Annie Fournier and Naomi Beaulieu Canada
Arriving in Nepal, we had pick up at the airport which took us to the happy home. We were very welcome, felt like home. For the next few days, it was the festival of lights, so we experience the festival with the family. We had three mornings of language training and other useful information about culture and safety. We visited the three temples near by, with the help of a guide. Once we left Kathmandu, we headed for Chitwan for our jungle experience. We were picked up at the bus stop and taken to our lodge, where we spend two days. We got to experience elephant ride in the jungle, jungle walk and canoe ride, bird watching, elephant bath, and Tharu culture program (typical Tharu dances). We also had some free time to walk through the village as well; we got to experience the famous sunset by the river. After Chitwan, we were taken again to the bus station, where we took a bus to Pokhara, our placement. A guide picked us up at the station and brought us to the children home. The children were very excited to see us, the family was very welcoming. For the next few days, we taught them more English and enjoyed playing with them. During our free time, we did some sight seeing, went paragliding, experienced the shopping district, and the last two days we went trekking (at Panchase). Trekking was a wonderful experience, even thought it was tough at times, not what Westerners call trekking! All considering, we had a blast! After trekking, we went back to Kathmandu, where we once again got welcomed at happy home. The next morning we experienced the Mount Everest flight, we really recommend this, well worth the money! This is our last day here, and we have arrangements to the airport. We will miss Nepal and the people, and we will never forget our stay here.
For more information, please feel free to contact us at
Annie : email@example.com or
Nilanthi Sangarabalan - UK
Landing in Kathmandu airport at 9pm on the Sunday night, and I had little idea of what to expect from Nepal. For the first three days, I had language and cultural training. Initially, I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, but once I was sent on my placement, I was happy to be leaving behind a city of congestion, rubbish and honking.
Arriving at the Happy Home Orphanage, Chitwan, I was greeted by Bashanti and 22 children. My views were no longer of the cars and shops but of paddy fields and cows. I figured, with so many children, my work would be cut out for me. But, I soon realized that these children were very self-reliant – they were able to clean themselves and willingly helped to make the meals and clean the house.
I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to life in the Happy Home. Getting into a routine came easily and doing simple tasks to help Bashanti became second nature. Helping prepare the food, cleaning the house, doing some shopping and of course, playing with the children were my usual jobs. Out of my whole 5 weeks at my placement, I only really ever felt homesick once – during the midpoint of my time there, when probably the craving for food other than dahlbhat had reached its peak!
On some of the quieter days, while the children were at school I would take a 30 minute walk to the Library, a resource centre recently created by Real Nepal. There, I would either help the other volunteers with the painting or even teaching the village children some English. These children were much less disciplined than those at the Happy Home and made me even more appreciative of them, when I returned home in the evening.
During my time in Nepal, I managed to take a mountain flight to see Everest, and experienced some of the most beautiful views of the Himalayas. I also spent a weekend on a jungle safari at the Royal Chitwan National Park, where my highlight was definitely bathing elephants.
Although the idea of travelling around Nepal had occurred to me once arriving in the country, I decided to just focus my attention on the placement. And, apart from the mountain flight and the safari, I spent my time in the orphanage. I also tried to adjust to village life in general. On a walk back from the Library, some women working in the paddy fields ask me to join them and I happily went to plant some rice. A few poor attempts had the women in fits of laughter and put a smile on my face!
Although I had promised to visit again in two years, saying goodbye to Bashanti and the children was very emotional. As I was showered with flowers and Bashanti ‘didi’ put a tika on my forehead, I remember thinking how blessed I had been to have stayed with such a loving family who had made me feel welcomed from day one.
Alexis Mathieu - France
Not knowing what to expect at all when arriving at the Kathmandu airport, I was pleasantly surprised to know that some Nepali language classes were arranged for the first few days. From then it’s been a very fulfilling experience. Living with a Nepalese family has given such an insight to the Nepalese lifestyle that no other travelling people I met could see. I have been able to understand the issues facing future generations and see some of the perverted effects of development “the western way”. Many topics that I would like to continue searching for my own personal interest.
Volunteering with an organization such as this does bring some added value to your experience as you get a Nepali language and culture course at the beginning. It also makes everything easier, the finding an accommodation, guarantee of a nice family etc… but I would say that the biggest added value is that when it hits the fan, they are there to help you out of it.
Working with children has been one of the most exhausting but in the end rewarding experience in my life. By spending nearly 8 hours a day with them I have possibly learnt more from them than they have from me. What we are prone to forget as adults such as curiosity, straightforwardness, and delight at the simplest but yet most marvelous phenomenon of this world, we discover again through those innocent personas. I will not forget the smiles on their faces each morning as I was entering the premises of the orphanage.
Patrick O Donnell & Zara Coughlan - Ireland
I was volunteering with Real Nepal for an overall period of three weeks. I commenced the program with some language classes for three days. These classes were really enjoyable and helped me to gain the basic Nepalese language skills necessary for my placement in Pokhara. The classes were very informal and were also quite fun.
My volunteer placement lasted for over two weeks. I was teaching in a Tibetan Asylum camp. My objective was to teach English to both Tibetan and Nepali children. I really enjoyed the classes and formed a great relationship with the students. I definitely think the students benefitted from the strict policy of no Nepalese to be spoken in class at all times.
I thought the cultural experience of the program was amazing. Firstly living with a Nepali family and eating their food was a unique experience. The opportunity to do a 3 day trek above Pokhara was a really tiring experience but the views were exceptional in the early morning.
The trip to the National Park at Chitwan was great fun! The highlight of this two day trip was being tossed into the water repeatedly by the elephants during the elephant bathing!
My overall experience e of the program is that it is a well-run program and it is a great opportunity to learn about the Nepali culture. I certainly benefitted hugely from this experience thanks to Real Nepal
James Purdon - UK
With the whole of August to fill, I set about searching for a worthwhile placement in a developing country. Nepal stood out as an exciting destination, and one which I would be able to commence at very short notice. With some trepidation, I landed at Kathmandu Airport, but any fears were immediately calmed as I saw my name on a board, being waved as I arrived in the Arrivals section of the Airport. From that moment on, Real Nepal looked after me extremely well – providing language lessons during the day, introducing me to the local food and even taking me to a ‘training village’ for one night. Consequently, I left Kathmandu for Narangat with a good idea of what to expect on my placement.
What I found in Ganganagar – where I was to be teaching four hours a day – was not, as I had thought, a mud hut with no electricity/water etc, but a stunning resort, complete with bar, food menu and charming hosts. It was the perfect place to relax during the day, in between the teaching times. Games of cards, film watching, exploring the amazing local area or even reading a book all took place and the time in between teaching went very quickly as a result. Added to this, the option of ordering (very goo value) drinks and food throughout the day made for an extremely comfortable stay, and it was good to have a number of fellow volunteers in the area too.
The teaching itself was at times rewarding, and constantly challenging! The school has only recently been built, and so it was important to attract the children to lessons by making them interesting and enjoyable. The major frustration is that the interest shown at the windows by elder children, is not matched by actual in-school attendance; we frequently tried to encourage them in, but the safety of watching from outside seemed to appeal to them! Being new to the English language, many of the pupils took incredibly long to grasp certain concepts, such as time (i.e. today and tomorrow, clock times etc.), but this made the moment when it finally clicked all the more rewarding. The classes were ordered according to ability, rather than age, and so there were Pre-school, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced classes, each of which lasted around 45 minutes.
As the village is close to the Chitwan National Park, we decided to do a Jungle Safari for 3 days which was a great addition to the trip; amongst other things, we spotted numerous rhinos, spotted dear, elephants and monkeys, and the highlight was being thrown off an elephant before bathing it in water and being given a shower courtesy of its trunk!
I left after two and a half weeks; even within this short time, the community continued to develop, with the opening of a new school near to the Happy Home. The area can only go from strength to strength now that the foundations of a new community centre have been laid, but will rely on the continued presence of volunteers so that the children feel that the school is permanent, and so that they, in turn, make their attendance permanent.
Simon Schneider - Germany
My placement was in a village in Chitwan teaching at a local school set up by Real Nepal. The school’s purpose is to give help to children who would like support in their studies particularly in learning English. For those that don’t go to school at all, the school acts more like a resource centre providing a place to come during the day.
The structure of the placement is essentially teaching children of varying ages and abilities in English, Maths and whatever else the volunteer feels could benefit them. As a result, the teaching can be quite challenging and the children can sometimes lack discipline. Ultimately, this makes it a rewarding experience after the volunteer has gained the trust of the children.
I was staying with a host family in the village who own a restaurant and as such the accommodation and provisions given were of an extremely high standard. The support in general was excellent both in the village and in Kathmandu. The people in the village generally but especially the host family are very nice and I was well looked after.
Being just a stone’s throw away from a major river and Chitwan National Park adds to the beauty of this placement. With occasional visits from rhinos and elephants, the placement is in a peaceful and picturesque surroundings.
When not teaching I often wandered around the village and nearby areas, popped in to a close-by orphanage where there were other volunteers and generally relaxed around the restaurant and chatted with my host family.
I would recommend this placement to anybody who wants to experience teaching children of varying ages and abilities with the added challenge of improving their discipline and behaviour. The location of this placement will benefit anybody who wants to be immersed in rural Nepalese life as it is quite literally in the middle of nowhere (the nearest town with internet access is over an hour away). As such, the placement is peaceful and enables you to have a relaxing time when not teaching in the classroom. Overall, with the help of a great host family, this placement is excellent.
Maggie and Carla – Australia
Jan to Feb (Langtang - Goljung Library)
We arrived on New Years Eve in Kathmandu where we met two follow volunteers: Mark and Andreas. The four of us spent the following week together, completing our training between the restless excitement of the Happy Home Orphanage and the peaceful village of Sanga. Training involved a combination of language classes (together with our patient and wickedly funny guru Krishna), sightseeing in Kathmandu, as well as gaining insight to Nepali culture through our time in Sanga - where we became immediately attached to our beautiful host sister Deepa. Unfortunately by the end of this rather chaotic, action-packed week, we both found ourselves with miserable head colds, whilst our Chilean comrade Andreas, spent the evening in the room next door throwing up from a nasty belly bug. As always, however, our lovable Irish larrikin Mark, was there to lighten the mood, lift our spirits and somehow fill us with excitement about the 10 hour bus journey that would get us all the way to the Langtang region.
After arriving in Surrabessi we spent an exhausting three hours trekking up the mountain side to Goljung, where we would spend the remaining three weeks of our volunteer placement. Initially in awe and greatly inspired by the mystique of the Langtang mountains, we had planned to complete our journey to Goljung with no assistance. Twenty minutes into the walk and with Surrabessi only an arms reach away, we accepted the limitations of our physical fitness, threw our rucksacks onto the ground and Bicky (from REAL Nepal) went in search for a porter, while we thought to ourselves; "We are volunteers not mountaineers, we are volunteers not mountaineers". In Goljung we were met by Dana, Jana and Michael (the three volunteers we would replace in Goljung library), who introduced us to our friendly host family and gave us the basic run down on how to get by in the village. It seemed that the only problem we would face was having spent a week taking Nepalese language classes, only to find out that the people of Goljung spoke Tamang. Despite this initial hurdle by 8am the next morning we were in the library and for the following few weeks it was an endless stream of 'hokey pokey' dances, afternoons of colouring in, learning the alphabet, months of the year, colours, numbers and every other educational activity we could conjure up from our childhood. One of our favourite memories is the early morning bathing ritual at the tap behind the library. It was a rule that none of the children were permitted into the classroom with dirty hands. When given the opportunity to play with a bar of soap the children of Goljung could not resist almost diving under the tap for an all body cleanse.
Aside from our time in the library we managed to catch up with our much missed friend Mark, from down the hill in Surrabessi . Together we trekked around the Tamang region, which included an unexpected guide from a check point soldier, as well as a rather close encounter with a herd of goats whilst relaxing at Parvatakunda. We also managed a weekend away to Tatopaani (hot springs) before saying goodbye to our host family and beginning our long journey back to Kathmandu. Our month of volunteer work was an incredible and unforgettable time, both a challenge and satisfaction. Thank you REAL NEPAL for this tremendous experience.
Lisa and Freya - Australia
A new REAL Library in Gatlang, Langtang
Where to start? The task of setting up a library in a remote village in the mountains of Nepal seemed a daunting one at best, but we decided we were up for the challenge. Heading off into the mountains armed with loads of books, stationery and library supplies we began our adventure. The ten hour bus ride was the start of our eye opening experience; crammed into our seats, dust blowing in through the open window, huge trucks passing us on the narrowest of roads next to steep cliff edges and the windiest rockiest roads imaginable – I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. But the views were remarkable, the countryside constantly changing and as the journey continued and we glimpsed the first snow capped mountains I couldn’t help but feel a shiver of excitement and awe.
We stayed a night in Thulo Barkhu and a night in Sybrubensi, meeting the volunteers there and sharing ideas and tips as well as checking out their libraries. This was a great opportunity to get a feel for the REAL Nepal presence in the villages and to gain valuable insight into the workings of established libraries. We left feeling enthused and energized and really excited to get to Gatlang and start work.
The walk from Sybrubensi to Gatlang took us around four hours. It starts with one of the steepest, hugest hills I have ever encountered. It definitely tested my fitness, which at that stage probably wasn’t what it should have been, but that certainly changed after five weeks. This first time we were lucky enough to hitch a ride in a truck about halfway up but we were not so lucky every time. We had two porters with us carrying the bulk of our luggage and the library supplies which was a huge help. I would definitely advise anyone walking up to start their placement to make sure some porters are organised. Once up the top of the hill (which takes two to three hours) the walk is fantastic and I really enjoyed it. The track winds around the ridge with incredible views of the mountains and overlooks a few villages situated in the valleys below. For my first time walking in Nepal it was amazing and I felt so lucky and inspired.
We finally saw Gatlang village, our home for the next month, perched on the side of the hill. It was a relief to finally arrive after so many days traveling. I will never forget the reception we received when we first walked into the village. Children of all ages, dressed in the most amazing array of colourful clothing, began appearing from every direction and soon we must have had over one hundred children all following us, pointing and whispering. The sheer number of children in their colourful ragamuffin outfits against the backdrop of the traditional little wooden and stone houses and the mountains was incredible. It felt like we had been spirited back in time.
Our first few days were quite a confusing and frustrating time. The communication barrier was huge; most of the villagers speak Tamang with only a little Nepali and no English. Nothing seemed to be organised and no one seemed to know where we should stay or who should decide this. We were adamant we wanted to stay with a host family and not just above the library where they first suggested. It took some fairly strong persuasion before they showed us a few options for host families. Nobody was home at either and we decided to stay at the nicer, cleaner house which we were told was a guest house but that a family lived there also. This turned out to be the right decision as a few days later our host father arrived and as he speaks good English we were able to sort out many issues and questions we had.
But in those first couple of days our spirits dropped a bit. It seemed that the people in the village didn’t want us there or maybe it was that they didn’t understand what we were there to achieve. We couldn’t really talk to them properly and so felt at a bit of a loss and very much as outsiders. It was quite an isolating feeling. A couple of days later a delegation of young men informed us that the community would prefer the library to be located up at the school and not in the tourism building. The Headmaster took us to the school and offered us one of the tiny, dark and dirty rooms to use. This room was not even spare; there was a whole class level having their lessons outside.
It took quite some effort to explain that we couldn’t have the library there at the school and after much discussion a compromise was reached, whereby we would continue with the library in the tourism building on a temporary basis and when new buildings were built at the school it would be moved up there. I was left feeling quite bewildered and disappointed at this stage. We were only here to help the community and look out for their interests and it felt like they resented our presence even though we were assured that the community had specifically requested for an REAL Nepal library. I think it didn’t help matters that all these discussions and arguments were going on around us in Nepali and Tamang and we would only have bits translated back to us.
In the days and weeks that followed things improved and our spirits and motivation increased. We spent time at the school teaching classes and hanging out with the teachers. The teachers did a lot more hanging out than they did teaching and when we found out in later weeks that the academic level of Gatlang students was amongst the poorest in the region we weren’t a bit surprised. Still, they were a very friendly and funny bunch and delighted in teaching us some Nepali and practising their English. Only one teacher could really speak English and he used to try and translate jokes, the result must have been quite funny because the teachers would be in hysterics while we often sat there quite bemused.
The library was a huge attraction for the children, particularly the younger ones, and the first day we held a class in our opening week we had over one hundred children pushing and shoving outside to be let in. It was quite overwhelming. We had trouble communicating with the kids and they couldn’t understand even the most basic instructions. We both became very good at mime. Luckily some older students showed up that day (as the teachers who promised they would come and help never did) and they were able to help us somewhat in controlling the kids.
Over the next few weeks as the kids got more used to us and our rules they were better and we able to have some proper classes. It took a long time to discourage them from peering in through the windows when a class was on and blocking all our light. You would be inside teaching and suddenly realize it was really dark and quite hard to see and then you would notice the kids in the windows. They would be back five minutes after you had shooed them away. I think they thought it was a great game; you could only laugh.
Drawing pictures, browsing through books and particularly story time were favourites of the younger kids. They didn’t understand much of what we were reading to them but would listen and look attentively and parrot what you said. The older classes enjoyed drawing and writing as well, especially using coloured pencils and textas and were really enjoying games such as UNO and memory when we left. These were my favourite library classes, we could actually teach and communicate, even if it was a struggle but you did feel the students were getting something out of it and they were so enthusiastic and thirsty for knowledge.
Overall, we had a really great time in Gatlang. The kids are just gorgeous if a bit grotty, but very enthusiastic and friendly. Our host family was lovely and we had many fun evenings playing cards with the extended family and friends. When we discovered that the girls could knit we spent many hours knitting together and they loved teaching us new patterns. The Headmaster is quite a character and would insist on being our tour guide and taking us out for outings. We had several adventures with him and the local little blue truck and he loved using his broken English on us.
On the day that we left it was with mixed feelings. I was starting to feel more settled and accepted and was really enjoying the time there and it was hard to contemplate leaving. At the same time I was really looking forward to the trek back to Kathmandu that our host father was taking us on. I feel that the time we had there was too short, to set up and establish a library you really need to have a lot of time up your sleeve. Still, I hope and think that we have made a good start and am confident that the next volunteers who have several months there will have great success. It is a beautiful little village with some beautiful and amazingly hard working people living there and I feel privileged to have shared in their lives and their culture.
DAVID BONNICI – Australia
Volunteer's get-together dinner (KTM - Sanga)
Since the commencement of a three day village training and orientation program in the village of Sanga, 25km North East of Katmandu, the area has become somewhat of a focal point for REAL volunteers. It is often the first real taste of Nepali rural village life a volunteer gets and can be sometimes nerve wracking and confronting. But any anxiety is offset by the beautiful surroundings and welcoming village people who are becoming more familiar with the sight of foreigners in their town. Waking up to (weather permitting) views of snow capped mountains, surrounded by greenery in all directions from the hilltop training facility is a sight to be reckoned with.
On Monday 12 September 2005, shortly after I returned from a 6 week trip to China, I was pleased to participate in a dinner arranged by REAL for several volunteers with staff and friends of REAL to get to know each other better and share their experiences in Nepal. The dinner came at the right time too, after an unfortunate circumstance of dishonesty within Happy Home which led to a Nepali helper resigning from her position.
All tension and negative feeling caused by this was stripped away as everyone enjoyed each others company on the hilltop. The children of Happy Home ran around with the local kids, the adults chatted between picking at the delicious pre dinner foods and the weather even held out! The main dinner was amazingly catered considering the location and everyone raved about this traditional feast. We all had our fill and as night settled in it was time to return to our various homes, some locally and some in the valley.
Ying and KC Tang Australia
Ying and I were fortunate enough to be the first volunteers setting up the library at Maidan, a village about 1 1/2 hours bus ride from Pokhara. We lived with a host family whose house was a 5 minute walk from the library. During our stay, we were very lucky to experience the two great Nepali festivals of Dashain and Tihar. We met our extended family who were wonderful and treated us like their own. There was a lot of dancing, singing and eating, we both had a fantastic time.
Besides teaching at the library we also taught at the nearby secondary school. At first, the students were shy and it was daunting to walk into a classroom and expected to teach English with 30+ faces just staring at you. However, gradually the students got to know us better and became more participative and enthusiastic about speaking English in class. We really enjoyed teaching at the school, especially during lunchtime when the students would come up to talk to us and we would have lunch together.
We both really loved our time in the village, although it was hard at first to converse with the little Nepali that we knew, but the people at the village were very friendly and eager to help us. We miss all the children, friends and family, they really made our stay unforgettable.
We would like to thank REAL Nepal for the wonderful experience and for organizing the Nepali lessons and time spent at the training village prior to our placement, it really prepared us for living a village life.
DANTE – Brazil
Our programme was an absolutely remarkable experience. It helped us to put the reality into a completely different perspective. In the end we hope we have helped as much as all the children, families and REAL Nepal helped us. All in all, we truly believe this programme promotes; "the change you want to see in the world."
We will miss Nepal and REAL Nepal, hope to come back soon.
FARAHANA JOBANPUTRA – Canada
(REAL - Nepal)
Well, what can I say about my first month at REAL Nepal? I have experienced so much, met so many wonderful people, I know that I am not the same person who arrived a month ago. I continue to be challenged with my placement in Kathmandu. When I arrived, I realized that although it would be very rewarding to live in the village and teach English, I would be able to build on my strengths in organization and business administration by working in the REAL office. Luckily, Asim also had this realization and he readily agreed to let me take this unusual placement.
Since coming here, I have spent many marvelous days and nights, although I can't document them all, these are some highlights:
• Sitting by a campfire talking while cuddling a Happy Home child
• Listening to some amazing music and meeting new volunteers
• Spitting orange pips at passers by (don’t worry, we have terrible aim)
• Dancing with children...this is one of my fondest memories
• Making 1,000 pancakes with Spella and the volunteer cooking crew
• Birthday celebrations
• Meeting so many new and special volunteers, this has been really amazing and I've made some friendships that will last me forever.
I’ve discovered that I don’t have the strongest immune system, but from the beginning, both Asim and Namrata have been absolutely wonderful. From the very beginning, they have made every effort to ensure that I am comfortable and taken care of at Happy Home. When I was sick, Asim, Namrata and the Happy Home children all came to check in on me, and helped me get better! I have found a wonderful new family here, time flies by and I don't feel so homesick – something special happens every day and I am constantly sharing laughs, dancing, and eating!!!
I am so happy that I took the opportunity to come here, despite of the political warnings. I am constantly finding new friends and am having new adventures. Thank you REAL, for giving me a wonderful month, I'm sure that the next few months will be even more amazing and wonderful!
During my 6 weeks volunteering with REAL Nepal I was placed up north in Shybrubensi, which is in Lantang National Park, about 20 km from the Tibetan border. SB is the starting point for the very popular Lantang trek, positioned at the bottom of a valley with a beautiful Himalayan river running through it. The host family in SB is very lovely, and they are great cooks. Both the mother and father cook a wide variety of dishes, including dhalbhat, chowmein, and noodle soups. SB also has a hot spring right in the village, down by the river, which is a great place to bathe, wash clothes,etc.
During my placement the village celebrated the Tibetan New Year and it was great to see the changing of the village flags, replacing all the year old, fading flags with the new and colorful ones. Since the school was closed for a week, Sandra (the other volunteer placed there with me) and I decided to paint the outside of the library as it was just a plain concrete building. We thought that a great way to inject a little color into the village for the festival was by painting a mural on the side of the library..... the kids just loved it. And the kids are great!!! You will fall in love with them almost immediately, they definitely know how to pull at the old heart strings, especially the little ones in class 1 & 2. They are all extremely enthusiastic, at times we would have up to 30 kids in class, and they are all genuinely interested in being there and very eager to learn.
The days were spent between the library, the school and planning lessons. With 2 classes in the library before school, then a few classes at the school in the morning. In the early afternoon we would spend an hour with the village women who wanted to learn English to improve their communication skills, to be able to deal more effectively with the customers visiting their hotels, shops, etc. Then the afternoon would end with 2 more classes in the library. A pretty busy day, but a really great way to just throw yourself into the community.
If you are placed there and you have some free time, I highly recommend doing a few things. A walk to visit the other volunteers in Goljung and Gatlang is a great way to spend a couple days, and a great chance to see some very traditional Tamang villages. If you have a little more time to spare, and you don’t mind a ‘little’ climb, the hot springs, or Taato Paani (literal translation meaning hot water), just past Goljung and on top of the next ridge is a lovely place to visit. With the great reward of some really hot springs to sooth your aching muscles at the top, its definitely worthwhile. Also, a one day trek into Lantang NP, to stay at the Ganesh View Hotel and Lodge in Rimche for a night is well worth it - at 50rp a night for 2 people (that’s about 50c each!!), great food, hot showers, new mattresses and amazing views it’s pretty hard to top.
So overall it was a totally fantastic experience and I wouldn’t change a thing... Nepal Rocks!!!
SARAH - Canada
My Experience Volunteering in Nepal
- (Chitwan - Parbatipur)
After finishing my undergraduate degree in Canada I decided to take a year off to travel while applying to medical school. I knew that I wanted to do something that would enable me to experience a very different place in depth, and volunteering seemed like an excellent way to do so while hopefully making a positive impact, however small, on the area I visited. Nepal appealed to me as a fascinating destination so, after doing some research, I decided to volunteer for a month with REAL Nepal.
I arrived in Kathmandu after several days of flight delays and was warmly received at the office and Happy Home. My training, which took about a week, consisted of morning language classes and sightseeing at various famous places around Kathmandu such as Pashputinath and Boudhanath. I found Nepali difficult to grasp but learned enough to get around and better my experience in the country. I was assigned to a health care placement in the Chitwan district, and was somewhat apprehensive after hearing reports of the incredible heat!
It was indeed very hot when I arrived in the village of Parbatipur. My host family consisted of Rishi, the father, Rama, the mother, and their three teenage children Rina, Dina, and Sagar. The father is a community health assistant and runs a private pharmacy as well as the district sub-health post. From the beginning they did everything possible to make me feel welcome and even gave me a Nepali name, Coruna, or called me "Sister". I had my own room with a fan, and lived in relative comfort thanks to a cold shower and electricity, which tended to cut out at odd times of the day. The village also had a phone so I could call home when I liked. I was certainly well fed with massive amounts of daal bhaat, and soon learned not to say I was hungry unless I really wanted something to eat right away - and also made much use of the word "pugyo" – which means "I have had enough".
My first week there was dominated by the biggest festival of the Nepali year, Dasain, which involved a lot of goat sacrifice and some interesting ceremonies. I went with the family to visit relatives, who all live very close together, and was given tika, a paste of red powder, yogurt, and rice, which is applied to the forehead with blessings and gifts of money. I drank lots of delicious lassi and was offered the boiled blood of a sacrificial goat to eat, which I could not bring myself to finish despite my best efforts. During this time I went to visit the National Park, rode an elephant, and saw many interesting creatures like rhinos, crocodiles, and deer.
In the second week I got sick for a few days with minor stomach problems and was tended to by all members of the family. It rained for a while, which to my relief lessened the heat of the day. When I finally had the chance to visit the health post, I was surprised to find that it was a small concrete shack in the middle of fields. Supplies were donated from various health agencies, including WHO, and there were several staff members to take care of patients. Unfortunately, because it was their 'cold season', there were very few patients to observe, most with minor complaints such as headache or muscle sprains. I was told that in the 'hot season' there could be as many as 30-40 patients a day, which would surely have overwhelmed the facilities there. Care was subsidized by various organizations but the people still had to pay a small fee for medicines.
I was joined in my last week by a British volunteer who ran morning and evening programs in the village library. I was glad for the company and we got along very well. When it came time for me to leave I was sad to say goodbye to the family, who had been so kind and had truly made me feel at home. It was great to see that Rina, the oldest daughter, would soon be going to attend nursing college, which is excellent in a country where so many girls have few opportunities for education. I visited Pokhara, a beautiful and relaxing place, before returning to Kathmandu. My experience in Nepal was challenging but worthwhile, and I did not encounter any Maoists or feel in danger at any time. I hope to visit the country again in the future, maybe as a doctor, and learn more about this fascinating place.
Volunteer in Nepal
Final Report - Clare Apps (England) & Kate Trebuss (Canada)
REAL Nepal Volunteers
We woke up in the town of Syabrubensi (the main ‘hub’ of the Langtang region and pretty much as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get) the morning after a 9 hour journey into the mountains and handed our massive packs over to two very slight looking porters – who then began arguing over who would carry the only marginally lighter of the two massive bags. Three hours later – out of breath and amazed that we had somehow scaled a 90 degree cliff face and lived to tell the tale (after months of next to no exercise) –
we arrived at our host family’s home in Goljung and settled ourselves in our spacious attic room. We had yet to meet our less-than-friendly roommates – 3 very healthy looking rats and a large army of rather hungry bedbugs…We soon met all the members of our host family living in Goljung (three of their four children go to boarding school in Lumbini): Host Mum, Host Father (Singi) and the angriest toddler ever to crawl across the face of the earth (his screams of “aaaaaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” would become a regular feature of our daily routine in no time…), Pemba. The next day we wandered through the village gathering children like the Pied Piper with the help of our trusty bubble wands. We led the children to the front of the library to explain that we would be there to open it the next day, but the children seemed only to care about the sudsy bubbles before them as they practically body-checked each other to pop them. This was the first of many crazy encounters with the children of Goljung! For three weeks we ran the library each morning before the children had school and each afternoon after they had finished for the day. Though we struggled to maintain any semblance of order or continuity in the library, we did feel glad that we were able to offer a welcome opportunity for play to these children; most of them spend all day in the fields or watching over smaller siblings. Each day our library was a crazy zoo that rang with the screams of “MISS MISS KALAM KALAM” and mucky feet tearing round the room at high speeds. The kids were OBSESSED with Ludo, one of only a handful of games in the library, and Kate managed to construct a chess board and pieces, which also intrigued many of the older boys for long stretches of time. We tried to divide our days into two parts - lessons in the morning and games, books, and general madness in the afternoon – but this gradually degenerated into full-fledged, constant madness by the end of the second week.It took a bit of time, but we eventually got used to rising and going to bed with the sun; this was made easier by the significant lack of any nightlife of any kind in our sleepy little village (though we could have made it exciting enough with the amount of “raksi” we were continuously being offered). Besides, the early morning views were well worth getting up for! We also became quite comfortable and happy with our host family (though three weeks of rice, potatoes, and chili were a bit of a challenge to the digestive system, as were three weeks of “tea” i.e. hot water filled with giant spoonfuls of sugar)
.One weekend our host father even took us on a mini trekking expedition to a hot spring in the mountains called Tatopani (literally “hot water” in Nepali), which was a welcome break from life in Goljung! We also left our placement a few days early to attend a festival at Gosaikunda with our host family and pretty much the entire village. It was amazing to see all the women of the village decked out in their most elegant finery with their hair painstakingly arranged for this two day trek, while we two looked like sweaty, grubby hillwalkers!! Though we didn’t make it to the festival (we were worried about altitude sickness: a real possibility given we’d be climbing about 2500 vertical metres to an altitude of 4300 m in a single day) we had a marvelous time with the villagers on their first night away when we danced, ate, drank and sang in a circle outside the gumba where they were spending the night.We ended our time in Langtang with a week’s trek, guided by the father of another host family in the Langtang region, who is pretty much the sweetest Nepali alive, which made the trek totally awesome every step of the way, despite illness, cold, and clouds. Perhaps the fates didn’t want us to leave Goljung or the Langtang region when our date of departure arrived, because the night before we were scheduled to leave we were INFOrmed that we were virtually stranded in this remote area because of massive landslides, which had wiped out the only road in many places. We formed many a plan, but all seemed to get us nowhere until the bus unexpectedly rolled into town at 10 pm, ready for its early morning departure.
The next morning we boarded this bus along with half of Langtang (one quarter on the roof, one quarter inside), several live chickens being used as cushy seats and multiple large sacks of random produce. We drove for about three hours to the end of the line where we got out for a four hour trek to the town where the next bus was waiting. Luckily there were boys hanging about, eager to carry our bags for a bit of extra cash or we never would have survived the journey! We arrived in time even for dal bhat, only to discover that our seats inside the bus had been double sold; so, we volunteered to ride the rest of the way back to Kathmandu Nepali-style – on the roof! We squashed onboard with a massive youth singing group and held on for dear life as our bodies were hurled about and bruised to new extremes on the metal bars making up the "floor" of the roof rack. Watching the sun set over the Himalayas from atop a bus winding its way through the mountains, surrounded by Nepali people was truly one of the most memorable moments of our trip.It was overwhelming to return to civilization; Kathmandu’s lights, noise, and vehicles were much more than we had grown accustomed to in the hills of Langtang, but we thoroughly enjoyed a good slap-up meal when we rolled into town and could hardly wait to check our email after a month away from the joys of the internet! Overall, the whole experience was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. We found life in Goljung extremely challenging, on many days extremely frustrating, but we were very proud to get through it and to have had the opportunity to get so close to a Nepali family, whose members were kind enough to take us in and care for us for almost a month’s time. We can hardly believe we’ve had this incredible, unique experience, but we are so thankful to have been granted this one-up opportunity to live life as Nepalis do. We’ll never be able to put it in words and we’ll certainly never forget it.
TRACEY GODD – UK
Well, I have finally come to the end of an exciting 2.5 months of volunteering and still have much more to do in Nepal! After an exciting New Years in Kathmandu, I happily returned to Thulo Barku and got stuck back into life in the library. We organized many competitions for the children to keep them occupied during the school holidays, these included: drawing, writing, running, colouring and alphabet tests. The children were very enthusiastic and really enjoyed themselves, it was great to see. Unfortunately my time in Thulo Barku soon came to an end, and I handed over control of the library to Pepe, who from day one was a great replacement for me. I will however, be returning to Thulo Barku for 1 month after my placement for trekking and to stay with my wonderful host family as I have now been accepted as one of the villagers. It has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life.
After leaving Thulo Barku, I spent several days in Kathmandu visiting the children at Happy Home an sorting myself out before my next placement. This placement was for 2 weeks at an orphanage home in Sauraha, Chitwan. I managed to get a direct bus to Sauraha where some children came to meet me with a banner that they had made; it made me feel very welcome! We then took a rickshaw to meet my host family, who made me feel welcome and special from the moment I walked through the door. After resting and getting to know my family, I went to meet the children at the orphanage home, which was only 10-15 minute walk or 5 min bicycle ride away.
The home had 16 children ranging from 6-17 years of age. They were so happy to get another volunteer that I ended up staying with them until well after dhal bhat time. My typical day would be with the children from 7.30am to 9.30 am, and then from 4.30 -6.30pm. During that time I would help the kids with their homework and played some simple games, and also helped in the home in the kitchen, cleaning, and getting the younger kids dressed for school in the morning. We also spent some lovely evenings watching the sunset over the Rapati River. We spent our Saturdays and holidays swimming in the river and sightseeing around the area. The children were great guides and I was very happy to go along with them! At the end of my 2 weeks, I organized a picnic for the children at the elephant breeding center in Corsa.
The picnic was wonderful. We spent a lovely day visiting the baby elephants, eating and playing by the river! Everyone was sad to go home at the end of the day. My time in Chitwan came to an end too quickly, and I was very sad to leave the children, however, I will be returning to Sauraha for 4 days for a safari before I go. I am sure that I will be seeing all my children and my host family soon.
Now that my time of volunteering has come to an end, I will be returning to Thulo Barku for trekking and visiting my new friends. I am sure that everyone will give me a memorable birthday there! After going to Thulo Barku, I will spend some time going for a safari in Chitwan, and then to Pokhara to relax for one week before heading home in April.
WIM GETKATE - Holland
MAHA SHIVARATRI (HAPPY HOME)
On this festival day, the New Moon day of the Nepali month of Falgun, the birthday of Shiva is celebrated. Festivities take place in all Shiva temples in Nepal, but especially in the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, the most sacred of Shiva’s temples. Worshippers from throughout Nepal and India come together to pray and celebrate.
Together with Asim, Santi (our 'Didi' at Happy Home) and the other volunteers (Rose, Anja, Nadia, Christie and Greg) I went to the Pashupatinath temple. When we arrived, there was already a queue extending about five hundred meters, four persons wide, waiting to get into the temple; and the queue kept on growing. This was an impressive sight: all those devotees, with all the different colours. waiting so patiently to get in. Because of the heat we did not want to wait that long and decided to take a short walk to the other side of the river in order to observe the temple complex and the pilgrims.
We were welcomed many times by Sadhu's, holy Hindu-men devoting their lives to the service of Shiva. Often they wear red or yellow clothes, have remarkable faces with big beards and foreheads painted with red, yellow or white, or a combination of these colours. A lot of these people, however, turn out to be fake and only want some money in exchange for having their photograph taken, or expect a financial contribution after giving a tika. However, many of them are real, genuine and deeply religious people. So, a certain amount of respect is definitely appropriate. A tika is a blessing by the gods and can be worn by women as well as men. It varies from a small dot to a mixture of yoghurt, rice and sindur (a red powder) that is smeared on the forehead. The tika is the symbol for the all-seeing, all-knowing third eye, and receiving this blessing is a common part of most ceremonies. It is a recognition of the divine presence at this occasion and a sign of protection for those who receive it.
On this day it is very common for people to smoke Ganja (hash) in order to get “into higher spheres”. So, the group of volunteers who went to the temple shared a couple of joints too.
Undersigned also smoked, so as not to miss experiencing the very interesting Nepali culture! I must admit that it did nothing to me or the other volunteers in our group, however, we noticed several other people who were somewhat away from this world.
After a very nice walk through the temple complex, we decided to return to the Happy Home to finish this day with a delicious meal together with the children.
Greg and I shopped at the local shops to buy two chickens, a water melon, a pineapple and some bananas for our dinner. In the evening our host Asim prepared a delicious meal, while my insignificant little person took care of preparing a fantastic roasted chicken. Okay, I must admit that Asim’s mix of spices made a small, but not unimportant contribution to the taste. The chickens had been previously cooked (to exclude possible germs ) and after that roasted above a wood-fired barbeque on the balcony of the Happy Home. From the fruit Greg and I bought, the men in the house prepared a superfine fruit cocktail to finish our meal. After sending the children to bed, the volunteers sat round the fire and talked for some while, once again inhaling the toxic and intoxicating fumes of a joint. Once again, the author of this article did not experience any extra-terrestrial things, so I decided that this is not a thing for me.
The other volunteers decided to call it a day and went to bed. Asim, his younger brother (bhaai) Dinesh and I stayed some time warming by the fire. I have got one big problem: always when there is something to celebrate, I cannot leave. I think I have some kind of “separation phobia”. During the late hours we ate one more Nepali dish, called Kurauni. This dish is obtained by boiling milk for quite some time and allowing it to thicken to a kind of crumbly cheese with powder like characteristics. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to tell you all what it’s like. So when anyone comes to Nepal, try it yourself and figure out how to describe it.
After a day full of impressions, culturally and culinary, I laid myself to rest, tired but very satisfied, knowing that Nepal will offer me a lot more of strange, exotic, weird but especially delicious and fantastic experiences.
Three Placements in Three Months with REAL Nepal
My volunteer Experience
Jasper - Holland
I visited Nepal and Sikkim in the end of 2004 with a friend and during 1 of our walks through the countryside I told him I think it'd be awesome to spend some time in a small village and live with the locals. Now, in 2006 I had the opportunity to do just that and I took it!
I arrived from Holland on the 14th of may and started my language classes on the 15th which lasted for a week. During that week I spent 4 days in Sanga with my first home family! They were nice people though I didn't have a lot of contact with them. Since I was there all alone I decided to go hiking in the nearby mountains. A good idea and I had some incredible views! Mind the leeches though!
After the language training I went to Chitwan for 3 days of safari! It turned out that 2 of those 3 days were traveling but the one day that we had for safari was good. Especially the elephant bathing part and riding on the back of an elephant. Nice!
Then the time arrived for my first placement, which was far away in distant Syabrubensi in Langtang. This is the mountainous region north of Kathmandu. Well, not at all that distant but it took the bus 11 hours to get there anyway…The bus ride was one of the most frightening I'd ever had! Especially the last or so hour, going down in zig-zags! It seemed the bus wanted to tumble down in every bend, but fortunately it never did…The host family (Ghurmi and Yangzen) there was superb! I loved being with them and spending time with them…The library where I was supposed to work was a little under-visited (not at all that many children) but the time I had there was good. Spending time with the locals and the host-family and exploring the beautiful surroundings was the best part for me however…I had some great walks in the hills surrounding us, from time to time accompanied by Ghurmi. One of those trips took us to Yangzen's parents' house. Her father had fallen ill and that evening a real shaman was trying to cure him, making small puppets from rice and blessing those. I watched the whole ritual, not knowing at the time it would take about 3-4 hours altogether. A great experience nonetheless…After four weeks I wanted to move on and go somewhere else though…Experiencing different host-families and experience different people in different regions is what attracted me most!
After relaxing in Kathmandu for a few days (spaghetti again!) I went to my next placement in Chitwan, near the National Park. I went to a village called Ganganagar (and could even pronounce that after a week!), where Asim supposedly grew up. My job this time was not to teach but to garden and clean up the library. I wanted to do something more fysical and so I did! After some time a second volunteer (Liam) came there and we worked together which was great! We re-organized the garden (cutting grass however was next to impossible even though it looked much better for some days. It just grows too fast in the monsoon!) and really cleaned up the library which was in terrible shape when we first got there. The monsoon and sun made it next to impossible to work from time to time. When the sun was out it was way too hot and when it was raining, well, it was just too wet! We had to work while the sun was behind the clouds (it was still rather hot at those times as well, but what can you do…). And of course it was (for me) great to see how people in Chitwan lived (which was, obviously, different from the people in Langtang. They had a whole different attitude. I'm not sure this is a regional or religious or whatever difference though….) and worked. Suddenly there were vast areas of rice and corn which needed to be planted and harvested (respectively). I was happy to help them harvest and clean the corn and later on even planted some rice (something everybody should do at least once in their lives)! Hard work! The food was more bland though…A lot of dal bhat and really kinda bland. I sometimes still felt a little hungry but refused to eat more because I'd had enough dal bhat already! Fortunately, my co-volunteer Liam and I could go to Narayangat (the 'Big City') in weekends and eat something different…After 3 weeks, this came to an end as well and I went back again to Kathmandu (well, but not before visiting Lumbini (the birthplace of the Buddha!) first...).
At this time I still had 2 weeks of volunteering left. I could either go to Pokhara or stay in Kathmandu. I decided on the latter because I'd be going to Pokhara later on with my girlfriend. I went to a school called 'Buddha Prakash' near Bouddhanath. The host father picked me up 1.5 hours too late so we weren't off to a good start. It turned out that he and his wife were very nice people anyway and the even had a kitchen with cook (and 2 assistents) and I could walk in there whenever I liked! The school was of course close to Bouddhanath as well (my favorite place in Kathmandu) so I spent some time there as well. It turned out the classes where very interesting and students were interested as well! We talked about many things, but the most prominent things were Holland (my own country) and Nepal (well, their own country). After a week though I was getting a little tired of it all and went back to Central Kathmandu to relax…
Overall, I had a very good time though sometimes it was a little boring because there was not a lot to do, but overall I had a very good time! I especially liked my contact with the host family and enjoyed to see their way of living (which is rather different from the way we live in Holland). Though I'm not too sure Krishna (my language teacher) would be too proud of my Nepali now…Fortunately, many Nepali speak English.
CHUNGKI CHIN - Hong Kong
2 Weeks in Nepal
I would like to say a big thank you to all of you for helping to make my trip to Nepal an eye opening experience. If I came purely as a tourist, would never have learnt so much about Nepali language, culture and the people. I loved learning Nepali with Krishna and Bicky and felt great satisfaction when I could communicate with the kids at the orphanage as well as haggling to for lower prices with shop keepers and taxis. "Mahango Bhayo" is one of my most commonly used phrases!
My placement at the orphanage was a good chance for me to remind myself how lucky I am. The children had a lot less than me, but were still smiling and happy. I really enjoyed my home-stay in Dhulikel because I got to experience life in a normal Nepali family in the village. My family treated me like part of the family and the kids called me "Rangi Changi" as it sounds similar to my name.
After talking with Asim about REAL and his work, I could sense his passion for his work and that he really wants to do something good for his country. Of the many male tourist scammers as well as hearing about people who open orphanages and take the donation money for themselves, I think Asim is one of the few god men in Nepal!
Asim and Namratta, "Mero Bizaar maa, tapaai haru pariwaar ekdam raamro chha!"
Namratta, you have been very kind to us and have taken care of us very well. Ma tapaai gamjin chu!
Asim, I hope that continue the good work. Thank you for responding to our many requests and planning such a great trip for us.
Bicky, thanks for the language lessons and all the logistics with the placement
Krishna, thank you for your language lessons, I really learnt a lot. You are a great teacher!
SANDRA HOPKINS - Ireland
My unforgettable 3 months volunteering in Nepal has taught me so many things that I am coming away hoping that if the people I taught learned as much as I did I will consider my job well done.
My placement was in the small Himalayan metropolis that is Shyabrubensi, at the start of the Langtang Himal trek. The town that is never spelt the same way twice! Here I taught English and Environmental Awareness to the women and children for five hours a day, early in the morning, afternoon and the evening. I also taught in the local school for two hours a day up until the local exams and holidays.
The library where I taught was never in short supply of children and their enthusiasm to learn was overwhelming. I nicknamed the younger classes “the crazies” as before coming into the library the throngs of hyperactive four to ten year olds outside would always worry me. But this seemingly unruly crowd of kids would turn into the most attentive and sweet bunch of children once inside. During my time there myself and Nancy (my fellow volunteer) decided to brighten up the little library building with a morel of the mountains. We also tried our best to brighten up the inside with plenty of projects and paintings by the children, who were only too delighted to see their work decorate the walls.
Shyabrubensi is quite the bustling town and to be honest not what I expected to come across after the ten hour bus journey. Having trekked to some of the surrounding villages of Gouljan, Gatlang and Bridim, Shyabrubensi is definitely a lot warmer and sheltered, something I learned to appreciate. Also I learned how lucky I was with the numerous hotels and shops in the town where the basic necessities ie batteries, fruit, peanutbutter and Snickers were easily found! I also had the luxury of a tato pani (hot spring) nearby where I could wash in the open air and bathe in the hot baths while listening to the gushing glacial river that flowed by only feet away. A real experience especially if you were accompanied by a few locals!
My host family, Yangen and Guromi Tamang and their two children, Asish and Achhen, were great. Their house was situated right on the main street of the village where every evening the daily buses from Kathmandu would trundle to a halt for the night. The same buses that insured that I was awake every morning at 6:30 and earlier due to the revving of engines and beeping of horns, which it seems is necessary even in the mountains! I was spoilt for choice when it came to food with noodle and other various types of soup, chowmein dishes, pancakes and of course tasty dal bhat. However, on St. Patricks day my green blood could not help taking over the kitchen and mash potatoes were dished out. Now Achhen’s favourite food!
The people of the town could not have been nicer as I was made feel so at home and completely accepted as a member of the community. The constant drinking of yak butter tea (a taste I quickly and surprisingly acquired much to the dismay of my arteries) and the cooking of nettles with local flour dough were a regular occurrence. This involved numerous neighbours sitting by an open cooking (smoking) hearth, indulging themselves in the goodness that is the Nepali stewed nettle. A taste I did not so quickly acquire but hey, when in Rome!
The Losar festival in late February celebrates the Tibetan New Year and myself and Nancy were lucky enough to experience it and all the preparations involved. It included the making of traditional sweet and salted Tibetan bread which we helped out with, watching Yangen make 40L of the local brew “raikse” and the constant playing of traditional music (not chart topping stuff, yet I find myself humming it, non-the-less). A two day picnic ensued following the New Year which involved all of the villagers. Also (and unfortunately) the fresh butchering of a buffalo which was cooked and eaten with the tastiest dal bhat and washed down with oceans of Tibetan and milk tea. All this was enjoyed by the locals in their best and most colourful dress, in bright sunny weather amongst by beautiful clear views of the surrounding mountains. One of the many images I will remember of Shyabrubensi.
I was also lucky enough to fit in a few treks to neighbouring villages during my. Most weekends I would meet up with fellow volunteers who would come to Shyabrubensi to restock and indulge themselves in a hot shower or two at the local hotels! We experienced some amazing views and even more amazing people. The true beauty and peace of the Himalaya’s was in its inspiring people and their numerous traditions and cultures.
I feel absolutely privileged that I was able to spend my time in Nepal within such a great little community but also that during my stays in Kathmandu I was able to stay at Happy Homes orphanage. For that I thank the children, Asim, his wife Namratta and their two beautiful sons, for being so welcoming and making my stay there so much fun. I would also like to thank the charismatic Bicky, in whom we trusted and was always there to lend a helping hand. Also all the other volunteers who I was lucky enough to share my whole experience with and will look forward to keeping in touch with.
PAULA MULLINS - Ireland
I have had such an amazing experience in your country. I only wish my stay could be longer. I will never forget the wonderful students in Dhulikel and how motivated they were to learn. My host family treated me like one of their own and I feel honored to have experienced Nepal culture so closely.
A big thanks to all at REAL also to Rajesh who would move heaven and earth for you!! All the best to REAL in the future and I hope to be back soon.
GIUSEPPE - Italy
First of all, I have to say that my two weeks in Thulo Barkhu were something unique in my life: this means that I learned very much from this experience, but also that I had never practiced with children, school and anything similar previously.
On the first day, Tracy showed me how library activities are organized: unfortunately, that day there were very few children (it was holiday and many kids were out or otherwise engaged), so I found myself a little unready as around 20-25 children "invaded" the library the day after.
The library was open since 8,30 to 9,45 am and since 4 to 6,30 pm. In the meantime, it was school time, where I had to teach, as agreed with the headmaster and the other teachers.
At the library, I used to let kids draw and play by themselves for the first 30 – 45 minutes, while they were arriving little by little. Then, I made them play all together some games useful to learn some English words: for example, Bingo, Hangman, Pictionary, Shiva Says … Actually, I could involve only older kids, that is ones of class 2 at least: they like game competition and are able to attend rules. Sometimes, I bought some biscuits and gave them as award, so their interest came to be greater. I had no way to involve younger kids, the ones of class 1 and of no class: this is because they have different interests and because there was no communication with them. I just looked after in order they not to get "damaged" too much and not to do anything wrong.
Indeed, my great problem was that I could speak only very little of Nepali, but their school does not teach them enough English. It is not my duty to say who is really responsible for it or who is to blame, but I just can say that very few children understand some basic English sentences. I used to ask these kids for a sort of help to organize activities and control their mates. Fortunately, all they seemed to be more insightful when there was something interesting for them…
As for behavior, I have to admit that the most of Thulo Bharkhu children are quite polite and respectful of some common rules: whenever I asked them for a help to clean the room after class or told them to put all the things in their right place, they were very collaborative: it is something I did not have to teach them, they already knew it had to be done. Usually, kids were quite friendly with me, even if did not seem to grow fond of me: anyway, there has not been time enough and I had to be somewhat severe with some of them.
At school, I tried to have a more formal style: as possible, I made some little lessons about group of English words, but it was very hard to me to do it using so little of Nepali. Sometimes, I taught some songs and made them play Hangman or other games easy to play.
In the end, I wish to leave some little suggestions on how to try to improve library activities. I think that children that are not yet in school age should not to go to the library: actually, they have nothing to learn and they can do approximately the same things on the road (that is not so dangerous in Thulo Bharkhu …) or in their homes: furthermore, it can be dangerous for them if moving close to older and bigger children in a small space.
As for the school age children, it is hard not to overlook some of them. So, either two volunteers should always be present, or a sort of turning over system should be established: for example, three days a week the library is for kids of class 1 and 2 the other three days it is for class 3, 4 and 5. Maybe, this decision should be taken after rallying families and teachers (school can be a good mean to carry messages out) and explaining the reason. In fact, I stayed for too a short time to make it and take this responsibility.
As for me, it has been nice to find out that these kids love a shared space and are ready to do something for it, not only to receive. The library in Thulo Bharkhu is a place that children and families are sure they can have and they are not to get fed up, if the service it can supply keeps friendly and careful.
Diana's letter to REAL Nepal after returning home –Italy
Thank you so much for making my short stay in Nepal a fantastic one and a journey that I will never be able to forget. The work you do is to be admired and I hope REAL Nepal goes from strength to strength. I know that sometimes it must be very difficult and certainly not easy dealing with so many volunteers all with different personalities and expectations but never forget that what you are doing for all the people in Nepal is absolutely brilliant and I am sure very much appreciated by everyone even though sometimes it must not feel like that!!
Well I am now back in Italy and I have to say I miss you all very much. My life seems very quiet and dull now after my hectic month in Nepal. I had a great time and have so many fantastic memories and photos. I just wish perhaps that everyone could at least once in their lifetime volunteer and share their lives with other people from totally different cultures to learn and experience first hand and totally appreciate what we have here in the west.
Here is a list of some of the things that I experienced, I am sure there are many more too that I cannot think of at the moment:
• Not to take anything for granted - hot water, food, work etc
• Beauty and friendship are deeper than what money can give or provide
• Money gives only a temporary happiness, a feel good factor for a short period of time
• Community spirit
• Support and friendship
• Sharing of everything, money, food, feelings
• To understand and experience new cultures and religions
• Time is so very important
• Time to listen and share
• Please keep in touch, I know you are very busy but I will always enjoy hearing about you and your family and how things are going at REAL Nepal.
Volunteer in Nepal
Amarapuri Children's Resource Center
Silvia and Ester
Italy and UK
Soon after meeting in Happy Home at the end of July, Silvia (from Italy) and I (Esther from Australia) met and became good friends. After a few days rest and exploration in Kathmandu, Silvia, Liam-(a Canadian volunteer) and I began our Nepali language training. Thanks to Bicky's teaching skills, we learnt how to say namaste, dhanayabat, swagatam and all the other essential words and phrases we were likely to require once immersed in village life. While completing our language training in Sanga village, Silvia and I organised to do our placement in the same village. Asim recommended that we travel to the village Amarapuri in the Nawalparasi district to teach English in a library. Although we were placed in separate host families, we were both located very near to the library and only ten minutes walk from each other which allowed us to bond with our families individually whilst also having the support of each other. Silvia stayed with the family of a Nepali girl (Binita) who had previously worked as a teacher at the library but was on holiday during our visit. I stayed with a really nice family who had been housing volunteers since 2002, therefore were comfortable with my requests to use a spoon to eat my dal bhat rather than my hands.
The library in Amarapuri has been operating for some time, therefore there were already a number of students familiar with the place and with volunteers. On our first day, after settling in with our families, Silvia and I familiarised ourselves with the library, were introduced to some of the local children and to Sadikshya, Samikshya, Pratikshya and Subash, a family who lived next door and whose help in translating Nepali was indispensable to us during our placement. We held our first class for junior students (aged between 4 and 8) the following morning from 7am to 8am. After having taught kids of the same age in Japan I initially took more responsibility teaching the younger students. We soon realised that one junior class would not be enough for the amount of students that were turning up to the library in the morning so we created a second class from 8a, to 9am. In the morning class we relied predominantly on the use of ABC, colour and number flashcards, songs and games. In the afternoon we also held two classes. Between 4:30pm and 5:30pm we taught about 10 kids aged between 8 and 12. This was the medium class and probably our most challenging but also the most fun. While they would have been happy to play bingo and go for walks during the lessons, we tried to combine some fun and games with some English grammar worksheets, which after some encouragement they completed enthusiastically. Our senior class held between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, was made up of about 8 guys and girls. After having learnt English as a second language, Silvia felt confident in reviewing English grammar with the senior class while I assisted with games as well as with some creative and article writing.
In the break between lessons, Silvia and I spent our time planning lessons, making photo-copies at the local stationary shop and drinking tea. We went on walks around the village and took the kids on a few excursions to a zoo and the nearby Nareni River. When we weren't sweating from the hot weather we were clustering under umbrellas to escape the bursts of monsoonal rain, and despite the discomfort, this only added to our experience of village life.
Amarapuri is located only 45 minutes on the local bus from Narayanghar, a town with internet facilities, western food and a larger variety of supplies than was available in the village. As Saturday is a holiday in Nepal we often traveled there to stock up on mosquito repellant and chocolate.
Besides traveling to Narayanghar we also visited Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha and Pokhara for five days trekking through the Annapurna region. Both places were exceptionally beautiful and added even more to our amazing experience volunteering in Nepal.
MUN SHING - Malaysia
I cannot thank you enough for the experience in Nepal over the past two weeks. Its a good thing the program included Nepali language, culture and village training, because that really helped with the culture shock that came my way for the next two weeks.
The village training in Sanga and my stay with my host family was unforgettable especially showering out in the open air!
I absolutely adored the children at the orphanage in Chitwan. They were so bubbly, energetic, well-mannered and intelligent and the Amaa always managed to make me laugh.
I leave Nepal today and I leave with so many fond memories. Oh I'll definitely miss Nepali food - Momos, Dhal Bhaat and Chiya.
Thank you once again REAL Nepal for the wonderful, wonderful experience!
ROSE - New Zealand
(REAL - Nepal)
Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to return to Mongolia this year, to a project I'd been volunteering with.
So, with limited funds, and 3 months available I went surfing the Internet. The REAL Nepal site caught my eye- "Volunteering on a limited Budget" That's me! I downloaded it, was impressed with their concept and programmes, however it was obvious that most of their volunteers were heaps younger than me!
I zapped off an email, and to my astonishment received a reply from Rabyn within 2 hours! Even though I had travelled in Asia for many years, often solo, by August, due to International publicity and New Zealand Government Travel Advisories I was a bit concerned about the political situation in Nepal. The REAL Staff assured me that neither projects or staff were ever at any risk.
27th September was arrival day at Kathmandu, as I disembarked there was a welcoming party on the tarmac presenting gifts to each passenger- Handcrafted Felt Bags for the Ladies and Topi for the men. I hadn't realised it was World Tourism Day and the Government was both welcoming and thanking tourists for visiting Nepal.
Outside the terminal Raj, the manager of the Kathmandu Peace Guest House was waiting with my name aloft. We piled stuff in the car (My luggage weighed 43kgs as I'd brought books puzzles etc)
The Guest House is neat and very friendly. I was to have 3 days at my own expense, re-acquainting myself with Kathmandu, however due to the adverse overseas publicity several potential volunteers had cancelled, so it was on to the fast track Nepali language training with Bicky, an excellent teacher. I was surprised at how quickly I picked up the basics.
A 2 day Strike (Bandah) was in force in Kathmandu, there was no evidence of Protests or unrest, but it was so easy to walk the streets without all the buses, taxis and normal congestion, and the guys at REAL were not phased in the slightest, they just loaded me on the back of a motorbike and we continued the sightseeing schedule! I reckoned it was about 24 years since I'd been on a motorbike.
There’s a subtle, effective system operating between the Guest House and the REAL Staff. After a language lesson the Guest House Staff gently insist on Nepali responses!
The next phase of training was a 2 day stay with a family in Godawari Village in the Kathmandu Valley to continue language training and learn a little of village life and, if it is your first visit to Nepal, learn to eat dal baht twice a day. I enjoy dal baht, so for me that is no hardship.
My host family was lovely and wanted me to stay till December! I left that one for Bicky to manage. Back in Kathmandu for a day of packing, sorting final language tuition and goodbyes to new friends.
My placement is to be in Amarapuri Village Library, Nawalparasi province, Southern Nepal. Asim and I setoff on the Tourist Bus early in the morning, travelled through amazing countryside, rolling hills and valleys overflowing with rice ripe for harvest, and through a twisting winding gorge bearing the scars of the recent monsoon, down to the valley floor and the jungle area of the South.
We arrived in Amarapuri mid afternoon to meet my host family, the Rijals. Sumitra greeted me with heaps of love and very good English. Typical of Asian families I had no idea who, of the many smiling faces actually lived in the family home- about a week later I had that one sorted out!
On to the library to meet Bhoj Raj the REAL Area Coordinator, and see inside. There were more books than I'd expected, but as the Library had been closed for some time it was in need of some tender loving care.
That evening, I did manage to sort out the children of my host family and give them each small gifts I'd brought from home. I went to bed exhausted and happy.
Next day Asim called (with motorbike) to take me to the library. Bhoj Raj was cataloguing books, I set to and sorted through piles of stuff, found both junk and treasures.
The decision had been made that I teach 4 library classes daily for 8 weeks then return to Kathmandu and assist in the REAL office.
Some of the parents were keen for me to run the classes as homework and prep time. Ok we’ll play it by ear- I am not a trained teacher.
The schedule is: First classes 7a.m-9a.m then home for Dal baht (First food of the day! I wasn’t at all sure how my western body was going to handle that!) return to the Library at 2p.m. and teach again 4.30-6.30p.m
The first morning there were kids waiting at 6.50 a.m.! I soon discovered that these two 6 year olds showed up for every class, and it was a constant challenge to channel their enthusiasm! Very quickly I discovered that the "Homework" idea was not a starter, these kids already spend a long day at school, and were not interested in more of the same.
My policy is "If you don’t strike oil in the first 5 minutes, stop boring!" I was confronted with glazed eyes.. time for Plan B. I’d brought felt tip pens, puzzles, building sticks etc from N.Z. so switched to Interactive Learning.
We embarked on a project of combining beautifying the library, with learning new skills, using English, and introducing basic environmental awareness. Many of the children had never used scissors, Gum etc, and posters collages and montages were new experiences. They set about it with great enthusiasm, and a constant flow of ideas. Asim tossed in another couple of ideas:- have an Exhibition/Party after about 6 weeks, and also have the senior class embark on a small book project "My Journal. They wrote and Illustrated, I made pink card covers which they decorated, and took photos of each student for page one. This not only kept them happy for hours, but developed many new skills. They got so enthusiastic that their friends started turning up for classes, that was a challenge, incorporating new students in while working to a deadline.
Wow! the person who learnt most was me! Asim had approved a shopping list, before he returned to Kathmandu, so the first Saturday (there’s only one day off here) 2 senior girls took me shopping in Narayangah. We had a heap of fun, worked our way through the list, and they had one request left - a soccer ball- OK I donated one, it proved to be a great motivator, ball games at the end of each lesson.
Each group also set about learning an Item for the Exhibition. For the seniors it was The Hoki Toki, weeks of giggles preceded the final performance! By this time the Dasain Festival, Nepal,s biggest, spanning 3 weeks was upon us. The seniors asked to continue classes, even though school was on holiday. Many families go to their relatives, so numbers were down, but enthusiasm never wavered.
The Festival with my host family was an unforgettable experience. By this time, we had settled into a happy routine. My only problem was that I was not permitted to lift a finger to help. Now that’s not the Kiwi way and I found it very difficult. The main day of Dashain dawned and shortly after the 3 women of the family came to my room with a Sari and bodice.. Great, except Tilkmari is 3 sizes smaller than me, however, 3 determined women pushed and tugged and got the hooks closed. Breathing was really not all that easy!. The whole effect right down to the painted toenails brought delight to both family and friends.
Later we assembled for the Dasain Tika Ceremnoy. Vanui, the elder, performed the ritual, I, at the family’s request took photos. Then came the shock. As I was the eldest I must perform the ritual for Vanui. The most vertical learning curve of my life! The whole family delighted in my efforts and happily endured my errors.
The following day Asim arrived, between Asim and Bhoj Raj, I was constantly cared for by REAL Nepal, never wanting for anything. Asim,s news was that I'm to move on at the end of next week! So the Exhibition/Party was rescheduled to next Saturday 6th November.
Barbara, another Kiwi, had arrived in Kathmandu and would continue here.
On the 5th Barbara and Asim arrived. The children of the village are just wonderful, they were really sad that I was leaving, and rapt that Barbara was coming. They see their Library as a very happy part of their lives and volunteers as a privilege.
It,s very humbling. Next day, Asim, Barbara, Lucy and Nohal, two volunteers on their way to placements in Chitwan, and Bhoj Raj, Tim and Sarah from Chormara were our honoured guests. The kids greeted them with Tika, Mala and flowers, then sang, danced recited and we all had a great time.
For me it was an emotional rollercoaster.....So sad to leave....So happy to have a whole new Amapuri Village Library Family. Throughout my 5 weeks in the village I had been surrounded by so much love. Not at any stage was there any political threat, only the occasional road block when travelling, and there I was always treated respectfully by the armed guards.
LIFE AFTER AMARAPURI VILLAGE
Hi, this is Kiwi Rose again. After leaving Amarapuri the plan was to go with Asim on a fact finding mission to all the REAL projects in the South. I found so many facts that the inside of my head is like a washing machine!
After the party at the Amarapuri library finished, Asim, Lucy, Nohal and I left for Sauhara which is the village at the entrance of the Internationally famous Chitwan National Park. Lucy and Nohal continued their language tuition, and we all had time for both sightseeing, and relaxing on the banks of the Rapti river, also the location of the Holy Pub.
Two days later we dropped Nohal off at her placement. A n orphanage run by the Women and Children’s Promotion Centre of Sauhara. A warm and friendly home for 14 children. Now after just one week, Nohal has transformed the place! She teaches the children Karate classes in the early morning, then after they return from school they share many activities, like making flags of other countries, for their walls, Cheer Leader Pom Poms, active games like Potato Races, educational projects: e.g. using a map of the world, small groups choose a country, then learn the capital city, language, and good morning and thank you in that language.
Asim, Lucy and I continued on to her placement at Parbatipur, detouring via Ganangagar, as the library there is currently unused, Lucy chose a stack of books to take for her students to have some fresh reading material.
Lucy’s host is the local Doctor’s family, and they greeted us warmly, and had dal baht ready, by this time it was after 11 a.m. and food was very welcome.
The 12 year old son of the family, Sagar became Lucy’s self appointed guide, assistant, interpreter (his English was very good).
After we had rested a while, typical of Nepal, a motorbike arrived, Asim was handed a key and off we headed to our next destination, leaving Lucy exploring her new environment.
The community of Patihani, with assistance from REAL, are constructing a new library, using all local volunteers. The day we arrived was a holiday and about 50 people of all ages were hard at work, carting shingle, mixing concrete and transporting it up to the roof where the concrete layers were hard at it.
Asim immediately pitched in to help, I sat and just enjoyed the atmosphere of co-operation and pride.
At sunset we returned, just in time to see the last load laid, and the completion of a job well done.
We sat in the twilight and drank tea with some of the local committee. Asim, by this time was bursting with pride too.
After leaving Patihani in the afternoon, Asim and I returned to Gananagar, for me to meet my Host Family for the night, and to do a bit of tidying up, both inside and outside the building. Asim also had a meeting with some of the local people.
This community has also been very active, with assistance from REAL, building a wildlife viewing platform and picnic area in the Sitamai Jungle, with the hope of attracting tourists. I had read of the project in the August REAL Newsletter . I was keen to see this, so onto the Motorbike and off we went. The access road was blocked, no this doesn’t deter my Nepali Boss!
We head off cross country! A Honda 125 is a good little machine, but not really designed for a rough life Well that’s what we in the West might think! We went over sandbanks, along shingle spits, across small stream, up another sandbank and into the jungle. The footpath was one of the one foot in front of the other variety! These guys certainly know their local conditions.
I was delighted to see the project, another great example of REAL provide the co-ordination for local initiatives. Next stop was to visit the home of one of the REAL scholarship children. The family is very poor, has no land, and the mother has poor health. The sponsored girl was very bright and just loving the chance to attend school. As well as fees, REAL assists with uniforms and other clothing. Later in the day we also called on the Principal of her school.
Then on to the Tharu community who live by the banks of the river, in very basic mud huts. The only access to income these families have is fishing, and the hope of then selling the catch. A very hard life. REAL had a long term volunteer working on very basic hygiene issues with these people about 2 years ago, and the photos taken at the end of that time, showed a big difference in the people. However, since then, no volunteers have come to Nepal with both the expertise and time available , so the community has slipped back into the old ways. Another on REAL’s plans is to be able to sponsor some of the children in this community
Our next stop is the Gananagagar Tharu Village, for Asim to meet with the Youth Club Leaders to choose 10 young girls for a sponsored education. Girls in this culture get few opportunities for education, and in a community such as this, the poorest tribe, none at all. It was agreed that we would return very early next morning for the list.
At 7.15 a.m. the motorbike was at my door, we arrived at the Tharu village as the people were cooking their meal, a few grains of corn, poked into the embers of a small fire, until it pops. The committee must have stayed up all night! The list was complete, each of the girls was photographed, alone and also with her family. REAL will now set about seeking sponsorship for this new project.
After the village we called in on Lucy, who was happily teaching her first class, with Sagar there to help. The motorbike was returned, we got on a bus to go to Narayangad, and on to Chormara, the home of Bhoj Raj, my District Co-ordinator when I was at Amarapuri.
Chormara has also been working hard on a new library building, this is all but complete, with just the windows and the interior painting to be done. Tim and Sarah were not involved with classes, so it was great to see their home too. Tim has artistic talent and is going to paint, maybe a mural, on one of the new interior walls. Sarah, a Nurse, has been busy organizing a Health Camp, which will take place in a couple of weeks. This will be a 3 day camp, involving 50 families and 120 kids. I saw the huge box of toothbrushes and toothpaste that will be given out. The really basic and regular hygiene
Practices will be taught and demonstrated , also drama and games are used, and prizes are given too. It sounds like a great programme. We had to get a bus back to Amarapuri, collect my luggage, then on to Narayangah and Kathmandu.
An incredible journey from start to finish.
Our two weeks volunteering experience with REAL Nepal
Ben & Tanzi Hume - NZ
Where do we begin???? Our experience in Nepal has been so amazing, filled with such a huge variety of new experiences. We spent our first few days trying to find our feet in the chaos that is Kathmandu. Probably the most difficult thing was keeping warm at night time. No heat and very limited hot water meant this was quite the challenge for those who are so used to luxuries such as central heating! We really enjoyed our time at Happy Home, playing with the children, meeting other volunteers and learning the basics in Nepali language. Our teachers Rama and Bimala both deserve awards for patience and perseverance! We also got used the eating dal bhat Nepali style – with our hands! At first it felt as if we were going against everything our parents tought us as children but by the end of our time in Nepal we were pros. Quite a liberating feeling actually. Just as we were beginning to feel comfortable in Kathmandu, we moved to Dhulikel to begin our village training. We were placed with an incredible host family consisting of 16 members, three buffaloes and some goats. We spent most of our time playing with the children and trying our best to interact with the adults. Thankfully Bimala and Rama paid us a visit so we could brush up on our Nepali language skills a bit further. We also did some sightseeing, visited one of the local schools and watched the sunrise up above the Himalayas.
Next on the itinerary was our placement experience in an orphanage in Sauraha, Chitwan. From the moment we walked onto the property we were surrounded by 16 children aged between 7 and 18. On our first night the children all danced and sang and welcomed us into their home. Our week in the orphanage went far too quickly as we busied ourselves playing, dancing and singing with the children, helping with homework, helping with the sweeping and chopping vegetables for the evening meal. We also got a glimpse of the library nearby and helped Sylvia (another volunteer) with some of her morning classes. We spent Christmas in Sauraha which was a real treat. Being in a Christian orphanage, the day was celebrated from5.30 am right through to midnight. Just as we do at home, we watched the children open their presents in the morning.
They were so excited as this seemed to be the only time of year that they receive gifts. They each got some new clothes and a toy to play with. The orphanage was filled with bubbles, and games and noise for about 3 hours until all of the batteries finally ran out. Then we joined them for their church service for more singing and dancing and laughter. By the end of the day we were completely exhausted, never having been surrounded by that many excited children for that many hours!! Some of the children were still celebrating as we called it a night. The next day we met up with the rest of the REAL Nepal crew who had traveled to Sauraha for the International Elephant Race.
Ryan (another volunteer) rode the REAL Nepal elephant to third place in his heat qualifying for the semi-finals the next day. Unfortunately our elephant was injured before the semis and refusing to ride an injured elephant, REAL Nepal withdrew from the competition. We created quite a stir when the race began and our elephant simply sat down on the starting line. Before we knew it, it was time to pack our bags and return to Kathmandu. We had originally planned to travel to Pokhara but the series of strikes that had recently occurred in the area made us a little uneasy with regards to getting back in time to catch our flight home.
So we traveled straight to Kathmandu and spent our last few days in Nepal doing some sightseeing, relaxing and making the most of the hot showers on offer at our hotel (the one thing we found most difficult to live without). We also managed to organize a mountain flight to get up close and personal with Mt Everest. We had to wait hours for the fog to clear but it was truly worth it. What a sight! As we prepare to return home, we are filled with mixed feelings.
We can’t wait to return to some of the luxuries we so often take for granted such as our bathroom complete with hot shower, lighting at the flick of a button and a flush toilet, power that works round the clock, and central heating!! On the other hand, it is going to be so difficult to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people we have met in Nepal. Even though we have only been here a short time, the relationships we have formed have changed us forever and will always have a special place in our hearts. We shall never ever forget our humbling Nepali experience or the faces of those lovely children we had the opportunity to work with.
Until next time,
Dana, Jana and Michael - Slovakia
(Langtan - Golgung Library)
Namaste! You were all certainly unhappy not to hear from us for more then one month. After lifetime experience in Goljung we have pent one week in Kathmandu's Happy Home. Suddenly we found ourselves in bus to Pokhara where we were to meet Asim. With him and his son we spent a nice day rowing on the lake, talking and finally having dinner. The next day our host father took us to our new home for next four weeks.
Kaskikot is a beautiful quit village situated on a green hill between Fewa lake on one side and Annapurna range on the other. We have lived in a traditional house, with a very nice family with three lovely girls. Thus we were able to observe an everyday life in a nepali village. We had a great opportunity to watch a traditional wedding in a neighboring house. As it was only ten minutes to climb the hill with one of the best views of Himalayas, we have spent many mornings looking at beautiful sunny peaks.
We were teaching in two primary schools, which was a great experience. As we taught classes 1-5 we have spent most of the time playing games and singing songs.
One month wasn't long enough time to spend in this lovely place. We were very sad to say goodbye, hopefully to come back one day.
This is also the end of our volunteer work. We'd like to thank Asim and all the REAL stuff, as well as our host famillies and all the kids we had a chance to teach. You all have made our time here an unforgettable experience!!
MICHELLE – USA
I spent a wonderful month and a half in the village of Kaskikot. There I spent quality time at the school, with my host family, and the village. The Village. Kaskikot is located on a hillside, about a one hour bus ride outside of Pokhara, and a half hour passed Sarankot. If I walked about twenty minutes to the top of the hill, one would have a breath-taking view of the Annapurna Himalayan Range.
The village is filled with wonderful members, mostly of the Brahmin and Chettri caste. My “Namaskar” or “Namaste” was always warmly returned. Many were eager to speak to me with the English they knew and many were willing to use simple Nepali so I could understand. I always felt very welcome wherever I went.
My family. My host family was quite lovely. My host brother, Durga Giri, was also the teacher I would work with over the next several weeks. He and his wife Sardah have three beautiful daughters aged 11, 9 and 3. The houses itself was a built several ago by Durga and his brothers. I was given my own room, however, was always welcome in the kitchen and common room to watch television. My host family also owned several animals including three goats, one buffalo, and one chicken.
I was very eager to participate in the daily routine of village life. Sardah showed me how to properly harvest millet, cut grass, carry water from the local tap and well, plant saag, and even distribute manure in the fields (although I didn’t know that was what I was doing initially). With limited language skills on both sides, we communicated mostly through gestures, simple words, and much laughter. During the time I stayed there, I felt we had become quite close despite our different native tongues. I even learned that Sardah had the same birthday as my sister in the United States! By the end, I felt we had truly become family.
The School. I taught alongside Durga at Shree Pragatishil Primary School located less than five minutes away from their home. The school has classes 1-5 with two permanent teachers and two volunteer teachers. Durga and I focused on teaching the basics to classes 3-5. The most effective techniques included games, drawings, and individual one-on-one attention. The school had only been recently built, and many things are still needed such as furniture, a better roof, and additional teaching materials. After much searching and bargaining, Sally, another volunteer, and I, helped fix the class five room with furniture, paint, and a wipe board. However, many things are still needed throughout the school. Additionally, Sally and I helped to develop a website that will hopefully connect the school with the outside world.
Special Events. There were so many wonderful events that took place while I was in the village. They included a festival for the new farming season, the school picnic, and a Women’s Picnic. The festival was held at the top of the hill near a temple. It included dancing, food, and a cultural program. The picnic was wonderful as well. The children of the school were given an opportunity to dance, eat fresh goat meat, and play in the fields. Finally, the women gathered for their own celebration, cooking sil roti (deep fried bread) and achaar for nearly five hours. The women laughed and danced. More importantly, they had a day off to celebrate themselves.
I had a great volunteer experience in Nepal and I hope to continue my support even when I return to the United States. Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!
MICHAEL GARDENER - USA
My experience as a volunteer - (Happy Home)
I am currently a first year student at Nottingham University, UK, with a BA Management and Asian studies. I am a first time volunteer with REAL Nepal.
Even though I had only a couple of weeks to help at REAL, I have to say it has been a mind blowing experience that has given me so much happiness and a sense of achievement. I found learning the language slightly daunting but after a few solid hours with our guru, Krishna, I was more confident in my abilities. After a few days training 4 of us were sent to a village called Godawari. Godawari is about one hours drive out of the city and the change in scenery was amazing. The village was spread out across the base of a mountain range in the middle of nowhere. This was the real Nepal. My house was very ancient, with cows and goats in the room next to the kitchen.
The Dal Bhat was eaten on a mud dried floor. It was a superb time to get away from all the material possessions that I have become so dependent upon back in London. Even if the food did slightly disagree with my stomach. On return to the capital city I went straight into my placement at the Happy Home. I was welcomed by seven smiling faces and seven hugs. I was amazed at the trust and love the children shared with me after knowing me for barely 5 minutes. The basic day was an early rise followed by exercise. The kids had great energy that needed to be utilized. Then came their class with the English teacher. I was able to just sit with the children and provide help with spelling, speech and writing.
Dal Bhat came next before heading off to school at ten. When the children were occupied elsewhere I would head into the office to do some paperwork. School ended around 2, a very short day!!!! We would usually have a few games in the afternoon. Such as hide n seek, cycling, drawing and reading. The second time for the english teacher to come was at around half five. I can definitely see the progress they are making which will help them at school. Dal Bhat at 7, followed by more games and the occasional comedy programme on TV. Bedtime was early at 9pm, but remember in Nepal most people are up by round half 5 to 6am. My placement was too short for my liking and I am already planning my second trip in a few years time. My role as older brother and supervisor was demanding but also rewarding at the same time.
I recommend voluntary work in Nepal to anyone who is searching for a fantastic opportunity to give something back to the community and come away feeling very fulfilled.
3rd International Elephant Race
Most of the current volunteers joined Asim, his family and Rama for Christmas in Chitwan. The weather was pleasant and the mood was festive. A tour of the REAL resource center in Sauraha was followed by a delicious roasted duck dinner around the fire. The volunteers stayed up eating and drinking while sharing stories of their families having Christmas back wherever home might be (Australia, England, US, New Zealand, Germany, Canada were all represented). The day after Christmas dawned with the excitement of the Elephant Racing to come. Ryan, an American volunteer, had the pleasure of riding an elephant for REAL. After a leisurely breakfast, everyone gathered at the start of the parade to kick off the events. REAL volunteers/staff rode on four different elephants in the procession. Even little Nirnaya (giggling all the way) had the opportunity to ride past the crowds from the back of a big happy elephant.
The parade ended at the racing grounds; packed with vendors, locals and international travelers. The volunteers staked out some front row seats, while the bureaucrats and politicians went into their speeches for the opening ceremony. Groups of Nepali dancers entertained the crowd with dance routines centuries old. Smiles were on every face as the lottery for elephants began. Elephant racing is not exactly a complex event. The elephants run for 200 meters, turn around and run 200 meters back. Victory depends mainly on the speed of the elephant rather than the human involvement. That said, smaller/younger elephants are generally quicker and more agile than their larger brethren. 24 elephants in total raced that day. REAL had the luck (or lack thereof) to receive the largest elephant of all from the lottery.
The situation did not look good. Regardless, the REAL elephant drew the first heat and was ready to go. Six elephants ran in each of the four heats with the top three qualifying for the semi-finals on the next day. From the start, two elephants had a commanding lead and two elephants were far behind. That left the REAL elephant and another battling neck and neck for the precious third place and final qualifying spot. After a picture perfect turn, the REAL elephant raced ahead and took third place for our team. That night, the volunteers celebrated their luck and toasted to the gigantic elephant, which came through despite the odds. Unfortunately, a first place finish for REAL was not meant to be. A relaxing morning canoe ride to the Elephant Breeding Center (the baby elephants are divine!) ended once again at the racing grounds.
The REAL elephant (given the age and girth) had injured its leg. A lottery for new elephants would have been the best solution, but the organizers insisted that it was against the rules. So, instead of racing the injured elephant, REAL pulled out of the race. Our elephant actually sat down at the start of the race to the shock of the unknowing crowd. In the end the elephant’s welfare was far more important than the bit of publicity for REAL. Once the races were over, the volunteers headed off to jungle to see the monkeys, birds and rhinos from the back of an elephant. The seats may not have been comfortable but the experience was certainly worth it!
The jungle trip was followed by a visit the cultural center for a local dancing performance. One last night was spent around the campfire with everyone together. Random acquaintances from around the world became good friends… nothing like Christmas elephant races in the jungle of Nepal to bring people together. A memory not to be forgotten…
Side note: Due to the suggestion of the REAL volunteers, the International Elephant Race will be renamed next year. The new name will be "The World Championships of Elephant Racing"!