We are so happy to welcome Mike Demas back to Musa Masala with part two of his amazing adventure with All Hands Volunteers. Mike’s story of building the new school by hand alongside fellow volunteers and the village craftsmen is so inspiring. He shows just what you can accomplish when you step outside of your comfort zone and walk into a new world.
We are firm believers in the power of small, significant projects that a local community wants and will benefit from. Sometimes a little help can help help a community for generations.
Mike is now in Peru participating in a similar project. We are proud to share his story. Good job, Mike.
Each day we have seen the kids come and go to school in their temporary learning centers, looking on as we build their new school. It was very encouraging to be so close to the kids for whom we worked. But I had no idea how breathtaking it would be to walk past our school and see kids inside. One room held little kids barefoot on their new carpet. In another, teenagers worked hard at learning chemistry.
And here we were, a group of volunteers, ragged from waking early and working late. Sweat on our brows, dirt on our shirts and paint on our hands. Standing with our mouths agape at what would otherwise have been a boring day at school. It wasn’t until a girl smiled and waved that I realized I’d been standing out in the open, quietly crying to myself. There was an extra desk and a beautiful school bench made of simple plywood and metal, completely unused. A place like this and they have more than they need. No wonder I was so worked up.
Over the last few days, we built a no-budget DIY playground: a bamboo swing, wooden see-saws, truck tires and a ping pong table. We laid down truck tires so the kids could bounce on them. We carried half of these up a mountain and the other half we flipped along a riverbed to an access road. One of the best parts is that the kids don’t fully know all the effort that went in to the school, and they shouldn’t have to. They can just be themselves and play like kids do—bounce, swing, run, roughhouse and shout. To see their faces lit up with joy at a simple swing or seesaw…it was beautiful. I’d happily labor anytime to bring about that type of pure joy.
It isn’t often that “thank you” gets said in Nepal. Nepali’s reserve “dhanyabad” for very special and moments occasions. Coming from America, I realize now we say it for nearly everything, for things that hardly warrant gratitude. It was with this in mind that I was genuinely moved by one of our masons. Tulke Baa has lived in his village a long time. He has countless wrinkles in his face and just three teeth. Every morning he greets everyone with a smile. One evening, while we all ate dinner together, he said “dhanyabad.” After hearing Nepalis entertain our cultural misgivings, saying and repeating thank you for all sorts of small things, I noticed a difference. He teared up, the whole room was quiet and each of us realized what his “thank you” was really for.
Thank you for allowing my grandson to go to school.
Thank you for building the strongest structure our village has ever known.
Thank you for traveling all this way so we can work together for months on end,and make this world a little better.
I came to this place not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to help somehow. I wanted to do something decent in the world. I have found that in volunteering, in giving freely, I have received more than I could have asked for. I’ve made friends, some of whom feel like family, played with kids, danced with villagers, gotten drunk with our shopkeepers and witnessed the serene beauty of this magical countryside. I’ve worked with all of my might and suffered days wrought with missed goals and self-doubt. I’ve learned how to bend rebar, cut wood and make concrete with nothing but some buckets, a shovel, my bare hands and the help of my brothers and sisters.
Most notably of all, I’ve discovered that I am no longer scared to step into my future, however unsure I am or how unknown it is to me—because no matter what lay ahead, I know precisely what it is I leave behind.
— Mike Demas