Volunteer's Experience


Name: Kristina Gaspar
Country: USA
Gender: Female
Program: Women Empowerment and Environmental Awareness

What did you average day look like?
Wake up around 6am - sometimes woken up as early as 4am by the roosters or the grandmother and grandfather going about early morning chores - milking the buffalo, doing washing etc. and squeals of excited children awake early and playing.

Once up I would have a sweet lemongrass tea made from the lemongrass that they grow in the field. Before I would finish my tea, an army of children would already be piling into the main room of the house which also serves as a community centre for the children. I would teach them english through playing with flashcards, children's books, drawing and games I would create.

At about 10am the other volunteers would return from the field and we would have dal baht for breakfast. Following this I would go to one of 2 schools in the area and teach the lesson I had prepared the night before to the girls or children (ages 8-17), after which we would play some sort of interactive game, and then they would take me house to house to sit and meet their families and spend some additional time with them.
I would get home by 5pm, and relax or begin to prepare my lesson for the next day.
Dinner of dal baht would be served to the volunteers at around 8pm - outside by torch-light. We would wash our dishes outside by the well with ash. Some days after this we would go into the field and sit around a fire pit to discuss the day, or if there was power, and internet access - check in with loved ones before calling it a night.

 2. Other things I did on my placement.
I also did a 5 day trek - Gorepani/Poon Hill/Gandruk - which was amazing, an afternoon elephant bath and elephant walk - where we saw Rhios up close, and I also participated in several community events - temple chanting, festival blessings - receiving tika (red colour and rice placed onto forehead), and the neighbour’s 84th birthday celebration. The birthday was a very special event as few Nepali people reach this age, and so after this they are revered like gods.  All of my interaction and experience with locals and in the community was very special.

3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?
Language was a definite challenge with the children and girls I was trying to teach.  My Nepali was very basic, as was their english. Some days I had someone come with me who could translate - those days I planned more in depth lessons. Getting the students to open up and let go of their fears of saying the wrong thing in english was a challenge as well. The use of games, song and dance as well as encouraging them to respond in Nepali when I had someone who could translate was very helpful.

4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?
I signed up for the Environmental Awareness, and Women Empowerment programs, but ended up doing a lot more or teaching english and general teacher of large groups of children with no direction or set program, which was quite the challenge at times, but very rewarding. My advice to the next volunteer, is to not have expectations, and to be open and flexible to teach and interact with the children, women and community according to their abilities and needs at the time. They are very friendly and welcoming, but need encouragement to open up in group settings. Think of potential topics and lessons ahead of time, and spend some time thinking of how you would communicate these without a common language.

5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?
Absolutely!! It was an excellent experience. The people are wonderful, and Meghauli is a lovely village. I came in October which had a pleasant climate of hot days and cool nights. I wish I had more time to contribute, as well as to travel and see more of the country.

6) Would you volunteer at this organization again?
Yes. Bishnu and his with Durga are wonderful, and are doing many good things in their community and around the country where their placements are located.  They are well organized in terms of pick up of volunteers, transport etc, and you feel safe at all times.
There are far cheaper options, but peace of mind, and contributing to building up these communities is a worthy cause.

7. Suggestion or problem?
Stock up and bring your own toilet paper! Although it is available for sale in Kathmandu, it is nowhere to be found once you are in the village (at least not where I was). Luckily I brought more than enough and was able to share with others who were stuck with no paper...

Before leaving home with a combination of my own money and fundraising I purchased a suitcase full of school supplies - pencils, crayons, children’s books, chalk, learning games etc.  This was very helpful, and well received.

Regardless of what you placement is, there will be many very poor children and families in the village that you will meet, and it is nice to have these things to give to them, and to use with them. It both aids in bridging the language barrier, and is at the very least a nice gesture when welcomed into their homes.  There is very limited selection in terms of what can be purchased in the village, so it is nice to bring things from your home country.


8. Additional Comments

Be flexible and open to the different lifestyle, cultural norms and leave your inhibitions at home.  Nepal is a diverse country, but the commonality is that the Nepali are warm and welcoming to foreigners.

9. Please write a Journal-type entry of you experience now. This will be for our monthly newsletter & also for our future Volunteers. It will be better roughly one full page.

I began my one month volunteer program in Meghauli at the start of October. I was to take part in 2 programs, Women’s Empowerment, as well as Environmental awareness.
On my first day, I got a tour of the village, and was taken to the school, to introduce myself to the children at the local government school.
As it turns out, it was more than an introduction and I was left in the classroom for what seemed like hours, with the children ages 7-15. Their english was very poor for the most part, and so I was creative and turned it into an english language session, having the children draw various things on the blackboard, and have the rest of the class guess in english what it was that the student drew. After this, I was switched to a class of younger children, who were very happy and excited to play games like “Simon Says”.  It was definitely a challenging day, especially as it was their last day of traditional school before festival time, and I was not expecting to be an english teacher or teaching at all that day, but the children were warm, and wonderful. We took some photos as the children rushed home, celebrating the end of school, for a short time at least.

That first day, was a good preparation for what was to come. Children would start to arrive at the house where I was staying (also the community centre) at about 6:30 am, and were eager to read with me, to play language learning games, and generally have lots of interactive time with me. There would be anywhere from 5 to 30 children there at a time, and they would be a queue of students waiting for the ones crammed inside the room to leave, so that they could have their turn. By meal time, most would leave, and I would have some time to eat before heading out to either the local school, or one further away, to teach various things, including Environmental Awareness, Women’s Empowerment and English through play.  Each day the girls would be eager to take me to their homes and to take me to other homes in the village where I would meet their families, and others in the community. Everyone was very welcoming, and this really added to the experience. I cannot imagine my time there without becoming part of the community, and entering their homes as I did.

Any free time I had, I would wander through the villages with my camera, and within minutes I would be accompanied by groups of children, either wanting to come along, or  wanting me to take their picture, and wanting to show me their homes. It was really wonderful, how despite a language barrier, we were able to connect, and become friends. Soon, I would be welcomed into temples and community festivities - singing, dancing, and of course I would receive ‘Tika’ it seemed daily, from various elders in the community as is tradition during festival time.

In addition to teaching, and making friends with the children, I was also able to give out donations to the children of the most needy families in the community. With generous donations of funds raised from friends, family and coworkers,  prior to leaving home, I was able to purchase a suitcase full of school supplies, children’s books, crayons, pens, pencils, learning games, and toys like balloons, animal puppets etc. as well as some basic healthcare items for the community.  Many of these items are simply not available locally, and so these gifts were particularly special. 
In addition to the local community, I also met many other volunteers who mostly came for short periods of time, to work on the farm.  Overall, a great experience. Lots of surprises, and generally great people along the way.  The programs I was involved with are not structured, and so thinking of topics to cover with the children that were on point with the program, and with the added challenge of a language barrier were challenging.
Luckily I sometimes had the assistance of the neighbour, who is a teacher, to help with translation, and so those days, we were able to dig a little deeper.

Generally my advice to future volunteers is to be open to what comes, and be flexible and creative with your lesson plans. Most of all, work on getting the children to be fully engaged in the lessons, getting them to laugh, dance and sing proved helpful for me. (as well as encouraging responses in Nepali or English, when a translator was available.)  Also, think of lessons, and learning games and specific topics before arrival.

My one regret is that I did not have more time. I would have loved to have been able to spend more time in Nepal, to travel, trek, and volunteer in other parts of the country as well.  Alas, my time has now come to an end, and I would like to thank Bishnu and his family - especially Ama, for a great experience, and for running such a great organisation.


Name : Zsuzsi Papp 
Country: Canada
Gender: Female
Program: Home stay and orphanage home

1. What did you average day look like?
I would wake up around 6am, go and help the kids get ready for school (7-9:30am) then I would have day to sightsee or look around. I would usually return to the house between 4-5 & spend time with the children playing or working on homework.

2. Other things I did on my placement.
Some of the things I did including chopping vegetables, helping serve food, helping the kinds get ready for school, helping with their homework, playing games with them and teaching them proper hygine care.

3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?
Get ready for a lot of fun, but also be willing to work hard & give a lot of yourself to the children.

4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?
Having enough personal time was a challenge as the kids take up a lot of energy & time.

5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?
If I was looking for a volunteer placement again I would definitely volunteer here again. There is a wide variety of things to do & ways to help as well as many adorable children.

6. Would you volunteer at this organization again?
Yes, it was very helpful to have some guidance/ help the first few days, and have someone to go to in case of problem.

7.Suggestion or problem?
I would have liked to know ahead of time that I was going to be staying at a different place than initially discussed, as I was not fully prepared for this experience, but I am glad it happened that way.

8. Additional comments?
It was a good program & I really enjoyed my stay.   


Name: Selina Westbroek
Country: Netherlands
Gender: Female
Program: Teaching at Monastery and Farming

1, What did you average day look like?
Monastery: Waking up at 6:45 for breakfast, teaching class at 8:30, lunch at 11:30. Sometimes I joined the pkayeks but most of the rime I just played with the kids. Tea at 5 and dinner al 6.
Eco-Farm:Waking at 7 for breakfast, working on the land from 8/9 till 11. Break till 3 and then                             working till 6/6:30.

2. Other things I did on my placement.
Monastry:  teaching the monks english (especially spealling ), maths (basic multiplication )and drawing .
Farm: making a garden in 3 different shapes, planting seeds , cleaning plants of small weeds , watering painting digging  and shoveling soil.

3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?
At the monastry I got told that there would be na lessons fok the rest of the month. Lucking the english lesson started a couple of days later.

4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?
Monastery: Really speak out when you want to teach because if there ake a lot of volunteers, your wishes can't be all the time.
Farm: Just do your best and enjoy the time, beautiful surroundings.

5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?
Monastry: yes, I would like to see how all the kids are developing and growing.
Farm: I don't think so; I think it might get a little bit too much of the same after a while.

6) Would you volunteer at this organization again?
Yes, I got all the help I needed.

7. Suggestion or problem?
.................................

8. Additional Comments
..............................

9. Please write a Journal-type entry of you experience now. This will be for our monthly newsletter & also for our future Volunteers. It will be better roughly one full page.
Monastery: Everybody it felt unreal to call this beautiful building my home for about 2.5 weeks. The atmosphere in the monastery is very relaxed and the kids are wonderful, so funny and kind. They will immediately make you feel like you're part of the group and they're all very helpful.
Farm: This beautiful eco-farm is a very nice place to stay at. You will soon feel at home since Bishnu and his parents are so welcoming and kind. The work can be hard, but if you see how the eco-farm is growing into a beautiful place it's all worth it.


Name: Selina Westbroek
Country: Netherlands
Gender: Female
Program: Teaching at Monastery and Farming

1, What did you average day look like?
Monastery: Waking up at 6:45 for breakfast, teaching class at 8:30, lunch at 11:30. Sometimes I joined the pkayeks but most of the rime I just played with the kids. Tea at 5 and dinner al 6.
Eco-Farm:Waking at 7 for breakfast, working on the land from 8/9 till 11. Break till 3 and then                             working till 6/6:30.
2. Other things I did on my placement.
Monastry:  teaching the monks english (especially spealling ), maths (basic multiplication )and drawing .
Farm: making a garden in 3 different shapes, planting seeds , cleaning plants of small weeds , watering painting digging  and shoveling soil.
3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?
At the monastry I got told that there would be na lessons fok the rest of the month. Lucking the english lesson started a couple of days later.
4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?
Monastery: Really speak out when you want to teach because if there ake a lot of volunteers, your wishes can't be all the time.
Farm: Just do your best and enjoy the time, beautiful surroundings.
5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?
Monastry: yes, I would like to see how all the kids are developing and growing.
Farm: I don't think so; I think it might get a little bit too much of the same after a while.
6) Would you volunteer at this organization again?
Yes, I got all the help I needed.
7. Suggestion or problem?
.................................
8. Additional Comments
..............................
9. Please write a Journal-type entry of you experience now. This will be for our monthly newsletter & also for our future Volunteers. It will be better roughly one full page.
Monastery: Everybody it felt unreal to call this beautiful building my home for about 2.5 weeks. The atmosphere in the monastery is very relaxed and the kids are wonderful, so funny and kind. They will immediately make you feel like you're part of the group and they're all very helpful.
Farm: This beautiful eco-farm is a very nice place to stay at. You will soon feel at home since Bishnu and his parents are so welcoming and kind. The work can be hard, but if you see how the eco-farm is growing into a beautiful place it's all worth it.


Name: Alex Kowalska
Country: Poland
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Program: Volunteer in Oephanage Home +Travel package

1 ) a. Where did you go for placement?
I went to the orphanage house in Kathmandu and in Pokhara.

b. How long did you stay there?
I stayed one month in Kathmandu and two weeks in Pokhara.

c. What did your average day look like
 After waking up I went to the orphanage to say good morning to children, we had breakfast together. Then I helped the children to get ready for school and then we walked to school together.

2) List 9 other activities you have done during your placement.
I was practicing yoga and meditation at the yoga center
I went sightseeing
I went to Pokhara for a 3 day visit
I went trekking to the Everest Base Camp
I spent time with Nepali family and learned about Nepali culture .
 I went rafting
I was riding on the elephant when I did Jungle safari in Chitwan National Park
I attended lectures on Buddhism and meditation at the Kopan monastery
I went to Tibet and China

3) Describe some challenges/ issues/uneasy situations you have across.
 Once you realize that you are in a developing country, it is much better to accept the things they are without worrying about them. I found it difficult to have shower in cold water at first. Later on I was happy there was water available. No matter if it was cold or warm.

Sometimes people see you and think that you are foreigner and you definately have a lot of money. Because of their assumption they may ask you to give them some money and they might try and sell things to you with much more expensive price, etc...

You may find yourself in the situation that the taxi driver is asking for much more than you should normally pay. You just need to get used to it. Sometimes you will manage to bargain, sometimes you won’t. What to do...(as the Nepali say)

I really cannot think of anything more than that. People are normally very friendly, attentive, fun loving and open.

4) Is there any advice, suggestion or recommendation that you would like to share with other volunteers going to your or similar placement?

I think the volunteers can share a lot of similar experience but each of the situations is different. I can only suggest staying calm and going with the flow. Not to worry as everything gets sorted out sooner or later and everyday is a great adventure. When you look back at the situation you you managed to solve, you get a great sence of achievement and satisfaction.

 5) Would you like volunteer with the same organization again?

 I would love to volunteer with the same organization any time. Actually I cannot imagine volunteering with any other. Durga has been just exceptional. I became friends with Durga and with all her family. In case of any little problem or question I had I could always ask her for help and she did more than enough to help me. Furthermore, Durga is a very open minded lady looking for improving her organization to suit everybody’s needs. She is very responsible and she never let me down.

6) Would you like volunteer with the same placement again?

 It would be really wonderful to be able to come back to the same places and see the children I have been working with.

7) Evaluate your overall volunteering experience.

I estimate my experience for 10. I cannot compare it to anything that had ever happened to me before. I have learned so much about the world, about the people and about myself. I think that if I stayed at home doing what I am doing I would have never had an opportunity to explore myself as a person in the similar way and receive so much love and care.

Name: Cristina Valdivia

Country: USA
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Program: Volunteer in Women Empowerment Program +Travel package


1. What did you average day look like?

Everyday I got up around 6:30 am when my host family were all awake. I would make my bed & Sweep my room and my host mother would bring me milk tea. Then I would do a chore or errand I needed to do like wash my clothes. At 10am my ‘Amaa’ (host mom) would bring me breakfast. I’d watch the news in the living room before heading down to the beauty shop, owned by a woman named Tara, a local business that I was helping. Around 3pm when my “sisters” were home from school I would speak to them and other neighborhood girls about women’s life in the U.S. Around 5:30 my ”Amaa” would bring me dinner. After dinner the family spends time together and sometimes my sisters would dance in the living room to new Hindi & Nepali songs. Around 8pm I would retire to my room to read or listen to music for a few hours before going to bed.

2. Other things I did on my placement.

During my placement I went to my 'Sisters' collage to speak to university girls about women's life in America. I helped a local women with her business. I also helped harvest rice.

3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?

A challenge I faced was language. There was a language barrier when trying to help the older village women with their small businesses. It may be helpful to have a teenage translate.


4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?

My advice to the next Volunteer would have to be learn the language as best as you can and make yourself aware of local customs such as greeting people with the phrase "Namaste" while placing both your hands in prayer position close to your chest. This is a sign of respect which is appreciated & goes a long way


5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?

I would Definitely volunteer with this organization again and would be more than happy to volunteer in this placement again.

6. Suggestion or problem?

Everything is considered communal. You may fine your host sister or brother wearing the sandals you left by the door last night. If you and yourself in need of sandals it is more than acceptable to theow on a pare of their.

7. Additional comments?

What and how much you want to do is up to you. Care prepared with a plane of action, the sky's the limit!

8. Please write a Journal-type entry of you experience now. This will be for our monthly newsletter & also for our future Volunteers. It will be better roughly one full page.

Nepal was beautiful. After arriving in the hectic city of Kathmandu I was excited to be going out to the quite countryside. I looked out the window on the bus ride and saw beautiful rolling hills, mountains, river banks and streams. We got to the village I was staying at and I found Nepal’s people were just as beautiful as it’s country. My host family warmly greeted me . My host mother, brother and sister were absolutely wonderful. They were thoughtful, inviting, attentive and caring. They were everything you could have wished for in a host family and made my trip more than memorable. I will always remember my sisters dancing to the latest popular song, my brother making funny jokes and my mother bringing me tea every morning. I learned how to live a simpler less choosy life. Life in the village lacked the stress of many modern day cities and consisted of a closely knit community. I will always be grateful for this experience and hope to live a simpler and happier life life the one I experienced here when I go back home to the states. Over all I had a wonderful experience and appreciate Durga’s Strong support in the whole process.


Name: Dr Melissa Everett
Country: UK
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Program: Volunteer in Community Health Post + Travel package


1. What did you average day look like?

I usually got up at 6 am, the rest of the family would usually be up already. I’d hear Baba(Father of host family) playing his music and singing. I washed and dressed. No hot water in our house, I quickly got used to cold washes. We would then milk the buffalo & have warm buffalo milk before going for our morning walk, the morning walk was around the village – Baba & I always went, sometimes some of the children would also care. We did 10 minutes of exercises when we got back then I would usually write my journal and get ready for the day. Breakfast was about 9-9:30, dahl, bhat & buffalo milk. I would go to the clinic about 10 am, either by walking or Baba would take me on the back of his Motorbike.

The clinic was often quite in the mornings and when there was no patient I’d study, or do some paper work. I did on inventory of the drugs and some auditing of the mobile clinics and dressings.

When patients came I’d see them with one of the helpful Nepali staff, who would translate for me. I could use same of my limited Nepali to ask some questions, but often had difficulty understanding the replies. The notes were in English, but often with typical ‘ doctors’ writing. There were different specialists who came on certain days, who I could sit in with, although little of what was said was translated so this was of limited benefit.

After work I’d be picked up, usually by Baba. The evenings before dinner were usually spent playing games- cards, chess or catch with the children, who were bright and cheerful and very interested in me and my things. I also spent this time helping with cooking dinner and learning how to make dahl bhat.

After dinner we’d sometime sit around the campfire, I didn’t understand much of what said but enjoyed being there, then we’d go upstairs. Baba would play his harmonium and we’d sing. After this we’d watch television for a while. There was often fruit to be share. Then I’d be exhausted & excuse myself. I was usually in bed by 8:30- 9 pm & read for a few minutes before sleeping.

2. Other things I did on my placement.

I had a chance to go & see the cancer hospital, government hospital & medical school in Bharatpur. This was an interesting experience and the difference between the beautifully laid out a wall equipped cancer hospital to the very basic government hospital with a poorly equipped emergency room to the still basic but much better equipped emergency room to the still basic but much better equipped medical school gave me a lot to think about.


I also decided to run a first aid course, I prompted by the presentation of a child with a scald in the clinic which had been treated with talcum powder. I had initially planned to do this at the school but couldn’t because of exams so instead do it for the local scout pack. Another volunteer was interested in helping so together we planned the course and wrote a leaflet to give out. We decided that with a language barrier and no resuscitation doll it would be very difficult to teach CPR, so instead concentrated on injuries, choking, burns and the recovery position. It seemed to go down well but a second course in CRP plus a review of what we’d covered would be good.


3. What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?

Language was an obvious challenge. I knew a few words in Nepali but had difficult understanding what was said to me, although this improve during my stay.

Often only a fraction of what was said was translated for me and also only a fraction of what I said was translated for the patient and the scant group.

There were also medical challenges, I found that often people were over treated and over investigated, especially with antibiotics. Again with the language difficulties offering on explanation as to why these weren’t necessary was challenging, I also suspect that not being given antibiotics by me, patients would get them from the pharmacy, where they seemed to be handed out to any body who asked.

Another challenge was that some of the medication used I was unfamiliar with and medication I was used to using wasn’t available.

Language surprisingly wasn’t a problem as much with host family, although I did struggle personally with same of the cultural differences.

That spring to mind are the ride and treatment of women, with them serving the men & children and eating separately and on the floor, while myself & the men sat at the table.

The second, that I only experienced a few times and not directly, was the disciplining of the children, through physical violence.



4. Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?

Take on open mind, books/ games for the children are also handy. Also take clothes that you're happy to leave behind - more room for souvenirs and the clothes are appreciated somewhere.

Learn as much Nepali language as possible, it really helps.

It’s very difficult to change how things work in a short time, but every little helps.

5. Would you volunteer at this placement again?

Yes, I’d volunteer with the placement again.

6. Suggestion or problem?

More Nepali language would be good, with a chance to practice conversation.

7. Additional comments?

Had a great time, I feel so lucky to have been able to go back and see how quickly the village is changing.



Please write a Journal-type entry of you experience now. This will be for our monthly newsletter & also for our future Volunteers. It will be better roughly one full page.

I had some time in between jobs and decided to visit Nepal for work and travel I am a doctor and wanted to work in this setting I found Inside Nepal on the internet & and their volunteering and traveling placement suited my needs as well as my lack of time to organize anything myself.

I flew into Kathmandu & was met by the friendly & helpful Bishnu at the airport, who leant me money for my visa, as rather cash machine was working. I later met Durga and Sujan. My first few days involved some Nepali lesion and sightseeing around Kathmandu as well as some briefing on my placement & home stay.

We then journeyed to Meghauli, which is a tharu village in chitwan district. It wasn’t on the tourist trail and saw few westerner. There were buffalo, goat, dogs, chickens and ducks galore, but few cars. I was introduced to the friendly clinic staff and my new family. The next 3 weeks passed very quickly, with seeing patients, day trips to hospitals, local beauty spots & places of interest. I came to love & respect my family who worked incredibly hard, I helped on the farm, learn to cook dahl bhat & to milk the buffalo, was welcomed in the family & taken to a picnic & music programs, gave & received tika, was invited to many peoples houses and become known around the village for our morning walk. The clinic staff was friendly & helpful. The work itself wasn’t particularly challenging, but the language problem, patient’s expectations and usual medical practice was while there I also planed and run a first aid course for the scouts, climbed a tree to escape a rhino and experienced elephant both time.

The rest of the program was well planed My Sherpa trekking guide was always happy . The rafting was fun & set as add as I had feared, the lovely Durga joined in which was great I am already planning my tour trip to see my family & do more trekking – Everest base camp here I come.



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Name: Cameron Hawke-Smith
Age: 64
Gender: Male
Program : Volunteer in Monastery and Orphanage Home

Ist placement (at Orphanage, Khusibu)

What did your average day look like?

Up at 6.30, breakfast with the children 7am, helping to get them ready for school, during term time. Accompanying children to school talking to teachers and attending some classes. Teaching two classes a day of English at junior and senior levels. Accompanying children back. Spending 2-3 hours with them helping with reading, homework, joining in games.

Other things I did on my placement

During the holiday (and the school’s closure due to the ‘strike’) I spent some time thinking up games and activities for them and took them for a walk to Bazantipur.

What were some of the issues and challenges you faced?

The accommodation was spacious but very noisy at night (didn’t sleep well!). The sanitary facilities were below an acceptable standard.

Would you volunteer at this location again?
I enjoyed the experience and found the children and adults very friendly and supportive. There was not as much teaching as I would have liked, and the children were younger than I am used to. I am not sure whether I shoild chooseto do it again.

2nd placement (at Theravada Buddhist Monastery)

What did an average day look like?

Up by 5am for breakfast (and attending puja, for time to time!) 10am I hr session with other teachers, improving their English and discussing reching methods); 3pm I hour lesson in English with juniors (about 20 students ages 7-15).  7pm I hour teaching seniors (15-18). Otherwise could attend meditation sessions, puja, etc as desired.

What were some of the issues or challenges you faced?

The monastery school has its own methods which are in some ways alien to the modern western educational approach. There is a huge emphasis on rote learning, and little importance given to thinking for oneself. The children do not play games and follow an exceeding rigid daily routine. My approach to teaching (which is standard for TEFL these days) was very different and I was successful with the teachers and the seniors, less successful with the juniors.  There was little opportunity to get to know the children well outside the classroom and the school structure and routine was complex and sometimes off-putting.


Advice to next volunteer going to the placement?

The variety of Buddhism is the SE Asian type (which claims to be closest to the original teachings of Buddha). There is massive emphasis on self-perfection and very little on social activities. I found little in it to inspire or excite, though I still learnt a great deal. The volunteer will not find a very supportive system in place in terms of accommodation and presentation of lessons. There is almost nothing in the way of resources: no computers, projectors, even basics like blus tac, cellotape, crayons are hard to come by. The facilities at the monastery were extremely clean.

My month in Kathmandu

I chose to go to Nepal because I wanted to find a country as unlike Britain as I could. That I certainly achieved. I chose to volunteer because I wanted not to see the country as a tourist sees it, but to understand it as someone living and working there. The two placements were an outstanding opportunity to do just this. The first placement was very positive: I learnt how people live on almost nothing, coped with daily cuts in electricity, shortage of water, and political shutdowns, but always managed to stay calm and happy.

The second placement gave me an entirely different set of insights. I had perhaps thought as a westerner that Buddhism had some of the answers to our global problems. I still think there is something in this, but I learnt also that even the most idealistic institutions have their shortcomings. We are all human.


Name: Carol Wen Szeto
Country: US
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Program: Volunteer in Orphanage Home + Travel package

1. What did you average day look like?
Wake up at 6 am. Have a cup of hot tea together with everybody in the house. Walk with the boys to Karate class around 6:30 am, while breathing in fresh morning air and watching the sun light up the peaks of the show capped mountains. Take a stroll or jog around the neighborhood while waiting for class to finish. Go home, have daal bhaat around 9:00 am, and send the boys to their school bus stops. Free time from 10am-2pm. On some days, I walk out to town to use the internet and do some shopping. On other days, I just stay around and read a book or help with house work. Most children come home between 2-4 pm . We usually play some card games together while waiting for tea time. After tea, it’s homework time. If no one needs help with his home work, I will water the garden. In the early evening, I play with the boys in one of the empty fields around the house. Dinner is served at 7pm. I eat with the house father and mother after the boys go off to bed. After dinner and some chit chat, everyone retires to bed around 8:30pm, and prepare to rise early the next mornings.

2) Other things I did on my placement.

Much of my work was summed up in. Since there is a housekeeper and two other volunteers staying at the orphanage, there were not as much to do as I had expected. The main objective was to give the boys as much attention as possible. Outside of spending time with the children, volunteers also help with house work, such as watering the vegetable garden, house cleaning, helping the boys with the laundry, washing and cutting vegetables for meals, and occasionally helping the house mother with food shopping. On one of the days, we found that a lot of the children’s clothes had holes. So I and the other volunteers spent a day sewing up all the worn-out clothing for them. In the final week of my placement, most children had holidays from school. Be took them out for a day trip to the ‘Kahun Dhanda Viewpoint’ in one of the surround hills.


3) What are some of the issues or challenges you faced?

Having enough energy to finish the day. Although it seems there was not much to do around the house, just spending time with the boys can take all the steam out of you. Children in Nepal are exceptionally energetic, much more so than those back home. They can run, play, roam around the house and the neighborhood all day long and expect you to be able to accompany them. The first two days I was so exhausted by the end of the day I went to bed early and skipped dinner.

Taking children out on day trip can be a major undertaking. At times it is good to be liberal and let them choose where to go. But remember you should retain the final control. Each of them would have a different idea for what they want to do and the competition would get so fierce that they would not start fighting with each other. In the end, no matter idea are adapted, someone would be unhappy. There is never a consensus,

Adapting to the Nepali diet and meal schedual was probably the biggest challenge. I am not accustomed to having a huge meal of rice and curry very early in the morning. Usually I would not have much appetite for the morning daal bhaat. Then the day can be very long before another substantial meal is served again in the evening, I almost always had to eat something else during the day, and it feels impolite to let the house mother know that her food was insufficient, especially when everyone else in the house is eating the food. But other volunteers are expressing the same concerns. So it will just take time to adjust.

4) Advice to next volunteer going to your placement?

a) Have a plan for what you would like to achieve in the placement, particularly if you only have a short time. Otherwise, the days can fly and you will feel like you haven’t made the changes you would like before it’s time to say goodbye. On the other hand, you should also be flexible or have back-up plans. As I have learned in my 5 weeks here, everything in Nepal can change constantly. There are always surprises. Other than “same same, but different”, the one phrase I heard the most during my time here is “not fixed”. It can be frustrating when you made plans to do something or a particular day and something came up and totally change your plans. So have back-up.

b) If you plane to come during the winter months, be prepared for some shoking but relaxing cold showers! There is no hot water in the house. So it best to take your showers around noon when you can sit under the sun and warm yourself up after a cold shower. Or adopt the Nepali way and shower only once a week when everyone else in the house gets a bucket of hot boiled water for shower.

5) Would you volunteer at this placement again?

I would go back and visit the boys and family, just to see how they are doing. The house is very nicely kept and living condition was much better then I had except. However, if I had more time on hand, I would prefer to be placed at another orphanage where my help is in more demand, and somewhere that I can really do something to make a different.

6) Would you volunteer at this organization again?

I would come back to Future Nepal for help finding volunteer placement. Future Nepal has been great in getting me orientated and introducing me to the country. I cannot imagine getting settle in at Kathmandu without the help of Future Nepal.

7) Suggestion or problem?

The Program was a great introduction in to Nepal, not only from a tourist’s perspective. It is also allows me to look closely into the daily life of a typical Nepali family, and inspire me to think about ways to help make a different in this needy country. This was indeed a once-in-a-life time experience for me, except that 5 weeks is too short with too much to explore! Nepal is a fascinating country, with some of the most sincere people I’ve met, beautiful natural sceneries, and a unique yet diverse culture, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent here, and look forward to a even more rewarding and meaningful journey back in the near future.