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My experiences of teaching in Nepal

Nisar Bostan | 19.07.2016

Volunteering in Nepal has helped Nisar Bostan appreciate the corner he has turned through his involvement with BSA, and that we have a choice in how we perceive our stammer, and how we make a difference.

Nisar with class of childrenWhen I received an email confirming I would spend a fortnight in Nepal, as part-and-parcel of a teaching project I had applied for… I was ecstatic.

I have only witnessed the effects of poverty and squalor on a Samsung flat screen. It has always been vicariously, not first-hand. That does not do justice to those whose lives have been subject upheaval by either natural disasters or horrifying atrocities, does it?

I am currently in Nepal, in the city of Pokhara. Nepal suffered a major earthquake last year. The aftermath of the earthquake is only too visible, and the country and its people are still reeling from not only the collateral damage caused, but the impact on the lives of the loved ones of those who died. It is deeply upsetting, and is palpable when speaking to the locals in the vicinity.

I am an education volunteer, and alongside 4 other volunteers, who are mainly involved in the women’s empowerment project, we make the 30-minute bus trek to Pame every morning. Pame bears the brunt of a largely uneducated population, and the local women are subjected to domestic violence. It makes the work of my colleagues that bit more important, and highlights the need to equip the local women and children with support services and an outlet to learn the English language, so that working in the brimming local tourist industry is a viable option.

I teach classes of children between the ages of 12 and 16, English and Mathematics. For so long in my life I would never have envisaged doing this. I am due to leave Nepal in 3 days… I can already feel the waterworks coming along.

For so long in my life I would never have envisaged doing this.

Speech ups and downs

My closest friends, part-and-parcel of the Women Empowerment ProjectI have not stammered on a single syllable in front of the children. I have a knack of seldom stammering in front of young’uns! Even in front of the other volunteers, my stammer is at an all-time-low. I am apparently the go-to for when we are out and about shopping, signalling over and asking taxi drivers for directions, or ordering food. My Punjabi has come to some avail! Especially haggling for bargains… my friends owe me, big time! Again, I am not stammering. I fail to recall any such moments. I know it will not be like this at all when I go home. This is all very strange. But I feel it is neither a good or bad thing. It just is. But hey-ho… I am getting a lot of street-cred!

My stutter only surfaces when I talk to individuals whom I perceive as having greater authority than me… cue lecturers, uncles & aunties, and esteemed work colleagues! Boy oh boy, especially interview situations. I find myself stammering on either every word, or every other word. A far cry from the past, I am able to deal better with these prickly situations, plugging-in the British Stammering Association (BSA), and highlighting my ongoing work with them. After I’ve had a woeful experience, I reflect on the particular episode, usually talking to myself aloud in a quiet room. It offers a unique sense of solace.

A far cry from the past, I am able to deal better with these prickly stammering situations.

Kindness is truly a universal language. I have had the privilege of interacting and sharing masala tea with the locals. Actually talking to them, crying and laughing at the barter of stories exchanged. Not restricted to the phone. It has been very special.

Nepal is a country segregated by caste systems. You are denoted by the same label as your forefathers upon birth, and then you must uphold society’s twisted statutes. This really angers me. It is so unfair.

The highlight of my experience, amongst too many others (!), has been spending time at a local orphanage. Beautiful boys and girls with untapped potential, but whose parents have renounced all responsibility of them.

It’s up to us

My experiences in Nepal have hit home the acknowledgment and appreciation I have for the BSA. I have volunteered for the BSA for a nigh-on two years. I first got involved with BSA in the year 2014. And that was when I drew the line in the sand, to not let my stammer hold me back. I used to carry so much baggage with me all of the time. The breakdown in my former relationship especially took its toll. I was going crazy. I would use my stammer as a scapegoat almost, blaming everything on it.

No one is ever out of the woods completely. But I know now I have a choice. I am not only alluding to the choice in how I perceive my stammer, but so much more. And this is empowering. There is so much we can do as responsible humans in debunking the myths stigmatising stammering in our local communities. No one is resigned to playing a cog-in-the-wheel role. This epitomises the innumerable opportunities a small charity, such as the BSA, opens up. Take me for instance; I want to see better understanding of stammering in schools.

But the onus is on us to act.

No one is resigned to playing a cog-in-the-wheel role.