Student from Arlington volunteers at Nepal orphanage

December 1, 2010

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Jeanna Hamlett (pictured on the right) in Nepal with others in the Volunteer Alliance program.
Monday, November 29, 2010 10:06 AM CST

ARLINGTON — Jeanna Hamlett, daughter of Matt and Jana Hamlett of Arlington, with others, has returned home after spending six weeks in Nepal under the Volunteer Alliance program. Others from Great Britain are also in Nepal under the same program.
Volunteering Nepal
Jeanna is a 2008 graduate of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Can., and felt she wanted to experience life in a different culture before beginning studies in a graduate program in physical therapy.

Nepal is a landlocked country of nearly 29-million people. It is mostly oblong in shape with 56,000 square miles in area that is bordered on the north by the Himalayas in the Republic of China and on the other three sides by the Republic of India. The Himalayas to the north contain eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains including the topmost one, Mt. Everest. Nepal is isolated from major land and sea routes in the world, yet transportation is better within its own country with 48 airports.

It is the 93rd largest nation in the world by landmass, but ranks 41st in population.

Jeanna is the only one from her group who stayed in an orphanage with children between the ages of 4 and 14 near the capital city of Kathmandu in the foothills of the mountains. Others from Great Britain in the Alliance program went to different parts of Nepal also on a rotation basis.

Along with house parents, Jeanna spent her entire time at the orphanage. Her duties included helping the children follow basic hygiene rules and getting ready for school. She also helped them with their homework and planned special activities for them before and after school.

On their first visit, the volunteers gave them each a new outfit of clothes along with the favorites of gum and candy. Jeanna feels the actions of children are universal. They like to get out of chores so need to be kept busy. The children in Nepal are bilingual and speak both English and Indian.

In Nepal, the illiteracy rate is 54 percent—the males rank at 68 percent and the females at 42 percent.

Eighty percent of the population is Hindu, 10 percent, Buddhist, and one-half percent, Christian. Income of half of the population is below the international poverty level of $1.25 per day.

Until 1990, Nepal was a monarchy under the rule of King Birenda. It still is a monarchy with a king as head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government, but is now bicameral with a House of Representatives and a National Council.

Tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugar cane, jute, tobacco, and grain compose 40 percent of its crops. Water buffalo is the main animal product. Forty-one percent of its people are involved in services and 22 percent work in industries.

Jeanna’s diet consisted mostly of rice and lentil soup, but one day she felt she needed more so purchased a hamburger at a well-established restaurant for $6. Because the water is unsafe to drink and must be boiled and milk is also unsafe to drink, the Alliance group carried Mountain Dew with them and had Snickers candy bars along to eat.

A Hindu holiday was being observed when Jeanna and her group arrived in Nepal.

For side trips, they spent one day riding on an elephant and looking at crocodiles that swim in a nearby river.

They also placed mountain climbing and white-water rafting on their agenda.

Motor scooters are a popular means of transportation and buses are overloaded.

Because of the humid and rainy climate it takes two days to dry clothes, but in spite of the humidity, Nepal does not have mosquitoes.

Before going to Nepal, the group had e-coli shots and took along its own supply of antibiotics.

Alliance members stayed together and did not carry large sums of money because of gangs. Violent crime is not prevalent, but people steal little items.

They also slept in a closed room because rats could be heard overhead in the ceiling. There is no animal control in Nepal of rats or of dogs that maybe run together in packs of around 100 animals. Nepal has so much grain in the country that there is no enticement for rats to be caught in traps.

With all of the differences in culture between the United States and Nepal, that is 14 hours away in the time zones, Jeanna found the people of Nepal to be very friendly.



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