As 2016 begins, so does a a new round of #TeamTuesday posts. To kick off the new year is Sheree Vermaak from Toowoomba, QLD.
Volunteering in Nepal had been on my radar for some time; however I still hadn’t found a program that I considered the right fit for me – until I found out about Backpacker Medics. I returned to Australia after my visit in November 2015, knowing that I would go back again and again. But what is it that makes me want to spend my holidays in a remote part of Nepal, living a basic life without all the (unnecessary) luxuries of home? Is it that I can use my clinical skills (I’m an Advanced Care Paramedic with the Queensland Ambulance Service), my life skills (I’m 52 years old, mother of two, “Nanny” to two and well-travelled), or is it that I just enjoy people of all backgrounds, beliefs, shapes and sizes? While all of these things contribute to my love of Kerausawara and its people, the one thing that will always sit proudly at the top of my list is this village’s sense of community.
The close bond and common goal that the members of this community have is something that I have never seen anywhere before. It occurs at all levels – in the home, in the fields, in the village, and in the greater community. Without the cooperation that occurs between the villagers, routine tasks would almost be impossible to complete. Take the rice harvest for example. Each landowner has a crop to be harvested. This is hard work; hands-on manual labour- cutting the rice, laying it out to dry, threshing (beating sheaves of rice on the ground to separate the grains from the straw), bagging and transporting to the landowner’s storage shed. As an individual, the landowner wouldn’t get the job done before his crop was ruined by time, so the harvest is completed by the community rather than as individuals. And because they work together like a well oiled machine, the job is done in no time, and then they move onto the next field!! Harvesting the millet is also labour intensive – each individual head is either cut off using a small curved knife or simply picked off by pinching with your thumbnail and forefinger. We were keen to help with the harvests and were welcomed with a smile by those working in the fields. But it didn’t take long for us to figure out that the smiles were ones of amusement, so we laughed with them while trying not to be too much of a hindrance to the cause.
The children who attend the daily health and hygiene sessions are also instilled with the same values. The kids, ranging in age from four to fifteen, were delightful and their enthusiasm infectious! I couldn’t help but smile as I watched them race down the hill to the healthcare centre each morning. Every day we would witness them helping each other; be it pouring water from a jug while others washed their hands, or the older kids showing the littlies how to correctly do an exercise or spell a word. The help was always given without a sense of obligation, and always received graciously.
I could go on and on listing examples, like how our hosts’ 20 month old baby girl was always supervised and cared for by her extended family while her parents were working in the fields or overseeing our activities at the health centre. The proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, while African in origin, could very well have originated here. I was also blown away by how the community raised money together as part of the Tihar festival, and then met again at community meetings to agree on how to allocate it for the goodness and betterment of the village and its people.
What a community! It embraced the concept of the Moonlight Community Healthcare Centre right from the beginning and continues to do so. It was such a privilege to be welcomed by the people of Kerausawara, unconditionally, knowing that we are all in this together, working side by side to achieve a common goal.