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Do you wash your hands with soap and water?

Imagine walking around on dusty roads, hiking up steep dirt tracks, walking in between terraced fields and on bricks from earthquake damaged houses or new houses being built. Then imagine visiting every house in every community in this dusty, but beautiful district – seeing women walking around with heavy baskets tied to their heads, children running carefree up and down the slopes, old men relaxing in the shades of their houses and (of course) an enormous amount of goats, cows, chickens and dogs hanging out in the most odd places. Imagine this, and you know how a typical day is for me right now.

So why am I doing this, you might ask?

I get to experience this part of Nepal by being enrolled as a public health volunteer with VIN (Volunteers Initiative Nepal). Together with Kishor, a local staff member of VIN, I collect data on sanitation and hygiene in the community in order to update the so-called WASH-project. The WASH-project was founded in 2007 and aims to create awareness on subjects like water, sanitation and hygiene while also working to establish and improve sanitation and hygiene facilities in the community. Since one of the overall aims of the WASH-project is to be able to officially declare the district of Jitpur Phedi an open defecation free zone, Kishor and I walk around to every single household in this district, collecting data on the current sanitation and hygiene situation after the earthquake. More specifically, this means asking people questions as the one in the title above – and equally personal questions. I keep telling Kishor that if this project was conducted in my part of the world, people would quite likely refuse to answer any questions, if you were lucky, or simply kick you of their houses, if you were less lucky…

village house womanBut this is Nepal. And the best thing about Nepal is its people. I have done my fair share of travelling, and I can safely say that the people of Nepal are some of the kindest people I have ever come across. The greatest “difficulties” we face in this project is not getting people to provide answers for our survey – it is rather getting out of people’s homes again in order to finish the project in time, since they are always busy offering us tea and chairs and chatting.

Volunteering in a country gets you closer to its people and the way they live their lives outside of the tourist track. And this is why dusty roads, endless amounts of dal bhat and sometimes quite hard physical work cannot change the fact that I do not regret enrolling in this project for one second.

Writeen By: Katja form Denmark

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