How you can make a difference volunteering in Nepal
With an enviable backdrop of the Himalayas and a culture that stretches back for thousands of years, Nepal is associated with both mysticism and romanticism. The reality for the Nepalese is that their country is one of the world’s poorest – the UN estimates that about 40% of the population live in poverty.
For 10 years the Nepalese lived through a Maoist insurrection against the monarchy, which had ruled the land-locked country for most of its modern history. Although Nepal became a democratic republic in 2008, political instability has continued.
The economy is dependent on agriculture, trade with Neighbouring India, foreign aid, and a flourishing tourism industry. For those interested in helping the country and its inhabitants, there are plenty of interesting opportunities for volunteers. These range from teaching English to children in Kathmandu to carrying out wildlife research in the Annapurna Mountain range.
Though it’s perfectly possible to arrange a voluntary placement in Nepal independently, the process can take months. Communication with various organisations may take place by letter, so it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling up to a year in advance.
Alternatively, placements can be arranged through specialist organisations such as www.projects-abroad.co.uk. Typical placements for volunteering in Nepal might include the following:
Volunteering in Nepal at a children’s home, special needs centre or a care centre for malnourished children or children with HIV/Aids requires hard work, but is an immensely rewarding experience. Lack of government funding means that these places are often understaffed, making volunteer assistance much appreciated.
Nepal has a stunning landscape and many unique forms of wildlife. A conservation volunteer can help ensure the survival of endangered species such as snow leopards, vultures and black bears. Tasks might include setting up camera traps to monitor populations and working to prevent deforestation.
Helping children aged between four and 18 years old learn English is a fun and valuable way to spend time in Nepal. No previous teaching qualifications are usually necessary – just enthusiasm and the ability to speak English to a good standard.
Advice for volunteers
Although most visits to Nepal are trouble-free, the country does have a changeable political situation and there are frequent ‘bandhs’ (shutdowns), demonstrations and rallies. Volunteers working and travelling in Nepal should remain vigilant and avoid demonstrations.
Medical facilities in the country are poor, and volunteers should ensure that they are equipped with comprehensive travel and medical insurance before starting their placement.
Before leaving for Nepal, make friends and family aware that mobile phone and internet connection can be extremely limited.
Visitors to Nepal must have a visa to gain entry into the country. Those who wish to stay for more than 60 days can extend their visas for another 30 days by applying to the Nepalese Department of Immigration at Kalikasthan, Kathmandu.