5 Oct 2018

Katja House Calling – Alumna Isabella Brown Tells Us About Her Life Changing Trip

Following her graduation from Island School in 2015, Isabella Brown spent a year travelling around the world. Currently, she is in her final year at University of Bristol studying Ancient History. Although her plans after graduating university are still undecided, Issy is looking into potentially taking another gap year or another degree. In this interview, Issy describes her unforgettable experiences during her Year 13 Quest Week trip to *Katja House.

I personally decided to become involved when I was in Year 8 during one of Mrs Tait’s textile classes when she showed me photos of the trip from the year before. I think many people would agree with me in saying that Katja House is one of the most iconic Quest Week trips in Island School. It is something that many students aspire to get involved in. Mrs Tait spoke so fondly of the children and Kathmandu, and from then on I knew I had to go.

Katja House was an eye-opening experience. We arrived at Kathmandu Airport, during a massive power cut, leaving all of us in complete darkness and chaos. Right from the get-go we realised how limited the technology and resources in Nepal are and how this disadvantages people. The people in Nepal were some of the most kind, upbeat and generous people I have ever met. The children were so grateful and so happy. It made me realise what truly makes one happy is to live a full and fulfilling life, rather than material things.

Before setting off to Kathmandu, I worked with Mrs Tait to liaise with the feeder primary schools in order to collect donations to take with us to Nepal. This involved going to different schools to give presentations, sending emails to parents and setting up collection points. At Katja House, I was given the task along with a few others of sanding down and repainting the railings around the buildings. After that, we set out resurfacing the basketball court.

Seeing firsthand how our efforts were benefiting people was incredibly rewarding. We saw that our help gave children opportunities to learn and play, this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I have so many amazing memories of Katja House. The last day when the children put on a show for us was unforgettable, and we then performed for them. Despite our very basic dance, they were so appreciative of us performing for them.

Seeing a community like that undoubtedly changes you for the better. It allows you to re-evaluate your own life and what you prioritise. It makes you realise that there are some extraordinary privileged people in Hong Kong, and it has ingrained in me the important of pursuing more philanthropic experiences.

The entirety of the trip is based on teamwork. From beginning to end, you are working together – from the collection of goods, to the building of infrastructure. We also had to support each other. It makes you realise that when working in a team, ‘the sum of its parts is not as great as the whole’, and this is definitely something that I still carry with me.

I can’t think of anything I would recommend more than Katja House. I think Island School’s biggest asset is the emphasis placed on volunteering and service. It’s a trip which allows you to work hard and you can then see the benefit of your work. Katja House gives children the tools they need to build a better life for themselves. From a personal point of view, I think it’s fair to say you come away from Katja House as a better, more reflective person yourself. Being brought up in Hong Kong can lead to a skewed view on what is important in life, and I feel that trips like Katja House really teach us the larger issues in life.

 *Katja House is a charity set up by Island School which sponsors and supports a home in Kathmandu, Nepal. It not only supplies the children with the basic necessities such as food, water, clothing, and education, but it also tries to provide them with a happy and loving environment to grow up in. Children are encouraged to become independent and ambitious young individuals – well equipped to enter the world.

By Julia Mulrooney, Communications and Data Officer

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