in which we had a small welcoming ceremony and took pictures. We felt well and truly welcomed to the village and excited to start project.
We started the project helping to construct a women’s bathroom in Salam. The project began with another welcome ceremony with flowers and blessings from the local people. Again, we felt so welcomed into this community, despite the site being in another village, over an hours walk from our host’s family home.
Alongside skilled labourers we helped carry cement and stones to aid the building work. It was so fun learning to carry building materials in dokos with the help of the villagers and really felt like we were working as a team. After the bathroom was constructed we painted the whole building bright turquoise colour. It was really rewarding to transform a bare spot in the village to a bright bathroom, which will be used by around 50 women, meaning they have their privacy when showering and washing clothes. We hope this will drastically improve the women’s quality of life.
We also carried out road maintenance on stretches of road in and around Sima. This was very rewarding as the condition of the roads was something we noticed right away, especially as it was monsoon season, the roads were flowing with water which meant vehicles had to travel slower and there was road damages from land slides. Alongside local people we dug channels at the side of roads in order to divert the flow of this water. Moreover, we helped slot large boulders and rocks into a jigsaw type manner to make a sturdy and long lasting road surface for the vehicles to travel over and make the surface less slippy for people and animals walking. This project was so rewarding as the difference it made was tangible and we quickly saw the results, within one afternoon a large stretch of road could be drastically improved.
The majority of our time in Sima was spent teaching English at the local primary school. Getting to know all the bright, funny and kind children and teachers was one of the highlights of the trip. They were so curious to learn and a pleasure to teach. We started teaching the oldest grades, creating paintings and written descriptions of their families. With the younger years we played games and taught English songs. The children also enjoyed the extra curricular activities we did with them and especially loved playing with the cricket, volleyball and skipping equipment we provided for the school. We thoroughly enjoyed teaching at the school and noticed towards the end a lot of the children’s English improved and hope they continue improving their English language skills.
At the school we also painted three of the classrooms and designed a mural to paint in one of them too. The children in the school all helped us to prepare the classrooms, scraping off glue and paper from the walls and washing the walls ready to paint. We loved transforming the classrooms to bright white and red, and think it has drastically improved the working environment in these classrooms. The mural was also one of the most fun parts of the project and allowed us to get creative designing, drawing up and painting our colourful Nepali mountain range. We felt like we got to leave something behind for the school that we grew to really care about.
Overall, this project has been one of the most incredible adventures that any of us have experienced yet, and we’re so grateful for the kindness and support that the community of Sima and Bishnu, PSD offered us. We got to learn so much about ourselves, and a completely new culture and community that we never have had the chance to experience otherwise. We believe the project has made a sustainable impact to Sima and hope that we have made a long lasting personal impact on the community too.
Why did you get involved with BVDA?
I initially was drawn to BVDA because of its sustainable and worthwhile projects. I went to Malawi in 2018 with five other volunteers on a social project, to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, teach WASH and promote youth development. It was an incredible experience, working closely with an NGO and supporting them in what they wanted to achieve. After this, I wanted to be part of the committee and over my 4 years at UoB I have had the roles of Publicity and Social Media officer, Vice-President and President. I have learnt so much from these roles, from practical skills like web design and recruitment, to personal skills such as confidence and organisation.
Why have you enjoyed this year?
This year I particularly enjoyed taking part in the fundraising mini project. As a committee, we short listed project proposals from our partners, before deciding on the Beekeeping project in Nepal that aimed to support women for a minimum of 2 years, providing them with valuable skills for the future. To fundraise for this, we decided to collectively climb the height of Everest up the hills of Bristol. We tracked our height climbed on a group on Strava, and I really enjoyed seeing people’s different routes and their photos. It was a way to feel like we were doing something altogether despite the covid restrictions.
My other highlight from this year was SIDN, a student volunteering conference that we co-hosted virtually with EGP (from Edinburgh University) this year. Again, it was something that everyone on the committee and some volunteers got involved in, and it was very interesting to discuss local and international volunteering with another similar society. Attending SIDN in person in Edinburgh in 2019 is one of my overall highlights of my time in BVDA as it was a great opportunity to spend time with committee members who I didn’t go on project with.
Meet Eve! BVDA Treasurer 2019 - 2020, talking about her best Uganda project memories and challenges, and playing 'how well do you know your fellow volunteers?'
Meet Lauren! BVDA President 2019 - 2020, talking about her best Nepal project memories and playing a quick fire round.
I am so glad that I chose to volunteer with BVDA in Uganda this summer. Going on project was a thoroughly rewarding and worthwhile experience, and made my summer holiday one to remember and be proud of.
One of the reasons I decided to volunteer with BVDA was that I would like to pursue a career in the charity sector post university. It was definitely the right decision as I learned a lot about how small NGOs like Little Big Africa work to make a difference, as well as the obstacles and barriers they face along the way. Additionally, the experience taught me a substantial amount in the way of operating in a team in an unfamiliar and admittedly stressful environment.
My favourite aspect of the project was the construction element. Along with the rest of the group I was really keen on getting my hands dirty and reveled in the excitement of constructing the water tank.
After we finished the water tank it was so satisfying to look at a tangible product of our efforts that would hopefully benefit the school for years to come.
Volunteering in Uganda this summer with BVDA was extremely rewarding, and definitely changed my view of the world in a positive way.
Firstly, living like a local, whilst challenging, highlighted to me how privileged I am at home in the UK. Running water, electricity, washing machines, are all things I no longer take for granted, and I now try to be a lot more conscious of my contributions to pollution and waste.
Secondly, it was amazing to see the impact that our workshops had on the community.
Whilst it was a bit scary to present to such large crowds of people (our biggest was around 200), running the workshops definitely helped to improve my public speaking skills and my self-confidence.
Lastly, I really valued the relationships that our group developed with different members of the community, from Joel who made our daily ‘rolex’ (a traditional Ugandan snack), to Peter, our next door neighbour.
Going into Nepal slightly anxious, I arrived and realised I needn’t have worried. Nepal is a beautiful, welcoming country with many friendly people. Meeting everyone there was a wonderful experience and a great relief.
The first week was packed full of Nepali lessons, it wasn’t quite what I expected from a training week, I think I would’ve understood training to be more of a practical experience, lessons that would prove useful for the actual work we were doing. Nevertheless, Nepali lessons were really useful and I particularly enjoyed learning it and putting it to use in the village. It helped me build good relations with all of the villagers I met, and the mutual learning of English/Nepali by the community/volunteers was a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Travel, accommodation and food were all continuously provided by both the charity and the family we stayed with. Whilst the drive to Sima was very scary, the welcome we got there was charming and felt undeserved. Janak and his family are some of the most generous, accommodating, funny and hard-working people I’ve met. The food was delicious, and only tedious for the first few weeks (I could put away 3 servings of dal bhat each meal by the end). Ama was a great cook and we definitely all learned the best way to converse with her and make her laugh by the last few weeks.
The project itself was overall a success, but there were definitely some struggles in the first few weeks, as the rain made work difficult... After that, the work began to pick up a bit and after a visit from Shushila, our language coach and an official from PSD, our partner charity, we had some discussions with Janak, and we felt that the volume and effectiveness of the work definitely increased, and the days passed more quickly than ever and we were all happily exhausted by the end of the day.
Adjusting to life in Nepal wasn’t easy, but it was far better than I had fretted about at home. The group got along well, challenging each other but having loads of laughs at the same time and working together as a team when it mattered most. The relationships and skills I built up in Nepal are certainly ones that’ll last a long time.
Having anticipated a massive culture shock upon arrival, and then watching the community’s daily life, I came to the realisation that perhaps the further you go away from home, the more you realise that at the heart, people are all the same!
I will remember my time in Uganda fondly - an enriching and fulfilling venture for which I am grateful to have had the opportunity to partake in.
Focused on sustainable development, a subject in which I take great interest, the project was highly appealing to me, and I relished the opportunity to help support a community less fortunate than my own and make a small difference in the world.
Moreover, having never visited Africa before, I was excited at the prospect of entering the unknown and experiencing new culture, climate and lifestyle. Needless to say the experience did not disappoint!
My individual highlights for the trip included teaching – a challenging experience at first, but one that I grew into.
Over the course of the trip, I progressively memorised a repertoire of basic Lugandan phrases to alleviate the language barrier and facilitate a better understanding and engagement with the WASH content from the children. From my perspective, this also encouraged independence, resulting in a lesser reliance on other teachers for translative and regulative assistance, and also added to the enjoyability of the practice.
We taught two lessons to each class from P1 to P7 each week, one being a fun, predominantly content-based session and the other being a recap of the content with games/songs. Both the teachers and students at Nsiima Primary School responded well to this teaching schedule and by the end of the project we had covered various WASH topics (including hand washing, tippy taps and cleaning jerrycans) in good detail and even reached out to several other schools in the community - as well as nearby communities - to expand our reach of influence.
Combined with our weekly workshops (on liquid soap, briquettes, SODIS etc.), for which we extended invitation to the entire community in addition to the school, I believe our attempts to disseminate knowledge of WASH and sustainable living across the community were wholly successful.
My 7-week volunteering trip to Accra, Ghana was an incredible and thought-provoking experience.
Over 7 weeks I have personally benefited immensely, acquiring invaluable skills and knowledge that will help me in my future. I have been able to develop my communication skills during the workshops and also greatly enhanced my teamwork abilities, whilst creating special friendships by working with an amazing team for such a long period of time!
Through interacting with the women and children on the LIVELIHOOD and ECCACHILD projects, I was able to get a feel for their daily life and see the world through their eyes- which challenged my assumptions and welcomed me to new perspectives.
This experience has fuelled my passion and commitment to humanitarian aid and has pushed me forward along my career path as I am already actively looking for more opportunities to broaden my knowledge within my degree of International Relations.
It’s been amazing to see the life changing work NGO’s do and their impact within communities- something that can only truly be appreciated when you witness it first-hand.
I have also thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the culture and seeing the beautiful landscapes of Ghana that don’t get shown enough in the media, and I personally think volunteering is something everyone should think of doing as it truly is life changing!
Volunteering in Ghana this summer with BVDA was a very rewarding and life changing experience.
My view on what it means to volunteer in an impactful and sustainable way has completely changed, as well as my view on volunteering as a whole.
Before the project I initially believed that the only way to make an impact whilst volunteering abroad was exclusively through construction projects or teaching, however the skills I have gained during the workshops in Ghana, as well as the impact on the local women benefiting, has been immense.
Not only were the workshops beneficial to our own personal development as volunteers, in terms of gaining confidence through presenting, the women demonstrated the benefits through the growth of their businesses and also through the development of their financial independence.
I will never forget the relationships I formed with the locals during my time in Ghana, nor will I forget the skills I gained which have enabled my own personal development.
Going to Ghana has been one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I have ever had. Going to a new country with a culture so different from our own was a jarring experience but has allowed me to develop my view of the world and to become more of a global citizen.
Working with our partner NGO AFAWI on their projects allowed me to gain a real insight into the way that development work in other countries works and the delicate balancing act that they carry out day to day based on the work that needs to be done in the community and their facilities to allow them to do that work.
Whilst we were working with AFAWI our team were able to meet a number of the loan beneficiaries who work with AFAWI and to get to know them, the way they work and the way they live. We also got to explore different parts of the capital during our work as we often travelled to various areas to meet different groups of women.
We helped these women to develop their businesses by observing how they operated and making suggestions for improvement. We also ran training sessions with them on topics such as book keeping which we could then see the impact of when we continued our evaluation visits.
Our work with the local school to register a number of children for health insurance cards was also very rewarding and we were able to spend time getting to know the children during this time as well. This integration into the community gave us the opportunity to really learn about Ghanaian culture, as did our activities on the weekends travelling to different cultural hubs including the Ashanti region where we learnt about the history of their kings and queens and Elmina castle where we saw the impact of British colonisation in Ghana.
Learning about the culture of the country was an amazingly rewarding experience and the trip as a whole created a brilliant environment for personal development which all of the volunteers on the trip really felt they benefited from.