A STUDENT underwent a life-changing experience when she travelled to Nepal to work with schoolchildren and women who had overcome huge challenges.
Lowri Thomas, 22, of Prestatyn, was assigned to Lamjung after signing up with ICS (International Citizen Service), which works in partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
The former Ysgol Glan Clwyd pupil who is studying marketing at the University of Liverpool, flew out to one of the world’s poorest countries, alongside 14 volunteers, but only six stayed for the full three months.
Lowri had to raise at least £800 ahead of the trip and attend a security a briefing. She said that as much as she wanted to do the experience – which focused on female education and fighting against caste discrimination – before she left the UK, she felt “scared” and was didn’t know what to expect.
“I knew that where I was going the status of women is really bad and that I might not be able to communicate with the host family that I would be living with,” Lowri said.
When she arrived, she was placed in Lamjung – the central part of Nepal. The area is covered in mountains, which makes transportation and communication is difficult.
On one occasion, Lowri was stranded for about four hours waiting for a road to be cleared. This was a result of landslides and storms due to it being monsoon season.
Lowri said: “I shared a room with my Nepali counterpart volunteer. I was living just like a Nepali I had a standard mattress made of woven corn leaves and had to experience daily power cuts and water shortages.
“We had a mud kitchen where our host mum would cook rice and lentil curry, that she had grown, twice daily.
“This is all I ate for the whole three months and we used our hands to eat as cutlery is not used there.
“We received cultural training. We were taught that it is incredibly rude to blow out a candle. You should always wet your finger to put a candle out and also, you must never put your feet in a water source where people are drinking and collecting downstream.”
Lowri said the schoolchildren she got to know made her feel welcome. “They were so dedicated and willing to learn. They all were so eager to speak and practise English,” she said.
“I met a lot of interesting people in the community who had overcome some huge challenges which was very humbling.
“I also loved being around so many animals. Every family have goats and buffalo and chickens. A chick actually hatched in my hand, which was amazing to witness.”
Lowri said her trip was the “ultimate test of self-exploration and self-improvement”.
“I feel I am so much more grateful of everything now,” she said. “I have also realised the difference between wanting something and needing something. It turns out we need very little to get by.”