Online travel guides are brimming with opportunities to tour Nepal – recognizing the country’s popularity as a top travel destination. Adored by hikers, climbers and mountaineers, the northern section of the country features the Nepalese Himalayas – with eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. The tropical south features expansive jungle territory, and with it, an abundance of wildlife to discover on safari. As splendid as these geographical wonders are however, they’re overshadowed by the country’s most precious resource: The generous, spiritual and warm Nepali people, who welcome you into their lives with a simple gesture of “Nameste.” Experiencing Kathmandu as a volunteering destination instead of a tourist destination places you into the daily lives of the local people – where you learn first-hand about the diverse religions, races, tribes, and over 100 ethnic groups by working with Nepali children, students, teachers and community leaders.
The Stifling Effects of Poverty in Kathmandu
Alongside the dominant tourist attractions are obvious signs of generational poverty. Nepal is a relatively small, landlocked nation of over 27 million people sandwiched between India and China suffering from a disproportionate distribution of wealth. The capital city of Kathmandu strains against the familiar, extreme hardships experienced throughout the developing world: Lack of access to basic education, primary health care, nutritious food, reliable infrastructure and environmental preservation.
While rural poverty in Nepal is slowing, the poverty rate is increasing in urban areas. In Kathmandu, daily life is very basic, and challenging, for those who live on the margins of society. Just over three years ago, two earthquakes – magnitude 7.8 and 7.3 – in the north toppled ancient temples, destroyed roads, leveled homes and bridges, and caused massive landslides and avalanches in the rural areas surrounding the capital city. The devastation drove now-homeless families into Kathmandu and surrounding areas, slowing the city’s economic resurgence. Children suffer the most in these conditions. Thousands were abandoned and orphaned, leaving them to survive on the streets without protection or a future.
Kathmandu as a Volunteering Destination
Global Volunteers invests in long-term partnerships which sustain comprehensive development projects in the broad areas of health, hunger and cognition. In many cases, this also includes projects to strengthen the community’s physical infrastructure to keep people safer, and to develop enough assets to fall back on during emergencies. In this way, we work “upstream” of relief efforts – which follow major disasters such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, epidemics and the like – supporting self-sufficiency and capacity building. This is how you can contribute to broad-based development in Kathmandu for just one or two weeks, and know that your assistance will provide long-term benefits to children and families.
Global Volunteers was first contacted in the early 2000s by a local non-profit organization that learned of our community-based work. But civil unrest at that time prevented us from responding to their request. In the last eight years, however, the country has built a stable government and national economy – enabling us now to work in partnership with a number of locally based organizations in Kathmandu.
Under the direction of our new community partners, volunteer teams will teach at-risk youth and students – the country’s future leaders. Business professionals are encouraged to share their knowledge with classes of business students in the areas of business law, finance, banking, marketing, retail sales, human resources, manufacturing, and money management. Fourteen Kathmandu schools – primary, secondary and colleges – and a have invited us to help students learn and improve English language skills. One of these schools, educating 150 students, is part of a children’s home for 45 youth aged 11-20. The children’s home and schools also need help maintaining and improving their facilities. These are projects within the capability of both adults and teens – and provide sustained support to those who need it the most. Call a volunteer coordinator today at 800-487-1074 to learn how you can help!
Information on the needs in Nepal and Kathmandu: