Volunteer OverseasVolunteer Overseas

Sarah W. – Care in Nepal

A beautiful view of the sunset over Kathmandu

In the spring of 2016, I graduated high school and made a decision - I was going to do a gap year. Then, there were more decisions. What was I going to do and where was I going to go? My sister, Anna, had volunteered in Senegal, and my brother, Dezso, had volunteered in Peru. That actually made it easy - it had to be Asia for me.

Sarah visiting a local market

However, there are lots and lots of countries in Asia, so identifying which one was the next decision. I knew that I wanted the opportunity both to volunteer and to explore, but I wasn’t exactly ready to travel extensively on my own. The next decision was to go on a hike in the Himalayas as part of an outdoor leadership program. And what’s geographically next to India? Nepal. It was the beginning of a plan.

I had done my research and knew Projects Abroad is a good organization. Both of my siblings had done projects with them and had enjoyed them. I wanted to do something with kids, since I really like working and playing with them. My final decision was to do a childcare project in Kathmandu.

Before arriving in Nepal, I was in India for a four-week trek, which included staying in a homestay. I somehow thought that it would make sense to bring quite a lot of clothes, which turned out to be more than I would ever need for my two months of traveling. Once I finally got to my host family in Kathmandu, I was happy to be settled.

School children in Kathmandu in Nepal

My host family

I was staying at Menuka’s. When you say ‘Menuka’ in the neighborhood, most people around there know her and her house or family. She has two young sons under the age of eight, and a husband. Her family members were often over at the house, whether it was her much younger brother helping his nephew with homework, or her sister talking about life growing up in Nepal. Her extended family of eight siblings was always chatting and they had so many interesting things to say.

Volunteers explore Nepal during heir free time

I was lucky to be in a really nice house on the top floor, with other girls around my age. I had a big balcony outside my room, which I really loved. I had one roommate for the first few weeks. She was French and much older, but we got along even though we spoke different languages. There were two other girls in a different room at the house, one of them had the same placement as me and was staying for the same amount of time.

My Care Project

Volunteers painting an educational mural

Now, as for my actual project, I was originally supposed to care for little kids at a secondary school for children of pre-school age through to 10th grade. Within the first week, I realized that I wanted to work with older children and teach, rather than take care of the smaller kids who knew less English. I asked to change, and was given a new schedule which allowed me to teach many different classes in many different subjects.

Classes had around 20 students. I taught math, English, science, and even social sciences. I quickly learned that the kids were much more interested in memorizing facts and content of the books, than the context and how it relates to their lives.

Volunteers sitting together for a meal

For example, I had to teach class five science. Surprisingly, I had to teach them about air and water pollution, which is actually a huge issue in Kathmandu. While I was teaching them, I was trying to relate it to their own lives, so they could understand it on a personal level rather than just academically. However, they weren’t exactly interested in the personal context. I found that trying to understand their point of view was tricky, but it was very educational for me.

One thing was clear, all the kids were very energetic and interested in learning. I was very pleased with this. In addition, all the teachers were really interested in getting to know me. No matter if they spoke a lot of English or not, they all seemed to want me to have a great experience teaching the kids. All in all, the teachers were really interesting and easy to talk to. The principal of the school was away, due to an accident, for the majority of the time that I was volunteering at the school. However, she came in for my last week and was very helpful and seemed really nice.

Volunteers spending time at a local temple

Several teachers would sit in or help out in the classes where I taught little kids, which was helpful. Sometimes the teachers would just sit and watch and make sure that the kids were listening. The younger the kids were, the harder it was to teach them. You have to really work at having them listen and behave, and sometimes it took a day or so to get them to listen. Then suddenly, and surprisingly, you would have a class that listens and pays attention.

Class three, which I taught once a day, was the most interesting. On the first day, I got completely nowhere with them. Why? I was a new teacher and the kids wanted to be loud, and I had just arrived, so they thought nothing of me. Yet, day by day, they would slowly start to pay attention and we would get class work done - and I just knew that they were actually learning.

More days passed, so I decided to play games so they would have fun. It turns out that games are a really good way to get kids to pay attention. As the teacher, you can stop the game anytime you’d like. If the kids were getting too loud, I told them we would have to return to our books, and if they were getting quieter, we could go back to the game. On the first day, they were loud and would not listen to me. On the last day, they didn’t say a peep.

For me, the most rewarding part of my experience at Projects Abroad was both to see that I had made such a huge difference with these children, and to learn so much from my efforts.

Sarah W.

This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.

This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.

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