Our new health project
In Nepal, around Pokhara, most schools offer spots and facilities to students with disabilities, but only up to the age of fifteen. After that, these students have no way of receiving any sort of education. Mr. Shrestha and his wife, have a daughter who has Down syndrome. When she turned fifteen, they had nowhere to send her for school. So instead, in 2004, they opened a center for People with Intellectual Disabilities. It originally started with only five students and two staff members, but in the past ten years it has grown immensely. The center now educates twenty-one students and has six staff members, with one full time volunteer.
The week of January 26th, GVI began working with the center. By the time I began my volunteering at the center, we were only on our second week there. On my first day I walked in with Sarah, a fellow volunteer, who had been there for a week already. Krishna, a 20 or so year old Nepali man with cerebral palsy, saw me and immediately lit up, laughing and pointing at me and looking at Sarah for clarification that yes, indeed, I was the new volunteer. He was so genuinely excited for us to be there, and his enthusiasm was contagious.
We then walked into the main room and were met by a chorus of ‘Namastes’ and shockingly happy, welcoming smiles. Despite the state of some of the students’ lives (one severely autistic boy, Rohit, was essentially locked in a room for fifteen years, and only started at the center two months ago), the center seems to instill in them both happiness and hope. They are ecstatic to be there everyday, relishing in the company of their friends, teachers, and volunteer friends alike.
The center is an inspiring institution, and, with two days left in Pokhara, I’ve been slammed with the realization that I’m leaving, I’m really leaving. I find that to be an incredibly difficult concept to grasp…leaving. And I cannot believe that I have been lucky enough to volunteer at a place where both the students and teachers are so grateful for our presence. Where Suraj constantly wants a high five, and Prutiva cracks up over my fish faces. Where Raju begs to play cards with me everyday, Manisha dances like no one is watching, and Shishir’s infectious laugh has the ability to fill you up with joy. For my past three weeks at the center, I have been lucky enough to wake up every morning feeling both happy and excited for what the day with the students would bring me. It is a feeling that at home, in my big, comfy bed with my hot shower only feet away, I rarely experience each morning.
These students have taught me how to not dwell over the hard things in life, but instead to simply enjoy the happy ones that greet us everyday, like Krishna the first time I met him. This, I believe, is one of the most valuable lessons one can learn. It is a truly incredible center, filled with truly incredible people. I hope beyond hopes that someday I’ll be back. Namaste.
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