After my ETS from the army last September, I had about five months available for anything until my return to school. During the period, I wanted to do something meangingful other than studying. As I considered some of the options and asked around, my mother's colleague introduced me about this volunteer program by Human Asia and that is how I came to participate in the program after a little hesitation about going to an unacquainted country. After all, such opportunities won't come very often. After deciding to go to Nepal, I had to search for Human Asia on the internet for I had no idea about the introduced organization.
Human Asia was an organization striving to enhance human rights situations in Asia and this fact made me more interested in the Nepal program. Because I barely had an opportunity to learn about human rights other than the textbook and newspapers, I did not have much interest in human rights issues. But when I looked closer to my neighbors, there were people deprived of their basic rights. This meant that I have been neglecting the needy my entire life. So through the opportunity ahead I wanted to learn about how people in developing countries lived and how their rights were served in reality. As I looked into Human Asia I learned about human rights in general.
In December and January, the voluntary team had a pre-meeting, where I could meet the good members. I was very excited to be with these good-natured people. They were mostly college students, but there were also others like Byunghyun, a middle school student, and Yongsoo, who came to make a documentary film on Nepal. Especially for Byunghyun, I admired him for coming to Nepal to serve with us in his young age. Becoming close to the people and sharing ideas about our volunteer program through those pre-meeting occassions was very valuable.
On 18th January, we arrived in Nepal. At the first sight at Kathmandu, the capital city, I was very shocked. There were openings on houses but the glasses, allowing winds through and the atmosphere wasn't very clean. The water they used to wash or drank was not very clean either. I never had expected to see such human rights violations right on my arrival. While urban areas were usually better then rural areas culturally and environmentally in Korea, Nepal was different: the rural areas were rather cleaner. When we spent two days trekking Himalaya Mountains, Pocara, I enjoyed the fresh air of Nepal's countryside. I was worried those living in urban areas in Nepal would easily contract respiratory diseases and get infected of viruses by the dirty water. Those circumstances were really violating people's rights to live in safe conditions.
Not only was it Human Asia's mission to examine the reality of human rights violations in Nepal, it was their job to teach music, computer, and sports to the children in Badikhel Children Center, formerly known as Nepal Children Center. The center was established to provide better education to the children receiving inferior education. In their public schools, the children learned computers without actual computers and I personally thought many children in Nepal were deprived of those rights to be educated properly in Badikhel. The children center was an important addition to the children. At the center, I managed a PE class and a music class. The children seemed to like the place a lot; they wanted to learn more. The children center showed me how important right to be educated was.
Spending time in Badikhel Children Center, I even had a chance to spend a night with Sonam Pahari, one of the students in his room. I was excited that I could directly observe their real life style. For the children who were especially poor, we donated thick blankets, desks, chairs, and carpets to help the children study in better environments. At the sunset, we had meals together. The food was abudant to welcome me. After dinner, I looked around the place with Sonam and saw they had a traditional cooking style like that of the old Chosun Dynasty. The toilet was old style as well. What mattered the most was the fact that there wasn't a place to wash themselves. Lack of the sanitation made them vulnerable to diseases. Even the river water was so filthy that they could not use it to clean themselves. At night the temperature dropped dramatically but there wasn't any heating system to keep the people from shivering. The uncleanness and coldness seemed to me as an optimal condition for catching a cold. I felt sorry to see the people unable to clean themselves as often as I do home. Isn't this another case of human rights violation?
After the voluntary work, I felt somewhat empty. One week wasn't enough for me to fully understand Nepal and observe the people very closely. But I don't mean to belittle the gains like the moments I helped the people in Nepal and the interests in human rights I gained. I just thought it would be good idea to go on a long-term voluntary job program when I get an opportunity.