Volunteering Experience

My volunteer Experience in Nepal

Kate Shakespear 2011,(Australia)

You're never too young to experience, appreciate and value the wonders that we have in this world. I discovered this upon my adventure to Nepal early January of 2011. My name is Kate and I am 18 years old from Australia and I feel my time in Nepal has shaped who I am, and who I want to be.So here I was, just out of school, in way over my head, looking for a fun and exciting trip overseas. I had, however, no idea how intense, amazing, terrifying, breath-taking, crazy and testing this trip would be.

I remember so clearly my first moments landing in Nepal where I was spell bound by the culture and it's sights, smells, sounds not to mention the various livestock running loose amongst the streets! I was quickly met by Badri who made my friend and I feel much more settled. And then our adventure began.

Riley and I spent the first two weeks in a children's home in Pokhara, Lakeside. We looked after 8 beautiful yet very cheeky children (5 boys, 3 girls) ageing from 5-12. We would get them up, walk them to school and pick them up for an afternoon of fun at 3pm. We would go to the park everyday, make butterflies and read, and we even organised a 'Teddy Bear's picnic' which made the children beam with excitement.

After our two weeks here, we took part in a sporadic 4 day trek to Poon Hill, then we were taken to our next adventure. Our next two weeks would be spent at Monastery, just outside of Pokhara, teaching English to the monks. The monastery was absolutely breath-taking, and housed 70 bubbly, fun-loving monks. Since there was an abundance of volunteers teaching here, Riley and I would each morning walk 15 minutes up the road to teach at a less fortunate monastery, but with the same high spirited students; hungry to learn. We got very attached to these students, and had a very, VERY teary goodbye on our last day of teaching-the most beautiful, kind natured people I have ever met.

My time in Nepal was absolutely amazing. My only complaint would be not having enough time to discover more of Nepal, and stay with the children at the children's home and monastery. Nepal, I feel is a hidden gem, concealed amongst the breath taking mountain ranges, with wondrous life lessons and personal lessons to experience at every turn. I am absolutely more than happy to answer any questions you may have- I could blab on for days. You can contact me on kateshakespeare@hotmail.com.

If you're thinking about travelling to Nepal, arrive with an open attitude, and prepare to met, experience, see, feel some truly amazing things.

Volunteering in the Monastery

Eldo Kim, July 2011, (USA)

I went into Nepal apprehensive and nervous. I was 18 years old, a rising senior at Kamiak High School (Mukilteo, WA) in the United States. It was my first time volunteering in a foreign country completely alone without the reassuring presence of other volunteers or my family; I knew nothing about the language, the people and the culture. But my worries were quickly put to rest when I arrived in Nepal. No one sought to take advantage of the confused foreigner. The people of Nepal, from taxi drivers to random people in the streets, were warm and incredibly friendly.

I was picked up from the airport by a driver who took me promptly to the Millennium Inn in Kathmandu. After I checked in, I talked about plans with Badri and he patiently answered the endless number of questions I had. Badri and the Hands for Help organization are very efficient and they will go beyond expectations to help make people's volunteering experiences in Nepal as comfortable as possible. Before leaving for the monastery, I received two intensive lessons on Nepalese from Pramila. Although learning Nepalese is difficult, there is no need to excessively stress about it because many people in Nepal speak elementary English and the good ol' body language is universal. :) I was also taken to various major tourist sites including the Monkey Temple where monkeys roamed freely. Tip: do not have bananas hanging out of your pockets because the monkeys will surely take them sooner or later! After two nights at the inn, I took a six-hour bus ride to Pokhara.

I soon arrived at the Monastery in Pokhara. The monastery is set in a peaceful, isolated environment, surrounded by glorious mountains, rushing rivers, and rice fields. I spent a month at the monastery teaching children English and writing up examinations for various classes. Everyone was eager to learn and each class was a splendid explosion of contagious laughter and enthusiasm. But during the first week, I learned that I was frequently the student, rather than the teacher. Every night, the monks taught me about the desperate plight of Tibetan refugees and the daily socioeconomic problems that they face in Nepal and other countries around the world. My interest in the situations of the refugees were further cultivated at a nearby Tibetan refugee village that was approximately ten minutes away from the monastery. The monks also taught me Tibetan Buddhism, a spiritual experience that forced me to re-examine my life from entirely different perspectives.

The contemporary world largely has the impression that monks are conservative, introverted, and quiet. I too had this perception but this was utterly shattered during my stay at the monastery. The monks at the Pema Tshal Sakya were always in high spirits and good-humored. They loved to joke and ask cheeky questions that often had me laughing and gasping for breath. While I was not teaching, I spent my time playing basketball with the monks and watching Hollywood (and Bollywood and Korean and Thai...) movies with them on the weekends; we also seriously debated the merits of the music of Justin Bieber, the American teenage sensation.

When it was time for me to leave, I found it very difficult to bid farewell to people that I had become extraordinarily close with. I promised the monks to come back when I could and I reluctantly left for the airport. Nepal is a beautiful country and there are astonishing experiences to be had and lessons to be learned if you are willing to look past the typical mountain trekking and canoeing (although these are sensational adventures in and of themselves of course). There is a Buddhist idiom that talks about how the more you give, the more you receive in return. Volunteering in Nepal is the perfect opportunity to be both the teacher and the student.

If you have ANY questions or concerns about volunteering at a monastery in Nepa, please do not hesitate to contact me at eldokim@gmail.com. I will answer quickly and give advices to the best of my knowledge. Volunteering in Nepal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I highly recommend.