GoAbroad Interview

Anish Neupane - Country Representative

Anish Neupane - Country Representative

Anish has more than 14 years of experience working on social development projects, in roles spanning from project management to planning and development to research. Currently, he serves as the Nepal country representative for Volunteering Journeys, where his main role is to coordinate the relationships between the organization and projects/programs in Nepal, alongside volunteers and gap year program participants.

How were you first introduced to Volunteering Journeys?

I love volunteering, and volunteered in my gap year in the Nepal and also in Greece. After that, I have been involved in many volunteering programs on various projects. When the international director of Volunteering Journey’s was in Nepal to select a reliable country coordinator, my team got an opportunity to meet her and we got selected because of our work experience and expertise. I am very happy to represent the organization in Nepal.

Construction volunteer in Nepal

What inspired you to get involved with the organization’s programs in Nepal?

Volunteering Journeys is basically involved in the segments which I had the expertise to deal with, like teaching English, pre-medical internships, women empowerment programs, and construction projects, in all types of locations, like rural, semi-urban, and urban regions. The wide coverage of the programs and the thematic areas, along with the greater flexibility in placement locations, was the main source of inspiration for me and my team.

How do you use your breadth of professional experience to ensure Volunteering Journey’s programs in Nepal continue to succeed?

The satisfaction of a volunteer plays a very important role in the growth of our programs, like their good reviews, word of mouth recommendations, talking about the programs, sharing their experience, and so on.

For the last fifteen years, I have been working together with the volunteers on local projects. As we all know, Nepal is an underdeveloped country, so having the volunteers coming from abroad is not an easy thing for us to manage, due to the cultural and technological differences. To tackle all these situations, we have adapted so many techniques to make them feel like they are safe here.

The international volunteers face common types of culture shock issues, technological differences, and the digital gaps. To help with this, I keep myself in their shoes and stay in the reality of Nepal, which guides me to the right path for us as well as for our volunteers. We confront the day-to-day problems as a part of learning the tolerance and adaptability needed in this industry.

It was indeed an uphill task for me to coordinate things in the beginning days. I researched a lots of behavioral differences of the International volunteers with the existing scenario of Nepal. Especially with young volunteers, we must make them feel at home by giving them enough weekend breaks, organizing some tours, or doing adventure sports with other volunteers.

In the years of working together with the international volunteers, we have developed our very simple, but important, triple “I’’model, which speaks about three stages of volunteer management: the “Introduction, Integration, and Immersion Model.” We keep on counselling them in whichever stage they are in and whatever way they go toward full immersion. This, along with fun and enjoyment, makes volunteers’ stay rewarding and fruitful.

International volunteers in Nepal
With students

Why is Nepal a great place for volunteering in Asia?

I don’t need to claim it personally; me, as a Nepalese person, would definitely say that Nepal is great place. Listen to the International travel experts, too; travel resources, like Lonely Planet, keep Nepal always as one of the top 10 destinations, and for 2017, we have been selected as the best valued destination.

Additional value is created during volunteering in Nepal due to the unparalleled experiences in the different sectors. We have a huge community where you can experience the depth of the culture through immersion trips. A place with more than 100 ethnic communities, and where 70 percent of people still live in the traditional, naturally gifted communities, it is certainly the best place for anyone willing to volunteer abroad.

What type of training and orientation do participants receive upon arrival to prepare them for their placement?

We greet them with smile at airport upon arrival and take them to their accommodation, which is followed by a welcome dinner with traditional Nepali food. Within this short period, our participations start feeling that they are with the best team.

The next day, we provide them with an overall orientation regarding the history and culture of Nepal and about the project, lifestyle, etc., which is followed by a short sightseeing tour of the World Heritage Sites. They even get language training from our well experienced language trainers, and in the first day, they start saying Namaste! We even have a pre-departure handbook, which they receive before arrival. The pre-departure handbook prepares them for their journey.

Our site coordinators are also well trained to handle the volunteers, through our timely trainings and orientation. Our local experts know very well how to guide and schedule the work timing for the volunteers. The host families also provide a warm welcome to the volunteers, which makes them feel at home.

Actually, since I have volunteered in Greece and know more about their culture and behaviour, this has also helped me in designing the orientation and support for volunteers.

Volunteering Journeys office in Nepal

How do you ensure participants are placed in sustainable, impactful, and immersive projects?

We have our own guidelines in project selection. We conduct a detailed feasibility study before we select any project. The program is selected on the basis of inclusiveness, equal opportunity for employment, need and importance, community participation, community benefits, and so on. We value the contributions of the volunteers, and volunteers get updates about the project in a timely way through our social media. If they email us, we answer them promptly, and even help them make contact with the project hosts to know more about the project.

We become really satisfied when the volunteers give us a testimonial about our sustainable projects during their visit. As we say, we want to rise toward a sustainable future together with the knowledge of international participants, so we always work hard to achieve this and have remained successful in this regard.

What is the most unique placement opportunity offered in Nepal?

We find extensive community participation in our work camps, so this is the best opportunity for full immersion and the most unique placement offered in Nepal.

Do you have any plans to add new partners or projects in Nepal in 2017? If so, what can we look forward to?

Nepal is a beautiful destination for a “volunteering journey.” We are expanding our projects and program areas, and also the thematic areas, to include things like animal health, biodiversity conservation, and also community farming and other sustainable projects ( i.e. Green schools).

In English speaking markets, we get enough volunteers from Volunteering Journeys and we are really doing good. But, we would like to partner with organizations from Asian emerging economies and also from the EU and especially the German speaking market.

Hikers taking a break in Nepal

Why do you enjoy about working with Volunteering Journeys?

The international team of Volunteering Journeys is innovative, motivational, and give our team in Nepal wholesome support for our methodology. They really want to develop our leadership and ask us to design our program according to the ground reality of each project location, which makes me a part of the Volunteering Journeys team itself, not as a simple employee of the organization.

Also, the international director knows about Nepal very well and she always looks forward to supporting Nepalese organizations; this makes working with Volunteering Journeys really enjoyable.