While other school students were at the beach during the first two weeks of their summer holidays, two young men from The Armidale School instead chose to dig trenches, lay bricks and make friends from across the world as they worked together rebuilding a school destroyed by earthquake in Nepal two years ago.
Sam Ruba, from the Kempsey region, and Yannick Tursan D’Espaignet, from France, were among more than 40 students from 26 schools in 10 countries that raised from the earth a new school near the village of Thamel, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
The ‘Big Build’ was an initiative of Round Square, a global association of more than 160 schools that share a commitment to learning involving internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership and service, of which TAS has been a member since 1998. Camping in tents for the duration of the project, the students worked solidly to bring hope to children and teachers who have spent the past 18 months in crowded makeshift classrooms. Each day a different student was put in charge, giving them leadership training at the same time.
“The bricks were made nearby and delivered to the site, but we had to dig trenches for the foundations and mix all the cement by hand. It gave us a real sense of achievement to be able to help people in this way, doing something for someone else,” Yannick said. “Although students came from all over the world we all spoke English and everyone keeps in contact.”
Sam, who has been on two school service trips before, said in each instance it was interesting getting an insight into other cultures, and what causes disadvantage in different countries.
“It gave us a view about that part of the world and the impact and aftermath of such a devastating event and Nepal is a beautiful place. The days were long and we worked hard, but seeing how much it meant to the little kids and the teachers, was really rewarding,” he said.
During the project students were also able to take in some of the local culture including a visit to a Buddhist temple and hiking through the Himalayan foothills. Round Square will be conducting two other similar projects in Tanzania and Vietnam later in the year.