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On Top of the World

Publish Date: Wed 29th Mar 2017

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Hannah’s Spencer’s adventure in Nepal . . .

“Living in a mud hut in the foothills of the Himalayas with a Nepalese mother, grandmother, four young girls, three buffalo, 10 goats, innumerable chickens and a puppy, was a wonderful, life-changing experience,” says the Lancaster University graduate.

Supported by a Catenian Bursary Fund grant, 23-year-old Environmental Science graduate, Hannah, spent three months helping Nepalese villagers develop sustainable livelihoods following the 2015 earthquake which destroyed their homeland.

Hannah worked on a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas project with 10 volunteers from all over the world.

“The country relies on agriculture and animal husbandry,” explains Hannah. “We helped village women to expand their produce to sell at local markets and assisted on a goat rearing programme. The animals were used for milk and meat which could be sold to create extra income for families. 

“Nothing prepares you for the simple life of the Nepalese, but I embraced it and enjoyed being disconnected from social media, even though I missed my family. It made me appreciate how much we take for granted. The villagers have so little, but they shared their food and homes with us, and are able to happily survive without the trappings of modern life.” There were some challenges: “There was no toilet: just a squat hole 100m from the mud house, and I had to walk to a neighbouring house for a shower which was actually a bucket of water to pour over my head! My first hot bath on returning home was amazing!”

The kindness of her host family was overwhelming: “I miss them very much. My host mother made me feel like one of her own children, despite not speaking a word of English. We would communicate through gestures and she brought me a cup of very sweet Nepali tea each morning. A wonderful lady.”

Hannah says her Nepalese adventure had “daily highlights” plus a particularly memorable “truly authentic Nepali experience”. She explains: “I became unwell with a stomach parasite and the family couldn’t understand why I wasn’t eating the daily dal bhat (lentils and rice). They believed I’d fallen foul of a bad spirit and called in the village witch doctor. He performed a type of exorcism to banish the spirit and whether it was this that cured me, or the medicine from the hospital, I’ll never know.”

Hannah adds: “All in all, I spent an amazing, challenging and rewarding time Nepal. I will never forget the kind spirit and humour of the Nepalese people: their resilience in the face of the earthquakes is to be admired. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to live and work in such a vibrant country, and I thank the Catenians once again for helping me to get there.”

Tom Rugby, Secretary of Garstang Circle where Hannah’s grandfather, John Towers, is a member, said: “Hannah’s presentation from her time in Nepal was fascinating. It is so rewarding that our Bursary Fund can support young people who wish to help others. Giving them the opportunity to have different experiences is incredibly gratifying. 

Inspired by her visit, Hannah, who is now working for an environmental consultancy, said she would love to return to Nepal one day: