The Meera Centre is an initiative of Childreach Nepal that seeks to be a model early development centre for children (and their parents) aged 0-5 years old. It is located in Sankhu village, just a few hours outside of the capital city Kathmandu, which is a stunning village set in the Himalayas.

“The Meera Centre is about building a model early childhood development centre for the community. It will be for the children of this village (Sankhu) and the surrounding villages. It will be similar to a day care school for children aged 0-5 years old, where these children can come and learn in a safe environment. The centre will also be providing health facilities to the children and their families in the community.” – Ravi Bhandari (Programmes Coordinator, Childreach Nepal)

I have very recently returned from Nepal, where I was the Brunel University Team Leader for a Big Build project. The Big Build is an immersive, hands-on volunteering venture that allows you to personally contribute to the work of Childreach International, as well as being allowed a first-hand opportunity to witness the impact your fundraising can have on a local community.

None of my team had any experience in construction work, so we were all quite nervous about the build. But the experienced and patient on-site staff gave us manageable, and somewhat fun, tasks, whilst offering advice along the way, which quelled our fears. We felt so lucky to be the group that painted the ground floor in the blue and green colours familiar from our Childreach International t-shirts. Painting the ceilings beforehand proved to be a messy affair, but we got the knack of it by the end of a very splashy day!

The landscaping of the garden area also tested our muscles daily. There was cement to be smashed, roots to be… well, uprooted, clay to be dug and dirt to be shifted. It was hot, sweaty work. But with a fun team, and beautiful countryside surrounding you, you wake each day with enthusiasm to pick up your shovel once again.

Before we left for Nepal, there were worries amongst the team about our living situation. But we were shown hospitality in a local home, given our own rooms and offered sufficiently comfortable sleeping mats. ‘Chef Gordon’, who prepared dishes that were all delightful blends of western and traditional Nepali foods, amply fed us three times a day. Our guides Ravi, Paljyor and Pemba lit up each evening with songs, games and stories. We also had a lot of fun showering out of a bucket in an enclosed, private tent for a week. It is strangely liberating, and you don’t miss a shower that much when you are there.

The local children were also complete delights. They all spoke fluent English, which made communication a lot simpler than we anticipated. Our group was surprised to find that they knew the ‘Cups’ song from the film Pitch Perfect, along with how to make the song beat with a cup. As most of us couldn’t, we felt quite useless. But we all sang it nonstop with them throughout the entire week.

Taking part in the Big Build Nepal was such a fantastic experience, one that I am eager to take part in again. The team you only knew slightly from fundraising previously become close friends you have an entire book full of private jokes with and the country you have never been to before somehow finds a special place inside your heart forever.

Whilst we really enjoyed being able to paint the walls in Childreach colours, we are very thankful to the Big Build teams from 2013. They literally helped to dig the foundations.

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