In April 2023, Angeline, Vin, Hyma and I took a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal with the goal of installing a rainwater collection system at the Peace Child Ministry in the Bungamati region. This was incredibly special experience for me personally because it was my first overseas project with EWB SG (and technically my first time participating in a project), my first time doing traditional engineering work (I am a bioengineer that works in AI… we don’t use a lot of drills or hammers), and my first time in Nepal.
I have decided that in this reflection I want to talk about what it feels like to do your first project with an organization like EWB SG, because while I was heavily involved with the administrative aspect at EWB NTU when I was a student, I didn’t realize how different doing projects felt until I had done one. Hopefully, this post will encourage you to get involved too, not necessarily at EWB SG, but wherever you feel like you can make the most impact.
1. You don’t have to be a Mechanical or a Civil Engineer
When I was at EWB NTU, I spent a lot of time listening to project groups and trying to give advice on how to best optimize their planning. I was semi-envious of the work that they got to do in design and prototyping but I always figured “I’m a Bioengineer, not a Mechanical Engineer or Civil Engineer, what can I contribute?”. However, this trip showed me that skills and expertise extend beyond specific disciplines. Working alongside Hyma, a computer engineer, I discovered that we can adapt and learn new skills, such as using a drill, drilling holes, and managing wiring, regardless of our engineering backgrounds. It reinforced the idea that anyone can make a difference through dedication and a willingness to learn.
2. You will learn A LOT about yourself
As it turns out, I am terrified of heights. Nepal's mountainous terrain and treacherous roads tested my limits. Narrow roads bordered by steep cliffs and aging taxis added an extra layer of anxiety. While my teammates seemed unfazed, I found solace in their support and companionship. This experience not only pushed me out of my comfort zone but also taught me resilience and the importance of relying on others during challenging times. That being said, I am still a little shaken 3 months on - if the taxis that we took in Nepal were to compete in the Indy 500, they would win, hands down.
3. It’s not just work, you can have fun too
It took a few days but after some smiles and waves from afar, the girls at the Peace Child Ministry decided they would like to be friends with us. We played the Nepalese version of Ring around the Rosie, gave lots of hugs, I taught them how to use my camera, and they even did a little performance for us at the end of our project. I can’t describe how nice seeing how happy the girls were to interact felt, the only similar feeling that I have felt is when my cat comes and asks for pats.
My journey to Kathmandu was filled with transformative experiences and personal growth. This reflection only scratches the surface of the countless new encounters my teammates and I had during our time in Nepal. To provide a richer narrative, I have compiled a photo collage with descriptions that capture the essence of our adventure. I hope this post resonates with readers, encouraging them to take a leap of faith and volunteer, irrespective of their background. By getting involved and making a positive impact, we can truly change lives, both our own and those of others.