At the age of nineteen, I was studying Law at university in France. I was passionate about Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
In Human Rights Law, there are three types of rights: civil and politics, economic and social and solidarity rights (a right to humanitarian assistance and the right to an adequate standard of living). Taking part in a humanitarian project was my little contribution to the implementation of these rights around the world.
As I was coming back home from a class, I encountered A.M.S.E.D (Association Migration Solidarity and Exchanges for Development) for the first time. AMSED acts on different levels. At the local level, the organisation helps migrants assimilate into society. At the international level, the NGO manages projects abroad, in partnership with other NGOs. International projects allow volunteers to get involved in solidarity projects to help disadvantaged populations, promoting intercultural exchange.
I was interested in this type of project. However, the choice of destination was not an easy one as AMSED has about fifteen projects all over the world, including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Morocco, Bolivia, India and Nepal. I finally decided to travel to Nepal. In 2015, AMSED’s collaboration with Nepal was focused in Bhaktapur, a little city, known for its historical heritage, located ten miles away from the main capital Kathmandu.
Our project involved constructing a new building for a school. It also set out to run classes and workshops with the children. I worked with a group of fifteen young volunteers on the project. In France, we collected supplies for the students and raised money for the school to buy building materials. At the end of April, everything was ready for our departure. Then, we heard about the devastating earthquake that affected Nepal. It killed more than 8,000 people. We had to wait two weeks before being told that our project would continue. But our motivation never wavered. We knew that whatever we did in Nepal, our participation would be more useful now than ever before.
When I arrived in Kathmandu, only two months after the disaster, the reality was catastrophic. There were thousands of houses collapsed in the streets of the capital. Nonetheless, we were entirely devoted to the construction of the school, which was a success. The workshops with children gave us strength. Our goal was to help them to remain hopeful and forget their troubles for a couple of hours.
Later on, I heard that the situation in the rural areas, next to the epicentre, was even worse than in Kathmandu and I wanted to go there. I met a Nepalese journalist who told me about a place called Kodana, a little valley one hundred kilometres to the North of Kathmandu. The main school of the area was located in the village of Kunchok, where 98% of houses collapsed. Almost ten percent of the children attending to school there died because of the earthquake.
I travelled to Kodana and, after meeting the representatives of Kunchok, decided to start my own project there: sending young volunteers to help with the reconstruction of the school and to provide English lessons to the students.
Back in France, I presented my plan to the board of directors of AMSED and they approved it. After a year of hard word, I sent my first group of fifteen volunteers in July 2016. We are planning to send fifty more.
I have since been elected vice president of AMSED. My involvement is very rewarding and I’ve learned a lot about NGO and International Organization Law. The experience changed my life and inspired me to work in Human Rights so that I can continue developing humanitarian projects around the world.
Words: Sacha Partouche
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