The School in the Clouds (A Visit to Nepal) by SAMANTHA WALDRON, B.S., Rutgers, ’20, Environmental Scientist at AES August 8 2022

The School in the Clouds by SAMANTHA WALDRON, B.S. Environmental Scientist at AES

Samantha Waldron is a guest writer for NJ Discover, a recent graduate of Rutgers University, an Environmental Scientist at AES, and writes about her humanitarian trip to Nepal, “The School in the Clouds.”

🌳 Environmental Scientist at AES |👩‍🔬LSRPA, BCONE, & NJSWEP (AP) |⚙️International Humanitarian making a positive global impact

Calvin Schwartz, August 8, 2022

The School in the Clouds

By Samantha M. Waldron

When I grow old, and all has been said and done, I want to believe in my heart that I am a good person and that I tried everything in my power to make the world better than I found it. 


Nepal emanates warmth, celebration, enduring hope, and beauty in its ancient culture.  This beautiful country struggles with cultural rights and economic abuse.  Unfortunately, this results in the people living in poverty and suffering from a lack of access to stable infrastructure, healthcare, energy, education, clean drinking water, and food security.  Nepal’s people are committed to continuing to strive for the best life, and they were willing to share whatever they could with me during my visit.  Child labor and illiteracy are commonplace and are asking for our help through expanding access to supplies and cleaner and more sustainable resources.


An ordinary day ended with the Rotaract Club of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, New Jersey,  sponsored by Rotary International.  The other volunteers’ faces lit up as they shared their experiences on their humanitarian service trip to Nepal.  



Asha Project’s GAP program provides students with an opportunity to learn new skills, learn about new culture and language and TAKE ACTION through humanitarian service during their two-week stay in Nepal.  This program has given participants opportunities to learn about 21st-century life and career skills, engage as active citizens in a dynamic global society, and successfully meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st-century global village.



A burning desire to explore the world ignited within me.  My life mission is to help the people who want and need some support effectively.  It was a genuine honor to embark on a journey with a few STEM classmates, Abby, Emily, and Olivia, in the last few days of 2019.  I was surprised to find myself flying into the continent of Asia for the first time, soon to have memorable experiences.


After a 20+hour ride in the flying hotel, including a stop in Doha, Qatar, we squished into a taxi.  We experienced the traffic of Kathmandu, Nepal, for the first time, which was chaotic.  The four of us laughed hysterically as the friendly cab driver braved the traffic, helping us embrace the tight gridlock.  We soon found ourselves on the doorstep of our Nepali friend, Jyoti Poudel, her family, and her best friend, Binita Shrestha.  We soon met their close friends, Mukesh Pandey, Kishor Tripathi, Narendra Ayer, and a few more awesome people.  Jyoti and her family’s home became our home-away-from-home, where we settled in and gathered our supplies to help the children.


Colorful homes cover the landscape, and neighbors are all around, going about their days.


After Jyoti and her family helped us settle in, we saw the Garden of Dreams.  The plant life was vibrant and herbaceous, cared for and appreciated by the Nepali people.  As the calming zen atmosphere washed over us, we felt our travel jitters begin to soothe.


It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the design and religious culture involved with the relaxing spaces of the community, where people come together to be spiritual amongst nature.  We were settled in and ready to turn our compassion into action.



Each of us brought a 50 lb suitcase full of school supplies, hygiene tools, masks, and toys.  Together, we gathered 150 lbs of our generous donations, thanks to our friends and family, who helped us obtain the funds and supplies to accomplish this project. 


We took some Dramamine and rode in a small van for 13 hours.  Fortunately, the driver was determined to get us there safely.  The ride had stunning views of what my Nepali friends call “the hills,” which brought me unparalleled calm.

There are so many stairs, temples, and places of natural beauty where we can trek, hike, and appreciate the astonishing atmosphere of the Nepali hills.  Nepal has a diverse ecology that dramatically differs from that of America.  The tea bushes, trees, and rice paddies roll through the mountains.  The landscape was breathtaking.




The people who welcomed us were lovely and kind, giving us gorgeous flowers and gifts, food, water, and everything we could need.  Even if they had nothing, they shared their comforts with us.  These people shared their food, music, dancing, art, and culture with me.

My new friends, Sharad Joshi, Shraddha Prasai, Shalu, Prakriti, Sonu Koirala, Tulsha Basnet, Sanjay Agarawal, and more, are now lifelong friends.  These extraordinary people are unselfish, openhanded, and now hold a special place in my heart.  Since they guided us through Jhapa, we have been in touch frequently.

We visited Manakama College to meet the bachelor students of social work, which was one of my favorite parts.  Meeting and connecting with Nepal’s young people made me want to keep going.  When I introduced myself to Nepali, the class roared with excitement. 

The students were friendly, kind, and energetic.  It was an honor to visit them, as they were my reason for being there.  They were so generous, enthusiastic, and genuinely delighted to meet us and converse about making the world a better place through the service above self.
Speaking with Nepali children and adults fuels me to do the right thing because the students are genuinely thrilled to learn and develop their diverse knowledge.  It was an honor to exchange intellectually stimulating discussions about service above self with the students and staff at the schools and university.  The Nepali people honor peace, humility, and volunteering.


The Rotary and Rotaract Clubs of Birtamode-Midtown of Jhapa, Nepal, supported us through this process.  Everyone in these clubs is kind and accommodating.  It was so special to turn compassion into action and be a part of something bigger than myself.

The school painting was electrifying!  As we finished painting the walls of the schoolhouse of Chargorey Bikash Kendra, everyone was cheering, smiling, and laughing together. 

Helping others is my mission because turning my passion into action assuages my anxiety with everything happening in this world.  This experience taught me to be grateful for my privileges and to hold myself accountable for doing an activity in my community that will improve society’s situation.  If everyone commits to this, and if everyone practices ethical consumerism along with daily activism, then someday, we might be able to save the planet.

Spending time with my new Nepali friends and sharing these experiences fuels my soul to continue making a positive impact.  Seeing a smile and bright wide-open eyes is my sense of happiness.  I see the profound power and promise brought through something as small as giving a pencil, pen, or notebook, which we usually take for granted in America. 



The kids of Nepal are so sweet, fun, and engaging; they were genuinely excited to share their culture, music, and enthusiasm for their schoolwork.

My favorite student, who I still correspond with to this day, loves to learn, dance, and spend time with friends.  This person is cheerful, attentive, and emotionally intelligent.

One of my favorite parts was completely immersing myself in the Nepali culture, enjoying the temples and traditional dress, and learning about Nepali values, music, dancing, and food.  We relished delicious foods and drinks like Dal Bhat, Momo, and Hot Lemon, which were so satisfying to enjoy together.

Some of my favorite highlights of this cultural experience include trying on the artistic jewelry and dressings of the Nepali and Newari cultures and sharing moments of bonding filled with laughter and smiles.  It was an honor to encounter the museums, artistic works, temples, and religious sites to learn about how the Nepali people worship their gods.

I am so grateful for my new Nepali friends.  They opened the whole reality of their country to me, showed me Nepal’s strengths and vulnerabilities, and took excellent care of my friends and me.

We visited some orphanages and schools, and the children are so silly and goofy, even though they don’t have it so easy.  The Nepali people are strong, but they are humans who deserve clean water, sanitary conditions, and healthy crops, just like everyone else. 

They are cheerful, but they deal with many hardships.  They do not have as many luxuries and privileges as other people in different countries.  The children who got the coats, dental hygiene supplies, coloring books and utensils, toys, and new school supplies were thrilled to spend time and share their lives with us.



This young girl is working towards a career as a professional dancer.  Despite missing both legs, she is determined to get around on her skateboard and live a beautiful and happy life.  Children like her deserve a fair shot at attaining their goals and realizing their dreams into reality.  The children are bright, energetic, and dedicated.  It was a blessing to spend time with them at the  Center for Disabled Children Assistance.  The center provides excellent resources for these children in a natural environment.
There is so much more I could share.  Still long story short, from the city of Kathmandu to the religious sites in Bhaktapur, to the farmlands of Jhapa, to the tea farms of Ilam, I love Nepal and its culture, music, food, and people.  Working on humanitarian projects with my friends is my meaning in life because it is both sincerely enjoyable, productive, and rewarding.

I learned to be grateful for what I have, extend myself, and use my power to be selfless and help others.



Nepal has beautiful places to go, delicious food to eat, fun music to listen to, and fantastic people to dance and sing together.  This culture is so bright, and the Nepali people are making much progress as a society to support the people who need it most.  Everyone needs our help to share our time and funds to help make their lives easier, especially the children.

We can only save humanity and Earth if we work together.  If everyone makes at least one positive contribution on the community level, we can make an enormous difference.  In addition, we must spread the word about supporting small businesses and practicing ethical and sustainable consumerism to impact significantly.


The best place to start is in our communities; bring your friends, and let’s have some fun together!

Thank you so much to Dr. Tulsi R. Maharjan, who enabled me to take this opportunity.

Dr. Tulsi Maharjan is the Chair of the Asha Project, Past Rotary District Governor of RI 7475, and founder of the GAP program.  

Thank you to April (Nelson) Terblanche, my family, and my friends for all your donations in person and on GoFundMe.

Rotary International’s Rotaract Club, Community Corps, The Asha Project, and Friends of Nepal NJ are creating an International Humanitarian Rain Garden of Interfaith Peace at the Buddhist Vihara Temple in Princeton, New Jersey. 

We would love to invite you to volunteer with us to help people in America and worldwide, especially in Nepal. 

Thank you, I look forward to sharing more experiences with you!



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  1. Joseph May 3, 2023

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