Visitors Forum

Thoughts from Visitors who have visited Nepal and Worked with our children and at their School Sagarmatha Educational Academy (Sage).

8 comments on “Visitors Forum
  1. Faron Stalker says:

    My experience at Chhahari and SAGE this summer was nothing short of life-changing, inspirational, and profound. I spent a month with the amazing children at Chhahari, their schoolmates at Sagarmatha Educational Academy, and the loving and dedicated people that make Chhahari work. I taught English literature classes at SAGE for grades 4-8, focusing on short stories. The students were always excited to hear what story I had to share with them that day, often jumping up in excitement when they saw me approaching the classroom. I taught 3 literature classes a day in addition to the after-school literature club on Wednesdays and Fridays where we focused on creative writing. Raghab Sharma and the teachers at SAGE were incredibly friendly and helpful, welcoming me and supporting me in the classrooms when needed. Coming from the U.S., at first, the more laidback work environment in Nepal seemed almost chaotic. However, I quickly learned that patience and flexibility are key in being successful in such an environment and each and every day the children made my efforts more than pay off.

    My lessons were in the mornings and the time I spent at Chhahari was mostly during the after school hours and Saturdays when I would stop by and help with homework, chat with some of the children, listen to their musical performances, or even laugh at silly cartoons on TV.

    I was struck by how gracious, kind, and engaged the Chhahari students were, both while in the classroom or while sharing their advanced math lessons with me back at the home. They quickly all became my family and not a day goes by that I don’t think about them and the hard work they are doing to become such exemplary students and citizens. Whether it was observing a tense ping pong tournament (I rarely participated as I didn’t stand a chance against the Chhahari boys) helping with homework, or sharing stories of home, the students were engaged, interested, and friendly. They have a thirst for knowledge and a knack for friendship that earned each and every one of them a special place in my heart.

    Not only are the Chhahari students exceptional, but the support system around them is one that deserves endless accolades. Uma and Kumar have created a loving and supportive atmosphere that felt so much like home to me, even as a visitor stopping by in the afternoons. Each and every person involved in the lives of the Chhahari children from their principal, Raghab Sharma, to their music teacher and their teachers at SAGE, to the Chhahari board members and volunteers challenge, inspire, and support the children in every way possible.

    I am so grateful to have spent my time with the Chhahari and SAGE families and I very much look forward to the next time I am able to visit my Nepalese family!

  2. Cara Charifi says:

    My experiences with Chhahari and SAGE were great. I got a customised schedule at SAGE so I was able to do some sightseeing while also doing the English and public speaking classes. The teachers were really friendly and always let me do my classes even when it was supposed to be their class. The students were super motivated and worked well with me.
    At Chhahari everyone was really friendly and welcoming. The children were very motivated to learn and always did their classes happily, no matter what time I came at. They were very willing to learn.

  3. Lexie Ross says:

    Chhahari Thoughts
    To say that my time at Chhahari was life-changing would be an understatement.

    I had the opportunity to witness first-hand how much can be accomplished with a full heart and good intentions. The first day I arrived at Chhahari I was greeted with a “Welcoming Program” where the children sang a series of original songs and accompanied on guitar, keyboard, and drums. Before the first song had ended I was moved to tears. The happiest of tears, because I was so grateful to be welcomed with open and loving arms. In a country where I felt I was a stranger, I quickly became welcomed into this new family. The Chhahari family.

    During my time volunteering there, Iwas constantly amazed by how talented the children all were. Because of the generous resources that have been contributed to offer extracurricular courses and classes, I was able to see the passion these children have for many activities. From drama to dancing, from singing to classical guitar, piano, and drums, these kids can do it all. And they do it all with modesty. After spending some time helping them with homework, I could be persuaded to start – and quickly get destroyed- in a game of chess, and not feel like a complete failure. Instead the boy who dominated the game would boost my self-confidence saying something along the lines of “It’s okay sister, you did much better than last time”.

    That is the lasting impression these children left on me: constant kindness, humility, and love. In such a short amount of time, I feel I gained 24 new brothers and sisters. I am so grateful for the efforts Chris, Dawa, and the rest of the Chhahari Organization have dedicated to provide these bright, beautiful children with opportunities to succeed, and it is truly inspiring to see them making the most of these opportunities. Chhahari is a special placewhose success is largely due to the unwavering support of special people, and I’m ever grateful to have had the opportunity to see how powerful properly directed love and compassion can be. I look forward to going back and visiting my new family as soon as possible.

  4. Ingo Valentin... Dialogs Youth says:

    Ingo Valentin, Frederik Thorøe, Malene Elvstrøm Dialogs Youth
    When we first arrived to Sagarmatha a lot of things seemed upside down. Many things were different from the way schools work in the western world, at least in Denmark. All of the students wear the same uniforms and every morning and afternoon they do their assembly with gymnastics, prayers, todays quotes ect. When a teacher enters any classroom the students stand up and salute him or her, and they will not sit down unless you tell them to. The students will ask for permission before drinking water, going to the toilet ect. In this sense the students are very disciplined, but they lack what we westerners think is common sense. The students can be very bad at keeping quiet while the teacher or another student is talking. It can be a bit hard for western ears to understand the nepali accent of the kids in the beginning, but we quickly got past this obstacle.

    The classrooms are really small compared to the amount of students, and they look very old and used. The acoustic is pretty bad and at the same time the students are not familiar with raising their hands before talking/answering a question. Due to this a lot of yelling can occur and the students will be talking at the same time, so it can be hard to understand anything. We, like others, have tried to implement the ritual of raising your hand, and it can actually work, so you just have to keep reminding the students at all times, or else you will end up with a big headache some days. Some classes can be hard to control, but you just have to be a little harsh, and maybe yell sometimes to make the students listen to you. You can also divide the class into two groups, and only teach the group who is behaving. You can of course also send students outside the classroom if they are too noisy, or ask the principal or a teacher to talk to a class if they keep misbehaving.

    As a volunteer you are pretty much free to teach whenever you want. When you start you will sit down with the principal and together you will figure out which classes in which grades you will teach. For example you can teach 4 periods one day and 2 periods another day, and then you can also have some days off (a school week in Nepal is 6 days from Sunday-Friday). When you have your final schedule you can always adjust it. The school is very flexible, so if you find out that you want to change your schedule so you can attend yoga classes, classes on Buddhism or whatever, it is possible. Of course you can also get more classes.

    The main reason for our work as volunteers is foremost to teach and show the students about western culture and society and through that to improve the students english, make them speak more fluently and teach them how to pronounce the words. We have also worked quite a bit on improving the confidence of the children by making them stand up in front of the whole class and present their homework etc. In the beginning a lot of the children were shy and spoke very quietly, but this improved dramatically during our time with them. It is a very nice experience to watch the children grow in this sense, and choosing areas to focus on like this can therefore be a way to experience some nice progress.

    You can pretty much teach in whatever subject you want, the school only have 3 rules to follow. You cannot teach about sex, you cannot make one religion seem better than others, and last but not least you cannot hit the students.

    Subjects which we have done with the students (year 2013):

    Class 3
    Denmark in General – Tell and repeat
    Important Danish Holidays – Tell and repeat
    Alladin and his Magic Lamp – Role play and Quiz
    LEGO (Danish company)

    Class 4
    Denmark in General – Tell and repeat
    H. C. Andersen – The ugly duckling – Tell and repeat
    Walt Disney – Tarzan – Watch and Repeat Quiz

    Class 5
    Denmark in General – Tell and repeat
    H. C. Andersen – The ugly duckling – Tell and repeat
    Walt Disney – Tarzan – Watch and Repeat Quiz

    Class 6
    Fairy Tales – Peter Pan: read aloud, repeat and dramatize
    The Little Red Riding Hood – read aloud and summary-exercise
    Drama games
    Western music – listen and notice e.g. only the instruments or the text, to make them aware of what they are listening to

    Class 7
    Modern History of Western Music – Brief walkthrough of different genres and eras in modern popular music

    Class 8
    Denmark’s political system
    Rhetorical means in speeches – Analysis, writing and presentation of speeches
    Modern History of Western Music – Brief walkthrough of different genres and eras in modern popular music

    Ingo Valentin, Frederik Thorøe, Malene Elvstrøm
    Dialogs Youth

  5. Brother Eddy Lee Swee Fatt | Brother Au Yong Seng Fat says:

    Singapore brothers: As an enthusiastic supporter of children’s home, we are glad to have contributed in a small way to the well being of the children in Chhahari. Our observation is that, they are well mannered and well behaved. The caretakers (Kumar and Uma) have done an excellent job. We hope the children are delighted by our presence.
    Warm Regards,
    Brother Eddy Lee Swee Fatt
    Brother Au Yong Seng Fat

  6. Ida Arentz Taraldsen- Dialogs Youth says:

    Ingo Valentin, Frederik Thorøe, Malene Elvstrøm
    Ida Arentz | Taraldsen Dialogs Youth : My Time at Chhahari & Sagarmatha academy

    About my time at Sagarmatha educational academy and Chahhari
    March – June 2013

    When I came to Sagarmatha I got in to it quite smooth with help from the two volunteers who was still there. From the beginning I taught together with Malene Elvstrøm, and when she left I continued on my own. I would recommend you thinking about whether you think you would prefer to teach alone or with someone else. As all things in life both have its ups and downs. I found it relaxing being two, especially when preparing, simply because two heads always are more creative then one. In class it can also be nice to be two so that you have more time for each student. On the other hand, teaching alone, I felt it easier to adjust the class continuously according to how the class went on the day. Of course, you may not be in the position to choose. In that case; you learn a great deal from both.

    As the other volunteers from this year has described, getting to know the Nepali school system can be quite shocking. The discipline is good in some points, while non-existing in others. They will ask for permission to do things like going to the bathroom or drinking water but blabber while you or other students talk without realizing that this, for us, is misbehaving more than drinking water without permission.
    We used a lot of energy teaching the children to raise their hand before getting permission to talk, if other volunteers would continue this, we would very much appreciate it.
    I had 4th, 5th and 7th grade. Because I personally have a great interest in music, I used this both as a theme and a tool when teaching.
    4th grade Little red riding hood – telling, retelling and answering questions about the text
    4th, 5th and 7th grade Making poems while using music we put on as inspiration. Then let them tell the class what they thought while drawing it.
    5th and 7th grade Recycling project First we used some time on teaching them about the theme, then we divided them into groups and they picked one type of recycling which they made a chart paper on.
    4th, 5th and 7th grade Music genres Listening to different genres to learn how you may hear the difference, while also telling little about the history of the different genres (ex. rock, classic, jazz, blues and so on)
    With 7th grade I took it a little further. After working with the genres they made their own poems/song lyrics, which we thereafter made simple melodies for with help of a ukulele I brought.
    5th grade Dancing salsa At pure impulse finalizing the project with genres we listened to some salsa and I told them this was also a type of dance. And from there it just went on. It was a fight getting them to dance together, but I think it was really good for them
    4th, 5th and 7th Noticing that most of their subjects are thought memorizing I wanted to do some brain exercise with them all. I felt this to be a natural part of exposing them to the western school system, where individual thinking is most appreciated. I brought one or two simple exercises each. For example You have a 5-litre bucket and a 2-litre bucket. How can you measure up 4 litres of water?
    Regarding Chahhari I found it like a dream to get the chance to spend time there. At first I found it a little intimidating because the other volunteers knew them so well, while I did not. But that of course changed after some time, and it was all good. The children are all amazing, each with a story to tell. The only advise I think I can give is to open your self up. Then the children will open up to, and you all get a lot more out of your time.
    Ida Arentz Taraldsen
    Dialogs Youth

  7. Sabine says:

    Sabine : Letter
    Dear Chhahari – Vma didi, Kumar dai, Toya dai, Dawa asang, Christine and all my beloved children • Now I’ve been back in Denmark for approximately a month and a half, and for the first time I have the time and energy to write a letter for you. Since I came home, I started working in a Danish kindergarten (the children are from age 0 to 6) – almost 8 hours every day. It was the perfect way of coming home, because when you’re in a culture shock being around children makes it so much easier. I have found it quite difficult to explain about Nepal to my friends – they never seem to have the time to really listen, and the don’t seem to understand. But the children at the kindergarten are so curious to hear about Nepal – they especially enjoy the nepali songs. A few days ago I suddenly heard some three-year-old Danish children singing Resam Phiriri! It gave me such an amazing feeling! Every single day I think of my friends, family, students and children in Nepal. Being in Nepal was the most giving and joyful experience of my life! Unfortunately Denmark is on the other side of the planet, and the power problems in Nepal makes it difficult to keep in touch. Until I come back to Nepal, I can only send mails and contributions now and then to show my love for all of you. My first contribution for Chhahari will be in the beginning of June, when I get my first salary from the kindergarten. I’m now contact person for a new Danish volunteer who wants to go to Nepal in October – I still haven’t met her, but she sounds very nice and sweet 🙂 And I will probably be back in Nepal from middle. of December to beginning of February. I also want to tell, how much I admire your work at Chhahari. I therefore send you an article I wrote for Dialogos’ Newspaper – it was originally written in Danish, so I translated it into English (Christine, if you want to use the article, you are most welcome to correct my English – I know it is not perfect). I miss all of you – please give my love to Hiumaya ani, Ongmu baini, Dhundup bhai, Mary kanchi, Diku didi and all the children at Chhahari! I haven’t forgot anyone – and I will never forget! Love from Sabine

  8. Anna Ravn says:

    Anna Ravn: My Experience at Chhahari
    I came to Kathmandu on the 11th of March. Sleepy, confused and overwhelmed from the journey and all the new impressions I was greeted by Roshan who was to pick me up and drive me to my new home in Kopan, north of Kathmandu. Before I left Denmark I had planned several things. I knew I was going to live with Dawa Tamang and his family during my 16 weeks in Nepal. I also knew I was going to function as a helping, some kind of teaching assistant, at Chhahari Hostel, a home for 23 at risk children. But aside from this I had no idea what the next 3½ months would bring. Quickly I learned that I was in the exact right spot – I fell in love with almost everything that crossed my path. My new nepali family, my neighborhood, the mountains and much more. But most of all I fell in love with all the amazing children living in the Chhahari Hostel. They are aged between 5 and 15 years and are all living under the same roof as brothers and sisters. A Nepalese couple – Uma and Kumar – have taken all the children under their wings and with their two boys they have become the substitute parents and caregivers for these children. I can not explain how amazing a job they’re doing – loving, caring as well as responsible and practical. From the first time a stepped through the gate to the Hostel I knew what an amazing experience this would be. The children as well as Uma and Kumar welcomed me with open arms. They were all open-hearted, curious and eager to get to know me – braid my blonde hair, arm wrestle, play games and receive help in their studies and homework. I was overwhelmed for their warmth, their open and interested minds and hearts.
    Aside from spending 4-5 afternoons a week at Chhahari, giving attention, playing games, helping them with their homework and just being present, I also worked as an English teacher assistent at Sagarmatha Educational Academy. Sagarmatha is the school all children from Chhahari are attending. So they, among 206 other nepali children, also became my students. I felt very passionate and excited about teaching and becoming a part of, as well as get an inlock on, the Nepalese school system, which is so much different from the Danish and everything I knew. Also I was happy and excited about getting to know the children from Chhahari in a different way also, as students as well. I would teach 4 hours a day six days a week at Sagarmatha and then also spent at least 3-4 afternoons and evenings at Chhahari Hostel. This was a perfect arrangement for me. Both Mr. Sharma, the principal of Sagarmatha Educational Academy, and Uma and Kumar made it possible for me to have it every way I desired – they have all been extremely flexible and helpful during my stay. Teaching as a visitor and assistant at Sagarmatha is a very grateful job – you are not their only English teacher. They have an English teacher who goes by the book, takes care of the grammatics and all that. So my job was most of all to awaken their curiosity, make speaking English fun. So it was absolutely up to me what to teach! And during my time at Sagarmatha we covered all sorts of subjects – to come up with some examples, we watched “Finding Nemo” (a movie about being a fish in The Great Barrier Reef), they learned about the Indians (who they now know are not from India, but the native people of America!), they have listened intensely to stories about Jesus Christ or Peter Pan, and they loved singing songs by Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Justin Bieber as well as learning about the Civil War and American History. Teaching in a country so different from Denmark has also been a challenge. So many things are different and you must
    From the very first moment at Chhahari I knew I was surrounded with some pretty amazing and extraordinary children. Spending time with them in the hostel showed me how they are all loving, caring and responsible children – helping each other as brothers and sisters. Teaching them I also experienced how talented and hardworking student they also are. They are role models to the other children – it is easy to see how they in their life at Chhahari gain so much – they are very considerate children. They are used to sharing everything with their many brothers and sister, they are trained in compromising and solving the conflicts that occurs when so many children live so closely. Their English skills are very well-developed from being around English-speaking volunteers; they tell and teach their classmates about western culture and different countries. They are strong, smart children – hardworking and ambitious. They are aware of the fact that going to school is not something you should not take for granted – and that knowledge makes them some of the most focused children I’ve have ever met.
    Aside from studying hard, taking care of each other as well as their duties in the everyday life at Chhahari (as cooking, washing clothes, cleaning etc) they are also still kids! They have fun. They play games, they are very into singing, dancing and playing music. They are happy children – one particular word comes to my mind, they are smiling. In class eight I was teaching them about creative writing and they got an assignment where they were supposed to write about themselves and their dreams. One of the older girls from Chhahari was in this class and reading her assignment was very moving. In a strong confident voice, she wrote about how lucky and privileged she considers herself. How she dreamed of helping others and to get the chance to make her family, who is still living in a small village in Nepal, as happy as she. I am amazed how strong-willed these children are – they do not consider themselves victims or poor orphans, they are proud of to live at Chhahari. And I could not be more proud of them – watching them grow on all levels. They have learned me so much more than anyone else anywhere else. This experience, living in Kathmandu with a wonderful family, working as an English teacher and spending time a Chhahari Hostel, has been the greatest and most rewarding of my life. What ever I have given them they have given me back ten times – at least!

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