Global Volunteers’ Nepal Service Program, launched only a year and a half before the pandemic struck, had just reached a predictable rhythm before it was suspended in March 2020. Since then, the need and commitment from our community partners have grown, as has our eagerness to resume meaningful service opportunities as soon as possible. Nepal Country Manager Stephen Raja provides background on our formative partnership and the important role of volunteers.
The social problems stemming from Nepal’s political corruption, caste system, religious conflicts and dependence on subsistence agriculture has rendered its population one of the poorest in the world. The country ranks a dismal 142nd on the 2020 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, which measures income, life expectancy, and access to education in 189 countries. Constrained by an overall literacy rate hovering around 65 percent, Nepal’s average daily wage is just $2-$3, says Namaraj Shahi, one of Global Volunteers’ community partners. Significantly lower literacy rates and gender inequality predestines poor women and traditionally marginalized castes and ethnic groups to child labor, human trafficking and lives of dependence.
Compounding the economic poverty and societal disruptions, Nepal’s geography makes it prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters such as landslides and flash floods. Yet, amid seemingly insurmountable challenges, the resilience of the Nepalese people survives. Community partners strive to provide education to low-income children and women, and to do their best to provide basic care for orphaned children.
Food insecurity is a leading cause of poor health. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states 66 percent of the Nepalese population is directly engaged in subsistence farming, and chronic malnutrition affects nearly 50 percent of children – close to the highest rate in Asia.
Global Volunteers Accepts Community’s Invitation
These combined conditions are the reason for Global Volunteers Alumni May Lin’s solicitation for support to local NGOs, and our commitment to local leaders in and around Kathmandu. After serving with us and seeing firsthand how we provide meaningful and sustainable development opportunities to local communities, May Lin invited Global Volunteers on behalf of Nepalese communities in great need of help.
On his 2018 exploratory visit, Global Volunteers CEO Bud Philbrook was received by over 50 representatives from 20 schools, orphanages, churches, and colleges – all who expressed great interest in working with volunteers toward children’s and families’ well-being. In our inaugural year, five volunteer teams laid the program groundwork by teaching English to primary and secondary school students, as well as adults; teaching business and management to college students; caring for orphaned children; and painting and helping maintain schools and community buildings.
Details of Global Volunteers’ Work in Nepal
We got off to a good start in March, 2019, and our community partners were getting to know us better as volunteers addressed some of their needs. Specifically, our work has been in four main areas:
- Teaching conversational English:
- St. Joseph’s English Academy, a private school, has a total of 515 students who study in three separate buildings: the kindergarten block, the Middle school block, and the Secondary school block.
- Bans Bari is a public school that has kindergarten, primary, secondary and college level students.
- St. John School has 150 students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade.
- Helping marginalized and low-income women to learn English:
- Soroptimist Kathmandu is a non-governmental organization that focuses on women’s economic and social development, and other women related issues including gender discrimination, violence against women, and homeless women welfare.
- Astha Women’s School is a school for women who could not complete their school education when they were young and are dropouts. Now adults and most of them married with children, they want to complete their school education formally.
- Caring for orphaned children:
- Papa’s House: There are eight children in this small orphanage. Buddihman (Global Volunteers Consultant) and his wife run this orphanage.
- Women and Children Progress Center, a block away from Papa’s House cares for 11 boys and girls.
- Painting and maintaining community buildings and schools
- There is a lot of painting and general maintenance work that needs to be done in the schools and orphanages. And so far, we have worked on repainting Papa’s House.
When things were looking bright, and our volunteer Team # 5 was on the ground working, the pandemic struck abruptly, followed by an extensive lockdown imposed within two or three days after the volunteers’ departure.
Since then, livelihoods have been limited or eliminated while the social problems of poverty, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, and the rest have worsened. Most severely affected are the children, with schools closed and the lack of facilities for online classes. The dropout rates of children from schools are expected to be high.
Our community partners say when the pandemic eases and conditions stabilize, the need for volunteers will be greater than ever, and request support with all possible help to support them as they struggle to overcome this health and economic crisis and all the other issues affecting their communities. We invite you to learn more about the Nepal Service Program and all your opportunities to contribute to their recovery. Watch our Facebook updates and request to join our email list to get reports as soon as program dates are announced.
You may also like: