My final days in Nepal seemed so far away at one point, and yet here they are. In three days I will have said all of my goodbyes, made my last visits and I will be in London. I can’t explain how it feels at the moment. I suppose the best way to describe it is that it seems unreal. I have been welcomed so warmly into my host family’s home that I feel like a permanent fixture now, and the thought of leaving makes me sad. However, the thought of being back at home, seeing my family and friends again, has me giddy with joy. Either way, there will be tears on Friday, I’m sure.
This trip has been so important to me. I’ve learned a lot in three months, and I feel like my heart has tripled in size to make space for 33 little children here in Gatthaghar, as well as my new family. Not only am I more grateful for what I have at home, but I am glad to have made more connections here in Nepal, all which tie me ever tighter to this wonderful country and the people that call it home.
Back to the present (and presents!), this week was about bringing Christmas to the orphanage, albeit a little early. Fellow volunteer Kit and I spent time yesterday buying decorations, party hats, balloons and snacks in nearby Koteshwor to throw a party this evening. As this would be Kit’s last visit to the orphanage before flying home to the UK on Wednesday, we decided to make it special. We met at half 2 in the orphanage to put up tinsel and shiny streamers, and to scatter balloons around the common room. Tiny sparkly Christmas trees hung at the windows and doors, and my camera was set up on a tripod in the corner to catch their reaction as they filed in from school. We weren’t disappointed; their cries of surprise and joy were enough to fill the Grinch with Christmas cheer! We played Christmas songs, and served chocolates, sweets and crisps to each of them, chased down with fruit juice, while they sat wearing shiny party hats and throwing around the balloons. After, we were thanked by the children and they presented us with a little notebook each, with every child’s name and class written inside. We also received a little badge with Nepal’s national flower on it. It was such a lovely gesture, and I was touched by their consideration.
As the cups and party food were cleared away, they began to sing songs and dance along to the beat of a drum and tambourine. They put on a real show and I felt so happy as I sat and watched them; their smiles and enthusiasm were infectious. As they finished and headed upstairs to get dinner, I got more than a few hugs and exclamations of ‘Thank you, Sister’. It was a simple party but they appreciated everything they received so much. A particularly poignant moment occurred as we were pouring out the food and drink for the little ones; the Band Aid song ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ came on. I don’t think I’ll ever hear that song again without thinking of their little faces and feeling a little sad. One line from the new version, which used to make me laugh as it is rapped and seemed so incongruous with the rest of the song, suddenly made sense: ‘You ain’t gotta feel guilt, just selfless, give a little help to the helpless.’ Spending so much time with them, it is so easy to forget the circumstances that brought the children all together in the orphanage. They may not all be orphaned, but all have faced difficulties and have been denied the things they deserve, that every child deserves. Some have had to grow up quickly to become mentors to the smaller ones, and it is hard to believe that the oldest of them is only 12 years old. Their maturity and leadership is admirable.
As a result of many kind donations from my friends, family, colleagues and neighbours, I can do my bit this Christmas, and give the kids some much-needed presents. On Thursday, I will be making my last visit to the orphanage, and I will be presenting them with new jumpers, trousers, shoes, socks, school bags, woollen hats and floor mats. This will make a big difference to them, and I can’t wait to see their reactions. In total, the donations came to a staggering 115,000 Nepali Rupees, which works out roughly as £820! You can’t imagine the difference the clothes and items will make to the children. They rarely receive new things to call their own, and I am glad that I will be leaving them a bit warmer and happier than they would be without these gifts. So to anyone who donated, THANK YOU. I hope you can agree with me when I say it’s better to give than receive.
Although I will be at home for Christmas, I feel so grateful for being able to spend some of the season here. Spending time with the children has been such a gift, and has made this a Christmas I will never forget.