How Do I Get Started?
One of the biggest questions that we have in today’s society is “how do I get started?” or “where do I start”. Luckily, we have the amazing internet and I am here to answer as much of those questions that pertain to volunteerism in Nepal.
Nepal is an interesting country, it is fairly small and it is surrounded by two power giant countries! Not intimidating at all… Not to mention, it is developing country with an economy that depends heavily on tourism and volunteering. It’s location within great Himalayas leaves the people in awe of its beauty. The landscape truly is on a whole other level of its own. So when you go visit there, take the time to appreciate the scenery and let it take your breath away.
Find Your Purpose – Why do You Want To Volunteer?
So, you want to volunteer – fantastic. In Nepal there are many things you can do that are helpful. But there are other things, that are not recommended (see section below). Volunteering in Nepal comes in many forms. At Trekt Himalaya, we specialize in “travel with purpose” treks in Nepal that help you see the country, and do something to benefit the community at the same time. Perhaps you are not sure how you would want to help yet, but you know you would like to do something meaningful like a medical mission trek, or teaching in a Nepal school. Here are 4 easy questions that will help you find the purpose for this trip:
- WHO do you want to help? Ex: kids, single parents, families, the homeless, the wounded, the hungry
- WHY do you want to help? Ex: I want to share my skills, knowledge, beliefs, to help people, places, things.
- WHAT do they need or want? Ex: an education, labor support, shelter, medical help, food
- HOW can I give them what they want or need? Ex: teach them, provide help, build a shelter, administer aid, raise money to buy food & supplies
Now that you have the foundation, let’s build up.
Research and Review Your Options
There are many, many millions of hits for the Google search “volunteer in Nepal,” right? How do you know who to choose. Start by finding a program that fulfills your four answers above, and then look for “reviews.” Most sites have a page of reviews, and if you ask, they will even give you some contacts of former volunteers. Also, check out volunteer web sites like GoAbroad.com for a third-party review of the program. (Ours are here.) Most reputable volunteer programs will have at least a few past volunteers who are willing to email with you and give you some details of their experiences, so request that. And check out the engagement the volunteer program has on social media. We are very active on Facebook, and Instagram so we can show the world our awesome volunteer treks!
How Much Does it Cost to Volunteer in Nepal?
Cheaper is not always better in a place like Nepal, but you will see some good placements for a reasonable price. For example, you will see some advertising simple home-stays for about $100 per week. This type of volunteering involves very little in the way of logistics from the program organizers. You may go stay at a home, and help the family with village chores or you may go to a local school to sit in on classroom activities. It is simple, and enjoyable for many. Again, not much logistically to be had, but it is a type of volunteering that is prevalent in Nepal. You can have mid-range placements that offer some support and activities for about $450 per week. Or you can do something like volunteer trekking (what we do at TREKT Himalaya volunteers) that costs about $750 per week due to the trekking that is involved. Volunteer treks are fully supported with porters, supplies, guides, and all of your meals and accommodation. You get a volunteer experience, and an adventure trip rolled into one experience. These are perfect for people who do not have a long time to spend in country, but want to do something meaningful. So, it is really a case of you get what you pay for (and it is okay to want either/or). Remember, if you do one of the really inexpensive placements, then you will need to be sure to have extra money for activities, etc. There is plenty to do in Nepal… You won’t be bored!
Types Volunteering in Nepal
1. Volunteer Trekking or Adventure Combination
There are multiple ways to volunteer in Nepal. Many people like teaching or medical volunteering (we offer volunteer teaching and medical treks at TREKT Himalaya). The best placements for that, are in monasteries or hospitals with a home-stay perhaps.
2. Volunteer Placements in a Business
Some tourism, healthcare, and social services businesses accept volunteers. This is much like an internship. You volunteer in the industry to get some international experience. Working in a country like Nepal can be particularly eye-opening and insightful for those who are not used to working in a developing country. The best reviews of this experience come from the tourism industry (it’s fun!) and from social services. We have heard mixed reviews about hospital placements. Some volunteers have loved their hospital experience, others were disappointed at be “just an observer.” There is a license requirement in Nepal for medical professionals. So, depending on the activity, you may not be able to work directly with patients, but rather observe Nepali healthcare professionals as they work. Choose the experience that is right for you.
3. Volunteer Teaching in Nepal – Schools and Monasteries
There are some unique options for teaching in Nepal. Usually anyone who is fluent in English and has at least a high school education is qualified to teach or be a teacher’s helper. Reading helper is probably the number one assignment for volunteers. Volunteers can teach in city schools. However, the feedback that we get is that it is more rewarding and authentic to teach in a village school or monastery. Many people like to teach the novice Buddhist monks at places like Kopan Monastery near Kathmandu. There are also monastery placements in Pokhara where there is a large Tibetan refugee camp.
If you are interested in an authentic village experience (where good teachers are really needed the most), then consider teaching at a government school in a rural area. Trekt Himalaya has a unique trekking and teaching program that allows you to teach in 3 different schools over the course of your trek to remote regions in Nepal. However, there are many teaching programs available, so find the one that is right for you.
Volunteer Work in Nepal We Do NOT Recommend – Orphanages
Orphanages in Nepal are not recommended because of the fraud associated with many of the children’s homes in Kathmandu and other cities. (You can read more here.) Most of the children who live in these so called orphanages are not really orphans at all. They generally have at least one living parent back in their home village. Sometimes they are sold, or their parents are promised a better life for the child, if they come and live in a children’s home in Kathmandu or Pokhara. They usually are sent to school, get clothes, and meals. They are there to bring in volunteer money. If you volunteer with them, you get to play with an “orphan” and read to him or her. Maybe you get to go his/her school. Whatever, they are there to entertain you and for YOUR benefit. Do not be surprised when the orphanages clear out in October so the children can go back to their villages and celebrate Dashain and Dipawali holidays with their families – yes FAMILIES. Some of the children’s homes are okay, and they actually are giving the children better education, clothes and meals then they would have had in the village. But there have been reports of abuse in many of the orphanages, so if you do want to go this route, be very careful which organization you choose.
When looking for the right program, make sure that you find the one that fits your purpose and serves the community. Don’t look for the cheapest one, because you get what you pay for. Look for the one that stands on your purpose and look for proof of involvement. There are a some volunteer programs out there where you solely observe and you don’t engage in your area of expertise.
The best placements for volunteers in Nepal are organizations that take you somewhere (we like ours – Medical Trek Nepal) , or one’s like PA Nepal (Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal) where you can really participate in the mission. Check out reviews first and ask around – know before you go! And thanks for volunteering to help others.
Need more information about volunteering in Nepal? Contact us with your questions: info[at]trekthimalaya.com