How to choose a volunteer vacation in Nepal


TYPES OF VOLUNTEER TRIPS

Healthcare volunteering


There are always placements open to healthcare professionals in Nepal; not only nurses or doctors but also those who have experience in healthcare education.
Traditions and religion play a vital role in Nepalese society and, consequently, people who are placed in these projects may be working with communities where traditional shamanism is still the most influential form of healthcare. It’s all about working hand in hand with the existing culture and respecting traditions while also educating about the benefits gained from basic immunisation and hygiene practices.

Two for the price of one


Because Nepal attracts adventure travelers, it is not surprising that you can book a trip to volunteer on a vital reconstruction project but also then go off trekking or exploring as well. And, in addition, many of the villages that are in need of help post earthquake are also home to some of the top mountain guides who will be leading you up through the mountainous magnificence after the work is done. There are also volunteering projects around Kathmandu where you have a guided trip around the region for two weeks, but then help on community projects for two weeks after that.

Family volunteering vacations


It is not the most obvious place to bring your family, Nepal being better associated with peak seekers and adrenaline driven achievers. However, Nepal is fundamentally a family led society and, if you have teaching experience or are happy to help as an assistant teacher, you and your children can join in with Nepalese schools, with adult family members assisting with all important teaching tasks, and your children having a chance to simply join the class and have the best school trip ever.

Community work


These really are the get down and dirty placements, be it plastering over cracks in a house that has been damaged, helping with farming activities, building toilet facilities or helping build a school or health centre. The list is long and, as long as you are happy to roll up your sleeves and join in, you will be welcomed into the community.

Volunteering in Nepal travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR EXPERTS ON THE GROUND


Ridhi Patel from our leading Nepal volunteering vacation company, Volunteering Journeys, shares her top travel advice for those looking at a placement here:

How to donate


“Post earthquake there is always a need for any kind of donations. They are always welcome, but we do not need people to buy things and bring them with them. It is better to buy things locally and then donate them, such as school equipment, bags, books, stationary or even clothes. All this can be bought locally and we always encourage that. Or just give funds towards a building project that has been damaged by the earthquake. Don’t worry about bringing medications though, as we have good clinical facilities and don’t require medical aid.”

Advice for families


“Volunteering in Nepal is really great for families, as we include travel and sightseeing experiences for them along with volunteering, so that they can really immerse themselves in the country, landscapes and its people, as well as contribute towards critical social development needs. The families just love the programmes, because the children thrive. They love the interaction with local children and the local communities love working with entire families too. We have had children as young as five on our trips; obviously they are not working, but just seeing kids in other parts of the world and playing with them. The teenagers are really the ones who take a lot back, because this is a stepping stone for them to understand what volunteering is, and then they grow up to do more hopefully. This trip can count as a Duke of Edinburgh residential volunteering trip, so the teenagers can get that done here while volunteering with their family as well.”

Why pay to volunteer?


Jon Arnold, from our supplier Oyster Worldwide, explains: “We were very thankful after the Nepal earthquake as we made contact with everyone within two hours of the earthquake hitting. Everyone was in different places, we got them all out within about a week or so but there was no rush – they were fine.
People often say, ‘why have I got to pay for this?’ And that’s the nub of it – hopefully you’re never going to need the support that you’re paying for, but it is there just in case. We have representatives or project coordinators in each of the destinations that we send people to, and it is their job to liaise with us and be there as a friend for the participants. Particularly for the younger ones, it’s about balancing that level of support and independence. Quite often it’s their first time traveling but they’re adults, they’re 18, so we try and let them be as independent as possible. However, they can be safe in the knowledge that there is a support network in place should they need any help and advice, and if anything really does go wrong, then we’re there.”

Permits advice


Ridhi Patel, Volunteering Journeys: “Some people worry about having to apply for a volunteering permit in Nepal, but this is not an issue on our trips because they are only required if people are volunteering for longer durations, like three or six months. We also include a lot of travel in our trips, so as long as there are other tourism activities included they should not require permits.”

Volunteering in Nepal travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful volunteering in Nepal travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation.
“To quote from the Wizard of Oz - "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!". Just remember you are there experiencing a totally different country where life can be much more challenging than in many developed countries. Electrical power comes and goes, the internet even more so and the food, whilst wholesome and nourishing, will probably be different to what you’re used to. That's the beauty of it!” – John Green
“I really enjoyed the chance to learn about another very different culture and geographic location. I was very amazed at how tropical the climate is in Nepal, even though we were at such high altitudes. The Nepali people impressed me very much because they are so resilient and hardworking... Be prepared for a very wet trekking experience if you go during the monsoon season like I did! I brought too many clothes for a cold climate and not enough for the hot, damp weather. When your feet get very wet while trekking, tape up your big toenails for the downhill days so that your toenails don't get lifted inside your shoes.” – Shelley Munro
“I read a few guide books and contacted some friends who had been to Nepal and this was really useful to know more about customs, everyday life. Pace yourself! We invested in light thermals and had lots of layers which worked very well for the cold evenings and nights (no heating!). We brought Harry Potter with us and read at least an hour a day before dinner, which was a way to re-centre ourselves. Coming back to the UK was extremely hard due to the culture shock so I would recommend that you take a few days extra vacation to ease the transition! And of course, you need to check for vaccinations 6 to 8 weeks before departure... My son summarised it when he went back to school and said to his friends: “It was awesome!” – Natacha Wilson, on a family volunteering vacation
“Some of the really big things that occurred for me in my vacation were the changes within myself as I got used to and fell in love with the local villages. My vacation was challenging and absolutely worthwhile. There were many times when unfamiliarity and poor communication made the trip difficult, and many other times when the uncertainty and unfamiliarity yielded some beautiful opportunities. The difficulties were of course just as important as the opportunities (difficulties generally ARE opportunities). And overall, the trip definitely offered what I was looking for – it took me out of my comfort zone while still giving support, it provided ample opportunities for me to get to know myself better, as well as the area, and it sent me home with experiences, emotions and images that will be strongly present in me for some time to come.” – Kristen Lang, on a volunteer teaching vacation
Photo credits: [Healthcare volunteering: Possible] [Two for the price of one: simonsImages] [Family volunteering vacations: Possible] [Community work: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] [How to donate: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] [Why pay to volunteer: DFID - UK Department for International Development] [Review 1 - Shelley Munro: Jean-Pierre Dalbera] [Review 2 - Kristen Lang: Sharada Prasad CS]
Written by Catherine Mack
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