The country of Nepal has arguably some of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural terrain of anywhere on earth. Shadowed by the mighty Himalayas and nestled amidst a lush green landscape, it’s a dream destination for nature lovers and adventure travelers alike.
Aside from the ascetically pleasing surroundings, Nepal is also home to some of the warmest and most welcoming people in the world. Despite their economic struggle, the Nepali people boast a refreshingly unmatched optimism and are incredibly open to sharing their lives with visitors. Their kindness and hospitality make Nepal a fantastic place to volunteer.
Actually selecting a volunteer mission to participate in, however, isn’t always so cut and dry.
There are important questions that must be answered:
The most important thing to consider is how to volunteer responsibly. That’s a subject our friends at Ace the Himalaya are experts in. We asked them to provide some tips and suggestions on how to volunteer responsibly in Nepal.
Here’s what they had to say:
"Many volunteer programs are primarily designed to bring forth coordinated efforts of experts and individuals in different areas under one platform and thereon work towards achieving its common goal and mission. It provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to live and work in Nepal. Upon selected for volunteering, an individual gets a chance to make a contribution for the sustainable development of Nepal."
One of the largest growths in tourism in Nepal is in the volunteer sector. Unfortunately this often does more harm than good. For example:
1. Building a School
Imagine the scenario, a group of volunteers are building or even just painting a school whilst the skilled tradesmen builders of the village now being left unemployed. No Job = No Money = No Food and definitely no welfare state to provide for him until the volunteers go home.
2. Working in an Orphanage
Many orphanages are opening up in Nepal just to provide volunteering opportunities and therefore to make lots of money for the organizations that run them. This occurs even to the extent of the orphanage being filled with the children of the staff of said organization. This means that when the volunteers go home so do the children.
Volunteerism by definition is supposed to be for the benefit of the recipients. That said, if scenarios such as those provided above occur, no matter how well intentioned, the people who are supposed to benefit from the good deeds do not, completely defeating the purpose of the volunteer program.
If you are to truly contribute to the sustainable development of Nepal and help those who are truly in need, you must be certain that the program you are a part of is focused on doing so responsibly. This often means working directly with the locals in a combined effort that does not hinder, but helps boost their economic, health or social situation.
Be certain that you do your homework when choosing a volunteer program. Understand its mission, goal and how it is run to determine whether it’s something that will help, not hurt, the intended recipients. More importantly, be true to yourself. Ask yourself exactly what you would like to contribute and accomplish, and take the time to find a volunteer program that shares those intentions. The more you research, the more confident you will be that your valuable volunteer time will be put to good use and will truly benefit those you seek to help.
About Ace the Himalaya
Ace the Himalaya Community Service Volunteer Program provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to live and work in Nepal. Volunteers may contribute in areas such as school education, health, community development, forest conservation, agriculture, culture preservation and fund raising and maintenance of the drinking water resources. With Ace the Himalaya, volunteering is about building bridges, creating links, it's about inspiring, it’s about sharing, and more than anything, it's about giving.
How can you, as a traveler, know that the company you travel with really is treating their porters fairly?
Here are a few options to bring you off the beaten path, and into the heart of Nepal.