Farida Jhaver spent one month in Manthali in August-September 2018. She spent time teaching at the smartlibrary and helping set-up and teach at the computer lab at the school. Although it was just her first time in Manthali, she made a large impact on the school and the community. Below are some thoughts about her experience.

A few reflections by Farida Jhaver

The opportunity to volunteer in Nepal came about quickly in my life. It was always a dream of mine to help abroad, and now - with my own children grown and a break in my career - felt like the perfect time to take the leap. There, of course, were some apprehensions on my end. What would the cultural adjustment be like? Would I be a good teacher despite having little experience? These and many more questions popped into my head, however, the excitement of a challenge, the ability to make a difference and the support of my family and support of Smartketi excelled over my fear of failure.

I booked my flights and prepared accommodations, and a week later, I was on my way from Chicago to Manthali - a small village about five hours southeast of Kathmandu, Nepal. I lived with the head teacher and his welcoming family on a house nestled at the top of a hill just a fifteen minute trek from the school; the cozy two-story abode, complete with a large veranda, had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and Manthali. It was a quiet and relaxing getaway from the dusty, busy streets down below.

My first week in the hilly town was a big learning curve. Most of my time comprised of shadowing teachers at the school, absorbing the curriculum and adjusting to the new sights, sounds and cultural ways of my home for the next six weeks. Having a background in computer science, I was assigned to teach computer classes alongside three other teachers and also help kids (from sixth to tenth grade) with English in the Smart library - an open space for kids to study, collaborate and practice language skills with interactive games and exercises.

One of my first initiatives at the school was to improve the computer lab. I first focused on switching the layout to have all of the students facing the projector screen and installed an integrated speaker system to support online teaching. Teachers could now demonstrate each step of the lesson live to everyone at once rather than wasting time individually troubleshooting. I also ran a check on each computer to make sure it had the necessary software, since much of the overall curriculum consisted of going through computer basics like how to save a file, general programming and how to use Microsoft Office.

After only a few weeks of teaching in Manthali, I felt grateful to make a small difference in these kids’ lives. Many of whom who were very curious, eager to learn and each day waited patiently for the Smart library to open so they could have a safe space to play and learn. Looking back, the overall community was extremely welcoming and open to the change I brought. I travelled to Manthali with the mindset of making a change and returned as a changed person, filled with a greater world view, new friends and memories to last a lifetime.

A few images of my time in Manthali

Early morning exercise & stretch for students outside the school compound.

Students sitting in the school’s media room listening to a healthy eating presentation given by Dr Paresh and Dr Suman - two local doctors from the Tamakoshi co-op hospital.

Inside the school staff room that acted as a ‘third space’ for teachers and administration - a place for discussion and lesson preparation during the day.

Ms. Apsara (left) is a computer teacher and invited me to her village for Teej celebrations. Teej is a highly regarded festival in the country where Nepali women fast all day, pray and celebrate a long life for their husband.

A new bride celebrating the Teej holiday. All new brides wear this same red saree design.

Early morning walk in the hills with a couple members of my host family.

Enjoying a meal at the Hangover Cafe with good friends from the local hospital in town. A popular di

Enjoying a meal at the Hangover Cafe with good friends from the local hospital in town. A popular dish on the menu - butter naan and a spicy vegetable curry.

Students gathering around to listen to a group of visually-impaired artists performing songs and poetry.

Snapshots of primary level classrooms in school.

Snapshots of primary level classrooms in school.

A wide view of Manthali looking out from the medical hostel perched atop a hill.

Dinner in Kathmandu with some of my extended family who were on their way to the Manaslu trek - a happy coincidence during my volunteering assignment