Phillip Maciaszek

South Asia Center Graduate Assistant

During the fall semester, volunteers from the South Asia Center taught Nepali language and culture to 270 elementary school children at the Franklin Elementary school. For two hours a week, volunteers engaged the students in topics ranging from geography, cultural norms, food, and life in Bhutan and Nepal to learning basic phrases, colors, and numbers.

Since 2008, Bhutanese-Nepalese refugees have been resettling in Syracuse, and several children in the classrooms were from Nepal and Bhutan. One of our volunteers, Premika Niroula, a student at LeMoyne College, is Bhutanese Nepali and grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal. She admired the students’ cooperation and enthusiasm in learning about her country’s culture and language. In addition, Khem Raj Sedhai, an international student who is pursuing a Masters in International Relations at the Maxwell School, is also from Nepal. He previously served as a primary and secondary school teacher and greatly appreciated his experience teaching and interacting with the students. The third volunteer, Phillip Maciaszek, who is a Master’s in Public Administration student, had no previous knowledge of Nepali or Bhutanese language or culture, but he enjoyed learning with his eager and joyful students. His favorite experience was playing “Raju Says” (the Nepali version of “Simon Says.”)

The South Asia Center hopes their outreach helped the children develop appreciation for other cultures and languages. We look forward to continuing our work with the Bhutanese Nepali community in the coming years.