Thinking about volunteering in Nepal, but not sure where to go? Let Kathryn Pilon, IVHQ Asia Applications Manager, convince you that Nepal should be on the top of your list…
Namaste all! I hear you are thinking of volunteering abroad? What a great idea! I’ve been where you are now, and I know that there are so many location options that it can be can be pretty difficult to decide where to volunteer.
Well, I’m here to give you a little helping hand, and am happy to tell you that Nepal is the bee’s knees, or the cat’s pajamas or the… It’s just great alright?!
When you think about Nepal, you probably imagine mountains, sherpas and frostbite. However, there is so much more to Nepal than you see in the media, and volunteering is the best way to experience the real Nepal. You can meet the people, live in the local communities and help to make a sustainable difference. During your week, you can paraglide and trek around Pokhara, visit the Stupas and practice yoga in Kathmandu, go on a jungle safari in Chitwan, and go boating on the lake in Chitlang.
And you can climb Mt Everest… No big deal.
When volunteering in Nepal…
You can expect: To help make long-term and sustainable impacts
When you volunteer on IVHQ’s Teaching English or Childcare projects, you can expect to help educate, play and do activities, assist with hygiene and basic care and essentially engage and be playful with the children. However, it does not end here. While your time in Nepal may be limited, your participation will have far reaching and long-term benefits for the children themselves and the community as a whole.
Our local team have been hosting IVHQ volunteers in Nepal for over 7 years and in this time we have seen substantial improvements - many of the orphanages where our volunteers work are now self-sustainable and grow their own food, to eat and to sell. The children have a support network, with increased support for staff and better facilities and resources. Additionally, the children who have had the opportunity to engage with international volunteers are excelling at school, beating their more privileged peers, due to the fact they can converse in English, and because they have built up confidence.
You can expect to build on the long-term improvements that our IVHQers have already made, and see how your contribution is going to be sustainable, benefiting the children and communities, both now and in the future.
You can expect: Adventures, adventures, adventures
IVHQ’s Nepal program is spread around a number of different locations in Nepal and there is some kind of adventure sport (or just some kind of adventure) available in all the different locations. Volunteers, with the help of our local team, are always planning and getting involved, either in teams or individually.
When in Nepal you can expect to go paragliding from Sarankot all the way down to lakeside, where you can relax at a restaurant or bar along the water. Or you could go white water rafting along the Trishuli River between Pokhara and Kathmandu, if you are after a bit of relief from the heat.
Bungee jumping and kayaking are options at many of the different locations, and in Chitlang you can go trekking, or boating on the beautiful Indra Sarovar, the reservoir of the Kulekhani Hydropower Project.
If you are more interested in animals, you can spend your free time at Chitwan on a jungle safari, canoeing with crocodiles, or at an elephant reserve. You can go on a jungle walk and see some amazing animals, including leopards, tigers, deer, wild boar and rhinos. Or you can go to the bat caves outside of Pokhara… Not something I chose to do.
No matter what adventure you would like, the local staff will be happy to help you arrange everything for your weekends, from accommodation to transport, you can rely on our local team.
You can expect: To become a member of the local community
Nepali people are notably friendly and are very welcoming to tourists and travelers from many different walks of life. Volunteers are able to live within the actual community, staying in the homes of local families and working side by side local staff members. Because our volunteers live with and become very close to the families that they are staying with, they are often involved in the extended family events, especially during the holiday periods. When I was in Nepal spending time with the local staff and volunteers, many volunteers told me about their experiences during the religious holidays. They were made to feel a part of the celebrations and were able to visit enjoy time with their host family.
Around Chitwan, the villages regularly have ‘village picnics’, where the whole village gets together with others in the district and talk, sing, dance and eat. Volunteers are able to participate in all of the activities and are treated as part of the community, asked to contribute and able to share their lives with the villagers.
Volunteering in Nepal gives you a different and more authentic perspective, as you are not just staying in a hotel. Volunteers in Nepal can expect to make lifelong friends with their host families and work colleagues, and to be recognized and respected within the community they are assisting in.
You can expect: To Trek
You cannot go to Nepal and not experience what it is most famous for; trekking through the glorious mountains! There are so many trekking options available and you can choose the one that best suits your ability level. IVHQ’s local team will be happy to give you advice based on how challenged you wish to be, and they can help you to organize all the logistics.
You can trek in the Kathmandu Valley, do the shorter Poon Hill trek or go all the way to Everest Base Camp on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. You can hike the entire Annapurna Circuit or even try the less popular but equally stunning, Manaslu Circuit. The options are endless and you can make it as hard or as easy as you want. The best part about Nepal is that there is something for everyone.
You can expect: To experience culture and spirituality
When in Nepal it is impossible to not feel the spirituality and importance of religion that permeates Nepalese culture. It is interesting, inspiring and something that everyone can embrace, either by visiting the many religious sites scattered liberally around, or by actually participating in yoga and meditation, both things that are an integral part of Nepal.
At the start of all volunteer programs, the local team give a thorough cultural orientation, so that volunteers know what to expect and so that they can make sure to act appropriately and respect the culture in which they are staying. However, the local team also want volunteers to know about the Nepali culture so that they can enjoy and learn about their history, their people, and their spirituality and religion. During orientation, volunteers are taken to many different spiritual sites (mainly Hindu and Buddhist) including ‘the Monkey Temple’, the Great Boudha Stupa and the Garden of Dreams. At these sites, particularly the Garden of Dreams, you have the opportunity to practice yoga in a beautiful and spiritual setting. If you want to do yoga and meditation with a master, the local staff can also help to direct you.
Essentially, you can expect to learn about and experience the spirituality of Nepal through personal experience and getting involved!
So, should you volunteer abroad in Nepal?
Yes! For all these reasons and more, Nepal is the ideal destination to volunteer in. You are helping a bunch of people in the here-and-now as well as contributing to their long-term well-being, and you are doing so while you have an immersive cultural experience. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!