The journey of a lifetime awaits you high in the Himalayas. From the towering peaks of Mt. Everest to the glimmering lakes and sweeping valleys below, Nepal encompasses one of the most geographically magnificent areas in the world. It is a very spiritual country of 27 million inhabitants, and one that also faces the challenges of overcoming high rates of poverty in most areas. Those who choose to volunteer in Nepal are sure to have an immensely fulfilling adventure.
Kathmandu is the capital and largest city in Nepal; it boasts the most advanced infrastructure in the country and serves as its main economic, political, and commercial life vein. Kathmandu is also the most commonly visited tourist destination in Nepal, and as such there is a thriving foreign community, in which volunteers may find some comfort in as a volunteer in Nepal. Welcoming locals, beautiful temples, and a fascinating history that spans back over two millennia all make Kathmandu a great place to volunteer in Nepal.
No other city comes close to Kathmandu in terms of size, but cities such as Pokhora, Biratnagar, and Bharatpur also offer plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Nepal in urban environments. Tourist attractions and entertainment might not be as plentiful in these locations as in Kathmandu, but these smaller cities can still be very stimulating. Volunteers who are looking for a more culturally immersive experience away from the big city would do well in these alternative destinations.
Many volunteer programs in Nepal also place volunteers in rural environments, where volunteers often live in a small village away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Most of Nepal’s 27 million citizens live in rural areas, so working as a volunteer in Nepal outside of Kathmandu will give you great exposure to what life is actually like for most Nepalese people. While living conditions are bound to be basic, it will be a great experience living simply and working with locals on an intimate level.
Note: Due to the recent earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015, most volunteer placements are currently focused on disaster relief, recovery, and reconstruction.
Since there is a great deal of poverty in Nepal, most volunteer placements involve working with local or international organizations focused on community development. The kind of day to day tasks involved will vary between urban and rural environments, but generally you can expect to find plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Nepal in the fields of education, healthcare, infrastructural development, child welfare, and human rights.
Health Care volunteering in Nepal typically comes in two varieties. The first option is working in an existing health clinic, in a larger city or in a small village. There is a constant need for health care workers, from professional doctors and nurses to medical or nursing students, to help with anything from triage, pharmacy distribution, and health education and outreach. The second type of healthcare volunteer in Nepal works in a medical relief clinic or camp. These are temporary and typically set up by a local NGO or an international volunteer organization. Medical camps see everything from the most mild complaints to major life-threatening illnesses, and are both exhilarating and exhausting. Medical volunteering in Nepal is eye-opening, empowering, heart-wrenching, and a major career and life learning opportunity.
Child Welfare. This work most typically comes in the variety of orphanage or child care work. You should be prepared to roll up your sleeves if you choose this type of volunteer work in Nepal; while you may feel that reading books and playing soccer with kids is all you have to offer, the center will likely need you to help with dishwashing and laundry skills as well.
Education and Teaching. Volunteers may work as teaching assistants in a rural village school (often becoming the teacher). All volunteer teachers should be prepared for the most basic of circumstances: there will be few teaching materials, classes are often hot and cold, and many children spend the day hungry and lacking focus. The small victories can be incredibly rewarding, however, and anyone who thinks they want to be a teacher should definitely volunteer in Nepal.
Volunteer programs in Nepal in the area of environmental conservation and wildlife protection is also quite popular. Many adventure programs or ecotourism volunteer projects in Nepal give participants the opportunity to explore the magnificent beauty and biodiversity of the Himalayas, while contributing positively to the environment through tasks like planting trees and maintaining hiking trails.
Nepal is very open to international volunteers and is therefore host to an array of volunteer programs, so these are only a few examples of the most common volunteer placements in Nepal. It is usually left up to each volunteer to decide how long they wish to commit to being a volunteer in Nepal, but most individuals volunteer for somewhere between two weeks and six months.
If you are at all concerned about the language barrier – don’t worry! Thankfully, for most volunteer placements in Nepal it is not expected that you will be able to speak Nepali upon arrival, and local staff will always be there to assist you in communication. Nevertheless, learning even the basics of the language will take you a long way and will be greatly appreciated by locals.
Good news for international volunteers: Nepal is one of the most affordable destinations for volunteering and traveling in the world. As a developing country, which only recently became democratized, Nepal is just finding its feet in the global economic order, especially after the earthquakes of 2015. Many Nepalese citizens live very simply with a low annual income, so most foreign currencies will take you far as a volunteer in Nepal. Meals, accommodation, and transportation will typically never run you more than a few dollars at a time.
Regardless of on-the-ground costs, however, the price of airfare and volunteer program fees can sometimes still mount up to take a toll on your wallet. If affordability is a concern then fundraising is a great way to cover some of the costs of volunteeringin Nepal (check out FundMyTravel to launch your campaign today), and there are volunteer programs in Nepal that charge minimum fees while still providing the utmost service opportunities.
Wherever you volunteer in Nepal, living conditions will be quite basic when compared to many luxuries of the Western world. Commodities like internet and air conditioning are not all too common, and in some rural areas you may not have electricity or running water either. Living simply while volunteering in Nepal is all part of the value of the international experience, and you will likely find it to be a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Nepal has one of the least strict visa policies in the world, because it is heavily dependent on its tourism industry for economic growth. Usually volunteers can get the visa required to volunteer in Nepal upon arrival at the airport, they should just make sure to bring enough cash to pay for it up front.
There is something undeniably majestic about the land upon which Nepal sits nestled in the Himalayas. Coming from most places in the world, working as a volunteer in Nepal will be an entirely unique experience, and one that proves every bit as personally fulfilling as it is socially beneficial. You will undeniably be challenged along the way, through adapting to a faraway land and culture, but when all is said and done volunteering in Nepal will have worked its magic upon you and forever remain a part of who you are.