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Ecole Internationale de Genève
La Châtaigneraie

Témoignages d’élèves suite à leur séjour au Népal
Mars 2016

Le témoignage d’Abdullah

I once read a quote on Nepal by the famous author Jeff Rasley, who said that it was the
place to go for ‘those chasing Angels or fleeing Demons’. But I never really understood what
he meant by that until I chanced upon my own opportunity to explore what the Swiss Nobel
Laureate Richard Ernst called the place that for him ‘started an insatiable love for art’.

Before visiting Kathmandu and the Sagarmatha orphanage, other than these two quotes, the
Nepal I knew was one whose image had been morphed by a plethora of images and
headlines and articles that television and social media amalgamated. Many pieces of the
country’s culture, people, and history went unsaid as the world had watched the earthquake
disaster unfold. It’s easy to leave the country on that note. It is, however, shortsighted. The
brief 12 days that we spent in Kathmandu showed me how it was much more, how every
building, every neighbourhood, every adult and every child had a different story to tell. Yet all
the diverging perspectives and identities seemed to converge at a singularity that portrayed a
people more beautiful than the mountainscape. A people that welcomed us with cheerful
namastes and showed unfazing optimism and buoyancy in the deepest and choppiest waters
of life.

Even now, as I sit on the balcony of my house in Geneva and drink a glass of tapwater,
things I would’ve been unable to do in Nepal, I feel the lack of something. Something that
only dynamic Kathmandu could provide with its unique blend of fumeveiled traffic disorder,
smells of food and temple offerings, drifts of incense and the occasional sound of Om Mani
Padme Hum emanating from shops, taxis and every other nook and cranny of the ‘City of
Glory’. All of it a boisterous assault on the senses. This was immortalized in the words of our
teacher Mr Revaz who, when asked about our plans for that day, remarked at some point in
the trip ‘You never know what’s happening from moment to moment in Nepal. One minute
you’re here, the next you’re there’.

At Sagarmatha, whether it was drawing with the kids, or bombarding them with Holi paint and
colour or simply exchanging Justin Bieber songs with them, it was apparent to me that we
were sharing an invaluable experience across countries and cultures. In a visit to a
monastery, a Buddhist monk in flowing robes spoke to us with uplifting potency about the
secrets to contentment: love, compassion, acceptance. Stop looking for the next thing and be
happy with the here and now, he had said. At that moment his words made me feel guilty
about being frustrated that the hotel breakfast that morning wasn’t up to par or that I had
packed the wrong toothbrush.

This brief but impactful sojourn to Nepal, thanks to our teachers, supervising staff, the
Sherpa family and most of all the children of the orphanage, gave me an indelible

experience. I would like to think that I have some insight into what Rasley and Ernst
experienced and what compels many to return to this mystifying and exciting land time and
time again. I also feel that even though I left Nepal and its people, they never really left me
because I believe that some places we stay in, others stay in us. For me, Nepal is and will
always be the latter of those.

Le témoignage de Carmela

(...) When I first got to the Sagarmatha home, I thought the place was small but in better
shape then I thought it would be in. There were two buildings, two small rooms and a tiny
playing area but it seemed to be a nice place. In the older building the rooms seemed small,
there were a lot of thin bunk beds in the rooms but the other rooms looked fine. It also had a
nice balcony and a nice praying room. The newer building looked very new with very nice
rooms with single beds and a nice desk for each person in the room. This made me think that
a lot of people must have helped to get this comfortable way of living.  

All the children were very nice. The older children were very smart and wanted to do calm
games like drawing, card games or they just wanted to talk. They also enjoyed listening to
our experiences in the past and asked us to show them our pictures. I taught them also how
to do some origami and how to make different types of bracelets. The younger children liked
to run a lot and have piggyback rides which I didn't have the strength to do. All the children
loved to play ball games unfortunately we only had two balls but we played around with
balloons instead. I remember one day when this girl asked me to make her a person in
origami and the next thing I knew I had about 50 kids asking me to make them one. On
Easter Day we made homemade momos which reminded me of home because I normally
make ravioli on Easter Day (momos are like their version of ravioli or dumplings filled with
chicken or beef and with vegetables when made vegetarian). (…)

Le témoignage d’Elise

Même si nous nous y attendions depuis longtemps, notre arrivée à Katmandou fut un choc
culturel immédiat. Cette ville est sans cesse en mouvement : l’air y est empli de pollution et
de poussière, et l’on y entend constamment le klaxon des voitures ou les aboiements des
chiens. Notre expérience au Népal nous a offert un réel contraste avec la propreté, l’ordre et
l’air frais de la Suisse. En pensant à mon mode de vie privilégié, j’ai réalisé à quel point je
suis protégée.

Katmandou est une ville qui a beaucoup souffert. On le remarque partout, tant sur le plan
des dommages causés par le tremblement de terre, que l’épais « smog » dans l’air ou le
manque de fournitures de base. Malgré tout cela, il est incroyablement facile d’aimer cette
ville. Les personnes y sont amicales, les bâtiments colorés. Des drapeaux de prières sont
suspendus entre les maisons. Nous avons eu aussi la chance d’être là lors de la journée de
Holi, « la fête des couleurs », et ce, dès le début des festivités. Nous avons ainsi vu une
facette colorée de la culture népalaise qui a été partagée de tout cœur avec nous.

Ce sont les personnes de l’orphelinat SASS qui m’ont le plus profondément marqué ; leur
accueil et leur tolérance sont extraordinaires. J’ai énormément appris auprès d’elles voire
plus encore que je n’ai enseigné aux enfants. Le regard des enfants sur la vie et l’optimisme
qu’ils manifestaient était contagieux et ils m’ont donné des perspectives pour ma propre vie.
Ils désiraient partager avec nous leur culture et leurs vies et en apprendre tout autant sur les

nôtres. J’ai gagné une deuxième famille et ai connu des personnes que je n’oublierai jamais.
SASS est résolument une organisation avec laquelle je retravaillerais avec grand plaisir.

Même si ce voyage a été compliqué et parfois même éprouvant, je n’en changerais rien ; il
m’a rendu plus forte et j’ose seulement espérer que j’ai été utile à l’orphelinat de
Sagarmatha. Je suis déterminée à ce que cette opportunité ne soit pas la seule dans ma vie.
Un grand merci à la famille Sherpa et à tous ceux qui ont fait que cette expérience ait été
une opportunité exceptionnelle pour nous.

Le témoignage de Hyeon-Ji

For me, this humanitarian trip has been one of the most influential experiences in my life.
The trip was beyond my expectations and I have learnt many things during my visit to the
country. We were also able to familiarise ourselves with the Nepalese culture and glance at
the living conditions of the country.

When discovering Sagarmatha, I was astonished. I was amazed at all the children, who grew
up in terrible circumstances (some even going through the pain of losing their families), but
who had the courage to leave all the horrible past aside in order to move forward with a
great, big smile on their face. It was beautiful to see that even if they have experienced a
great deal of pain, they still had a strong will to live. To many of us, who are faltering over the
big choices of life, these children were our models. They were determined as they proudly
talked about their dreams and were grateful for the little they had. It took some time to get to
know each other but when we were more familiar around each other, we soon became great
friends. They were very affectionate towards us and called us sisters and brothers, in which I
was deeply moved by because I immediately felt like I was part of their family.

Some of us have decided to stay a night in the orphanage, in order to experience the daily
life of these children. They welcomed us with open arms. I still remember the excited faces
on the girls, eagerly waiting. Getting up at five in the morning was quite painful for me but it
was doable. I was then amazed, again, by the mature attitudes of the children (especially the
young ones) when they, in an organised manner, independently took their uniforms and lined
up for their breakfast. The system required everyone to be responsible and even the smaller
children were not expected to be helped by anyone else. This really surprised me and I feel
like had I not participated in this trip, I would have been too spoiled to appreciate my own
privilege back home.

Leaving friends are always very heartbreaking, and this one was even harder to bear.
However, their presents involving sincere hand-written letters and drawings still remind me of
the wonderful time I had with them.

Le témoignage de Timothy

The humanitarian trip to Nepal I participated in during the Easter holidays was definitely one
of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. Having organised
fundraising activities throughout the year, I felt a real sense of anticipation before the journey
to see where the money I’d been raising was to be invested. Spending time at the
Sagarmatha home, playing with the younger children and setting up friendships with the
older ones, was the main humanitarian aspect of the experience. I was amazed by how  

cheerful and positive the children were, despite their relatively simple life-styles and few
belongings. They were always prepared to play with us, show us affection, and make us feel
welcome in their little corner of Kathmandu. One of the activities I did with them was an
Easter egg hunt, having brought two bags worth of chocolate eggs with me from Geneva. It
was all over in a frenzied 5 minutes of gleeful searching, but once they had found all the
eggs I was yet again impressed by the way they shared them all out. It was moments like
these that helped me see them as a large family, who always stuck together collectively,
rather than as individual orphans. I learned a lot from them as well: not only physical things
such as magic tricks and a hypnosis technique that didn’t work very well, but also a fresh and
invigorating way of looking at the world. Their enthusiasm for their studies for example, put
my school life into perspective – something I should keep in mind next time I feel fed up with
a difficult assignment. Their friendliness and openness taught me to relax and take things as
they come.

The other aspect of the trip was the cultural side of it, which was equally eye-opening. The
beautiful ancient temples and sculptures were the polar opposite of European architecture,
which made them fascinatingly new to me. We also grew aware of the terrible devastation
caused by the earthquake that had struck Kathmandu the year before. Simply walking
through the streets was a worthwhile experience - soaking up the foreign atmosphere,
dodging the wild traffic, and circumventing the stray cows and monkeys that dotted the
pollution-streaked roads. In that sense, the trip was an excellent break from the monotonous
Geneva life, because it unveiled a completely new world, one I’d been as yet unfamiliar with.
The sense of chaos was extraordinary when compared to the ordered cleanliness of Swiss
life. But a sense of purpose was equally obvious. Everywhere I looked, people were getting
on with their lives, going to work, chatting, laying out their produce in the markets that lined
the streets…etc. Despite the chaos, this sense of animation and purpose was refreshing, and
something I felt lacking in Geneva upon my return. The trip was occasionally challenging,
tiring and overwhelming, but these were often the conditions in which I earned my most
memorable experiences, and learned my most valuable lessons.

Le témoignage de Nikita

My trip to Nepal during the Easter holidays was simply great. The time we spent at the
Sagarmatha home, mostly playing, drawing or speaking to the children was not only fun both
for us and for them, but fulfilling. It was great to get to know some of them, and if
conversation was impossible, to engage with them in different fun activities. It was extremely
satisfying to see who we were supporting with our fund-raising, how they lived and who they
One of the best things for me about the trip though, was that along with spending time at the
Sagarmatha home, we were lucky enough to go on many enlightening cultural visits, ranging
from various different temples to monasteries and Hindu cremation sites. However, these
visits also shed light on the terrible disaster that shook Nepal exactly a year back.
Approximately half of the sacred, hundreds of years old temples, world heritage sites, had
been reduced to piles of rubble. The famous Bouddhannath Stupa had been decapitated and
all that remained was the stone-white dome. We also learnt about the difficult humanitarian
situation when we visited the UNHCR. In fact, we did not get off so lucky either, as all the
students contracted some kind of stomach problems and throat sores due to the especially
high levels of pollution that week. I lost three kilograms.
(...) Ultimately it was the hospitality, openness and kindness of the Nepalese people that
made this trip special. The year 12 Nepal trip changed me as a person as it gave me a new
perspective of what life could be and made me appreciate what I have (...).