"Hello from Pharping, a village about one hour from Kathmandu" Tilly volunteer in SCLC

participants making organic manure

Hello from Pharping, a village about one hour from Kathmandu. Here, I have been working for one month in the "Sikharapur Community Learning Centre", more specifically on their model farm called "Bottlehouse". Just like the name suggests, my workplace is in a house made out of recycled glass bottles, this really fits with the overall approach of this project: tackling social and environmental issues alike to do one thing: empower the community. 

This branch of SCLC stems from the idea that by introducing more effective innovative and organic farming methods to rural farmers, they will be empowered to be economically independent whilst taking good care of their land. 

Bottlehouse is not only a farm but also a training center, currently 18 residential students, participants from the "Open-school" and farmers involved in agricultural trainings are supported in building themselves a stable livelihood. 

Personally, the main thing I've learned so far is that community is not something given, you don't just go somewhere and feel like you got a place there, just like that, it takes effort. And I'm very grateful for the fact that the family I live with and the people from the community center, have made this effort, to show me wholeheartedly that I had a place here. I'm adjusting more every Day, and in many ways already feel at home, what's safe to say is: It will be so hard to leave!

Until then, there are countless projects coming up at work, with family, with Cathy and other friends. I've never once struggled to keep myself busy, and because the project is constantly trying to improve, my days seem to fill themselves with interesting things to do. 

I took me ten days, of not really knowing where I was when I woke up, ten days of trying to find out my technique on how to properly sleep on a thin mattress, ten days of finding out the word "enough" (its "pugio") for every time a Nepali grandmother wanted to give me more rice, ten days of getting to know my way to work, ten days of finding out who the visitors were that kept on stopping by our home (everyone calls everyone sister or brother, so actually, I still don't really know).

On my eleventh I woke up at "home" for the first time, this made me very happy, and even though I'm still confused many times, I know that I have this home here where I can recharge and relax after a long day. Many times I thought to myself that this is a good way of getting to know a culture that's so different from one's own, I will never be able to give back as much as I get, but I'm trying to :)

On that eleventh day, I knew enough at work to get a little more involved, I went up to a teacher at the high school  (associated to the SCLC) and asked if I could have a chat with a class, I explained how my school and daily life is like amongst other things. And they were really interested, that's why, soon, I hope to meet them again to do a presentation on "Current Issues". I'm still preparing, but I hope to tell you more about this next time! 

On the farm, I can also help more and more every day: we've harvested the rice, we're planting garlic, building a new cowshed and planning on starting vermicomposting. 

Another part of my job is collaborating with interns from Kathmandu colleges, together with them I've organized a workshop on Leadership and Learning that we named "Making your own way". 

You see, my job description remains a little all over the place, which suits me perfectly because my workdays are always different. At the moment, we are making plans to use our garden space more effectively, I get to do research on innovative farming methods, which I find really exciting. One thing that I really look forward to is spring because then we will try out loads of new things in the greenhouse and seed nursery.

All in all, I feel very lucky to live with a family that looks after me and works in SCLC, which has this super nice approach to development that I stand behind completely. 

Many times I thought to myself that voluntary service is truly a great opportunity to experience the "real" Nepal. It's definitely very true what everyone says, voluntary work is both a challenging and a humbling experience. BUT, above all, it is soooo fun!