The best school days in Kathmandu always start with breakfast.
As part of her volunteer assignment as a teacher’s assistant, Caroline Hawkins ’16 worked in the cafeteria, dishing up hearty servings of dal bhat, a lentils and rice dish, to a long line of about 500 neighborhood children living in the slums along the banks of the Baghwati River. For many, it would be their main meal of the day.
Each child’s morning routine included cleaning their own dishes after breakfast and brushing their teeth before gathering for the flag raising, Nepali national anthem, and prayer.
After taking off their shoes, children headed for their individual classrooms from preschool to grade four and got to work.
“They were so eager to learn, even though they faced many academic barriers,” said Hawkins, an elementary education major and poverty studies minor.
Hawkins, a native of Nashville, Tenn., spent her summer traveling across Nepal to the cities of Thamel, Dhankuta, and Chitwan with support from Furman as a Poverty Studies Summer Scholar.
During her three months of spiritual and educational work with eight other college students, Hawkins was catapulted out of her comfort zone and learned to enjoy a simple life, where bathing meant using a bucket, and sitting in front of an electric fan was a special treat.
In the city of Dhankuta, her work through High Adventures Ministries brought her to the non-denominational Revival Church of Dandabazaar, where she led a women’s Bible study group on Sundays.
“I’ve never seen faith like this,” she said. “True joy is deeper than circumstances.”
Her month in the city of Chitwan made Hawkins feel right at home, drinking hot tea with her new friends on their front porches, Southern style. She even experienced the thrill of riding an elephant for the first time.
Hawkins said her time at the DAIL Hope School in Kathmandu was especially meaningful.
As she worked alongside her teacher and friend, Binita, she saw progress as their 14 second-graders mastered letters, words, and phrases in both Nepali and English.
It was a journey that confirmed Hawkins’s chosen career path. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Furman, she hopes to travel to a country with little to no access to education and become a full-time missionary.
“An education is precious. I want to use the gift of Furman and share it,” Hawkins said.