In 2016, my boyfriend, Taylor, got to know Ambrose, Leena, Yogesh, and Christine through the Climb for Himalaya Children at Mt. Rainier just outside of Seattle, WA. In the spring of 2017, Taylor visited Nepal and was able to spend a day at BSF’s Contact Center. There, he got a taste of what Mitrata and BSF did for local children in need of education in Nepal. He sent me a few photos of the kids and, of course, I replied, “So cute!” Little did I realize that I’d soon be sitting on the same floor sipping tea while watching little kids perform dances and shout out, “Hello sir! Hello ma’am!”
Long story short: Taylor and I quit our jobs in Seattle in early 2018 to move to Thailand to teach English, travel, and learn about a different part of the world. In the back–very back–of our minds we knew that Nepal was a quick flight away, but we didn’t really have any grand plan to visit immediately. After a year in Thailand, we both began teaching online remotely. This provided an opportune time to head to Nepal, trek in the mountains, and see if we could make use of our time volunteering at BSF’s Contact Center.
Luckily, Taylor had maintained a relationship with Yogesh and Leena since they had first met years prior. They were instantly excited that we were interested in spending some time volunteering–even if we weren’t quite sure what we would be doing. After a few months of planning, booking tickets, and wrapping up our life in Thailand, we boarded a plane destined for Kathmandu in late March.
Our arrival seemed to be perfect timing. As it happened, our trip coincided with the time Christine, Rick, and Isaac were in town. Luckily, we were able to meet with them several times to discuss projects that could help the Contact Center.
Back in the United States, Taylor is an architect with an eye for straight lines and tedious spreadsheets. My own background is in teaching English and working in social services. With our professional skills in mind, Christine decided that Taylor and I should work towards establishing a way of measuring and documenting student academic progress. Our goal would be to create a formal evaluation and tracking system for different class ages that can be used continuously through the years in the future. Currently, there is no hard data on early student development in Nepal that is reliable and measurable. The criteria for entry into a school system is entirely subject to the individual school’s standards, and are not based on a national standard. Because of this, the Contact Center does not have standardized exams or baselines to measure against. That is where our project comes in.
With Taylor’s ability to create user friendly spreadsheets and graphs for the staff to track student progress, we hope to provide hard data that tracks students’ development in each area of study (Nepali, English, math, social studies, science, and art). The BSF staff will all be trained on how to input the test scores so that they may be recorded into a single evaluation system. I, on the other hand, will be creating syllabus’ for each class in order to define the learning objectives that should be covered. These learning objectives will be the basis of each one of the four exams given to the students each year.
As I mentioned, our timing seems to have worked out perfectly. The first week we began volunteering was also the beginning of the school year. The Contact Center received brand new books for each classroom and subject that are to be the basis the year’s lessons and exams. Using these new books, a written syllabus will help the teachers stay on track with planning their lessons. Furthermore, it will outline what content will be covered on each of the four exams given to the students for evaluation. These new exams, which I will be creating based on the books, will be catered to each grade level in order to evaluate subject comprehension and learning objectives. With the creation of detailed syllabus’, standard exams, and data tracking for each student, we are hoping to improve how the Contact Center measures student progress. Hopefully, our efforts as volunteers may assist Mitrata and BSF in their effort to educate children and improve their lives.
Taylor and I have just completed our first two weeks at the Contact Center and have seven more to go. We cannot express how grateful we are to be able to spend a little over two months here with BSF.