by Grace Kim, former Publicity Officer and Social Secretary for Imperial College London
A typical day for a volunteer at Maya begins at 6am if you are lucky enough to be on kitchen duty for breakfast. In the kitchen, your task is to peel and chop vegetables, light a fire, clean dirty pots and wipe down the tables and floors. The school has recently hired a new cook to work full time in the kitchen, which has greatly reduced the work load for us. Once breakfast (Dal Bhat, all day, every day) is served at 8 am, you can enjoy your plate of lentils and rice with the children from the hostel, and exchange morning greetings (Good morning Sir! Good morning Miss!).
At 9:30am the official school day begins as the pupils form a huge ring on the sports ground for ‘Circle Time’. This begins with a few minutes of silence for morning meditation. Afterwards, you break the silence with morning hugs and greetings to your friends on either side of you. The children then recite poems which are prepared beforehand; this exercise is intended to boost self-confidence and practise in public speaking. Every Friday morning it is the turn of the volunteers to recite, sing or otherwise entertain the circle. We have so far had Black Eyed Peas raps, guitar solos and attempts at reciting Nepalese poetry.
Each morning, as a teacher you must check the day’s schedule on a whiteboard outside the office to see what time and where you have your lessons. The timetable changes everyday and it is up to you to know who you are teaching and when.
During the day, the children are engaged in a variety of classes. We as volunteers have the option to either teach or to help out with construction, agriculture, tying corn, cooking or handicraft. As a team, we have divided up for these various tasks and each keep ourselves busy during the day.
At lunch time, a few volunteers take up the responsibility to cook a light meal of beaten rice and vegetables. Here, lunch is not a solid meal and usually, people will just have two meals a day (breakfast and dinner).
When class is dismissed at 3pm children have the option between various after school activities which are run by volunteers. In the library, there are also many board games which gives us the chance to challenge the children to a game of Scrabble, Chess or Settlers of Catan.
Usually, this time before dinner is the most popular time for volunteers to take a shower in the cold stream of water (there are way too many children there at midday). This is also where you wash your clothes and refill your bottles for dinner.
Dinner duty starts at 5pm and is very similar to morning duty as the food you provide is exactly the same dish. Children from the hostel come early to help you chop vegetables. This at first was quite worrying for us as they are so tiny and handling huge knives, but they are much more competent than us and put us to shame with their chopping skills.
Before dinner is served at 7pm, the children arrive at the New Kitchen an hour early for homework time. If you aim to arrive in time for this, you can sit with the children and help by answering any questions they have. At dinner, the children are the most sociable and like to play around, spreading excitement and it is impossible to keep a smile off your face.
After cleaning up after dinner and sending the children off to the hostel, your duties as a volunteer end for the day. You can now enjoy a relaxing evening stargazing, playing the guitar, catching up on stories of the children from the day or even letting off steam with with a bottle of Raksi (a local alcoholic drink).