Volunteering in Nepal
How is it to volunteer in Nepal? How will my day in the orphanage look like? Sarah just came back from Pokhara and tells us about her everyday life during her volunteer work and gives tips on what to do in your free time in Pokhara
The local organization
Studentsgoabroad got me in touch with the organisation in Nepal which, alongside working with underprivileged women, also manages two orphanages. Volunteers wishing to work with children – like me – will be placed in one of them. I was assigned to the orphanage in Lakeside, which is a home to 28 children between 5 and 18 years. All the children have the opportunity to attend an English school, so communication is not a problem. Every single child has had horrible past experiences, but you wouldn't notice it, because the orphanage is kept with so much love.
The journey to Pokhara
The Nepalese partner organisation arranges the transfer from Kathmandu to Pokhara. If you arrive at night or in the evening, accommodation in a hotel in Kathmandu is already included in the placement fee. The next day you can easily take the bus to Pokhara, which usually takes 8 hours but might take up to 11 during the rainy season. There is also a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The prices are around 70€ and it only takes half an hour, however you would have to pay the flight yourself. I recommend BuddhaAir as an airline, and it is also possible to buy the ticket online in advance.
Personaly I took the bus to Pokhara and also back to Kathmandu. The route is lovely and I found the roads to be in quite good condition. Kathmandu however is a stressful city with terrible air. Still, if you have the chance, spend a few days there either before or after traveling to Pokhara. Kathmandu has a lot of culture to be experienced, unlike Pokhara, which is the polar opposite. You will find many places to relax here, but culturally it has only little to offer.
A typical day at work
Volunteers work 5 days a week, always starting at 9 am. In the morning, the main tasks are serving breakfast, assisting with cleaning and helping the children to get ready for school. Once these tasks are finished, volunteers usually take a break, because all the children are leaving for school. The only day that students are free in Nepal is actually Saturday. From 2 pm, the preparations for lunch are running and by the time it is finished, the children return to the orphanage. Now is the time to play until they are called to do their homework.
Assistance is always appreciated here and there is no trouble in understanding either, because like I mentioned before, everything is taught in English
After that, the day at the orphanage ends. The orphanage is also very open towards new ideas. So if you are planning on organizing an event for the Saturday – like a football tournament, a painting competition or a trip to the cinema – there is no problem at all. In general, the orphanage is very well-organised and the children have an amazing relationship. There really is a lot to learn from the community.
The spare time
Volunteers are allowed to take two days off every week. I never chose the weekends, because on weekends you get the chance to spend way more time with the children than during the week. The orphanage organizes a sightseeing day for every volunteer, which will show you all of Pokhara's important sights. Pokhara is also the place where many beautiful Himalaya hikes begin. If you want, you can even take off three days in a row and spend two nights in the mountains. There is also the possibility to take part in a two-day safari in southern Nepal. Every plan can be discussed with the project coordinator, who is happy to advise you with some tips and suggestions. Sadly, there were no other volunteers from Studetsgoabroad in Pokhara at the same time – however, the agency in Nepal works with various partner organisations, so there are always some volunteers around. Apart from that, Pokhara is a very touristic place, so there is also always the possibility to meet international people.
My advice for you
Don't panic too much before travelling to Nepal. All volunteers stay in a guest house, because the founder of the orphanage also owns the hotel. This is why I felt like I actually had some European standard during my stay as a volunteer. Pokhara itself is very relaxed and safe, so it is a pleasant place to stay even for longer periods of time. Also, it is rather touristy – you will be able to buy anything that your European heart might long for. By the way, Pokhara also has very good medical care in terms of hospitals and pharmacies. I never had any trouble with being ill during the two months that I stayed, because cleanliness is very important to the Nepalese. Still, of course you should avoid drinking the tap water.
I hope I was able to give you a little overview on what it was like for me to volunteer in Nepal.