By Therese Ranerup
Therese Ranerup, from Sweden, volunteered with RUWON Nepal in November and December, 2011.
One of the most amazing things about the organisation RUWON Nepal is the people.
When I first arrived, I was so amazed by Dhruba and Uma and the work that they do. Dhruba, who is the General Secretary of RUWON Nepal, has for 10 years worked as a social worker, improving the society with special focus on women rights. For him, this means from early morning until late night, he is fully working with networking, planning, and encouraging people in order to make their society better and to empower women. Together with his wife Uma, they started RUWON Nepal in 2006, and they work together in order to help children, students, and women.
Uma and Dhruba are, for example, organising the Extra Tuition Class for children from poorer backgrounds, which is running six days a week; the class is free. I think it is called Extra Tuition Class since students go to the "normal school" in the daytime and then attend this extra class in the evening. Amazingly, Dhruba and Uma pay the rent for the classroom from their own pocket. I think others could understand that they are truly dedicated to improve the situation of the people in Nepal.
During my first days in Nepal, I was informed about RUWON Nepal and its projects. I also met Hiramaya Awal (“Hira”), the president of RUWON Nepal. Hira is a law student and she comes six days a week before or after her college classes to RUWON Nepal’s office to work. I think it is remarkable, since all people who work for RUWON are so nice.
RUWON Nepal gave me the opportunity to teach children in the Extra Tuition Class.
I visited some of the students’ home together with Dhurba and Shivari Pokharel, Uma's sibling. A visit to one family especially touched my heart: it was a visit to a family in which the father had died and the mother left their four children to live with a new man. Luckily, their grandfather decided to take care of the children, so now they all live together in one room (even the kitchen is in the same room as the bedroom), in Kathmandu. The family is in a very critical economical situation since it is hard for them even to afford notebooks and pens for school. Also, they cannot always eat properly.
That is why I was so happy when RUWON Nepal at least could go and buy some notebooks and pens for them. I will never forget about my visit to this family since it is a totally different experience to only read about disadvantaged children, in contrast to meeting and talking to them and their family in their own home.
With RUWON Nepal I was given the opportunity to participate in a meeting with United Nations Nepal, and also met representatives from the government, UNICEF Nepal and DKA Austria (which is a charity organisation in Austria). I had also the possibility to contribute to the RUWON Newsletter by writing articles.
In my work for RUWON, I visited children clubs (like a union in the school to which all students are welcome) where I tried to encourage the students to study and take responsibility for their lives. The children's clubs are a big support for children from poorer backgrounds. In the child clubs, the students are educated about child rights and equality as well as getting support and help to finish their school. They are also given the chance to discuss their personal problems with other students which is a great help for them. RUWON Nepal also helps to pay the school fees for some of the students.
However, with RUWON Nepal, I also contacted different organisations in order to create links between RUWON and other organizations. I wrote proposals to get funding (this is very good for those who want to improve their English) and I helped to improve the pronunciation one of the English teachers.
Before I came here, I felt little bit skeptical as to whether my volunteering really could make any difference. I was afraid that my lack of education (I only finished high school) and the fact that I do not speak Nepali would make it impossible for me to do something to improve the situation for the people of Nepal.
However, I feel very happy now, since all these worries proved to be wrong. This means that even if my work here does not immediately improve the situation for Nepal’s children and women, I still believe that I had a good impact and that my work in Nepal made a difference. For example, I feel very satisfied with my work with improving the proposal that RUWON wrote, Save the Children. I worked for many hours to improve the language and the text and I believe that this will better RUWON Nepal’s chances of getting funding.
Moreover, one teacher said that he had re-thought about corporal punishment after reading my debate article against corporal punishment, which I wrote for the RUWON Newsletter.
When I came here to volunteer for RUWON Nepal, Dhurba, Uma, and the rest of the family gave me a very warm and lovely welcome. First, at the airport, I got a yellow flower necklace (is called mala in Nepali) and then they had prepared a special meal to celebrate my arrival.
They really wanted me to feel at home, and Dhurba was really worried at first when I said that I found it hard to sleep the first night because of a barking dog. I tried to help in the kitchen, but they refused me to even wash my own plate.
One thing I can truly say about all Nepalese people is that they are very guest friendly. From the very first, I was totally charmed by both Astha and Abhiskar, who are the daughter and son of Uma and Dhurba. They are very friendly and we immediately started to play a game together.
Samjhana Pahadi and Shivari Pokharel, – Uma's siblings, also members of this lovely family and both are very nice people of whom I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life.
Moreover, living with a host family has also opened my eyes to new cultures. Throughout my stay in Nepal, Iearned that in one part of the world, people work six days a week, and that people call each other who they do not know, “brother” or “sister”, instead of the familiar “you”. In Nepal, instead of eating breakfast in the morning they have a cup of tea and eat brunch at 9 o’clock.
While volunteering with RUWON Nepal, I gained better understanding of impoverished people and how to work for improving their life situation. I have grown as a person as well as having the opportunity to experience Nepal (I have for example visited many stunning old temples and Buddhist stupas).
I learned about a new way of seeing life: learned about new customs, traditions, and another way of doing and seeing things.
I also met disadvantaged people, and am now not seeing them as only poor children – “victims”, like when one reads the newspaper and thinks that their lives are all all misery; instead, these people are just like everyone else, who are unique, laughing, joking, and playing around.
Throughout my life I have visied many countries, but I must say that my travel to volunteer for RUWON Nepal has so far been the best journey of my life.
I am very happy that I decided to volunteer with RUWON Nepal, since I learned a lot from my work there.
I will keep Dhurba, Uma, and all of my host family in my heart for the rest of my life.
Therese Ranerup recently spent her summer in Accra, Ghana, where she completed a law internship for Human Rights Advocacy Centre, which is a NGO working for improving human rights in Ghana. Currently, she is studying law and is just starting her second semester at Lund University, Sweden. She says, “My plans for the future are to travel even more, study in Istanbul, and to work internationally with human rights issues.”