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Testimonial from

So I’ve just returned from a construction volunteer trip in Pokhara, Nepal. Do you know what the hardest thing about it was? Not the candle-lit cold showers, because the electricity randomly goes off, nor the carrying of bucket-loads of cement back and forth. Not even the fact I had to use squat toilets when I struggle enough just trying to pee in the bush. These were all challenges. Definitely challenges. But, the hardest thing...was coming home, saying goodbye and leaving behind what now felt like a part of me. I didn’t know what to expect when I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pack my bags for three weeks. I just knew that it was something I had always talked of doing. I was sick of talking about. I was ready to just do it. And so I did. Within six weeks I had booked the volunteer program, paid for my flights, sorted out my insurance and said goodbye to my family. What I originally thought would be a trip by myself to a foreign land turned out to be a trip with a friend I had only just met (who also had an impulsive streak, obviously). This turned out to be the second best decision I made (the first being to actually book the trip). Arriving at the airport for our midnight flight I didn’t get the anxious feeling I normally do when saying goodbye to family to embark on my own adventures. Instead I felt completely calm and ready. No butterflies, no shaky hands or tears, just 100% ready to go, almost impatient for the journey to start. I took this as a good sign, a sign I was definitely doing the right thing and that it would prove to be an incredible experience. I was right. Touching down at the Pokhara airport, we were met by one of the program staff members and chaperoned into the town which would become our home for the next three weeks, Lakeside. And what an amazing town Lakeside is. Literally wrapping itself around Phewa Lake, nestled into the base of the Annapurna trails and the Himalayas, this little town immediately felt like home. It’s as though it were waiting with open arms to welcome back long-lost daughters. I was in love and my trip had hardly begun. My three weeks there consisted of completing renovations at a school in a town called Pame. We began with a classroom which is to be used for women’s development classes and one-on-one tutoring for students in need of additional assistance. We cleaned and repainted the room, inside and out, and replaced the blackboard. Once this room was complete we moved onto ripping out and replacing the squat toilets. The main aim of this was to improve the hygiene as the original toilets were in a state of disrepair. Working closely with a local tradesman we began the tasks of pulling out the old toilets and chipping away the top layer of concrete off the walls and floor. I think I should mention here that everything is done by hand without machinery, e.g. concrete chipping is done with a small pickaxe. After mixing and making plaster and cement we put the new toilets in place, cemented the floor and plastered the walls with sand and water to make them ready for tiling. Using the remainder of the cement for the tiling, we used small stones wedged under the bottom row to keep a gap between the floor. After the three weeks we had a new classroom and brand new toilets. Amazing. Doing everything by hand makes for a slow process, but an unbelievably fun one at the same time. Every new experience I had made me fall a little bit more in love with the people, the place and also the work. Not to be cliché, but, this trip was life-altering, awe-inspiring, clarifying, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore not only a foreign land and its culture but also myself.