Kayla Cooper ’19, Nepal –
During the last two weeks I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about my place and simply pondering why I’m here; my purpose during this fellowship experience. In my last blog, I struggled a little with the idea that I’m here to teach something to people very different than me, furthermore something I know very little about. On top of that, these children’s lifestyles are nothing like the life I’m familiar with and there are stark differences in our culture. While I am learning a lot about these differences in lifestyle and culture and benefiting a lot from this experience, I’m wondering why an outsider was picked to do this job, a job with the goal to benefit children when I simply have trouble communicating with them.
I was presented with the challenge to design art workshops that have an educational, expressive and cultural component. After the workshops were designed, I would facilitate them with children at local schools and display the works they create at an exhibition at the end of the time here. The two things I’m finding to be the most difficult about this challenge are: creating something that’s both educational and fun for kids in various age groups and communicating the workshop to them (as the language barrier has proven to be much more difficult than I initially expected). I feel that I must come off as so entitled while I’m standing in front of a classroom of children, speaking to them in a language they do not understand and coming from a place that are not familiar with. Why am I in control of this agenda and not learning from someone who relates and communicates with them better than I do?
This then forces me to think, “Okay, so what is the social issue that I came here to address and learn about?” The social issue is that artistic expression is not valued in Nepali society as much as other skill sets. However, there are people in Nepal who do value artistic expression and aim to spread that mentality, so shouldn’t I just be there to help them and support them if it’s something I believe in? Why am I the one who is supposed to be behind the wheel when we go to schools and interact with children because after all, it turns out that I’m the one taking the back seat while my Nepali peer interns relay my ideas to the children?
So here is my conclusion. I do not think that volunteers who have the intention of going to a brand new place to address a social issue should be the ones in control. We should be engaging in the community by being assistants of those from within who are more in tune with the needs of the community. I understand the aim of me being in charge is to realize the complexity of these social issues, but I believe that if I were here to work under peers who want to tackle these social issues as well, I would learn from them and they can be the spark from within to ignite the community and address the problem more effectively and personally. Maybe I’m missing the point, but after five weeks this is where I stand.