Ever wonder what it’s like to break ground on a buildOn school in rural Nepal? Well, just ask Katrina Law, the star of The Oath on Sony Crackle and who you may also recognize from Arrow on the CW…or at least follow her on Instagram. By chronicling everything from morning yoga in the village to what it was like living with a host family while on Trek, Katrina and her husband Keith Andreen have perfectly captured what it means to travel across the world in the name of spreading education and literacy. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites from Katrina’s Nepal Chronicles here, but make sure to check out her full Trek travel diary on Instagram and Twitter.
All photographs courtesy of Keith Andreen and text courtesy of Katrina Law.
Welcome to the Village
buildOn Treks often begin and end with unforgettable celebrations. In the rural villages where we work, children and adults have never had a proper classroom in their community, and to say they’re excited to meet the Trek team and break ground on their new school is an understatement.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 2 of 26 Photography by @keithandreen What do you celebrate today? Day 293 of 365. Today I celebrate the most joyous welcoming ceremony I have ever been a part of. The anticipation of the days leading up to meeting the community did not prepare me for what I was greeted with. I was told it would be festive, but I was not told I would be completely overwhelmed with love. As our rickety little bus drove up the dirt road to where the school would be built, people in brightly colored traditional Nepalese dress started to appear. As soon as they recognized who was in the bus, their faces broke out into broad, genuine smiles. The men started playing music, we were covered in ceremonial flowers, blessed with tikkas, herded by the women towards the build site with our hands being tugged on by laughing children. We were presented with songs and dances by their best performers, welcoming speeches that focused on a global community working together for a better future, delicious local foods, and of course a Nepalese dance/mosh pit where the eldest women held their own. The entire community showed up. The entire Lohagadh community was ready to work. The entire community was ready to grow. #nepal #charity #adventure #wanderlust #friendship #travel #buildon #lohagadh #tharu #terai #schools #education #buildingschools #progress @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @czigman @jenberthelot @nawalbengholam @amiebarsky @itsgreener @ctyotablue @jeremyglazer4 @sejayjay @buddhaed @wells.vernon @keithandreen @laurenicahill @bgud @stovasaurus___treks @santoshontheway#Repost @keithandreen with @get_repost ・・・ The #tharu #children lead @katrinalaw @nawalbengholam @amiebarsky & @jenberthelot into the town square for our @buildon arrival ceremony in #Lohagadh #nepal . Such a colorful, happy & joyous celebration! #buildon #builditforward #charity #travel #travels #traveling #travelblog #travelphotography #travelblogger #traveler #tharuvillage #asia #colorpop #colorphotography #worldtraveller #worldtravel. #Repost @keithandreen with @get_repost ・・・
From digging the foundation to tying rebar, construction on the new school is done working together in solidarity with members of the local community during Trek.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 7 of 26 What do you celebrate today? Day 299 of 365. Today I celebrate working together with the local community. It’s a beautiful thing to be welcomed into a community so gracefully. On the work site, two cultures functioned as one. It didn’t matter if you were a man, woman, child, Nepali, American, British, Canadian, or Australian. Didn’t speak Nepali? Not a problem. Didn’t speak English? No worries. Somehow, we still found a way to laugh together and share jokes. With a few translators floating around, we figured out the basics and went from there. Building techniques were easily demonstrated and understood without words. I discovered quickly my niche was in rebar work and by the end, my team was tight! We even had a system going where some of the younger folks with nimble fingers would wrap the wires while the older men would come up afterwards and twist them tight. We flowed like molten lava!!!! @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @bgud @laurenicahill @itsgreener @ctyotablue @wells.vernon @buddhaed @nawalbengholam @czigman @amiebarsky @jenberthelot @jeremyglazer4 @sejayjay @santoshontheway @stovasaurus___treks @keithandreen
A Different Kind of Yoga
Every village in the seven countries where buildOn builds schools—Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Senegal—has its own unique culture and routines. In Nepal, it’s not uncommon for Trek teams to start the day off by participating in yoga with children and adults from the community before heading to construction site.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 5 of 26 What do you celebrate today? Day 296 of 365. Today I celebrate a different kind of yoga. I am a LA yoga girl. It’s where I first was introduced to yoga, it’s where I practice yoga, it’s the only kind of yoga I know. During our BuildOn trek, every day was kicked off with an hour session of community yoga lead by a local Guru. It seemed like organized mayhem and I was skeptical at first but by the end I loved it. At 6:30am, before the sun came up, everyday was cold and damp. A large plastic tarp was spread out on a grass field, where the cows normally graze, with burlap sacks used as our yoga mats. Bundled up with winter jackets, scarves, beanies, and gloves, the Guru would lead us through the most bizarre yoga sessions I have ever been in. We jogged in place, we did jumping jacks, we chanted, we tried to do plank poses without kicking each other in the face, we clapped and sang songs, we pointed at each other and laughed. It was SO MUCH FUN!!!! One of our BuildOn members, Amie Barsky, is also a yoga instructor. Once our local Guru found this out, in the spirit of community and as a chance to learn from one another, Amie was invited to co-lead the yoga sessions. It was a beautiful mix of East meets West. As the yoga classes went on, the locals would slowly trickle in and join us. This was their first yoga class ever. Babies were held on mother’s laps and on men’s shoulders. We even had our trek ‘Spirit Dog’ join us everyday and even protect us from a local cow who was mad we were sitting on his food. By the end of the week our yoga class had necessarily been extended to two huge tarps because almost everyone in the village was showing up, and the community wanting the Guru to come back and teach more classes even after the BuildOn group departed. In LA, where sometimes yoga can feel like it’s about who is wearing the cutest pair LULU lemon pants, yoga in Nepal was a breath of fresh air. It was a great way to start the day off with the community and we would always leave class with a smile on our lips. @amiebarsky @keithandreen @czigman @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @bgud @laurenicahill @nawalbengholam
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Every day on Trek involves spending half the day on the school construction site and the other half participating in cultural workshops. By actively learning about the local customs and culture, our Trek teams leave Trek with an intimate understanding of life in their village.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 8 of 26 Photography by @KeithAndreen What do you celebrate today? Day 300 of 365. Today I celebrate learning new skills. I can now proudly say that I can make rope with my toes and dinner plates out of broad leaves. When BuildOn told us that we would only be working on the job site for part of each day and then having a cultural exchange, everyone basically thought that we would be skipping the cultural exchange and go right back to the worksite. I mean, it’s why we were there, right? Wrong. After hours of work that flew by, we were all exhausted and ready for a break. Digging into hard ground and sometimes through buried bricks is no joke. Neither is smashing old foundation with sledge hammers. And bending rebar with a tree trunk and a pipe is just plain hard. So when the skilled men and women of the community showed up with baskets and straw and their teaching caps on, we were ready to learn!!! My attempt at basket making was a dismal failure. But I did show promise in rope and plate making. Learning skills that the local use on a daily basis turned out to be one of the highlights of the week and I am so glad that we didn’t skip it. @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @laurenicahill @bgud @itsgreener @ctyotablue @wells.vernon @buddhaed @amiebarsky @jenberthelot @stovasaurus___treks @santoshontheway @nawalbengholam @czigman @jeremyglazer4 @sejayjay #nepal #tharuvillage #Tharu #buildon #builditforward @namitabam
The Children of the Village
One of the most meaningful aspects of Trek is getting to know the children in the community who will soon be attending the new buildOn school once construction is complete.
THE NEPAL CHRONICLES: Part 15 of 26 What do you celebrate today? Day 308 of 365. Today I celebrate the children of the Tharu village. They came out in droves to the build site to look on with curiosity. Each one sweeter than the next; each competing for the brightest smile. They watched as the adults worked and when asked it they would like to join in, they jumped at the chance. They wanted to be able to say that they helped in the building of their school as well. They were brilliant. They looked after each other, taking the time to explain how to do the task at hand and keeping each other safe. Two of my favorite moments at the work site were when two small friends teamed together after unsuccessfully trying to bend the rebar wire on their own, working in unison, accomplishing the task together like an efficient machine. And the other when a teenage boy, who you can tell was shy and quiet, learned he was strong enough to bend the rebar himself. The pride they took in their jobs and being able to help out made my little raisin heart glow. While staying with my host family, I gave one of the little girls a pen with a spinner attached to the top of it. She squealed in delight and took off running. She immediately came back with her sister in tow, knowing that I had three more pens, she asked if her sister could have one. She then ran off only to come back dragging one of her brothers along. She wanted him to have a pen as well. Again she ran off, this time pushing her youngest brother into the room to receive his pen. I was so impressed that she didn’t keep the pens for herself and that she wanted her siblings to be able to share in the joy. That’s what all the kids in this village were like. One toy for one child meant a toy for the village. The future is bright in that Tharu village. Very bright indeed. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary
The Women of Nepal
Gender equality is at the cornerstone of our school construction methodology. This means that from the construction site to the completed classroom, female community members are leaders in every part of the school building process.
THE NEPAL CHRONICLES: Part 16 of 26 Photography by @keithandreen What do you celebrate today? Day 309 of 365. Today I celebrate the badass Tharu women of our village. I didn’t take an official head count, but I am pretty sure more women showed up to volunteer at the worksite than men. In fairness to men, though, a lot of them had already left for India to work and I am 100% positive they would have shown up to the site if they were around. But the women showed up, took charge, and made up for lack of strength by sheer numbers. They were a glorious sight to behold. The bright and bold colors of their fariyas and cholos painted a rainbow across the work site. They assembled into lines to pass along buckets of dirt and concrete, not once complaining about the weight. And as Vernon noted, they dug circles around him and put him to shame by the amount of work they accomplished compared to him! All this and they still made it home in time to do all the chores, take care of the children, and cook dinner for the family. The pride on their faces as they dug out the foundation for the school, knowing they were setting up a brighter future for their children and community, was inspiring. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @bgud @laurenicahill @itsgreener @ctyotablue @jenberthelot @amiebarsky @nawalbengholam @czigman @jeremyglazer4 @sejayjay @wells.vernon @buddhaed @stovasaurus___treks @santoshontheway @namitabam
Fighting for Equality
No matter the country or the village, every community we build a school with first signs the buildOn Covenant before ever breaking ground on their new school. Because girls and women are routinely denied education in the countries where buildOn schools are built, the buildOn Covenant is a crucial part of our school construction methodology as it is a promise from the local community to send their daughters to school in equal numbers as their sons.
THE NEPAL CHRONICLES: Part 17 of 26 Photography by @KEITHANDREEN What do you celebrate today? Day 310 of 365. Today I celebrate, not only BuildOn’s fight for education, but also their fight for the educational rights of women. In Nepalese culture, it used to be considered a waste of time to send daughters to school. There was no perceived benefits to educating the girls as the woman would eventually be married off to a man to then take care of the children and household. Only boys were sent to school. Thankfully, Nepal has recently come to understand the social and economical benefits of educating their women and have introduced the practice on their own. BuildOn has endeavored to further this cause by mandating that for every boy who is sent to their school, a girl must be sent as well. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary
Because Trek isn’t a vacation, our Trek teams don’t stay in hotels or resorts while in the village. Instead, team members live with local host families, and often develop a deep connection with the members of their new family.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 22 of 26 Photography by @KEITHANDREEN What do you celebrate today? Day 315 of 365. Today I celebrate the second family I have gained in my Nepali host family and community. Saying goodbye to my host family shattered my heart to smithereens. Everything I had hoped to experience with my new family came to fruition along with an assortment emotions that I never could have imagined. To feel such a strong bond to this family in such a short amount of time is unreal. It felt like we were just at the tip of the iceberg of our new found relationship and here we were, already saying our goodbyes. My new little sisters kept holding my hands and planting kisses on my cheeks. Even the host father came along to take a few more group photos before we left. It felt like ripping a bandaid off when we finally got onto the bus and drove away. I wanted more time with them and I was irritated that the first few days had been spent in silence and that time had been wasted. As we drove out of the village, I made eye contact and waved goodbye to the men who had been apart of the epic rebar team and they stood up and waved goodbye back. For the next hour on the bus, I fought back tears. I surprised myself with how much the family and community had affected me. I think it was the sadness of knowing that the chances of me seeing them again were slim. And yet, through the tears and sadness, there was that spark of pride and hope that I had for them. I trusted them to make the most out of that school and the opportunity they were presented with. I trusted them to love and support each other. I trusted the women to take a stand for themselves and for the men to back them. I trusted in the brilliance of their future. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary
A Finished School
Whenever possible, buildOn tries to take our Trek teams to a completed buildOn school before team members return home. By seeing a fully constructed school and witnessing the impact it is having on the local community, our Trek teams are able to get a full sense of what a finished buildOn school will mean to their village.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 23 of 26 What do you celebrate today? Day 317 of 365. Today I celebrate getting to visit a finished BuildOn school. I think BuildOn is used to how earth shattering the final day of goodbyes are for the team. In their wisdom, they break that sadness by taking us to visit a school, built by BuildOn, that is up and running. Their plan worked and our melancholy was erased by the excitement of all the school kids lined up with flowers in their hands ready to great us. Talking with the kids was magical. They wanted to sing us songs and they wanted to know what animals we had in America. They wanted to know if kids in America has as much fun going school as they did and I did my best to answer that diplomatically. BuildOn even had after school programs set up to help kids who were starting their education late so that they could catch up to their peers. I eventually realized that the women who were also lined up to greet us weren’t the teachers, but rather the students of the adult program. It was so uplifting talking to these women and they had so much to say. Most of them were in their 30s and 40s and just learning to read and write for the first time. They held babies in their laps and occasionally had to shoo away their child and tell them to get back to their own classroom next door. When asked what they liked most about school, they said it was being able to help their children study. When asked what their favorite subject was, I was surprised to learn it was business. They loved being able to help their husbands with the farm and balancing the household bills. They gushed about how supportive their families and communities were and that there was already a waiting list for women who wanted to sign up at the start of the next program. The program is also open to men, but most of them already have an education or are off working in India. There was no bitterness or shame in these women. Just a sense of pride that comes from learning and gratitude for the opportunity at hand. I walked away with a feeling of peace knowing that you and I were helping to give this experience to the Tharu community I had just left. #nepal
Trek wouldn’t be possible without the amazing work of our hardworking Trek staff. From managing all of the transportation logistics to translating the local language, we couldn’t be more proud of the dedication and professionalism that our buildOn staff bring to their work.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 24 of 26 Photography by @KEITHANDREEN What do you celebrate today? Day 318 of 365. Today I celebrate our brilliant BuildOn Trek leaders and translators. I am awed by them. Most of them have been working for and dedicating their time to BuildOn for years. Helping others is true a calling to them and you can feel it in everything they do. They met us with smiles, answered all of our silly questions, soothed our anxieties, constantly checked in on us, translated for us, and took the time to fill us in on the history we were surrounded by. They laughed at our shenanigans and fit in well with our group. They shared their stories of heartache and triumph that led them to be where they are today, each one more inspiriting than the next. Truly some of the most remarkable people I have ever had the pleasure a work with. And when the situation got a little sticky between bad weather and multi-day fight cancelations, they handled it with grace and ease and guided us through to the end calmly. Thank you for taking care of us and for making the journey as smooth as possible. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary @paulfreemanmusic @itsgreener @ctyotablue @laurenicahill @bgud @amiebarsky @nawalbengholam @czigman @jenberthelot @jeremyglazer4 @sejayjay @santoshontheway @namitabam @stovasaurus___treks @buddhaed @wells.vernon @theerincahill
What Hope Looks Like
The impacts of Trek are limitless. For the local community, it means increased access to quality education for not just everyone who lives there, but also generations to come. For our Trek teams, the memories from their time in the village are something they will carry with them forever. Returning home from Trek means sharing memories from Trek with friends and family, and in Katrina’s case, all of us. A big, sincere thank you to Katrina for her incredible generosity in taking all of us on Trek with her.
THE NEPAL @BUILDON CHRONICLES: Part 26 of 26 Photography by @KEITHANDREEN What do you celebrate today? Day 321 of 365. Today I celebrate being asked what my favorite part of the Nepal @Buildon experience was. It’s one of the first times in a while that someone has asked me a question like that and I had to really stop to think. There are so many levels to this entire experience from start to finish that it’s almost impossible to put into words. So let’s start with you, the reader. It was incredible how many of you wanted to be a part of this. How many of you jumped at the chance to donate and share and how passionate you were about the entire endeavor. It was humbling to see how this struck a cord in all of you. In hindsight, I love how far out of my comfort zone I was pushed and how much I had to mentally force myself to change just to get through a few days of being in a new culture. It opened my eyes to how sedentary a mind can become even though I thought I lived a wildly adventurous life. I loved the kids. Those smiles!!! How enthusiastic they were about every little new thing that was happening around them and how much they wanted to be apart of it. And I loved the community. The way they came together to fight for the good and future of their village, men, women, and children alike. This is what hope looks like. This is what it feels like. And I am so happy that I got a chance to see hope in it’s full manifestation. #Nepal #Terai #Tharu #WesternNepal #Travel #adventure #wander #wanderlust #charity #buildon #builditforward #team #friends #love #buildingschools #schools #education #progress #lohagadh #volunteer #traveldiary @theerincahill @paulfreemanmusic @itsgreener @ctyotablue @bgud @laurenicahill @wells.vernon @buddhaed @nawalbengholam @czigman @amiebarsky @jenberthelot @sejayjay @jeremyglazer4 @santoshontheway @stovasaurus___treks @namitabam