Namaste! My name is Margaret and this is my 7th time visiting Nepal. Every visit has been exciting and adventurous, but recently, after volunteering with my last visit, it is been also rewarding. I volunteered at an orphanage for a couple of weeks and cannot wait to do it again. Especially now Nepal needs volunteers. After the earthquake in April 2015 when greater than 10,000 people died and countless homes were destroyed, this country needs your help. There are lots of ways to go about volunteering here. Online you can find many companies that will put you into a volunteer program and supply room and board, for a cost. These companies may be legitimate, but can often be costly. There are other options. You can find several guesthouses for less than 10 USD a night and youth hostels throughout Kathmandu that are very inexpensive. But this time I did a Homestay arrangement. This entails staying in a private home owned by a Nepalese family, sleeping in a private room, and sharing meals and family time. It was a fantastic experience.
I was able to learn first hand about Nepalese family life, and through local recommendations I found a place to volunteer at with no fees or restrictions. I could spend time in the orphanage at which I volunteered, according to my schedule. I cannot tell you how loving, grateful and engaging the children were. After this experience I felt like they did more for me than I did for them. I highly recommend that you plan your next vacation in this beautiful country, which at this time is in great need of help, and try to do it independently. It can be done. The best way to find your place to volunteer at is to talk to the local people, visit Thamel, walk around and look for flyers that are posted everywhere asking for your help. Traveling to Nepal itself was a great experience, but volunteering in Nepal is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.
There are many ways to be of help in Nepal. So much rebuilding needs to be done and if you have the strength and stamina for pure physical work you will find many needs. You don’t have to be a professional. Just open, willing and able. Schools are looking for volunteers. Hospitals are looking for volunteers. And the many orphanages located around the Kathmandu valley so much would appreciate help. If you are able and desiring trekking experience, there are many villages outside of Kathmandu that are destitute. In some villages ninety five percent of the homes have been destroyed. They need help with rebuilding these homes. To get to several of these villages requires trekking, which is walking in the rugged mountain terrain to reach the villages. In this sense you can combine trekking, enjoying the phenomenal nature of Nepal, and helping its people.
Let me tell you about the Nepalese. Never have an encountered a hardier and more resilient people. I came to Nepal a few months after the earthquake expecting to find a mess, destruction of properties, and of the human spirit. This was not the case. The same energy, joy, enthusiasm and underlying strength was still there. The constant Nepali smiles and Namaste were everywhere, even from people digging through rubble trying to retrieve remnants of their former home. Kathmandu is alive and recovering with an amazing amount of energy. I spent many hours walking around Kathmandu and witness major reconstruction of commercial buildings and private homes. Nepalese people do not waste anything. Any bricks that are reusable in the piles of rubble are being saved and recycled. Nothing is thrown out if it can be reused. Most businesses in Kathmandu have reopened. The only things they are lacking at this point are customers. I assure you that this city is up and running like normal and ready and needing tourists, but the general belief outside of this country is that it is in a perpetual state of disaster.
In 1992 I lived on the Island of Kauai in Hawaii. We had a hurricane that swept through the island and did a lot of destruction to homes and commercial properties. But within a few months the Island was ready for tourists. But they didn’t come! Why? Because national television repeatedly broadcasted stories and live footage of the worst of the hurricane. This led potential visitors to assume that the Island of Kauai was not a safe place to travel to. This greatly impacted tourism in a negative way for quite a long time. Such is the case in Nepal. I also watched all the live footage in fear and skepticism, thinking that Nepal would be too much of a big mess for a long time to even consider visiting. But I still planned my trip and arrived in Kathmandu only to find that the opposite was true. They were ready for visitors. The airport was fully functional. Immigration was well organized and fluid and the same crowds of taxies and airport representatives enthusiastically competed for the business of arriving visitors. The drive from the airport to my Homestay showed a bustling, rejuvenating community. I wanted to cry, I was so happy.
There is a rock bar in Thamel called Purple Haze. I went there the other night with some friends. The band that performed played several popular rock songs that I was familiar with. The crowd was mostly Nepalese and they sang along with many of the songs. But when then band played Nepali songs the crowd went wild, singing and dancing to songs about their country. The amount of national pride I witnessed in these Nepalese youth was indescribable. I have been to this rock bar in past visits, but I have never seen such a show of unity and national allegiance. It was emotionally moving.
Yes, I love this country and have been here many times. I hope one day to live here. But you must believe me that there is enough here to make anyone fall in love with Nepal. Come here, voluntarily, and experience the uniqueness of this beautiful country.