Volunteering in Nepal

Today we have Sophie Moore sharing her experience volunteering in Nepal through Global Volunteer Network. Although she went through an organization and paid relatively high fees, she found it to be a good introduction to volunteering. Read more about her amazing experience volunteering in Nepal here: 

1. Where did you volunteer?

Bistachap. Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

2. Why did you choose this organization / how did you hear about it?

A good friend of mine volunteered with Global Volunteer Network in 2011. She had an incredible experience with them, so I decided to sign up!


3. How long did you spend there and how much did it cost to volunteer there?

I volunteered for two months (November/December, end of the high season) and it was reasonably expensive. I paid $2100NZD for the 2 months and this included a weeks training – language lessons, cultural lessons and time with a 'training' family in the village. 
As I didn't have a lot of travel experience, so I wanted to come into something secure and well organised. I would recommend this for someone coming into volunteering for the first time, as you are very well looked after.

Also, people's opinions on volunteering and payment differs a lot. In my opinion, 'volunteering' means giving something to a place and not taking anything back. Paying your way for your accommodation and food, along side gifting your time is the essence of true volunteering. But this isn't possible for all travelers, I understand. 

I actually had another experience in India volunteering and only contributing for food (over the course of one month it added up to $200 NZD), so it was good to experience the contrast!

Volunteering in Nepal

4. What did you learn from your experience volunteering in Nepal?

I learnt how a smile is the international language. You can communicate anything with a smile. 
I learnt that volunteering is humbling as all hell. You are not going to change the world by signing up to an organisation to nail a few shoots of bamboo together. You have to be more proactive than that. But the exposure is an amazing starting point.

I learnt the profound power of being surrounded by your immediate family and friends all the time. I think this may be the key to true happiness.

Volunteering in Nepal

5. What was a typical day like?

I would wake up at about 6.30 to the sound of the temple chantings! Then head outside to the charpi (Nepali toilet) and wash my face. This is also a tool to let your Amma know you're up so she can then make you chiya and biscuits! A knock at the door indicates this is ready, with a beaming smile she hands it over. Potentially 120% of your daily sugar intake, but it's ok as you're working it off. 

Dal bhat isn't ready until about 9.30am typically so I would go for a walk up the hill with my book and head back down at around 8.30/9 to the chiya shop (owned by by Baa's brother) to have another tea and catch up with either the other volunteers or the locals. 

Head back home for dal bhat – rice, dal, tarkari (a spiced potato mix usually), achar (pickle) and sometimes roti or an egg. Delicious and eaten sitting on the floor. Extremely filling. One of the first words you learn in Nepali is "ali ali" or "little little" so you can fend off the infinite amount of rice offered to you!

Once sufficiently full, I would head off down to the orphanage, collecting other volunteers along the way. The Community Maintenance team were involved in building a traditional outdoor kitchen for the orphanage run by GVN. Spend the morning there cutting, nailing and problem solving for lack of tools! At around 1pm we would go for khaja (snack) at one of the surrounding chiya shops and spend about 45mins there. 

Heading back, we would continue on with our work and by about 4 the kids would usually return from school. So distraction was readily at hand. One day when working alone, I found myself in a full on mud fight with two of the kids. I absolutely lost. But it was amazing fun. 

I would head back at around 5pm as any later and it is dark. And VERY cold. Also, although I was never harmed by any of them, the dogs in Nepal aren't overly friendly. They aren't treated like dogs in the west so tend to be quite aggressive. Not something you want to have to battle with when walking through tiny paths on your way up a mountain in the dark. 

If I hadn't had a shower in a day or so, I would brave the outdoor tap (you work out fast which part of the day is easiest/warmest to do this in) and have a wash. The view was incredible, but you can be seen by most of the village. Don't worry, you are wearing a dress type device so you maintain some modesty. 

Volunteering in Nepal

Dal bhat at 6.30 with the family then I would either read for a while outside or head into my room to write a journal. As it got into mid-December, it was nearing 0 so outside wasn't that tempting. But in saying that, there is no heating indoors so outside is usually warmer than inside. Usually my brothers were around and would join me outside to chat about life. Teach me some Nepali and I would help them with some English (not that they really needed it). Sometimes the whole family would gather into one of the bedrooms that had a small TV and they would all watch a Hindi soap opera. Although I couldn't understand the language, I think I got the general plot…it's a cultural experience everyone must immerse themselves in at least once. 

I would head off to my room/bed at around 9pm. There are scheduled power outages, so a lot of the time there is no light and it is cold, so there isn't a lot to do (super comfortably).

6. Do you think you will volunteer again?

Definitely. I would recommend the combination of volunteering and home stay again also, I think it goes so far beyond volunteering…you get such a rounded experience of the country you are in.

7. Would you recommend volunteering in Nepal to anyone else?

Yes, again, if you're looking to start somewhere (but are maybe a bit nervous about jumping in head first) it is very good as it is quite cushioned. They even organise things like your ride from the airport. 

Volunteering in Nepal

8. Can you share a favourite memory from your time voluteering in Nepal?

A festival that involves the temple that sits above the main village (I was staying on a hill) – which I can't quite remember the name of (eekk). Hundreds of thousands of people swarm to this tiny village and line up to be blessed at the temple. They bring offerings to the gods and dress to the nines. The china shop becomes hectic and everyone is so happy and patient. People take advantage of the increased population and set up road (path) side stalls selling peanuts and fruit. My Amma also took the opportunity to dress Estella (another volunteer who was also staying in the same home stay as me) and I up in the typical Nepali dress and bless us.

My sisters then got let loose with my hair and I got presented to the rest of the village. We then wandered down to another wee project we were finishing off (a concrete table tennis table for a community centre) and got mistaken for locals (but mainly stared at). We ate ALL day and immersed ourselves in the brilliant changed atmosphere of the village.

Also, an impromptu dance party I had with my brother while brushing my teeth to Nepali rap music blaring from his phone. Stars clear as anything above us. Incredible.

What a wonderful experience Sophie had – thanks so much for sharing. Check out our fellow Generous Nomads' experience volunteering in India

Have you ever volunteered in Nepal?
Let us know in the comments below – we would love to hear about your experiences. 

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