Bree Rodgers - Care, Care & Community in Nepal
If anyone was to tell my 15 year old self that in the next few years I was going to travel solo halfway across the globe, immerse myself within a stunning culture, experience a way of life many would never get a glimpse of, and volunteer alongside 18 other like-minded teenagers from various corners of the world, I would’ve laughed! The idea of volunteering and helping others less fortunate became a passion of mine during my early high-school years, alongside my ever-growing desire to travel. As I was running frantically through Kuala Lumpur International Airport to catch my connecting flight to Kathmandu, Nepal, I realized that I was on the path to achieving a life-long dream of mine at only 17 years of age, something made possible through Projects Abroad.
Arrival to Kathmandu
After marvelling at the peaks of the Himalayan alps during our descent into Kathmandu, a friendly faced Projects Abroad staff member greeted me outside the airport to transport me through the beautifully colourful and energised capital city. Our van ride navigating through the streets, crowded with scooters and people, was filled with laughter and friendly conversation which helped my initial nerves disappear. Our hotel, hidden in a peaceful area off from the main street, would become my home over the next couple of weeks. The hotel staff, which had personal nicknames from us by the time we departed, never failed to ask us how we were, or join in on any game we were playing that evening, and continually delivered the warmest service I have ever been treated too.
Although our typical day started with breakfast around 8 (8.30 if you were one of the French boys who valued their sleep over eating), one of the greatest pleasures of volunteering through Projects Abroad was having no “average day” at our placement. Our days were never repetitive, nor boring, and it was exciting waking up knowing you were about to embark on a day filled with adventure and discovery.
Our placement was located in the outskirts of Kathmandu, our days involved painting a local school’s classrooms, while being entertained by the joyous children playing around us. Through this placement we experienced both the inner-city and rural Nepali lifestyle.
During the afternoons and days off from painting, we played numerous outdoor games alongside the school kids, who found it hilarious that we had no idea how to play their local games!
I remember finishing every day as we travelled back into the buzzing commotion of the city, gazing out across the rice paddies and city buildings, thinking how fortunate I was to be experiencing this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Accommodation and Food
One of the highlights of our accommodation was our access to rooftop patios on the upper floors of the hotel. For one, it made a great hiding spot when we spontaneously decided to play hide and seek, and two, it allowed our competitive natures to come forward during numerous games of cards without disturbing the other guests.
The option for a warm shower was a delight after returning home, however with the heat and humidity of the summer in Nepal, cold showers were favoured anyway. The free wifi accessibility made contacting friends and family easy, and Google came in handy when we debated our different versions of how to play ‘Last Card’.
Socialising with each other felt natural, and our spare time often resulted in endless laughter surrounding how we pronounced words differently and incredible conversations about our own countries and cultures.
Every night we were served delicious local cuisine, so our appetite for Nepalese curries and both Chinese and Indian inspired dishes grew immensely. We were fortunate enough to also have food delivered to our school placement and meal-times quickly became part of our day that we cherished and looked forward to.
Because our volunteer program was designed for students, our weekends were fully organized by Projects Abroad, and we spent time discovering and exploring different areas of Nepal. They were fun-filled adventures that lead us to Chitwan, a beautiful national park, and Pokhara (for those staying for 4 weeks), Nepal’s second largest city, which is nestled against the Annapurna ranges.
The surreal nature of sighting a wild rhino in Chitwan was an experience that couldn’t be captured on camera, and the startling 4am wake-up call in Pokhara was worth it, as we gazed at the sun rising over the Himalayas.
The innovative attitude of the Nepalese people was demonstrated when we were piled into the back of an off-road jeep, the driver insisting that we could all fit… Twenty minutes later we unloaded at the base of the peace stupa in Pokhara — a Buddhist temple symbolising peace and serenity — and after climbing 462 stairs, although breathless and sweaty, the shadow of the stupa loomed over us, magnificent and glorious (and the view of the city below was a bonus!).
Having the opportunity to travel outside of Kathmandu was fantastic, and the memories I made exploring parts of these beautiful areas of Nepal are unforgettable.
A word of advice
My advice for future volunteers would be that this is going to be the wildest, most incredibly rewarding adventure of your life, so make the most of it. Enjoy every second, and embrace the experiences you are lucky enough to take part in. Having an open-mind and positive attitude definitely helped me in settling into the country, because it is a big step into a different world. With various countries and projects to choose from, I guarantee they will all push you outside your comfort zone in the most rewarding way possible. With a great team of Projects Abroad staff alongside you for support, you will be in for an unforgettable and life-changing journey.
Looking back, I embarked on a journey that not only taught me a great deal about Nepal itself, but allowed me to grow and mature as a person. Inevitably, the experience has changed my perspective on everything, from where I want to travel and spend my time, to who I want to spend my time with.