Robert, one of our volunteers, just recently returned from a United Planet quest to Nepal. He had originally planned on staying for three months, but he ended up extending his stay in Nepal an extra two months. Four of those months were spent working in a local village school.
Robert has always had a passion for volunteering and travel. Since graduating college, he has wanted to volunteer with the Peace Corps, but needing some financial stability he began working for Microsoft as a program manager with internal applications. He worked there for ten years and his knowledge of computers was put the test in Nepal!
He was quickly immersed in the diverse Nepali culture, from different kinds of food to different kinds of religions. Robert had planned to teach the students how to use the computers but when he got there they were experiencing a power outage that lasted for a few weeks and the computers they had were in need up updating.
The server was fried on the main computer and none of the others had been activated. He ran into a few issues with lack on Internet and power but he was able to overcome these challenges and got the lab up and running. He essentially created a functioning computer lab where there was none before. This new computer lab had eleven computer stations, one administration computer and one shell which he redid on his own. Some of the computers were ones that Robert donated. This was an unbelievable help for the community.
When power was eventually restored, it continued to be shut down in certain sections of the village in order to preserve energy. They use hydro-power from the dams to create energy so when there is less rainfall they need to preserve power. Robert was challenged get creative while teaching classes in case the power went out and the computers wouldn’t work.
The area Robert worked and lived was very rural so they rarely backed up power sources. Robert put together a proposal for power consumption to request backup power for the school so the computer lab would have power more consistently.
Robert’s main task while in Nepal was teaching computer lectures. He installed Rosetta Stone onto the computers to help the kids improve their English. Many of the students needed assistance with spoken English and this program provided them with a fun and engaging way to learn.
In Nepal, school funding is based on their standardized testing, so the more successful they were on the tests, the more money their school would receive. Robert incorporated this into his teaching to help prepare the students for these tests.
Another method Richard used to help teach the students was with visual aids. Teaching kids how to use computers and other electronic devices can be tricky if they are only able to hear how to do it and not see it.
The students age and skill level ranged from anywhere to nursery school to level 10 and they came from all over. Some students traveled up to two hours to get to school and it was not always an easy journey. He remembers one trip on a damaged road, filled with potholes and destruction left from landslides. Education is a privilege in Nepal, so students will do whatever it takes to have the opportunity to learn.
The school is mainly kept afloat by the support of the parents and the community. They pay the teachers and help out the school as much as they can. Some teachers work in local farms so they can make enough. Since the parents and teachers put in so much effort, any extra help they get is greatly appreciated. Robert exceeded their expectations with all the hard work and effort he put into the school and the students. At the end of his trip, his project gave him a plaque to honor how much he impacted the school and community.
Robert’s trip to Nepal was a great prep for his future work with the Peace Corps. “I’m still optimistic I’ll be able to use my business consulting type work from my quest as a great intro into the type of work I’ll be doing.” Robert will be working with NGO’s in Kyrgyz to help people develop small businesses and he’s confident that United Planet will have been a great introduction and preparation for that type of work.