Family volunteering in Nepal
Whilst in Nepal we set up the opportunity to volunteer with a school in Sikles village in the Himalayas. I want the boys to have as much experience as we can during our world adventure! I’m hoping that it will broaden their understanding and, like most parents, they will learn to appreciate what they have.
I had heard of volunteering opportunities but many had costs associated with them, plus registration fees. It was unclear how much of this was going into the communities.
Also, you need to be clear on the ethics of the volunteering programme. Some, even the non-profit, organisations do not provide the best interests of the community. If you want to volunteer, then do your research and get feedback from others.
But foremost I believe that volunteering should be a rewarding experience and something that gives back to the community. Every little helps!
As I mentioned, there are many volunteering companies and opportunities available, but it’s quite a mixed bag.
Before we decided to volunteer we did some research and found that some you had to pay a fee and some you just paid your accommodation and food. But the one we saw mentioned most, which was suitable for families, was https://www.workaway.info/
However, for us, we were lucky to have a link close to home and so chose an independent volunteer route.
Pahar Trust IOM charity
Prior to leaving I established contact with the Pahar Trust IOM to find if there was anywhere that we, as a family, could help with community and/or school while in Nepal.
There were several options available, but the logistics and what we would be doing were unclear. The message was that any help would be beneficial, but if working in a school we needed to stay longer than a few days as it would disrupt the children.
The lady I met suggested a handful of places and we decided on a village called Sikles. It would be a 5 day trek in total, 3 days there and 2 days to return. The trust put us in touch with Adam Hotel and tours who took care of everything for us. They also put us in touch with representatives in Sikles village.
The Pahar Trust Charity http://www.pahar-trust.org has received contributions from fundraising and also the IOM Government to help build schools and manage the facilitation of them. We met with the administration team in Pokhara who were very welcoming. They gave us some background on the work they do which was a great insight for us and the kids. We had a lovely lunch with them too! We felt like royalty!
When we arrived in Sikles village we were met by Gehendra Gurung, the main contact for Sikles Primary school. We was so lovely and interested in our travels and our well being while in Sikles.
On our first day it was arranged that we would visit Sikles High School to meet with the headteacher Mr Tiwari. We were welcomed at assembly with a traditional Nepalese greeting and gifted a scarf.
We were invited to take a class and speak to them in English and read one of their english books. It wasn’t really an environment which suited the boys though. But it was a great insight for me.
We still got involved and held with a couple of English classes. Keith also helped fix a couple of computers while Ethan anda Jasper helped with a PE lesson for year 7. The school children enjoyed practicing their English on us which helped some of their conversation.
The next day, we visited the Primary school which was where we would be based. The schools environment in Nepal took some getting used to. The kids tend to shout out so there was a lot of noise and so difficult to be heard! Something I wasn’t used to from my time working in a school as an education support officer.
It was quite funny at times though as the kids, especially the younger ones just wanted to repeat everything you said. Needless to say, lots of songs were pulled out of the hat on this one.
The boys only attended school during 2 days and the remaining 5 days it was just me. The primary school had a couple of teachers who were in Pokhara for additional training and so I filled in some gaps.
Had the teachers not been away I would have been a bit more of a spare part. And although Keith was able to fix a couple of computers and a WiFi issue they were having, I don’t think we were as much ‘help’ as I would have liked!
But I was pleased the boys were able to have exposure to a new culture, environment and different learning.
Preparation for volunteering
Prior to visiting or volunteering in these areas I would suggest you contact the people directly and organise your days. Be clear what is to be expected of you and what you also expect in return. Try to remove the ‘middle man’.
Keith and I were quite happy to get involved in more mundane tasks to help relieve some of the pressure from the teachers, but I’m not sure they understood this or felt they couldn’t ask us.
We were very grateful to them for allowing us to observe their school environment and open their doors to them. But next time I think I will have a clearer understanding of expectations.
Volunteering for us was an amazing experience – I’m so glad we did it. A chance for us to give something back or to help others. It’s very rewarding! In the padt iI have wondered whether our charity donations actually reached its intended destination.
But volunteering is different as it offers a first hand experience. Everyone we met was so warm and friendly too. But my advice will be to be clear on your duties while there’s, just to make things easier.
The boys loved the experience and I’m sure it will be one they hold in their memories for years to come!