In Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, Nepal, Global Volunteers’ community partners urgently anticipated the first volunteer teams since the pandemic lockdown of 2020. After a protracted absence owing to international travel restrictions and volunteers’ hesitancy, our Nepal Service Program resumed this year with classroom painting and conversational English instruction. As students return to school and programs “slowly return to normal” volunteers motivate learning and restore hope to those who suffered immeasurably. Read on to learn how you can serve impoverished people at a critical time in history.
A party atmosphere welcomed the first teams of Nepal volunteers returning to service since the Covid pandemic suspended programs. Serving in April and May, 2023, the two teams were grateful to collaborate on overdue work projects. Describing our community partners as “over-excited,” Global Volunteers Country Manager Stephen Raja said the return of volunteers to classrooms helped restore normalcy to the local people’s lives. “It was a long, hard time for the students during the pandemic,” said Stephen. “It had a devastating effect on our communities. Many children and adult students dropped out of school, or just couldn’t continue their schooling. But the presence of volunteers motivated the children to come to school and learn from them again.”
The residual economic and educational devastation left in Covid’s wake is unmistakable. Global Volunteers’ Nepalese consultant and director of Papa’s House Children’s Home, Buddi Man Shrestha, said educational assistance is greatly needed now to help repair the societal damage throughout the country. “The epidemic caused a lot of pain in the lives of poor people, and deprived them of business, study, and work,” he insisted. “But now, the volunteers assure us we can rise above the previous situation through their energy and encouragement. We’ve waited so long, and now we are happy that with the volunteers, the students will have an opportunity to learn something new.”
Stephen stressed the critical need for large numbers of volunteers for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024 to help youth and adults recover. “Everyone was excited to have volunteers back in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur to restore the vitality of their programs. Things have changed a lot, and the needs of our community partners have increased. A continuous flow of volunteers will greatly help our communities meet those needs, especially by providing conversational English and quality educational instruction,” he reported.
“Volunteering in Nepal is for those who love children and want them to become successful and better citizens of tomorrow, and who want to help local women realize their full potential so that they become better educated, more independent, and support their families.”
The Work Projects
Describing a “joyous collision of cultures” with team members serving in grades 4-8 at St. John’s School, first-time student volunteers from the University of Michigan worked on 5th-grade math games, read books in English, and played and discussed K-pop band BTS songs. Formal lessons in English conversation and pronunciation took the form of charades and an improvised version of the game of “Memory.”
At the Mercy Institute, other college student volunteers helped high school students intending to study abroad prepare for their immigration interviews and practiced conversational English by comparing and contrasting Nepali and American culture. “I learned how difficult it is for a Nepali to get a visa to enter the U.S, even for a vacation,” said college senior Edrick Joe. “I had never considered that it would be so much more difficult for him to enter my country than for me into his. It helped remind me of the privilege of being a U.S citizen.”
Others taught at Anita Milan School, a private institute of 300 K-8 students from families with economic challenges. Describing the “warm, caring, smart teachers,” 12-time veteran Global Volunteer George Hayes reported: “Every day I’m met with, ‘Good morning, Sir; how are you, Sir.’ The students work so hard in every class, and are very eager to improve their English skills. It’s a pure joy to work in such an inspiring place.”
Two volunteers who served at Astha Women’s school near Bhaktapur taught common English language idioms and basic conversational skills to classes of women with varying skills. Through simple conversations – and engaging games such as “Simon Says” – they re-ignited an excitement for learning English that had been suspended during the volunteer’s absence. Global Volunteers alumni Wendy Banks lamented parting from her students and hospitable teachers as she finished her assignment. “I feel such a warmth and connection with these women, and hope they feel as I do, that while we have cultural and language differences, we’re really all the same,” she reflected. “It’s hard to accept my time is coming to an end here.”
Continuing, she reflected: “I cannot find the words to adequately express the admiration I have for the people here who quietly give of themselves; from the passersby who helped push our small taxi up a steep windy hill to the teachers who cooked us a delicious lunch on a small stove and the amazing strength, faith and loving hearts of Buddhi Man and Madhu who are raising eight orphans, and taking in more. My heart is full to bursting.”
George Hayes at Anita Milan School; Wendy Banks (above right) and Charlotte Sutton (above) at Astha Women’s School.
The Memories Last
As a parting gift to her team, Global Volunteer alumna Charlotte Sutton summarized her poignant feelings in the team’s journal:
Home is beginning to loom ahead as Kathmandu begins to move into the rear-view mirror. As my perspective begins to change, I can’t help but think about the memories we have made here, many like snapshots of images that will stay with us long after we leave.
Of the smell of incense at the temples that permeate the air,
Of the sight of two goats on a leash on the sidewalk, reminding me of the sight in Russia of a bear being walked down the street on a leash. I realize, again, how lucky some of us are to have seen so much of the world,
Of pyres burning the bodies of the dead, being tended by the eldest son and of wood set up to receive the bodies of those yet to come,
Of traffic that supposedly flows in a different direction than home, but in reality one can’t tell because cars and motorcycles race through whatever hole moves them closer to their destination,
Of the realization that I am much less afraid of petting a lion in South Africa than crossing a street in Kathmandu,
Of a little boy joyously running down the road pulling a string with an empty box attached to the other end,
Of watching people as they enter the Buddest temple, temporarily blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic to close their eyes, bow their heads and offer prayers to their God,
Of the warm greeting of “namaste” offered with affection or respect by so many with hands pressed together and a gentle dip of the head,
Of the women at our school in their colorful sarees and gregarious smiles, Of George’s gentle spirit that he shares so generously with others,
Of Stephen’s authentic concern for these people and for us. Thank you for making this a wonderful trip and for sharing your gifts with us, with Papa’s House and our other sponsors,
Of my dear friend Wendy. We are so different and yet so alike. How I have enjoyed traveling with you! May your suitcase be within the weight limits, may your remaining day be all you hope for, and may this country have left as beautiful an impression on you as it has me.
And, finally, of, the terraced hillsides planted with bright green vegetation, of the rushing river I had the opportunity to raft, and mostly of these wonderful people who have welcomed us into their country. To you, Nepal, Namaste, ‘I greet the God within you’.”