Volunteer in Nepal was an eye-opening experience for me. I got to see how people make do with whatever is available rather than complain about what they don’t have. I had a lot of fun at the school.
1.- Why did you choose to volunteer in Nepal Kathmandu, what program(s) are you doing and why?
Why Nepal: I chose Nepal because when I was looking to volunteer in Asia this was the only country offered that I had yet to see. I also knew that it was a country with a very rich culture that I really wanted to experience, somewhat different from other parts of Asia.
What program: I volunteer as an assistant English teacher at the school.
Why this program: I chose this program because it was something I knew I could do and it would help others. I sometimes tutored people in French at my university so I knew I could handle it. Also, I love children and I wanted to do something with them, hence the school.
2. What was the most surprising thing you experienced while in the program?
Program: I was very surprised by the way people interacted with each other at the school. Students are very respectful of teachers, but more importantly, they seem really eager to help those in needs, be it, teachers or fellow students. The teachers also showed patience, understanding, and comfort for those students who really needed it. I also received a lot of help, not just from teachers but also from students.
Host Family: Again, I was surprised at the willingness to help that the host family displayed. I thought that once we were here we may have to figure things out for ourselves, but the host family has been very helpful in answering questions, organizing travels or explaining cultural aspects of life.
Country: Although the country itself is very poor, I was surprised to find the people here are much happier than many of us back home who have far better conditions. Here people who have less are willing to help out in any situation and ask for nothing in return. They make efforts to speak your language even if they know very few words and they smile even if you are unable to help.
Gap Year Nepal
3. What was the most difficult thing you experienced while in the program?
Program: Some teachers will hit the children, either for misbehaving or sometimes just for not knowing the answer. For me, it was hard sometimes to sit there and do nothing while a child is crying after being hit. It’s even harder when the teacher sees you correcting some mistakes on the kid’s homework or sees that the kid did not complete and hits the child.
Host Family: I don’t really have a lot of complaints about the host family. The only thing is that I am used to eating smaller meals whenever I’m hungry so it was hard sometimes to eat during dinner or breakfast, but I didn’t want to waste too much food.
Country: As a white person, you really get noticed in the country. Sometimes it leads to unpleasant things like getting followed or getting called on. People just assume you don’t know anything and treat you as such which can be uncomfortable.
4. Any tips for future volunteers….
Clothing: For girls, dress with pants and none revealing shirts, it’s the best way not to attract too much attention. Bring sandals and flip-flops as they are practical to put on and remove because you will often have to take off your shoes and besides, feet are easier to wash than sneakers.
Sightseeing: There are a lot of great sights in Nepal and in Kathmandu. If you are staying long enough and bought some extra money, do not hesitate to ask your host family what you see outside of the capital. Even just the drive there is well- worth the time and money.
Donations: Bring some donations, at the school they really like pencils, flashcards, book or just some games. If you are like me and didn’t have time to get some before coming, you can always buy some things here. People will appreciate all the help they will get. You also bring books for the library.
Laundry/internet: For laundry, bring some detergent, it will be easier. Or, if you are not staying long, just bring enough clothes to go on. For the internet, while it is there at the school and in the host family, do keep in mind it’s not always reliable. Download what you want to have before coming.
5. Other things volunteers should know about:
a. – City/town: Kathmandu is very, very big and the roads are mostly pretty bad, so if you want to see the city while you are here keep in mind that it may take the whole day and be patient. The sights are usually worth the wait. Also, be well-rested, sleeping in the care is not usually an option.
b. – Weather: I came here during monsoon season, but the weather is not half as bad as I expected it to be. Most of the time, tropical rains hit in the afternoon and during the night. There is always mud everywhere but at least temperatures are cooler and you can sometimes enjoy some sun in the morning.
c.- Local People: While many locals don’t really speak English, they are always willing to help you, so if you’re not sure how to get off the bus or where to go just try to show them what you need and they’ll help. Some uncomfortable experience with the locals so my best advice is if you get called on, just ignore it and keep going confidently (even if you aren’t confident)
d. – Tours: For any tour, you may want to take, just ask your host family beforehand, they will tell you what you might need to know and help you organize it. I would recommend traveling with another volunteer just because it’s easier and more fun and they may know about things you didn’t think about. I would definitely recommend seeing Chitwan, Pokhara, Bandipur, Lumbini and Mustang, you can book a Private car if you want to go there, and it’s very convenient.
6. Personal Paragraph (volunteer program testimonial), detail as possible:
Volunteering in Nepal was an eye-opening experience for me. I got to see how people make do with whatever is available rather than complain about what they don’t have. I had a lot of fun at the school. A lot of teachers do not speak English that well (including English teachers) but they still make an effort to try and communicate.
The kids really don’t know any English but they also do their best and try to play with me or show me some of their culture (like dancing) which is always very fun. Although at first, I doubted I would be able to make much of an impact, I got to see little things once in a while that they’ve picked up along the way: like giving back something that I lent them or stopping fights in the classroom which is really heartwarming. The homestay is also very comfortable; the host family was very welcoming and other volunteers on site were a great help to get used to the very different environment.
Not every day was necessarily easy or gratifying, but the whole trip was definitely worth it. I stayed for 6 weeks which was very long but it gave me a chance to see a lot of places in Nepal other than Kathmandu and that was amazing. The sights even just on the ways are gorgeous and there are so many different, unique places to visit that I never felt bored. I also did the Nepali language immersion which was pretty useful to learn phrases and communicate with the kids especially. I recommend that too.
7. How would you describe your:
Accommodation: The accommodation was very comfortable, much better than I expected really. Volunteers have their own space; the house is a mix of some local things and more western accommodation so you are not completely out of your depths. There are also often other volunteers here with you.
Meals (favorite): If you’re in Nepal, you will definitely be eating your share of Dal Bhat, a traditional meal that includes rice, lentil soup, some veggies/curries, potatoes, and a roti. It’s very tasty, and since you can have many varieties. I didn’t get bored of eating it every night which really surprised me.
Security: I felt pretty safe for my entire trip. In the house, there really isn’t anything to worry about, to go to the school, it’s always the same routine and I never had an incident that really made me feel unsafe and during my short trips outside Kathmandu, the driver brought us to safe hotels, let us know what was best in terms of sightseeing and was with us the rest of the time.
Host family: The host family was really charming. Although the grandparents don’t really speak English, they often try to communicate and help. The rest of the family speaks English and does mingle with us a little, which is really nice. They are always helpful and provide insight on some of the local culture.
8. What was your memory of this trip?
Program: I really love going by a classroom when I don’t have a class with them and there aren’t any teachers because all the kids come up to me, literally dragging me in the class so I can play with them or they would dance for me, or draw and they’ll ask for smiley’s and stars, it’s too much fun.
Host Family: One time, we had a small cooking class with the host family. We were 5 volunteers and we helped to chop veggies or learned to make plain rice, then we had a big meal with the entire family. It was so much fun.
Country: The country is absolutely gorgeous. Despite the monsoon clouds that hide a lot of the scenery, I was able to see a lot of the mountains and the natural beauty of the place. I don’t think I would have thought to come to Nepal without volunteering, but while I was here I traveled a lot and found some breathtaking sceneries along the road.
9. How was the local ABV Coordinator, the staff and the support provided in-country? Be as detailed as possible.
Airport: At the airport, the ABV Coordinator was there right when I got off. He brought me directly to an ATM (although I was completely clueless as to how much money to get out and ended up not having enough) and he really helped with as much as possible which was very comfortable since this was my first time traveling alone and my first time in Nepal.
Orientation day: Orientation day really just gave a broad overview of what was life going to be like here. In the end, I do think I learned more throughout the week thought of experiencing it, but in all fairness, I had a 30-hour flight before so I was completely dazed.
Daily Support: Daily support is pretty good if we need anything we just have to ask and for every question the ABV coordinator was able to provide us with a clear answer that made the whole trip a lot easier. Other volunteers at the house were also great support when I needed something so it was great to be sharing a room with them.
Gap Year Teaching
10. How was the information you received from ABV prior to traveling? (Emails, website, support) was there anything missing or should be included to prepare other volunteers?
The information was pretty complete, although I wish I would have read it more carefully. It has everything that I needed to prepare for the trip, it would be good though to include that it’s possible to go on trips on the weekend so that we could prepare for that.
11. Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers about your volunteer experience? Yes
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