There are a range of projects in Kathmandu to suit the needs and interests of a variety of volunteers. We were lucky to visit two of the child-based projects whilst here.
Khawalung Tashi Choeling Monastery
The monastery houses young trainee monks and is situated 45 minutes away from Central Kathmandu. After a ride over roads so bumpy they would be classified as impassable in the UK, witnessing the richness of life as the people of Nepal go about their daily business, we arrived. The building was impressive in both design and colour and on arrival young monks were keen to see who had arrived. We were able to tour the monastery seeing an example of a classroom, the prayer room and dining room. As we walked along the main corridor, young monks hid from us behind their robes or the curtains that adorned the walls. Only a few were brave enough to have a photo taken or show their work to us as they practiced the Tibetan language. Reaching the top of the stairs we walked out onto a flat roof giving an amazing view of Kathmandu against the back drop of the mountains.
You’ll not only work in the monastery but also live here amongst the monks allowing you to truly experience their way of life. That does mean no hot showers but it may be a small price to pay for such rare immersion into a unique culture. Please note that accommodation is shared on a same sex basis and their is usually space for around six volunteers at anyone time. Couples should contact the in-country team to see if arrangements can be made or be prepared to be roomed separately. Food is included but due to the fact you’re staying in a Buddhist monastery will be vegetarian. If you want meat then you’ll have to go off site which is not necessarily a bad thing as it’s a great way to explore the neighbouring community.
You will be required to teach for several hours (around 3) each day Sunday – Friday and will be provided with a schedule on arrival. Although the focus is on English there is opportunity to teach Maths and Science too. Anything you can teach them about your own culture is also gratefully received. You will eat with the monks and are even allowed to take part in some of their rituals with time to develop/learn meditation too.
Free time can be spent either on site (there’s even wifi!) or you can visit the local area. Within 20 minutes walk you will reach Bouddhanath Temple & Stupa which is a site for both Buddhists (monks & non-monks) as well as Hindus. You can get transport into Central Kathmandu if you wish – just speak to the local team to find out the best way at your time of visit.
Located in the suburbs of Kathmandu, this pre-school is home to up to 55 students under the age of 5 years old and embraces play and interaction as the primary teaching methodology. When we visited, the school site boasted two classroom buildings with a large greenspace-cum-playground for the children to play in. This included some toys and an animal corner home to rabbits and chickens that the children look after.
Whilst the recent earthquakes had caused no damage to the school, these and the reoccurring aftershocks have scared many children who became afraid of going into brick or concrete buildings. Sensitive to the worries of the children, a temporary tent-based classroom was set up on the field where the students could study without fear. They will continue to do so until the winter temperatures and time since the earthquake persuade the children that the school buildings are both safe and preferable.
Working Sunday-Friday from 1000-1530, you will be involved in teaching the children English through games and interactivity whilst contributing to the fun learning environment of the school.
Typically up to three volunteers will support this project and stay in a Homestay with a local Nepali family no more than 20 m from the school door. We had the privilege of visiting the host family who showed us the full extent of the property. Volunteers will typically be accommodated in same-sex accommodation (up to two sharing) with access to a Western toilet and hot showers, courtesy of the solar heater on the roof. The food served was delicious (we sampled a spicy noodle omelette dish) and the family’s home is at your disposal, including their TV with English channels and the WiFi.
If you come at a peak time, up to 15 volunteers may be engaged in the project and therefore other homestays are used (we cannot comment on the specific facilities these have) but are likely to have similar standards and equally open Nepali hospitality.
As well as the two projects we were fortunate to see, there are also a number of other projects that volunteers may participate in:
- Three monasteries with a similar set-up to that which we saw. One of which will only take male volunteers with the others taking both male and females.
- Six Montessori schools again run in a similar way to the one we visited.
- One government school working alongside paid local teachers.
- Four orphanages – an example of which we shall see in Chitwan.
In total, all of the projects currently running in Kathmandu can accommodate at least 40 volunteers. Prior to the earthquake, there was no problem with trying to fill these spaces but since then numbers have dropped below 10 and projects are really starting to struggle.
Interested in volunteering in Kathmandu or would like to know more about the work being done in Nepal? If so please contact VPO for up to date details on the projects running now and the current facilities available.
We are currently exploring the opportunities for volunteering in Nepal thanks to the support of VPO and will be blogging and vlogging about the projects, the people and the country throughout our time here. By doing so, we hope to encourage others to come to Nepal and make a difference themselves in a sustainable and appropriate way.