Carolyn Hope Smeltzer has been working with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for over 13 years in volunteering on hospital care boards and committees. In 2014, she went on the first volunteer immersion trip to India. Now she has returned from Nepal as a volunteer with the Sisters in Kathmandu. “I didn’t want to just tour Nepal, I want to understand the culture and people,” says Carolyn.
Beauty in Front of You All the Time
By Carolyn Hope Smeltzer, RN
When I reached Nepal, a lifelong dream, I knew I would not be touring, but rather working with Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, in the quiet neighborhood of Baluwatar Kathmandu, at their school for disabled challenged children. Sister Lisa refers to the School as the School for Different Ability Children, a more positive description. I called the school Special Ability School.
Goals of the school are to determine how each child is gifted and how they learn. After those goals are achieved the teachers focus on the child’s gift or skill to enrich their lives. The philosophy is that God gave every one of these children talent. I, as a gift, was given a watercolor of the mountains of Nepal painted by one of the children. It is framed and hanging in my library.
Even though I would not be touring I wanted to see the beauty of the Himalaya Mountains. Whenever I was out of the school, I would ask “are those the Himalayas?” I was told either yes or no, but even if the answer were yes, the mountains were covered in clouds and could not be seen. As my days of leaving were coming close, I was disappointed that I would never see this beauty, but I had faith the mountains were truly beautiful. The beauty was in front of me I just could not see it.
The biggest lesson learned on my mission was that beauty can for certain be in front of you, but you might just not see it. The children at the school were beautiful right from the start to me. Their smiles, willingness to help others up the four flights of stairs when some of the children could barely walk, assistance to other children getting on the bus to go home after school, paying attention to which children were having difficulty in their assignment and helping, and perhaps the biggest beauty was giving applause and recognition when either themselves or another child had an accomplishment.
These children’s beauty of accepting, understanding and helping the other children was beyond the word of remarkable
Simplicity of School Organization
The children have plastic boxes with their picture on it for the work they need to complete. Each box is individualized to their skill. In every class, there are pictures hung with close pins indicating all the ½ hour activity.
The school starts with an assembly. The assembly is a gathering with some instructions and some exercises. It helps the children calm down for the beginning of the day. Then between 6 to 10 children go to their respective classroom, based on ability, age, and gender. Some of the activities besides reading and writing are, speech, music therapy, sensory teaching, art, occupational training, (making scarfs, cooking and crafts), physical therapy, yoga, motor skill training, coloring, and basic needs training. There also are recreational activities outside and free play after lunch.
The music therapy was either with two students or small groups. They shared playing different instruments, singing and hearing their name sung to in the goodbye song. Music made the children extremely happy. In a sense, the school was also a rehabilitative facility.
The physical therapy room ranged from movement activities likes a rocking horse to balance beams. The sensory room had materials to teach the children how to use and what the purpose of each sense are.
The children bring and eat in their classroom with the assistance of the teacher. I offered to feed one of the children and the teacher indicated it was difficult. I told her I was a nurse, and she responded, “That is why you are so comfortable with the children and not afraid.” I feed the child.
From this school four of the children are actually going to the Special Olympics in March 2018, Nepal is sending a total of 15 children. The four boys from the Navjyoti Centre will compete in running and football.
Smarter than You Think
The children are much smarter than at first glance. One child, I helped put square, triangle and round pegs in a box. To complete the last task, she took the lid off the box and put all the pegs in it without going through the exercise.
Another student was walking me to the tourist old shopping area of Nepal, Thamel, after school. I questioned a policeman, and of course, we were going the right way! The student continued to proudly walk me into his father’s shop in Thamel. He also protected me all the way from the fast motorcycles, traffic, and holes in the sidewalks. He kept saying, “Very good!”
No Child is Left Behind
Every child does every activity to their own ability and many finishes the task together like running. Finishing the task is more meaningful than winning the run. Other children walk, rather than run, with the teachers but are able to finish the “run” no matter how long it takes.
All Love to Celebrate
The 9 days I was in the school, the children were preparing for Hindu Celebrations of Jijaya Dashami and Tihar. The anticipation was escalating as they made cards, prepared signs, cooked food and practiced dancing. For the celebration, some of the children dressed in their finest and all celebrated together with communal outside dining, dancing, and singing.
Culture of Love, Beauty, Pride and Recognition
The Sisters, Lisa, Philo (Philomena) and Aisha have created a culture of love, beauty, pride in accomplishments, and recognition. Every child at this school will reach their highest potential and their talent will be discovered and flourish. Happiness is abundant and love is evident.
These are the lessons I learned but the nuns created and live the lessons every day. The most important lesson is beauty is everywhere and always in front of us; we just have to have faith, to know it’s there even if we do not see it immediately.
I did see finally see the beauty of the Himalaya Mountains and Mount Everest on my last plane ride. The beauty of the mountains was always in front of me, even if I could not see it.
A Side Note
Nothing will ever replace the feelings, emotions, and memories, of the Navjyoti Centre’s children, teachers, and nuns. The immersion gave me an understanding of the value, people and life in Nepal.
Thank you, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The spirituality experienced by daily prayer services, masses, and the work enriched my soul for a lifetime. I felt and feel like I was on a most meaningful spiritual retreat with lessons learned of beauty. With the day beginning with prayer service as well as mass and ending with prayer service and dinner, the time brought peace.
The last two days of school before the holiday were Monday and Tuesday, that is the days children wear red shirts and the teachers are in red saris. I surprised everyone by having red saris made so I would blend in and not stand out at the school in other words to be a part of their life, not just an outside observer.