Chitwan National Park
Our first three days took us to the weekend (and a well-needed break!), which we spent in Chitwan National Park, a 30 minute scooter ride from our volunteer village. There we relaxed in Sauraha, the quiet tourist village at the entrance of the National Park, lined with shops and restaurants. We spent the first evening seeing a cultural dance performance and had a Jeep Safari and Jungle Walk booked for the next day. It didn’t disappoint! We saw six rhinos in total along with many species birds, crocodiles, monkeys, flowers and insects.
After two days being tourists, we returned back to our host-family and looked forward to a home cooked traditional Dal Baht dinner. We were then told by our coordinator that we would be managing the volunteering project alone the next day, as Bhagawan was still in Kathmandu, and Benjamin had now returned home to Germany.
The initial excitement and productivity of the first three days began to wane as we entered our second week of volunteering. Challenges with communication became more apparent, and the community, which was once highly engaged in our project, was not so interested in being involved. This was in part due to the novelty of a western presence wearing off, and in part the intense day-time heat. In addition, several members of the community were rude to us and the Principal of the school was proving difficult to deal with. It’s safe to say we hit our low point of the whole experience.
This got me thinking about the whole premise of volunteering abroad. Do you take part in these types of projects because you want to feel good about yourself for giving back? Because you want to feel valued by a foreign community? Do you expect a ‘thank you’ for giving your time? Perhaps real altruism is volunteering and experiencing none of the above - a truly selfless act. It’s working purely for the good of others and expecting nothing in return. I couldn’t help but feel glad we experienced this, as it made me ask these important questions and was a huge learning curve.
That being said, and despite a less enjoyable few days, our last two days did pick up again and we managed to complete the project in good spirits. The women of the community continued to turn up in the evenings and were a huge help. The final day was especially rewarding as a large percentage of the community turned up for our project debrief and environmental lesson. We taught the community about the impact of plastic on the environment and human health, how to reduce their reliance on plastic and how to dispose of it safely - using our newly implemented waste management system.
Here’s what we accomplished by the end of the second week:
- Replaced the school fence.
- Painted the inside and outside of one of the school buildings.
- Painted the garbage bin.
- Finished all the tree planting, a total of 350 trees.
- Finished the new grass planting.
- Added wall art to the inside of the classroom.
- Dug two large holes to be used as part of the school’s waste management system.
- Held an environmental awareness session with the community.
Thinking of volunteering with NDVP?
If you are looking for a community-based project which is Nepalese managed, while experiencing an authentic Nepali homestay, then NDVP is for you.
What to expect:
- A special experience working closely with a community - something not many western-run volunteer organisations can offer. What I gathered from Bhagawan is that all community projects are different. He also found this specific community difficult at times, but of course this will vary depending on the project and location.
- Experiencing first hand the issues and challenges faced by these communities every day, in particular - plastic waste management.
- Having the ability to offer your own ideas and be involved in the project coordination.
- A big learning curve! You will face many challenges and learn a huge amount.
- Supportive and kind volunteer coordinators - Bhagawan and Manju.
- The enjoyment of staying with a Nepalese family and experiencing delicious home cooked food every day!
My advice before booking:
- Be clear on what the project is before you arrive. Take the time to communicate with the coordinators, so you are sure the project is what you are looking for. The project may not necessarily match what is listed on the website. It may even be worth going to Nepal and meeting with various organisations in person, before deciding on a project, as this will give you a better idea of what's involved.
- Don’t expect it to be easy every day. It is incredibly challenging to work with local communities as an outsider who is used to living a different way and doesn’t speak the language.
- Enjoy the highs - the special moments make up for the lows!