HCC’s Youth Ambassador Rehna Sheth traveled to Nepal for the first time this spring, documenting her experience in her journal entries below.
My name is Rehna Sheth and I am 17 years old. I started working with Himalayan Children’s Charities when I was 14, which is when I first met Susan and Bruce Keenan while doing my 8th-grade IMPACT project on poverty in Nepal. Since then, I have done multiple projects on HCC and raised $5,000 dollars for this noble cause when I completed my Bharata Natyam Arangetram (the graduation of the art form of the Indian classical dance, Bharata Natyam) in 2016. I am the HCC Youth Ambassador and I started a youth group in Atlanta to connect kids in the United States to kids in Nepal at HCC. After spending years learning about all the wonderful things HCC does to help children, I wanted to finally meet the students and really get involved with the Charity.
Saturday, March 18th – When my mom and I arrived in Nepal on Saturday, March 18th, I was so excited to finally meet the kids at HCC. But I was also very nervous. What would it be like to finally meet these HCC Nepali students? Would they be friendly? Would we have things to talk about in common? It was 3 in the afternoon, and as the car pulled up to Kushi Ghar I could feel my stomach turning in knots. As I got out of the car and the gate to the house opened, I saw at least 20 students (all around my age) standing on the pavement to greet my mother and me. Sadie Didi, one of HCC’s Directors of Nepal Program Development, who I had met and worked with before, was the first to walk up and greet us as she joined her hands, smiling and said “Namaste”. We were then directed towards the two girls our family sponsors, Shristi and Saraswati, who gave us beautiful silk scarves as they welcomed us. After that was a jumble of hugs, laughter, awkward smiles, names of the students and more hugs. With a rush of eagerness, we all walked inside the house and sat in the large, green living room where we engaged in different discussions. As I sat between Shristi and Saraswati, we began a conversation about school and activities we enjoyed. I was still so nervous, but everyone was so open-hearted and happy, it was hard not to laugh at my first attempt getting to know the whole HCC family.
Sunday, March 19th – We woke up early the next morning and all 12 of us (Bruce Uncle, Sadie Didi, Dinesh Uncle, Mun Maya, Khil, Giri Raj, Laxmi, Seeta, Josiah, Dinesh Uncle, my mom and myself) piled in the van on our way to the rural Dhading district. Giri Raj was the only student I had met on Skype before, so I was a little intimidated by the older students. But by the end of the day, I was laughing and joking with them as if I had known them for years.
The trip to the Dhading region was beyond anything I could have imagined. At first sight, I was amazed at how isolated these people in the villages and mountains were. Some of the most remote villages were four to five miles away from the only school in the area. The kids, who knew that their only good meal might be their lunch at school, walk one to two hours to get to school each day. Reliable transportation and access to good food at any time is something we, students in America, take for granted.
The most unforgettable and outstanding memory from this entire trip was our welcome experience when we arrived at the first school, Shree Bageswari Secondary School. As we walked up the mountain we saw 700 kids lined up the two sides of the windy road leading all the way up to the school. And as we walked nearer to them, and finally just before the procession started, we were each given beautiful and fragrant garlands of red Rhododendrons and white silk scarves. The children were clapping as we walked through what seemed like an endless path of overwhelming joy. These children were clapping for only one reason: pure gratitude for all that HCC does to help their school and keep them educated. That sense of appreciation was not only refreshing for me but a great reminder to be thankful for all that I have.
When we arrived at the next secondary school that afternoon, I got a chance to talk to an interview with the principal of the school. One of the questions we asked him was “Do you try to teach the children how to use technology?” His response pulled at our hearts as he explained how there are only a few working computers and almost 400 kids who need to learn how to use a computer, and to add to that, the Wi-Fi didn’t even work most of the time. The lack of funding also meant that the teachers at the school hadn’t been paid in three months and they were still missing teachers for many of the classes. This brought Khil and I the opportunity to teach a basic English lesson to a class of seventh graders and another class of fourth graders. Instructing these classes was a remarkable experience as I love teaching children and I loved the positive attitudes of the kids in each classroom.
Monday, March 20th – Monday, for me, brought a whole different perspective on the realities in Nepal. After a whole month of hearing about four young kids (Monica, Smriti, Anisha, and Manju) that HCC recently brought in from the Nuwakot district and put into school, I was so excited to meet these children. And I was definitely in for a treat. These four kids, who came from almost nothing, had the biggest smiles on their faces and the sweetest personalities. Their laughter made our hearts’ melt.
After visiting the kids, we got a chance to visit Manju’s family who had been living in the Internally Displaced Persons camp for two years now in nothing more than shacks made of tin roofs and tarp walls. What struck me the most was how humble and giving the families were. Even when they themselves did not have very much, they offered us tea and asked us to stay and talk to them for some time.
Tuesday, March 20th to Thursday, March 23rd – For the rest of the week I was able to stay at Kushi Ghar and really get to know a lot of the students there whom I can now call my good friends. As the HCC International Youth Ambassador for the Youth Council in Atlanta, this was an eye-opening trip for me as I now have a clearer understanding of how kids in the United States can help make a difference in Nepal. I believe the first and most important way to help Himalayan Children’s Charities benefit impoverish kids is to spread awareness for the disparities of underprivileged children in Nepal. But besides spreading awareness, I have a new set of ideas on how we can fundraise money, what kind of materials are needed and ways we can collect learning supplies to give to rural villages. More so, this trip sparked numerous, fresh ideas that incorporate kids from both the U.S. and Nepal and I am really looking forward to putting some of these ideas into place. I can definitely say this was one of the most inspirational experiences of my life!