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Beccles man returns from Nepal trip

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 07:49 01 August 2010

ALAN Offord, a 22-year old graduate from Beccles, has just returned from the experience of a lifetime in Nepal with the charity ActionAid.

Having just graduated with a BA in Graphic Design, Alan and 21 other volunteers from the UK took part in a First Hand Experience, building homes for a poor, and until recently enslaved, community in a remote village in Nepal.

ALAN Offord, a 22-year old graduate from Beccles, has just returned from the experience of a lifetime in Nepal with the charity ActionAid.

Having just graduated with a BA in Graphic Design, Alan and 21 other volunteers from the UK took part in a First Hand Experience, building homes for a poor, and until recently enslaved, community in a remote village in Nepal.

Alan said: “At the time I heard about the build, I was coincidentally reading Michael Palin's book Himalaya, and Nepal sounded like an amazing place. I never went travelling on my gap year before university and this trip seemed to be a great way to see more of the world.”

Offering participants the opportunity to visit some of the most exciting places in the world, ActionAid's First Hand Experiences are designed to be just that - a unique way of being immersed in the local culture, meeting local people and making a lasting, hands-on difference.

Alan and the rest of the group, ranging from 22 to 69 years old, made the long journey from the UK to the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, before reaching the building site in the remote village of Belarpur in the Kailali district.

Alan said: “I'd never been on any trip like this before, I'd only holidayed in Europe and the States. Going on my own was half the fun! It was great to meet all these new people and get to know their stories and why they had decided to come on the trip.”

The aim of the project is to build homes for the Kamaiya people, a community of agricultural workers who have only recently been freed from slavery. Left with barely any land and no shelter, they have very few ways of earning an income on which they can survive. The group of ActionAid volunteers worked for five days side by side with members of this local community, helping to lay the foundations for homes together with the people who would eventually live in them.

“The feeling of living and working with the Kamaiya community was so intensely enjoyable, we laughed and joked with them, shared our food and overcame the language barrier surprisingly easily,” he said.

The five days of intensive work, including digging foundations, mixing cement and bricklaying, took place in the extreme Nepalese heat. Nights were spent camping in the most basic of conditions.

Upon returning to the UK, Alan reflected: “My lasting memory of the trip will be the morning we left. The whole village turned to see us go, which none of us was expecting as we had said goodbye the previous evening. They brought us garlands of flowers and tika dye and other little presents - it was pretty overwhelming.

“The women were crying and sobbing as we got on the bus to leave, while the boys laughed and waved at us. There was such an outpouring of emotion and I realised then how much we had touched their lives and how much I had connected with them. It was heartbreaking, but uplifting as we drove away knowing that we had made a real difference.”

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