Strandies abroad to support local charity projects
Read all about our Strandies' adventure supporting the Audrey Jacobs Foundation in Nepal.
In October, two of our Strandies went to Nepal to help out with the Audrey Jacobs Foundation. Curious as we are, we asked a million questions about their experience, their stay, the project they contributed to and what they would recommend for the next trip. Read all about their adventure and the way they supported a good cause below.
“We were warmly welcomed with flowers and hugs by the family of the guest house where we would stay the first night. The day after, we met Astrid who introduced us to Suresh, who is responsible for the Sama Nepal project, and Bina, the headmistress of the Surya Vinayak School (also the wife of Suresh). They explained the project, what they expected of us and told us about the way they work.”
“We were there to make wall paintings at the preschool, to create a safer and friendlier school environment for the kids. This initiative was part of a bigger project, namely the Sama Nepal project, which focusses on equality and inclusion in education. Many schools in Nepal are private and relatively expensive but the Sama Nepal project wants to make sure that every child has an equal chance of getting a good education. Partnering schools therefore accept children with different backgrounds, also when their parents cannot afford to pay the tuition fees.”
“Besides providing a nice school environment, the murals needed to depict themes the children and teachers knew or recognized, so they could use them for teaching and story-telling. So we proposed to draw a jungle full of animals that live in Nepal and they loved the idea. We painted from 7AM to 5PM, with now and then the company of enthusiastic children and teachers.”
“This led to a nice anecdote: The outer walls needed to be painted with metal paint instead of water paint because it shines more brightly. Of course, we did not realize at first that the kids would not paint as neatly as us and so after a while they were covered in the metal paint, which was not so easy to clean. Luckily we got it off their skin, their school uniforms on the other hand will remember the murals for a long time …”
"We believe it was a good initiative to include teachers and students in the painting, because the local teachers are not experienced in drawing on walls. It might have been even better if we had prepared workshops on how to start making a mural, encouraging them to organize little projects themselves. Still, it felt like we brought a bit of sunshine to the school and the jungle animals brought them a lot of joy. Nepalese people are really excited about art.”
Meeting the Nepalese people / local habits
“The people we met were all very friendly and went literally out of their way to make us comfortable. However, since we have a different understanding of straightforward communication and planning, this sometimes led to awkward situations. For example, when someone says “let’s meet up in the morning,” it means around 6AM, while we were thinking more about 9 or 10 AM, certainly on a Sunday morning. But in Nepal, 10AM is already lunch time since most people wake up at dawn.”
“Our host also had a different image of our everyday lives, jobs and living environment. For instance, our guest family was convinced a normal, ‘simple’ hotel was not luxurious enough for us, so they moved their entire family to a fancy apartment for the week.”
“Another anecdote was when we suggested we wanted to do the dishes. They looked really confused and told us they did not have a dishwasher. We looked at each other and laughed, because we both do not have a dishwasher at home either and of course do know how to do it by hand."
“Besides that, they also thought we were professional painters or artists and were really surprised and interested when we told them that we work as consultants in the pharma and food industry. After talking and finding out more about each other’s lives, new ideas came up about how consultants like us could provide help with the projects.”
“Of course it was not all work and no play, we also did some sightseeing. We visited the old town of Bakthapur, a UNESCO world heritage site full of monasteries and temples, which is located within walking distance from the school. And as we share the same adventurous spirit, we also made a huge hike up in the mountains to watch the sunrise on the Himalaya. We are lucky we get along really well, which made the trip extra fun.”
Both girls would go back to Nepal but for a longer period of time to make a real difference there.
Marie: “I want to go back for a different project. The people we met were really interested in what kind of organization we are, how we do business, how to use Excel or PowerPoint, how to manage projects efficiently … They want to learn from us to improve their way of working. I would also stay at a hotel because the Nepalese family we stayed with really put their lives aside and did everything they could for us. However, I would definitely recommend to share moments with them, because the Nepalese are great people!”
Tina: “I will go back for a longer time and make sure I am better prepared. I would, for example, prepare a workshop upfront with activities to include teachers and students in drawing and painting. I would also recommend reading about Nepal because some things can be a real culture shock.
For a future project, I think it could be good to set up a social media strategy, an art workshop, or make a documentary of the projects the Audrey Jacobs Foundation funds to use for fundraising activities in Belgium … But of course, many types of support can be valuable.”
Thanks to Tina Tindemans and Marie Coppée for their time and effort to tell us more about their experience!
- Ineke Smeulders, Markering Manager