It was my first time being in another country for longer than 2 weeks so deciding to live in Nepal for 2 months I underwent a lot of research to find a company to help ease the stress. In the end,... Liam Welch
Health & Safety
Day to Day Life
LIam Welch volunteer experience October & November 2017
Submitted by Liam Welch - Leatherhead United Kingdom | December 11, 2017
It was my first time being in another country for longer than 2 weeks so deciding to live in Nepal for 2 months I underwent a lot of research to find a company to help ease the stress. In the end, I came across the company IVHQ and decided to split my time on two projects they offer, Construction & Renovation and Childcare.
IVHQ say they are one of the most affordable volunteer programs around and they certainly didn’t lie, after all my research and deciding to go ahead with them I quickly learnt that they are one of the more affordable companies, especially what you get for the money and the massive selection of potential destinations you have to choose from. As this was my first-time volunteering in a country I wanted to make it as easy as possible with regards to logistics and in country support. However, having now experienced volunteering abroad I would next time volunteer by going directly to in-country organisations and organising parts of the trip yourself. Though if like me it’s your first-time volunteering in a country like Nepal I would highly recommend going via IVHQ.
Right from the get go IVHQ were fantastic! Every email correspondence I sent was replied to within 48 hours, they really helped with settling my nerves and the preparation I needed before leaving my home country. Despite this I was a little anxious flying into Kathmandu airport as I wasn’t 100% certain there was going to be someone there to collect me but they were! Not only was someone standing there with my name on a sign (my flight was 1 hour delayed too) they also organised accommodation, homestays, a few day’s orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal (which included meals, drinks we had to pay for) in addition to a couple of language lessons which were brilliant. Once all this was done it was then off to your host-family! Like I said originally, I would not have been able to do all this alone so using IVHQ really did help settle them initial nerves. Using IVHQ also allowed me to meet like-minded people so is a great way to meet new friends in a new country.
DON’T FORGET – The first week is the orientation in Kathmandu, so remember that when selecting how many weeks you intend to volunteer, if you select 2 you will only essentially have 1!
Throughout my 2-month placement I felt I had enough support whenever I needed it in addition to any extra activities, these include the Safari at Chitwan National Park, Paragliding, Everest base camp trek, Everest flight, white water rafting and many more. Not only do they help with this you can go on these on dates that suit you.
Ill quickly touch on my two programs. I have also put in brackets the length of time I suggest when selecting these programs, some people only did 1 or 2 weeks and even they said they wished they stayed longer.
Construction and Renovation in Chitwan. (I recommend a minimum of 4 weeks)
I was placed in the most beautiful home stay in Padampokhari village in Chitwan, I was to reside here for 1 month and what a month it turned out to be. There was nothing in this location other than the locals and your other volunteer peers, I came here to volunteer so I wasn’t expecting to be placed somewhere where I could go out in the evenings and treat it like ‘home’. I was very happy with the location as I really wanted to be emerged in the culture of Nepal. I fell in love with my village and especially my host-family, they were great. I was lucky enough to be placed here and be the first volunteers to start this new project which is why I felt a lot my satisfaction from my Construction work. On the other hand, others who decided on Pokhara for their location didn’t get as lucky as I to start a brand-new project as they were going onto sites that had already begun. If I was to speak on my experience it was really well run in Chitwan, Sanjiv, my host brother was at the site every morning to ensure we understood what was needed, he helped massively with the translation from the workers. From what I heard from construction volunteers in other locations it wasn’t as well ran as it was in Chitwan, I suppose that’s just luck of the draw at the end of the day. I wish IVHQ would regularly visit each program they have to ensure that everyone is on track and getting the most out of it like I felt I did. Our aim was to build a wall on a section of land they have which will host two gates, one to a section that leads up to a small Hindu temple where they can worship their God. The second section is going to be a small area where they are able to meditate and practice yoga. The hours were from 7-2, however this did differ depending on the weather as sometimes it was too hot to work during middle of the day so we would come back later on in the day when it was cooler. We were also asked to work 6 days a week where some others it was only 5, again it was all dependant on your location and set up. If you only wanted to work 5 though you could, they were really flexible. My construction project was amazing. Couldn’t recommend going to Chitwan enough! I have a video of the project on my Facebook which can also be found on this website.
Childcare Project in Pokhara. (I recommend a minimum of 3 weeks)
For this project, I was placed right in the centre of Pokhara where it is all very westernised and touristy thus my experience here was a completely different one to Chitwan. I stayed in a beautiful home which was around a 25-minute walk from the famous Phewa Lake. The family were amazing, they were extremely helpful with anything we needed and kept asking if we were good as much as they possibly could. I am glad I got to experience Chitwan first as this for me was a true taste of Nepal where living in Pokhara it felt a lot more like home due to how western it was, Pokhara is the tourist hub of Nepal. The childcare project itself was great though. I worked with children aged from 5-17 who were forced into child labour and cannot afford to go to school as they are required to work thus this program is a way of giving them a little education. The hours are from 10-2 every day except Saturdays. A typical day consisted of playing with the kids for an hour or so followed by us teaching them either basic English, Maths or Geography, we even threw in a couple of music lessons which they loved. The childcare program was hard as the abilities of the children was different which was expected due to the considerable age gap. For anyone wanting to work with children but not be placed in front of a class of 30 this is a great program as it feels more like babysitting with best efforts to teach them what you can. I really did fall in love with the children despite how mentally challenging it was. All I will say is after having work with children I now respect teachers a WHOLE lot more!
Would I recommend IVHQ? Yes, all in all it was a great company to volunteer through. They made it easy for me to focus on volunteering as they arranged all the logistics and provided any additional help if I needed it. You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. You do see some negative reviews about IVHQ programs and having spoken to a few of the intake I was amongst I can see why, it is only down to how the program they were placed on in the country was run. I would ask IVHQ to reach out to these programs and send people there to get it back on track. I felt lucky with both my programs and really did feel like I made a difference. IVHQ have made my first volunteering experience abroad a great one and I would now feel comfortable going to a country and organising all this myself without having a company to do this for me.
My advice. If you want to really be a part of the Nepali culture ask to be placed in a remote location in a rural homestay. If you wish to volunteer but have your home comforts ask to be placed in Pokhara, close to lakeside, in a more modern homestay. IVHQ have both types available.
With IVHQ you have to pay for:
• IVHQ Program Fee
• Travel insurance
• Criminal background check
• Additional trips such as Safari, Everest, Rafting, Paragliding
• Spending money (Please note this varies MASSIVELY. In Chitwan I spent barely anything as there was nothing to spend money on. In Pokhara where it is the tourist hub where there are coffee shops, restaurants, merchandise, boat hire, bike hire ect.. I spent a whole lot more, Nepal is cheap though having said that)
Last thing to note, if you get travel sick then Nepal may not be the place for you the roads are not the safest and a 5-hour journey can take 12. This has nothing to do with IVHQ so do your research before deciding to go with Nepal as your choice of destination.
Places to eat:
If you find yourself in Chitwan go to my Moms house, best food in Nepal no questions asked. Speak to IVHQ and ask for Sanjiv’s Mom. You won’t be disappointed.
If you find yourself in Pokhara please check out: Rockland Restaurant & Bar
This was situated right next to my childcare project. The food and service was 5* yet the prices were not, so cheap. About 7 mins walk from lakeside away from the tourists, it’s a nice place to get away from the busy Lakeside street.
If you find yourself in Kathmandu please check out: Secret Garden Cafe
Really peaceful garden café which is off the hustle and bustle of Thamel. Great people, great atmosphere, great food and great places – my favourite place to eat out in Nepal.
Please check out my Instagram for pictures from Nepal and my blog posts.
International Volunteer HQ [IVHQ] responded to this review December 20, 2017 at 8:05 PM
Thank you for sharing your review with us, it's great to hear you had such an amazing time on your program in Nepal. As you mentioned, joining a volunteer program is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture and create new friendships while being supported by a local team and host family. Each of our program locations is run slightly differently depending on the needs of the local communities and this will often bring a variation in volunteer schedules, which you mentioned. Meaningful volunteer work and a high standard of service is an important focus for IVHQ and our annual inspections to each program enable us to ensure this is maintained. We also encourage feedback from our volunteers so we can continually improve our programs throughout the year. It was wonderful to have you on the Nepal program and we appreciate the time you contributed. We would love to have you join us on one of our programs again in the future! ^Sam - IVHQ Nepal Program Manager