Fifty Scottish Explorer Scouts are gearing up for the volunteering trip of a lifetime to Nepal by getting to grips with some of the local customs – including forgetting everything they knew about traditional British table manners.
The intrepid Edinburgh troupe from South Morningside are being urged to ditch the cutlery and, instead, learn to eat with their hands as they do in the village of Chang Patan.
They’re being coached in what to expect by Nepal expert Oliver Margry of Himalayan Footsteps who will join the Scots teenagers on their month-long expedition as part of an international scouting personal development and outreach programme.
Olly, who organises bespoke tours and volunteering in communities in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan, has been assisting the scouts – all aged between 14 and 18 – with lessons in Buddhism, Hindusim, yoga and even traditional Nepalese cooking ahead of their trip, on which they’ll take part in a five-day trek of the Himalaya, visit the children of Rainbow Children’s Home in Pokhara and help to rebuild the run-down local school in Chang Patan.
Olly, who’s been splitting his time between Eastbourne and Edinburgh to help prepare the Scouts, is excited about the adventure – which is also a first, in many ways, for him.
He said: “This is the first time I’ve been able to take such a large – and relatively young – group to experience what Nepalese life is really like.
“I’ve been trying to prepare them by encouraging them to eat with their hands on training weekends and briefing the girls on what to wear to be culturally sensitive.
“But I can’t take all the credit. Scout leaders Neil MacKenzie and Barry Hewitt have been also instrumental in helping to prepare the Scouts – so much so that they visited Nepal with me last year to get a feel for the country and be able to brief the rest of the unit.”
Neil, who’s a primary school teacher in Edinburgh, explained: “It was really important to Barry and I to visit the village the Scouts are going to volunteer in so we could brief them on exactly what to expect.
“We had an amazing time there and hope that they will too. It’s not going to be easy and it’s certainly not a holiday but it will be a life-changing experience for them which will help to grow their confidence, relationship skills and, of course, their international scouting skills.
“The Scouts have worked incredibly hard to raise money for the trip and have been fundraising in the local community by bag packing in supermarkets and doing odd jobs.
“Nepal is an amazing country and thanks, in part, to Olly, we think the Scouts will get on very well there. Hopefully they’ll form some lasting relationships with their Nepalese counterparts and the children in Pokhara and Chang Patan will, in turn, learn a bit more about Scotland.”
Olly added: “The Scouts are certainly in for the volunteering trip of a lifetime to Nepal. I just don’t know who’s more excited – me or them!”