Operation Orion is a community service project spearheaded by the Civil Engineering Club. A well-established OCIP in NUS, Operation Orion has started making a difference spanning 10 different regions since the year 2000. In its 17th year, Operation Orion 2016 broke new ground and headed to Methinkot VDC, Nepal for the first time. Our main project was to build a classroom in Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School for the students living in the nearby rural villages and came up with plans to improve the seismic resilience of the current building method.
In Operation Orion, we aspire to enable our team members to contribute to the team by applying their knowledge and skills. Thus, in addition to the main project, the team explored the concept of a personal water filtration system using local materials that are affordable and easily accessible by the villagers. We also worked in conjunction with the teachers at Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School to plan and conduct scientific experiments that demonstrated the concepts taught in real life. In addition, the team also brought over portable solar lamps to bring lights to the villagers who do not have access to electricity.
Before the overseas project, the team also volunteered with YMCA to clean the rental apartments of the elderly who lived alone. The team also volunteered at Camp Explore, an initiative by Central Singapore CDC to engage children from lower-middle income families meaningfully during the holidays. These volunteering opportunities enabled all of us to work with each other in less than ideal surroundings and to practise techniques taught by trainers on how to interact with and inspire children to have a passion for continual learning.
During the project, we realized that many students had to leave by 3 pm as they had to walk down the mountain back to their home before the sun set. On the last day, we experienced this for ourselves by walking down the mountain and back to our guest house. Since night fell early, all was dark by 5.30 pm. It was a suspenseful experience as we stumbled around on uneven paths in the darkness with our torch lights as the only source of light. It gave us a better appreciation of the difficulties that students in rural Nepal have to face to get to school. It also allowed us to appreciate the various basic infrastructures that we often overlook.
To understand more about village life, we took part in a cultural exchange where we hiked through the village. As we walked through their village, there were still remnants of structurally damaged buildings present even though months had passed since the last earthquake. Despite this bleak scene, the villagers were still optimistic and welcomed us warmly with local songs and dances that we tried our best to learn. Along the way, we also visited a brick making farm to know how to make the bricks that we were using to build the classroom. Some of us even tried their hand at making bricks!
Watch the following video to meet the people who led Orion 2016 and find out more about what we did.
The summary of our journey in Nepal:
At this point, we would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to the various partners for making Operation Orion 2016 a successful project:
The National Youth Council (NYC) and the NUS Office of Student Affairs (OSA) for their assistance and support. Our Youth Expedition Project (YEP) would not have been possible without the insightful comments and feedback, various leadership workshops and funding provided by them.
Living Hope Nepal (LHN) for the valuable advice and hospitality given. The guidance provided has enabled us to better understand the situation in Nepal and to apply our skills and carry out projects effectively.
PAYM Whampoa CC Youth Club for the generous funding and belief that we can make a difference.
YMCA for providing us the opportunity to expose ourselves to the living conditions of the less-fortunate in Singapore. The life lessons we absorbed while volunteering will not be forgotten by our team.
Central Singapore CDC for providing our members the invaluable experience of being a facilitator. All of us came away with the knowledge and ability to provide guidance and inspire children to learn and explore.
Dr Chew Soon Hoe, for his many years of continual unwavering support. His invaluable advice on earthquake resistant structures has enabled us to suggest ways to improve the seismic resistance of the classroom.
We are also grateful to all NUS students and staff who have in any way supported us, be it in our various fundraising activities or in words of encouragement.
Every end marks a new beginning. While we reluctantly bring Operation Orion 2016 to a close, the journey for Operation Orion 2017 has only just begun. We can’t wait to see what Operation Orion 2017 will bring to the next team. December 2017 will definitely be an exciting time filled with unforgettable experiences and life lessons that we look forward to sharing with you. Till then!