GoAbroad Interview

Sarah West - Volunteer Coordinator, Nepal

Sarah West - Volunteer Coordinator, Nepal

Sarah West is the volunteer coordinator for Pod Volunteer in Nepal. She originally volunteered for Pod Volunteer back in the Summer of 2013 at one of the teaching and childcare placements, and became officially part of the Pod team later on that year. Her background is in education, and she loves that her work in Nepal allows her to keep in touch with that!

How did you get connected to Pod Volunteer originally?

I originally volunteered with Pod Volunteer in the summer of 2013. I taught English at the childcare and teaching project in Nepal. Through this, I heard of the job opportunity, applied, and got the job! I began working for Pod Volunteer in the summer of 2014 as the volunteer coordinator for the projects in Nepal. I did a lot of research before choosing to volunteer with Pod Volunteer and settled on them as I felt they had the best ethical policies of all the volunteer organizations I found.

Volunteer with children in Nepal

Sarah with children at one of the volunteer placement locations

What does a typical day look like as the Pod volunteer coordinator in Nepal?

My days are busy, yet varied. My favorite thing about the job is the huge range of roles I get to fulfil day-to-day. The tasks I might have to do range from visiting the volunteer placements, teaching, writing blogs, managing the charity donations, and ensuring the volunteers are happy and comfortable in their roles. I love that one day I might be visiting a school up in the mountains and the next day I might be organizing charity donations; the flexibility and variety makes the volunteer coordinator role an exciting and interesting one!

What characteristics do most successful volunteers possess?

Whether a volunteer is “successful” or not in their volunteer placement is a difficult assessment to make, as I believe that all our volunteers are able to contribute something in one way or another. This is assisted greatly by a positive, flexible attitude; volunteers need to be prepared for the unexpected! Life in Nepal is different everyday, and volunteers who are able to “go with the flow” and work with this will definitely get more out of their experience; they are able to contribute more to the placements than others!

What advice would you give volunteers preparing to volunteer in Nepal?

The most important piece of advice I would give to volunteers would be to come with an open mind; the more you put into your placement, the more you will get out of it!

Pod Volunteer staff in Nepal

Sarah with her colleague Janice

What does a typical onsite orientation for Pod volunteers include?

Upon arrival, our Pod volunteers receive an introduction to life in Nepal, customs that are important to respect, and information on their placement. Volunteers then visit their placement and get a tour of the place, as well as a detailed explanation of their role. Volunteers receive support from local staff as well as myself and other Pod Volunteer staff to enable them to get the most out of the experience. Volunteers will also have a Nepali language lesson to learn the basics, which will dramatically help them at the placements.

What are the living arrangements like for volunteers in Nepal?

Volunteers live in a family run guest house. The guest house is run by a lovely woman called Bindu, who, along with her two daughters, provides a comfortable, clean, and caring environment for volunteers to stay in. Bindu prides herself that the volunteers all become part of the family; she wants them all to feel completely at home.

What makes the Pod Volunteer programs in Nepal different from those offered by other volunteer abroad providers?

The programs we are able to offer in Nepal can be catered 100 percent to suit our volunteers’ individual skill set. Because we work closely with several different projects in Nepal and have such a good relationship with them, we truly are able to offer a volunteer role that suits our volunteers individually. Listening to volunteers’ feedback and comments, and ensuring that the placement they are working at, or even the role they are doing at that placement, is completely right for them is our utmost priority.

We believe that when people are comfortable and happy in the role then they are able to give their all; this allows our projects to benefit from the volunteers in the best way possible, it’s a win-win! 

What organized activities are available for volunteers while they are volunteering in Nepal?

Volunteers will receive an organized Nepali lesson in their first week, however if they would like to sign up for some more classes they are very welcome too!

Volunteers attend their main placement Monday to Thursday, but Friday and Saturdays activities are slightly different. On a Friday afternoon, volunteers have the opportunity to visit a children’s home that we have worked closely with for many years. Volunteers’ time and energy are invaluable here! Our main role on a Friday afternoon is to provide the children with some stimulation, so we take with us board games, footballs, cards, and arts equipment; it is always a lot of fun.

Volunteers making rice flour at a childrens home in Nepal

Sarah making rice flour at one of the Children’s Home Pod Volunteer supports

We are also able to offer a Saturday morning placement running arts and crafts sessions at a refuge for girls and young women who have been victims, or deemed at risk of sex trafficking. This placement is only available for our female volunteers who are staying with us for more than three weeks. The girls and young women love these sessions and a chance to explore their creative side.

Volunteers are then able to use their free time to explore the beautiful local scenery, visit the many local tourist attractions, or push themselves to the limits doing one of the variety of extreme sports offered in the area.

How do you deal with emergencies in Nepal? What about volunteers who are homesick?

We have detailed step-by-step guides as to what to do in event of emergencies, and the safety of our volunteers is our utmost priority. We have excellent support from the Pod Volunteer team in the UK, who are on hand 24/7 to assist us in any situations.

Volunteers can sometimes feel homesick; it is a very different environment they are having to adapt to and this can result in them missing home. We offer them on the ground support helping to work out the best course of action, and there is also constant support from the team in the UK. Normally, with reassurance and support, our volunteers can adapt and they begin to overcome their homesickness. I think many of our volunteers actually suffer from the reverse when they get home again, they get Nepal sickness and are desperate to come back!

Volunteers playing games with street children in Nepal

Sarah playing games with some of the children from the Street Children’s Centre

What is the best part about working for Pod Volunteer?

The best thing about working for Pod Volunteers is working as part of such a great team!