INFO Nepal

INFO Nepal - Volunteer in Nepal

Government Registered No. : 878/1999/2000
Social Welfare Council Registered No : 10700

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Volunteers Experiences
Read 300 volunteers Experiences


Chris
Gatlang village


I arrived in Kathmandu unsure of where I wanted to do my placement; it was easier to decide having spoken with the INFO staff, other volunteers and having read reports from past volunteers. I chose to do my placement in Gatlang, which is a remote village up in the mountains. We took a 10-hour bus ride to Syabrubesi, where we stayed overnight, then trekked to Gatlang, which took about 5 hours.

The village itself is very basic, but the views are amazing, as long as you go at certain times of the year. During monsoon season, the village is mostly surrounded in cloud so don't expect the views of the peaks that you hoped for. Although, when the cloud does clear, the views are amazing. It also rained every day, although not all day, and during the night, making the walk to school muddy, but eventful!

The resource centre is part of the school, and the host, Durga, has the bags with writing equipment, picture cards, paper etc. There is quite a lot of stuff there to use with the kids.

We arrived during the school holidays so we chose what hours we taught and how often. It's best to stick to a routine if possible, as it's difficult to pass messages on when nearly everyone in the village speaks Tamang rather than Nepali…We taught from 7-10 in the morning and 4-6 in the afternoon. Generally, we taught from 7-8, then had a short break, then taught for another 30-45 mins, then played some games. The younger ones find it hard to concentrate for much longer.

The children vary in age from about 4-11 and we found it best to split them into 2 groups – not necessarily age, but ability. It's only possible to do this after you've worked out which ones are more able though…generally the ones who shout out first when you ask for an answer to something! They also tend to specialise in repetition, rather than just listening first; it seems to be the way they do things in the school. We spent time on the alphabet, which they can recite well from start to finish, but they're not so good at naming random letters if you point to them. We also did work on numbers, body parts, animals, family, and basic English phrases, eg 'What is your name?' 'How many people are there in your family?' Games like Hokey-cokey, H S K and Toes work well, and they love to throw a ball if you have one!

The host family is the best there is in Nepal! Durga is a trekking guide, so if you can, get him to take you on a long (or short) trek locally. His wife is great, and constantly keeps your plate full at mealtimes…They have two children, Rosila and Pemba, who are very young. Rosila is a little shy, but loves to draw if you have some paper/pens with you.

The children in the village are all keen and very friendly, and enthusiastic about lessons/playing. The locals are curious, but friendly nevertheless; there always seem to be people in the house coming to see who the latest volunteers are!

It is a great location, enjoy!


Corinne von Burg
Thulo Bharkhu - 4 Weeks August/ September

When I arrived in Nepal, I was welcomed very warmly and they tried to prepare my as good as they were able for my placement. I liked the training a lot and find it very useful, especially the language class with the lovely Rama. After six days I moved to my placement in Thulo Bharku. The busride to go there was quite long and I had to change buses two times because of landslides but the surrounding was amazing.

The village was absolutely nice and people soon accepted me and tried to support me all the time. The same with the host family, they were incredible friendly and took me to a four day pilgrimage whit the whole community which was an unforgettable memory. In my placement was another volunteer and we had a lot of fun. I think its nice to have another person with you in the placement.
The only thing I’m not going to miss are the bedbugs, their bits covered my whole body. So be prepare…
The children were amazing and always wanted to play. If you are going to run a resource centre, don’t forget to bring a lot of stickers and especially balloons, they went crazy about that. The english in school was very basic and it was sometimes hard work to keep the attention of the kids. But I’ll never forget the happy faces of the children waiting in front of the resource centre for me every day. The gave me so much love and joy.

Obviously you receive much more than you are able to give as a volunteer.
It was the best experience I ever had and I won’t regret any minute I spent here in Nepal.



Jacqui Cawston
Dhapaklel, Lalitpur, Kathmandu - July 20 – July 28

I was based with a wonderful family, who were very inviting and eager to learn all about my family and myself. I wish I had brought more photos with me. I dreaded the thought of dal/bhat every day, but my family produced some wonderful curries from the little produce they grew in their kitchen garden, including pumpkin, gourd, aubergine and potato, and this helped so much that by the end of my stay I was really enjoying it, and it was a treat to have a little chicken or mutton with it.

It was with much trepidation that I started this placement, as I had not read any reports or information about where I was based, or what had previously been achieved at the Children's Home.

The SOF Children's Home was next door, via walking around a paddy field so liable to be muddy. The children were very welcoming and I found another volunteer from Australia there, (thought not through INFONepal) and he was able to fill me in with what was happening. The children's home has been open for about six months and there are approximately 15 children staying there ages range from 3 / 4yrs to 11 /12yrs with a roughly 60%/40% mix of boys/girls. There is a very basic food preparation area on the ground floor, dormitories for the girls and boys (separate) a conference type room, and a roof terrace, with three toilet cum showers. The accommodation is very sparse, but while I was there a number of beds appeared. There is no feeling of home at the moment, and this is partly due to the fact that a mother type figure needs to be introduced. At present English comprehension is very poor, the children are able to identify letters and very basic words, but are unable to comprehend much of what is said to them in English. It would had helped if I knew a lot more Nepali then words could be taught, and simple phrases, but I think this is a little way off at the moment.

There are a couple of musicians who come and take a traditional music lesson with the children every week. They are definitely benefiting from this as when there is no homework to be done they are often to be found singing together.

There is also no apparent religious basis within the home, eg Hindu shrine which was evident in my host family, and as I feel Nepali life does revolve around the Hindu/Buddhist religion I consider this an area needs to be sorted out.

The main problem that needs to be addressed is exactly what Rapu Thapa (Director) wants from the volunteers. He was very friendly and appreciated that I visited most days to help the children with their homework where I could, and just be a friendly face around the place. There also needs to be a big cash injection to help with the many resources that will be needed. I think this is being worked on.

I also attended Mahendra Adarsha Vidyashram, Satdobato, Lalitpur, KTM which is the school the children attend. This is a very good school, which I feel the children will benefit greatly from. The teachers were very welcoming and encouraging and it was good to feel I was contributing to the education of the children I met even though I am not an English teacher. The system of education seems to be through rote and continued repetition so that the child eventually remembers a little of what they have been taught. The English teacher made use of English being my native tongue, and asked me to read many stories to them so that the stress on each word was correct, and of course pronunciation. I was able to converse with some grade 9 & 10 pupils so they can obviously reach a pretty good standard by the end of ten grades.

I visited during the monsoon, and though I didn't find the rain a problem as such, the effects of walking through mud and deep water every day did affect my feet. Leeches particularly found me very tasty!! as well as the mosquitoes. My advice to anyone else coming at this time of year – make sure you have some good footwear as it is very slippery walking around paddy fields and along mud tracks.

I thoroughly enjoyed my placement and would recommend the experience to anyone. Just remember the culture is very different here, and although everyone aspires to become rich like the west, and possibly travel to the UK to work and earn a lot of money, Nepal needs educated people and the many attributes that exist here shouldn't be lost, but encouraged.


Deirdre Jones
Gatlang - July

Another volunteer accompanied me from London. After the 10-hour bus journey to Syabru Besi, we stayed there overnight and the following day we trekked to Gatlang. It took about 4.5 hours. We met our host Durga and his family who were extremely welcoming and accommodating.

The children were on school holidays at the time. In Gatlang, there isn't a resource centre as such. Instead, we used one of the classrooms of the school as our base whilst we were there. Durga kept all the supplies in his home and we brought these up to the school.

The typical day was to teach from 7-9 approx in the morning and then again in the afternoon for another 2 hours or so. Word got out fast that we had arrived and by the 2nd day, we had about 30 children appear. More tended to show in the morning session than in the afternoon.

The Tamang language was a bit of a problem but one of the older kids helped interpret for us. There were children of all ages ranging from as young as three up to approx 10 years old. It was helpful to have another volunteer because we ended up dividing the class into 2 with one of us taking charge of the older children and the rest took care of the younger.

The older children of which there were only about four were well advanced in comparison to the other children. They were able to read English, do maths timetables and so we tended to practise grammar with them and future and past tense.

The other group was much more basic. If we went through the alphabet with them, they tended to repeat it in a 'singsong' fashion, but we found that if we pointed to a letter at random many did not know what this was. So we tended to spend a lot of the time going over the basics, pointing to objects, and teaching words. They also loved incorporating game-playing into their learning. A favourite was head, shoulders, knees, toes, also the hokey-cokey, and getting them to work out which is their right and left side!

Unfortunately, I think the biggest drawback to teaching at Gatlang in July was the weather. It rained almost every day and we were constantly covered in cloud. In addition, we were unable to trek anywhere on our day off (Saturday) because of the poor conditions and mud everywhere. However, in saying that, the kids were really fantastic. They do not have much but they greeted us every morning with big smiles and waves and their enthusiasm never waned. It was truly an experience!

So – in summary, in my view, go to Gatlang if you are thinking about it at all. When we did catch a glimpse of the peaks, they were truly breathtaking. However, if you are here during the monsoon you might want to consider that you will not see much of the beautiful surroundings. The family is amazing and very welcoming and you do experience something amazing.

Rob (UK) and Elena (Spain)
Goljung Children's Resource Center - 14th March – 14th April

We got a very warm welcome the first day we arrived with a meal at a local restaurant. It was very nice to meet Asim’s wife and son and also to catch a few other volunteers who were just finishing their placements and were leaving Nepal. They gave us some useful tips on what to expect, what not to expect (!) and how to deal with everything.The next couple of days were sightseeing, with a few different members of the Info Nepal team, to various different places around Kathmandu. Pratik and Bicky were great with their knowledge of every little detail and we got a very good starter in understanding a lot of Nepali culture.After that the language classes started with Rama. She would meet us every day, normally in the mornings, for about 2 hours. We started off very basically with “hello’s”, “how are you’s” and basic introductions, but very rapidly over the 5 days of lessons, progressed to “how to barter for the best price”, “likes and dislikes”, “food and drink” and much much more.
During this time we visited our training village family for two nights which was a really good insight into what to expect from the actual placement. At first we both felt a little uncomfortable as our Nepalese was still a little shaky and the family’s English wasn’t that good. Also as they were such good hosts they would not let us help with any jobs and as this wasn’t our placement there was nothing for us to be getting on with immediately. However, the more we chatted and spent time with them, the more we felt at ease and welcomed and in the end we were very sad to be leaving so soon!

Next came the project in Goljung and our first real shock. By this time our Nepalese was coming on a little better and we were feeling more confident to get stuck into communication……only to find that in the village very few people spoke Nepalese! Goljung is a Tamang village and they have their own dialect. Our host family spoke Nepalese so this was not a problem but when we got to the library on the first day, we found that very few of the children understood our Nepalese or our English. We did find that some children spoke better Nepalese and English than the others and so they became our invaluable translators for all lessons.

We have thought about how this problem could have been avoided and have realized that it would have been impossible for the staff in Kathmandu to have taught us any Tamang as this isn’t their language. The only thing we can suggest is that future volunteers could be given a little more warning of the language difference and perhaps a small booklet with some basic Tamang expressions and useful phrases could be prepared for volunteers going to that placement.

Our work in the placement differed from what we had been expecting to do. Elena had been planning to spend most days working with a health centre in the village but found that it only opened one day while we were there, and I had planned to assist with some construction but found no projects/work to help with. Having said this we both had a fantastic time opening the library twice a day and teaching the children. We tried to impart some of our joint professional medical knowledge onto these lessons rather than just straight English. We introduced basics of self-hygiene, basic treatment of minor wounds, ideas about infection and cleanliness. These we felt went down very well and were absorbed by some of the children.

After our project and for a two days in the middle we took ourselves away to do some trekking in the local area and were rewarded by spectacular views and great mountain experiences.
On the whole we both feel strongly that Info Nepal is a fantastic organization and is doing a great job in trying to improve the quality of life of poorer people in Nepal. One thing we did notice was that there are very many villages which now have Info Nepal Libraries but these only open when Volunteers are present. This we feel can lead to a lack of continuity of learning for the children in those places. Two ideas we had of how to solve this problem were:

1) - A system of handover from one volunteer leaving a project to the next one arriving at the same place.
Ideally this could be done if they overlap their time at the project or meet in Kathmandu but obviously this will rarely happen. The best other way would be to start a formal handover book to detail, for example, times of opening of the library, lessons taught, levels of attentions and speed of learning of specific children etc etc. We detailed much of this is our report in the logbook already in the library in Goljung but perhaps it would be better to have a centrally held one in the office in Kathmandu so that observation can be made about progress in the different projects and comparisons made.

2) – A system of involvement of a local resident to open the library.
There a several obstacles to overcome with this idea. The local person must be trusted with a key and given responsibility for maintaining the library in a good condition. The local person would need to be paid for this. However, the benefits of allowing the children regular access to resources held in the libraries, even it were only for a piece of paper and a pen to write and practice English, would be great.
If we have any other ideas that come to us we will definitely get in contact with you to pass them on. We will also get on thew internet at some point in the near future and write some reports on the chat rooms etc about the work that Info Nepal does – in both English and Spanish!!!
Thanks again Info Nepal for giving us such a special experience. One that will stay with us for the rest of our lives…..or until we are next back again with you!
Rob – jones_2k@hotmail.com
Elena elenagilz@hotmail.com

Hans Swenson and Elise Chalmers
Devi's Falls Resource Center, July 5th –July 20th

We spent several weeks in Devi's Falls working at the resource center. We taught English lessons mixed with a little geography and social studies and we tried to make it fun as much as possible by incorporating games into the lessons. The kids were great and very enthusiastic about learning but some very firm discipline was necessary to maintain order. If given the opportunity, some of the kids would quarrel, steal and be dishonest so we had to keep a sharp eye on their behavior. The majority of the kids however, were a pleasure to work with and once the rules were understood there was productive learning for everyone there.

The classes were broken up by age group and in the morning at 6:45 we began with kids aged 11-13 of which about ten kids usually showed up. At 7:30, the 8-10 year old group came in which was about the same amount. We taught almost identical lessons to these two groups because many of the younger kids were more capable in English than the kids in the older group. Over the course of our time there we taught lessons on the use of plurals, apostrophes, contractions and basic world geography. We had them practice writing sentences in their copy books using the things they had learned from the English lessons. The geography was limited to continents, oceans, a few key countries in Asia and where volunteers came from since the kids were always curious about our homes. If everyone cooperated and finished their assignments quickly we would often finish with a short game. They absolutely loved the games. Every game we played was enjoyed by the kids.

In the evening at 5:30, we had 5-7 year olds come in for half an hour. This group was usually less than half a dozen kids and they spoke almost no English. We tried to get them to speak as much as possible with lessons on basic greetings, how to ask for things, and some vocabulary like foods, animals and common objects. The lessons were brief and we always rewarded their efforts with games, songs or coloring.

At 6 pm we let all ages of kids come in for a fun activity. Sometimes as many as fifty kids would show up and it was always chaotic. We would organize trivia games, charades, and bingo. Sometimes we handed out crossword puzzles or word searches with concepts from the morning lessons. These were great because the kids would all be fairly quiet and focused for the whole time instead. Bingo was one of the most chaotic but also the game most requested by the kids.

The lessons seemed to be pretty successful for the most part but there were always a few kids who had not learned as much English as the others and they struggled to follow the activities. We felt that it would be better if we could have developed a routine way of evaluating each child's English level and then placing them in groups according these results instead of grouping them by age. However this would require more time than we had so we just did our best to give extra attention to the kids who needed it in order for them to understand what was going on.

As for ourselves, our accommodations were quite comfortable and the dahl baat was excellent. Since we only spent about 3 hours a day working with the kids, we had plenty of free time to explore the local area which was beautiful. It was about a ten minute walk down to the river where we could swim and go hiking in the country. In 20 minutes we could take the local bus into Lakeside and swim in the lake or go shopping for whatever we wanted. It was really a great place to be and the overall experience was wonderful. We would do it again and we recommend it to others.

Thank you INFO Nepal for a great time.
Argentina Hung
Parbatipur, Chitwan - 4 weeks (July )

I arrived in Nepal at the beginning of July . The first week in Nepal consisted of mainly training and sightseeing. All volunteers had to undergo Nepal language lessons to assist in the language barrier and culture difference. This also included spending two days in a village called Dhulikhel, which is located just outside Kathmandu (also known as the "training village"). I stayed with a local "host family" in Dhulikhel and was treated with the greatest kindness. The time I spent in Dhulikhel (although it was only two days) was memorable by the kindness of all the people that lived in the village. I was welcomed with open arms and made part of the village community as soon as I arrived. The children in the village were adorable.

The second week in Nepal was spent on two different activities. The first activity was a visit to Chitwan Jungle Safari for three days. This meant a long 5-hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Chitwan. The second activity was four days trekking in Pokhara, again, a long 5-hour bus journey from Chitwan to Pokhara. Both activities were worthwhile.

In terms of placement, I did not have a preference in location. As a result, I was placed at a Resource Centre (alternatively known as a Library/Community Centre) in Parbatipur, Chitwan. This is where I spent the remainder of my time in Nepal. I stayed with a host family located right next door to the Resource Centre! The host family were very kind and welcoming. I spent a considerable amount of time playing cards with the children at the host family and managed to teach them a few new games to remember!

The Resource Centre is simply a place where the children can go before and after school as they wish. It is not compulsory and extremely laid back! I was able to teach them more or less anything I wanted! This is because the Resource Centre is not a school, hence there was no need to follow a rigid curriculum.

The Resource Centre was open from 7-9am and 4-6pm everyday (except Saturday). Since my placement was in July, the majority of the children were off on school holidays, hence the Resource Centre was open longer each day. I also wanted to teach English at a local school, but due to the school holidays, this was not possible. The children that attended the Resource Centre aged from as little as 3 years old to 13 years old. Some children even came twice each day! Activities in the Resource Centre included reading, drawing, colouring, playing number and word games, singing and playing outside.

Overall, the placement in Parbatipur was a great experience. In addition, the two days spent in Dhulikhel was a memorable experience. I am very grateful for the warm welcome I received from both host families and will always remember the people I met.


Dan and Fizz Metcalfe
Thulo Barkhu - May-July

It seems that in the last seven weeks we've had a life times worth of experiences happen to us ranging from the good, bad, and butt clenchingly terrifying to the breathtaking (literally) and rather grotty (that would be the illness side of things, that you kind of just get used to).

We kicked off our stay with the training and sightseeing in Kathmandu, all good fun, though still slightly haunted by the way Pratik told we were lucky when we heard a head explode at the cremation site! Language lessons with Rama were an experience, neither of us being too great at languages, but we got the essentials sorted in our heads, though up in Langtang they speak Tamang so I'll finish this report with a couple of must know words and phrases for anyone going up to the mountains to help you out!

We then headed to Chitwan for a few days and went on the walking, jeep, canoe and elephant safaris, saw lot of animals, no tigers though. We also enjoyed 'washing the elephants' i.e. sitting on their backs and being sprayed by them, a really good way too cool off, though a little snotty!! Then off up to the mountains, to Thulo Bharku.

The bus ride was an experience it was more like mountainside demolition derby. They go haring over theses narrow mountain passes and round blind corners on the wrong side of the road within inches of the edge and 1000ft + drops looking backwards and chatting happily with the 15 year old boy that passes as the conductor. Every once in a while the 15yr old steps out of the door and shimmies up the side of the bus onto the roof to collect fares from the guys on the top, this is done whilst on the look out for naked overhead wires and the bus in full motion. Health and safety nightmare!! We ended up having to stop every few miles for the bus driver to hammer back in a bolt on the suspension that kept working loose. They finally fixed it at about the halfway point in the journey and just as the pulses were getting back to normal a bus overtook us ran out of space and ended up with its wing mirror coming through a window at the front of our bus covering a girl in glass and nearly taking her head off. All good fun and part of the experience, you kind of become immune after a couple of trips.

The time spent teaching was really rewarding, just to hear how the kids English came on in the 4wks up there was awesome. We're proud to say there are now a couple of kids in the Himalayas with hints of Yorkshire accents! We ran a resource center for the kids before school for 2hrs and after school for 1.5hrs every day bar sat and we then would either teach at school for 2 or 3hrs a day. Very tiring but good fun. On our first day there we got given a piece of chalk each, shown into separate rooms and told to "go teach English". Ok. The mind went blank and the sweat started pouring and I had 10-25 grubby faced kids expecting to learn something! It was time for a bit of trade mark Metcalfe quick thinking, then it came to me. Heads, shoulders knees and toes, fun and educational, what a genius!! The kids loved it especially as we introduced more interesting body parts. We also had some pretty low point whilst up there, the first being us both getting ill again. Add to this an army of fleas in my bed and one night waking up and feeling a spider crawling on my chest. I picked it off and threw it across the room. But the next day I woke up with a burning bite on my neck and 2 ten pence size blisters. Not nice. The spider had a rather nasty experience with a flip flop when I eventually found it. I'm still waiting to receive my 'Spidey Powers' but so far nothing.

During our 4th week there we went on a 4day trek up to a local holy lake in the mountains. I can only describe the trek as 4days of agony punctuated by awesome views and a meeting with a hippie that had just come back from 5days meditating in a cave. We reached the lake on the second day and Dan immediately started to get headaches due to the altitude (4350m). The next day we were up at 6 and hiking up a mountain to get a view of the dawn over the mountains. Just 50m from the top sickness set in and we made the decision to descend descend descend. We made up for it on our last day when we found a tea house where you could LIE IN BED and watch the sun rise over the Himalayas, non of this daft walking malarkey!! Again the walking was definitely worth the pain, and would recommend a trek to anyone, even just a short one as you meet so many different people again.

All in all, our experiences were varied but all totally worth it, looking back we wouldn't change any of it because it all added to and made our stories! We had an amazing time and met some amazing people everywhere we went.

A big thank you to INFO and good luck for the future.

Fizz_n_dan_do_oz@hotmail.com
Julia Lindsay
Prabatipur - March to May -

Only two weeks in Parbatipur but it doesn't take long to feel at home there. Host family were fantastic, wake up to fresh chiya and daal bhaat is on tap from about 9am to 9pm. With Rama, your 'ama' you can learn to cook and generally have a girlie gossip about the other villagers. She is extremely generous, especially with her rice portions so just keep saying 'Pugyo!'Anything you need is just a 45minute bus ride away in Narangat.

Riding top-deck with the luggage is pretty normal, top up your tan and avoid the goats and sweaty men coming back from the market. "Munchtime Café' is a friendly place to go get some lunch with some Other volunteers; bring along your own CDS to help them build up their music collection. With the kids, do not worry about having no experience.they've been at school all day and they are not expecting a structured lesson on English grammar. The most important thing is that you divide the kids up, vaguely by ability. What worked well for us was 7am and 8am classes of about 10 children in each who are intermediate level. Then my 4 o' clock class were the ones with really limited English so that class tended to be more art based and 5pm are the practically fluent boys, a small group so we can race ahead.including my host brother, Sagar, 13 - very good English (very useful as an interpreter..he also brings you tea in bed in the morning so lots of reasons to get along with him.)
Amelia and I also threw a huge party for the kids on a Saturday. Making the food and the 'pinatas' took up a couple of classes and of course the kids love getting messy.papier mache, balloons, glue.all allowed as long as they clean up. We organized a sort of British style sports day with 'egg and spoon', 'sack', 'three-legged' races and had a fantastic day, divided into teams and taking over the local field. You also have the challenge of shopping for all the stuff in Narangat.try explaining brush cleaner, food colouring, blue tack, sack, even string.to a shopkeeper in broken Nepali. Bringing a sample and then asking 'Tyo chha??" generally was the best method.

This was the scramble for the sweets that came out the 'pinata'.we weren't sure whether this game was fun or a little dangerous, but the amas and baas were quite happy to watch their kids wrestling eachother- in the style of their greatest heroes "Triple X", "John Cena" and "The Rock". Stock up on WWF stickers for prizes in class and you'll win a few hearts.

Lisa and Amelia must take credit for this fantastic sign that we painted with the older kids. Some of the adults gate crashed the painting sessions and we found a secret artistic talent in a deaf villager, Manoj, who became a great friend. Oh I do miss them all. It is a great place to be.a few words of warning: get used to going to bed early because the music shop starts pumping Nepali hits at 5 50am.also, beware of the switch in the shower (a little shock to wake you up in the morning). Lastly get your dancing shoes on as there's not one person in the village who won't ask you to dance for them.it seems to be the universal language.a personal favourite - "chiya barimaa"!

Enjoy and enjoy and any questions, queries please give me an email - giulialindsay@hotmail.com
• Great success - mix up some salt dough
• 2 cups of flour (atta)
• 1 cup of salt (nune)
• 1 cup of water (pani)
• Drop of food colouring (which I left in the cupboard in the room) Everyone loves it! And whatever happens on your placement, it's always a fun to get back to the
• Happy Home kids, for more daal bhaat and a good dance with Bicky and the boys.
• Miss them all already!


Amelia Carter
Prabatipur - April 15th

Coming to Nepal has been a mind-blowing experience and absolutely incredible in every way shape and form. The people are the warmest I have ever met, the culture is the richest I have ever had the opportunity to observe, and the environment is more beautiful then I could have ever dreamed.

When I first arrived to Nepal I had a really rough start. The culture shock, among other unfortunate mishaps, hit me in ways that I could have never imagined. But I soon realized that this is to be expected when traveling to a developing country for the first time. I promise though, once you fully understand and embrace the Nepali saying, "Ke garne", everything will some how work itself out and you will be able to enjoy Nepal for the remarkable place it is.

To speak on the volunteer work, it was wonderful. I worked at the library in beautiful Parbatipur, Chitwan. The children were brilliant; they were so anxious to learn and frankly just excited to be in the library. My first four weeks I taught with another volunteer, Lisa. We mostly introduced new vocabulary words and played games. They LOVE board bingo and memory so, between the two, the 4 hour-long classes seemed to fly by.

The lack of teaching guidelines and my lack of teaching experience left me to improvise most of the classes and while the kids seemed content I was left a little unsatisfied with my teaching job. So Lisa's last week and Guilia's first (the new volunteer), we basically turned the library into an arts and crafts center and incorporated vocabulary with each new arts and crafts activity. Then I started two huge projects, which I would have never had the guts or ability to pull off without Guilia --she was an absolute savior (thank you Guilia, you are amazing!). The first was a mural/sign (which our host mother donated to us!) for the library that we had the kids co-design and Lisa drew a beautiful outline for. Guilia and I helped paint the poster with the older kids while the younger kids painted a watercolor version on a giant piece of paper. We completed this project while simultaneously planning for a huge party/field day for the kids. For the party we had the kids make decorations and four Pinata's (which was hilarious since Guilia and I barley knew what we were doing ourselves). Then Guilia and I made a huge feast for the kids to enjoy after they played racing games in a near by field. To make a long story short: one Pinata at a time for 40 kids is NOT a good idea, but no one seemed to mind so, in the end the whole thing was a huge success and the sign turned out beautifully! After the hectic (but fun) last week was finally finished it was harder then ever to say goodbye. As a result I left in true Nepali fashion: hysterically crying with many small children sobbing, "Best of luck sister!" as my bus pulled out of Parbatipur all too soon.

All of my host families (and all of their neighbors, friends and relatives I had the opportunity to meet along the way) were spectacular. They all took such good care of me and were so generous with anything that they were able to give. My host family in Dhulikhel was great-- I got very close to the Katri children. The family's kindness was immense. They gave me so much love and care and constantly went beyond their call of duty. A special thank you to Pashupati -- an exceptional tour guide and wonderful friend. My family in Parbatipur was also incredible. Rama was so funny and warm and her daughters, son, and niece were fabulous host relatives. They completely welcomed me into their home and were so gracious while Guilia and I destroyed their kitchen as we frantically cooked for 40 hungry kids-and their parents. By the end of my stay I truly felt that I had made two extended families in Nepal - whom I certainly will try to keep up a relationship with.

Nepal was an unbelievable learning and life experience. I made extremely close connections with people I would have never had the opportunity to even meet. And I most certainly experienced the real Nepal thanks to INFO. Volunteering and/or staying with local host families are, I feel, the only ways to truly soak up all that Nepal has to offer and I highly recommend it. In the end I can say that my time spent in Nepal was fabulous! And it's damn hard to leave it behind; that's why I must say "Pheri Bhetaula!" -- and to prospective volunteers remember the experience is what you make it.

PS. I'd be more then happy to elaborate on my experiences or answer any questions. ameliamcarter@yahoo.com


Jenny Taylor
Nirmal Pokhari and Chitwan Ganganagar - 20th Jan – 19th March

I can honestly say this has been the most inspiring and amazing 2 months of my life, Thank You to everyone at INFO Nepal you are all doing a fantastic job. From the minute I arrived in Nepal I knew I was going to have an unforgettable experience. Arriving at night during a power cut and one of the many strikes was possibly not the best time to arrive, but a good idea of what to expect. On arrival I was welcomed into the INFO Nepal family and paired with another volunteer Nicky, we stayed together for the 2 months of my placement. Language training and sightseeing began immediately, with so much to see and do I realized I had a challenging 2 months ahead of me.
Nicky and I were taken to our training village, Sanga to continue our language and cultural training. This was very enjoyable, even though I was rather hopeless at the language. Sanga was an excellent way to get used to village life, half way between Kathmandu and my placement. It gave me time to adjust to eating Dhal Bhat twice a day with my right hand, using an outside charpi and being a 45 minute uphill walk from the nearest small shop. I’ll never forget having language classes with Krishna (my Nepali guru) eating pop-corn while kid goats munched our clothes and head-butted us. Thank you to Pashupati who came round everyday to take us sightseeing to a different temple and was always singing to us.
After our training and staying at Happy Home we were taken to our placement in Nirmal-Pokari, we were immediately welcomed into the village and became part of the family. The children met us with loud cheering and my initial thought was oh my god how are we going to control over 20 small children? After around a week of the children and us getting to know each other we formed close bonds, especially with the two boys living next door to us. Teaching became fun, in the morning we taught the younger children at the library from 7am-8.45am. It was then home for Dhal Bhat and off to the local government primary school to teach from 10am-1pm. This was very useful as we gained useful knowledge on how to teach e.g. you can never go to slow when getting children to repeat out loud. Nirmal-Pokari is a very bumpy hour and a half bus ride uphill from Pokhara, the views are fantastic, though it was incredibly cold at times. Everyday water is taken from a spring at the bottom of the mountain, it is such hard work. There are children of 7years carrying pails of water that must weigh more than them up mountain stairs, making you realize just how easy we have it back in the U.K. I loved being there, when it came to saying bye I didn’t realize just how attached I had become to the children and the village it was a very emotional day.

A few days in Kathmandu and we were ready to leave, Nicky and I stayed together and moved placement to Ganganagar, Chitwan. Here Nicky will continue to help the construction of the new orphanage while teaching the local children in the library. I got the privilege of spending a week with the children of Gaganagar and continuing the good work of all the previous volunteers. Chitwan is a beautiful place with such kind and generous people, I was welcomed into a lovely family. The landscape is so totally different from Pokhara, it is almost like being in Africa at times and everyone has manual well pumps in the garden for water and showering. I had said goodbye to freezing in my lunge at the bottom of a mountain, trying to shower in the water tap with half the village watching.

I have made friends for life in Nepal and I will never forget this experience, Thank You to Asim and everyone working for INFO Nepal. If anyone is looking for a unique, challenging and rewarding experience then look no further. I am making plans to return to Nepal as soon as possible. Jenny

E-mail: jennytaylor_keele@hotmail.com


Danielle Soya (Danny)
Gatlang, Langtang - Feb- March ( 6 weeks )


Despite warnings that going alone could be difficult, I chose to be placed in Gatlang just outside of Langtang National Park. It was a very remote village with few Nepali speakers (they are mostly Tamang) and fewer broken English speakers. However, my goal for the trip was to live in the most remote mountain area I could find. Having just recently returned, I have no regrets.

The 10 hour bus ride was fine, with only one minor landslide delay, and I was welcomed in Syabru Bensi by the volunteer who had run the library there for 5 weeks, and her host family. She ended up changing her plans to return to Kathmandu and walked up Goljung Pass with me to help set up in Gatlang. The Pass was an experience in itself: 2 hours straight up the mountain, then 2 more hours along the road at the top to reach my home for the next 5 weeks. The view is awesome, and can’t be properly captured with words or photographs. From the host family’s house there is a perfect view of Langtang I and II, as well as the surrounding snow capped mountain ranges. It is impossible to be upset by anything when you wake up to that view every morning. It makes the cold bearable. And it was cold when I arrived. Snow was a frequent occurrence and quite some time was spent huddling with people around a fire. By the time I left, the warmer weather was coming, which I was grateful for, if only for the sake of the locals who wore sandals through it all.

I managed to set up a decent teaching schedule by the end of the first week. It had taken a while to organize because of the extra language barrier, and the school being out of session, but the effort was more entertaining for the village (and there is something to be said for that). After a brief break to celebrate the Tibetan New Year in Syabru Bensi, I began a daily schedule of class. From 7-8:15, I instructed the younger men of the village who were no longer in school. They could read it quite well, but with the highly accented and non-fluent teachers in the school, everyone had difficulty understanding spoken words without visual aids. At 8:15 until 9 I worked on vocabulary with the small children. They were exceedingly eager and very good mimics, though it took a lot of effort to get them to really comprehend the meaning of words. I ended up going back to assist the English teacher with regular classes because 3 of the 7 teachers never came out to Gatlang to teach. I would teach Class 5 on my own when they had no teacher, and I would work with the official English teacher in Classes 6, 7, and 8 until 1:30. The kids have very little contact with English speakers and would come up and request me in their classrooms before they realized I would be willingly sticking around to teach for a while.

In the afternoons I occasionally did hikes up to Pavari Kunda (a lake 45 min more up the mountain) or to Goljung the other volunteer village 2 hours away. Usually, I taught a few students privately on request until dinner time. There is never a shortage of students if you are eager to teach. The host family’s home is actually a guesthouse and the head master of the school stays there. The teacher’s would come to me with all sorts of question’s about the English language and other countries, all the while trying to improve their pronunciation. I wish more volunteers would visit the area as the long spaces between volunteers mean each one starts from scratch. Still, you never doubt that you are making a difference or that the change is welcome. Next time I go out there, I will try to get some Tamang training to improve communication with the parents in the village. But don’t worry, everyone is very nice, and I was so well cared for, I didn’t ever feel the need to get in contact with the outside world. Though, it is nice to know INFO would help out if there was a problem. I will definitely be returning to visit in the near future.

Email: dcsoya@gmail.com


Rob and Elena
Goljung 14th March – 14th April

We got a very warm welcome the first day we arrived with a meal at a local restaurant. It was very nice to meet Asim’s wife and son and also to catch a few other volunteers who were just finishing their placements and were leaving Nepal. They gave us some useful tips on what to expect, what not to expect(!) and how to deal with everything.

The next couple of days were sightseeing, with a few different members of the Info Nepal team, to various different places around Kathmandu. Pratik and Bicky were great with their knowledge of every little detail and we got a very good starter in understanding a lot of Nepali culture.

After that the language classes started with Rama. She would meet us every day, normally in the mornings, for about 2 hours. We started off very basically with “hello’s”, “how are you’s” and basic introductions, but very rapidly over the 5 days of lessons, progressed to “how to barter for the best price”, “likes and dislikes”, “food and drink” and much more.

During this time we visited our training village family for two nights which was a really good insight into what to expect from the actual placement. At first we both felt a little uncomfortable as our Nepalese was still a little shaky and the family’s English wasn’t that good. Also as they were such good hosts they would not let us help with any jobs and as this wasn’t our placement there was nothing for us to be getting on with immediately. However, the more we chatted and spent time with them, the more we felt at ease and welcomed and in the end we were very sad to be leaving so soon!

Next came the project in Goljung and our first real shock. By this time our Nepalese was coming on a little better and we were feeling more confident to get stuck into communication……only to find that in the village very few people spoke Nepalese! Goljung is a Tamang village and they have their own dialect. Our host family spoke Nepalese so this was not a problem but when we got to the library on the first day, we found that very few of the children understood our Nepalese or our English. We did find that some children spoke better Nepalese and English than the others and so they became our invaluable translators for all lessons.

We have thought about how this problem could have been avoided and have realized that it would have been impossible for the staff in Kathmandu to have taught us any Tamang as this isn’t their language. The only thing we can suggest is that future volunteers could be given a little more warning of the language difference and perhaps a small booklet with some basic Tamang expressions and useful phrases could be prepared for volunteers going to that placement.

Our work in the placement differed from what we had been expecting to do. Elena had been planning to spend most days working with a health centre in the village but found that it only opened one day while we were there, and I had planned to assist with some construction but found no projects/work to help with. Having said this we both had a fantastic time opening the library twice a day and teaching the children. We tried to impart some of our joint professional medical knowledge onto these lessons rather than just straight English. We introduced basics of self-hygiene, basic treatment of minor wounds, ideas about infection and cleanliness. These we felt went down very well and were absorbed by some of the children.

After our project and for a two days in the middle we took ourselves away to do some trekking in the local area and were rewarded by spectacular views and great mountain experiences.

On the whole we both feel strongly that Info Nepal is a fantastic organization and is doing a great job in trying to improve the quality of life of poorer people in Nepal. One thing we did notice was that there are very many villages which now have Info Nepal Libraries but these only open when Volunteers are present. This we feel can lead to a lack of continuity of learning for the children in those places. Two ideas we had of how to solve this problem were:

1) - A system of handover from one volunteer leaving a project to the next one arriving at the same place.
Ideally this could be done if they overlap their time at the project or meet in Kathmandu but obviously this will rarely happen. The best other way would be to start a formal handover book to detail, for example, times of opening of the library, lessons taught, levels of attentions and speed of learning of specific children etc etc. We detailed much of this is our report in the logbook already in the library in Goljung but perhaps it would be better to have a centrally held one in the office in Kathmandu so that observation can be made about progress in the different projects and comparisons made.

2) – A system of involvement of a local resident to open the library.
There a several obstacles to overcome with this idea. The local person must be trusted with a key and given responsibility for maintaining the library in a good condition. The local person would need to be paid for this. However, the benefits of allowing the children regular access to resources held in the libraries, even it were only for a piece of paper and a pen to write and practice English, would be great.

If we have any other ideas that come to us we will definitely get in contact with you to pass them on. We will also get on thew internet at some point in the near future and write some reports on the chat rooms etc about the work that Info Nepal does – in both English and Spanish!!!
Thanks again Info Nepal for giving us such a special experience. One that will stay with us for the rest of our lives…..or until we are next back again with you!
Rob – jones_2k@hotmail.com
Elena elenagilz@hotmail.com


Ben & Tanzi Hume
Sauraha - Jan

Where do we begin???? Our experience in Nepal has been so amazing, filled with such a huge variety of new experiences. We spent our first few days trying to find our feet in the chaos that is Kathmandu. Probably the most difficult thing was keeping warm at night time. No heat and very limited hot water meant this was quite the challenge for those who are so used to luxuries such as central heating! We really enjoyed our time at Happy Home, playing with the children, meeting other volunteers and learning the basics in Nepali language. Our teachers Rama and Bimala both deserve awards for patience and perseverance! We also got used the eating dal bhat Nepali style – with our hands! At first it felt as if we were going against everything our parents tought us as children but by the end of our time in Nepal we were pros. Quite a liberating feeling actually. Just as we were beginning to feel comfortable in Kathmandu, we moved to Dhulikel to begin our village training. We were placed with an incredible host family consisting of 16 members, three buffaloes and some goats. We spent most of our time playing with the children and trying our best to interact with the adults. Thankfully Bimala and Rama paid us a visit so we could brush up on our Nepali language skills a bit further. We also did some sightseeing, visited one of the local schools and watched the sunrise up above the Himalayas.
Next on the itinerary was our placement experience in an orphanage in Sauraha, Chitwan. From the moment we walked onto the property we were surrounded by 16 children aged between 7 and 18. On our first night the children all danced and sang and welcomed us into their home. Our week in the orphanage went far too quickly as we busied ourselves playing, dancing and singing with the children, helping with homework, helping with the sweeping and chopping vegetables for the evening meal. We also got a glimpse of the library nearby and helped Sylvia (another volunteer) with some of her morning classes.

We spent Christmas in Sauraha which was a real treat. Being in a Christian orphanage, the day was celebrated from5.30 am right through to midnight. Just as we do at home, we watched the children open their presents in the morning. They were so excited as this seemed to be the only time of year that they receive gifts. They each got some new clothes and a toy to play with. The orphanage was filled with bubbles, and games and noise for about 3 hours until all of the batteries finally ran out. Then we joined them for their church service for more singing and dancing and laughter. By the end of the day we were completely exhausted, never having been surrounded by that many excited children for that many hours!! Some of the children were still celebrating as we called it a night.

The next day we met up with the rest of the Info Nepal crew who had traveled to Sauraha for the International Elephant Race. Ryan (another volunteer) rode the Info Nepal elephant to third place in his heat qualifying for the semi-finals the next day. Unfortunately our elephant was injured before the semis and refusing to ride an injured elephant, Info Nepal withdrew from the competition. We created quite a stir when the race began and our elephant simply sat down on the starting line.

Before we knew it, it was time to pack our bags and return to Kathmandu. We had originally planned to travel to Pokhara but the series of strikes that had recently occurred in the area made us a little uneasy with regards to getting back in time to catch our flight home. So we traveled straight to Kathmandu and spent our last few days in Nepal doing some sightseeing, relaxing and making the most of the hot showers on offer at our hotel (the one thing we found most difficult to live without). We also managed to organize a mountain flight to get up close and personal with Mt Everest. We had to wait hours for the fog to clear but it was truly worth it. What a sight!

As we prepare to return home, we are filled with mixed feelings. We can’t wait to return to some of the luxuries we so often take for granted such as our bathroom complete with hot shower, lighting at the flick of a button and a flush toilet, power that works round the clock, and central heating!! On the other hand, it is going to be so difficult to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people we have met in Nepal. Even though we have only been here a short time, the relationships we have formed have changed us forever and will always have a special place in our hearts. We shall never ever forget our humbling Nepali experience or the faces of those lovely children we had the opportunity to work with.



Donna and Jeremy
Goljung - September - January

We arrived in Nepal at the end of September after spending almost a month in China, including traveling through Tibet to Kathmandu. We visited the INFO office when we arrived in Kathmandu and were treated to a nice dinner with Asim’s family and the volunteers at Happy Home. There weren’t as many children staying there as normal because most of them had returned to their homes to celebrate Tihar and Dasain. Our volunteer placement started a month later, giving us time to go trekking in the Annapurna area and do some sightseeing in Nepal.

Our time with INFO Nepal started with a few days of language classes and sightseeing in the Kathmandu area while we stayed at Happy Home. (There were more children there at this time.) We then moved to Sanga, a ‘training village’ on the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley, where the language classes and sightseeing continued for a few more days. Jeremy also experienced a Nepali-style shower, much to the amusement of the local villagers and some passers-by. The host family there was very nice, hospitable, and served us tasty cooking. They even treated us to some homemade chang! As a bonus on clear mornings, we had a good view of the sun rising over the Himalaya from our bedroom window. The house was comfortable, even though there are chickens in the attic and goats in the room below us. While we stayed in Sanga, we made two trips to nearby Dhulikel to observe a Nepali school and do a bit of teaching. Donna’s singing must have been very entertaining for the students and teacher, Rajesh, who laughed so hard that he had tears in his eyes.

Our first placement was in Syabrubesi, in the Langtang area. It started with a long uncomfortable bus ride on an increasing bumpy road, but we eventually made it there with only one broken window. We arrived just before sunset, and just before the Lama arrived for a few weeks’ stay at the local gompa. The locals chanted and drummed as he arrived and offered kata (scarves), which he then placed around their necks.

We went to the public school the next day and met the headmaster there. He was thrilled to have some volunteers to help out at the school. The school is pretty big with over 350 students in 10 classes. Donna helped teach English to the older classes and Jeremy helped out in the computer lab. The school has a new computer lab with 13 computers, which seemed a bit out of place in a village where the electricity works sporadically.

The computer lab was a quite chaotic, as there are about 40 students in each class and not enough computers to go around. The students seemed more interested in playing on the computers than learning about Microsoft Office. Between this and the language barrier, teaching them was a challenge. Jeremy tried to teach them some typing skills and about the components of the computer. He also spent some time reinstalling programs that were damaged by viruses. It was nice to have internet access during our placement!

In addition to helping teach English to the older students in the mornings, Donna spent her afternoons with the younger physical education classes in the school’s courtyard. It was a lot of fun for her! The children loved to dance the hokey-pokey and play duck-duck-goose. She also spent about a week organizing the school library. It wasn’t always fun for her though, as some of the teachers tended to leave her in the class by herself and go outside to relax in the sun.

During our stay, we were invited to attend two picnics held by the school. It’s a lot of work providing these picnics. They have to bring everything to the site including plates and live goats. The first picnic was held by the students of grade 9 and 10. There were three meals. The first was beaten rice with potato curry, the second meal consisted of Indian fried rice and various meat (chicken and goat guts); the third was mutton, vegetable curry and rice. It was nicely done, especially considering that it seemed to have been planned the day before! The second picnic, held by the teachers, was similar to the previous one, except the teachers brought an ample supply of alcohol and got quite intoxicated.

Other than the time we spent volunteering for the school we also opened the INFO Nepal Children’s Library. It is basically a building with one chair and table and a handful of books. (Although some new furniture did appear during our stay.) Here the children can come before and after school to learn English with us. We open the library twice a day for them to come, before and after school. The older children came in the morning (if it wasn’t too cold), and there usually weren’t more than 5 or 6 of them. The younger children came after school, and sometimes there were more than 40 of them! We read to both groups, and they enjoyed writing and drawing. The older group liked to play card games and we also tried to organize some short lessons for them. The younger group liked to play games and to run back to their homes with us after we closed the library. So between the school and the library, we were very busy each day from 7:30 to about 5:30.

Our host family’s house was fairly modern by Nepali standards, and is located in the newer part of town, right at the bus stop. We were awoken early every morning by the excessive horn honking and engine revving that precedes every bus departure in Nepal. Our room was relatively clean and the toilet is inside the building on the same floor. We took some showers at the hotel next door, and also visited the local tatopani (hot spring) a few times, where we attracted some attention from the locals. Our host family’s children were attending school in Kathmandu and seemed to miss them a lot. They tended to retire to their room early to watch television, leaving us plenty of time to do some reading. Fortunately we had bought a number of books before leaving Kathmandu!

We stayed in Syabrubesi for about 6 weeks before returning to Kathmandu for Christmas and to renew our visas. During our stay we went for a few short treks in the area and enjoyed some of the spectacular Himalayan scenery. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a view from Syabrubesi itself. We visited the sacred lake of Gosainkund, the orange hot spring at Tatopani, the good view from Nagthali, and the pretty Tamang village of Thuman.

Our second placement was in the village of Goljung, about 2.5 hours’ walk from Syabrubesi, on the other side of a large hill. Fortunately (?!), there is now a bus that runs nearby. There, we had better views of the mountains and enjoyed a real rural experience in Nepal. There was no running water in the house, few toilets (the host family's home was one exception), no buses outside our window, no post office, and, as far as we know, there is only one occasionally-working phone in the village. We woke up to the crow of the roosters and the voices of the host family each morning.

We opened the INFO Nepal Library every day except Saturdays, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. After dinner, we had the evenings to ourselves. The library is big but only has one chair and one table, and a bookshelf. Fortunately for these children, the supply seems to be better here (ok, maybe not better but definitely more). We tried reading to them. It's hard when there are 40 of them and they range in age from 0 years to 16 years old! In the ended we ended up doing centre-like activities with them. The table is where the writing, drawing and book looking occurred. In one corner is the card game, another corner would be memory game and outside is the ball, skipping, and badminton. When they feel like it we play some of the singing games Donna does at home with her pre-school children such as ring-around-the-rosy, wheels on the bus, etc. They especially loved London Bridge and Hokey Pokey.

The children there love the library and if we were late in getting out off our warm sleeping bag into the cold unheated house, they would be waiting at the library or sometimes right outside our bedroom! Often during our break between morning and afternoon session, the children would come to Dawa's (our host father) house and stand around us and stare. They wanted to know what we were doing and want to see the things that were occupying us. We would hear 'Nameste' from all the way across the field and 'library?" "no?".

We enjoyed staying with our host family very much! There are 5 members and one of them is in Kathmandu living in Happy Home (INFO Nepal sponsors them to go to school there). That leaves the mother and father and two younger sisters. The family is Tamang and has their own language and only the father knows Nepali and a few words in English. Somehow we managed to communicate! Donna fell in love with the little ones right away! They are so cute! The older sister couldn't be more than 4 years old. On our last day there, she had been out in the field all day picking some leafy vegetable for that night's curry. She would copy what Donna said if she was looking at her. The younger one is maybe 1, almost 2. She loves to follow her big sister around. She'll put her palms together and say 'nameste' to us and look all cute, especially if there is food in the picture. The mother works all day, from the moment she gets up she is doing something and sometimes several things, like cooking and spinning wool. Dawa always has a smile on his face and is very kind.

We finished our stay in the Langtang area by doing the trek to Langtang village and beyond. There was some great scenery there, and the trail was very quiet at that time of the year. It was hard to return to the noise and pollution in Kathmandu!

Namaste from Donna and Jeremy
E-mail: jeremy_w_dawson@hotmail.com
E-mail: dc_cd@hotmail.com



Farahana Jobanputra – Canada
Feb 21st (INFO - Nepal)
1st Report
Well, what can I say about my first month at INFO Nepal? I have experienced so much, met so many wonderful people, I know that I am not the same person who arrived a month ago. I continue to be challenged with my placement in Kathmandu. When I arrived, I realized that although it would be very rewarding to live in the village and teach English, I would be able to build on my strengths in organization and business administration by working in the INFO office. Luckily, Asim also had this realization, and he readily agreed to let me take this unusual placement.

Since coming here, I have spent many marvelous days and nights, although I can't document them all, these are some highlights:
• Sitting by a campfire talking while cuddling a Happy Home child
• Listening to some amazing music and meeting new volunteers
• Spitting orange pips at passers by (don’t worry, we have terrible aim)
• Dancing with children...this is one of my fondest memories
• Making 1,000 pancakes with Spella and the volunteer cooking crew
• Birthday celebrations
• Meeting so many new and special volunteers, this has been really amazing and I've made some friendships that will last me forever.

I’ve discovered that I don’t have the strongest immune system, but from the beginning, both Asim and Namrata have been absolutely wonderful. From the very beginning, they have made every effort to ensure that I am comfortable and taken care of at Happy Home. When I was sick, Asim, Namrata and the Happy Home children all came to check in on me, and helped me get better! I have found a wonderful new family here, time flies by and I don't feel so homesick – something special happens every day and I am constantly sharing laughs, dancing, and eating!!!

I am so happy that I took the opportunity to come here, despite of the political warnings. I am constantly finding new friends and am having new adventures. Thank you INFO, for giving me a wonderful month, I'm sure that the next few months will be even more amazing and wonderful!

Farahana.


Rose Falconer - Kiwi.
KATHMANDU & BEYOND
(INFO - Nepal)
February

I have now been in the INFO Nepal office for 3 weeks. During that time I've been working with Rabyn on the Website, updating information. I surely didn't think part of my volunteer time in Nepal, would include learning new computer skills. Rabyn is both an excellent teacher and a "Computer Whizz" Other tasks have included English editing, and adding Volunteer comments into the computer.

Out and about from the office, I've been to the airport to meet new volunteers, and one day, due to Staff illness, took Claire, a recently arrived Kiwi volunteer on one of the sightseeing trips! It certainly is an interesting life with heaps of variety.

THE BEYOND!
Day One
On 26th November, Claire and Henk, Asim and I, left Kathmandu for Nawalparasi District, where Claire's placement is two weeks at the Amarapuri Library, and Henk's the Chormara Secondary School to teach Mathematics and Science. He will also be spending time instructing the Teachers on new methods of teaching these subjects. Henk is a recently retired teacher with a wealth of experience and information to pass on. The community will not want him to leave at the end of his 2 months!

Amarapuri was having a fundraising Festival at the local Secondary School, with dancing in the evening. In her few weeks there ,Barbara had made a name for herself with her Nepali dancing, whereas I used to drink (chiya, Tea !!) my way home, Barbara danced her way from house to house in the evenings. Claire and I were expected to perform! It was a great introduction to village life for Claire, and we all had a great time. It was also wonderful to be with all the kids again, I was mobbed by the little ones,, and a group of teenage boys decided I should be their "Hajuramaa" (Grandmother) . That was before seeing my lack of talent for Nepali dance!

Day Two
Asim & I went to Narayangarh to meet up with Anil, the Ganganagar Library senior student, and two small girls from the very poor Tharu Tribal community, who have INFO Nepal Scholarships to go to Boarding School. Kalpna B.K. is 6 years old, and Sarita Mahato 8 years. Anil also teaches English to 40 of the Tharu children and these two girls are his best pupils, Anil himself, is only 17 years old! On my previous visit with Asim, I went to the shacks both of the girls and their families live in, they are tiny one room mud huts in which 7 people live For the trip into Narayangah, the girls had their first trip on a bus - great excitement! However, the best was yet to come. The purpose of this visit was to outfit the kids for their new school experience! When we launched out onto the streets of the city, they were two very excited, wide eyed girls, with sensory overload on all sides!

Our first stop was to buy warm jackets, and Asim was very particular in choosing fleecy lined ones, which the two girls would not take off, even though the sweat was pouring off them within a very short time! Next stop was for shoes, followed by sox, underwear, schoolbag, lunchbox , drinking bottles , and a tin box to store all their things in .By this time the eyes couldn't get any wider, but as far as Kalpna was concerned the ultimate highlight was the trip back to the village in a Taxi! She sat beside me whispering "Taxi, Taxi" A crowd was waiting at the village when we arrived, we took photos for the INFO Nepal website, and Asim also gave out clothing to some of the village children and adults.

Next stop was the Ganganagar Library, to collect a computer, and deliver it to Chormara, a 2 hour journey on some very bumpy roads. Henk is going to teach Bhoj Raj, the Area Coordinator, whose family he is staying with, computer skills, so their was great excitement when we arrived with our load! It was dark by the time we left for Narayangah, to spend the night with Asim's brother's family where the 3 children entertained me with song , dance, and lovely stories.

Day Three
We took the bus to Pokhara, a 6 hour journey, then transferred to the local Sarangkot bus. It was packed ,so Asim decided we would ride on the roof! Fine, once I managed to scramble up there! I was certainly the entertainment amongst the locals, for the one hour journey, which travelled up a very steep switchback and climbed for the entire journey. Then we walked down a mountain track and many steps to Krishna, the Area Coordinator’s house’. Where Anja has been staying for 3 months. Anja (from Belgium) teaches English at the local Secondary School of 500 pupils, speaks very good Nepali, and also works in the fields with her Host Family.

Asim and Krishna talked INFO Nepal business while I enjoyed the warm hospitality of my Host Family. The Grandparents were particularly delighted to have another "Old Person" visiting their home.

Day Four
At 5.15a.m. the following morning Anja and I climbed for an hour to the Sarangkot Lookout. There was a full moon, the Himalayas .were at their spectacular best, and the sunrise was awesome. Later, we returned to Pokhara, once more on the roof of the bus - down only takes half an hour!

Asim and Anja went shopping to buy supplies for her school classes; paper is so scarce that the children write on every available scrap! So additional craft cardboard, coloured pencils etc, will be most welcome. So INFO Nepal comes to the rescue again. I became a tourist for the afternoon

Day Five
Returned to Kathmandu.
THE BACK OF BEYOND
So much for the quiet life of staying in the Kathmandu office! We had been back a couple of days, when a situation arose that required Asim's input, so off we went to a meeting. The Nepali discussions flowed around me, then Asim said, we must go to that village. OK, at this stage I had no idea of the location, could have been down in the Kathmandu Valley. No! the village is to the North, high in the Himalayas and not far from the Tibetan border!

Plan A was to travel 10hrs by bus, then trek 3 hrs, NO, I won't be doing that! Next day Asim has Plan B in place. As there are four of us in the party, we'll go on 2 motorbikes, travel light, and not only make better time than the bus, but no trekking.

We set off on a beautiful clear winter's day, had travelled one hour and Asim's Motorbike punctured. I was loaded into a passing local transport, with assurances I would be dropped off at the next village where there was a "Fixit" man. Well, he turned out to be our #1 Guardian Angel. Once he discovered where we were headed, he not only fixed the tyre, but attacked the engine and the brakes.

The first couple of hours ride was on "Nepali" tarseal, with the occasional bumpy bits and uneven sections, so we made it to Trisuli in good time for the compulsory Dal Bhat stop. The road then deteriorated into rocky outcrops, patched shingle landslides, and little unbridged streams. So, combined with the constant uphill climb, the going was slow. As we neared the mountains, the scenery was spectacular, Great for the pillion passenger but life got a bit tricky when Asim chose to take in the view and drive! It was one of those trips that each time one thought that the road coudn't get worse - it did that!

It was after dark when we reached Syabru Besi, so we decided to overnight, and make an early start up the mountain to the village the next morning.

The only thing that kept me going on that morning's ride was the thought that the alternative would have been on foot. By this time we had a whole Squadron of Guardian Angels with us, and after an hour made it to the top of the Pass. Goljung, our destination, was nestled about a quarter of the way down the other side, partly accessible by road, then via heaps of steps. This is the region of the Bhode people and their villages are of the typical Tibetan style..

We were warmly welcomed by the villagers, and spent the morning visiting from house to house, being plied with Raksi and food at every stop. Then we were taken to a" Housewarming " celebration, where the honoured family were the centre of attention, with each new arrival showering them with ceremonial scarves, and gifts. The women and men were seated in two opposite circles and ritual singing passed from one group to the other, It was a privilege to be there. By now it was about 10.30a.m and the Teacher came to tell us his family were cooking chicken for our lunch! We hadn't stopped eating all morning!

Next visit was to the school, the kids were mostly having their classes outside in the sunshine, and a very cheerful atmosphere prevailed. I popped my head into one door, to be greeted in English by the teacher, "Come in and Teach" 50 pairs of eyes looked at me beseechingly . They were all tinies, so we did a "Rose" version of singing ABC, after 3 times they had it right, the kids here soak up learning like a sponge.

Then it was on to Asim's business meeting with the village men. We were begged to stay the night, but knew that we must be back on the road again by 3 p.m., as going down that mountain was a task still to deal with! We got into Dunche just on dark, and stopped at a Guest House that had hot water...Bliss!

Next morning it was decided that the pillion passengers should take the bus to Trisuli so as to make an easier journey for the bikes. Two hours into that trip, I realised that I had left my Camera bag behind! Amrit said don't worry, he talked to the "Bus Boys" and the driver, then half the passengers joined in, and decided that Amrit should return to Dunche on the Northbound bus (which would come soon!) get my bag, and return to Kathmandu the following day! Can you imagine that happening in the West?. So, after another 2 hours on the bus, I met up with Asim and Henk in Trisuli, got back on the bike and headed homeward.

All went smoothly until we crested the last big hill for the 40 minutes down the valley to the city. Oops!! we ran out of petrol. "Don't worry" says Asim, "I know a Trick"!, so we continued, mostly coasting, occasionally rocking the fuel tank to get just a drop more out, and once more, overworking those Guardian Angels. Henk kept in behind us, and we made right to the INFO Nepal office door!

Some people pay big money for adventures. All you really need to do is travel with Asim!!
FINAL DAYS IN KATHMANDU
It never ceases to amaze me, the constant stream of people coming to the INFO office to request volunteers for their Projects.
It is just such a pity that the International Media, and some Governments have put out scary warnings about the political status here, because Asim could place many more volunteers than are currently applying.

This week, there was an approach from the Director of a city medical clinic. His practice is located in one of the poor areas of the city, contains a full range of services from Dental , Medical, Xray, through to Pathology and Vaccinations. The policy of the Practice is that when a Volunteer is the Health Provider, the Patient gets free treatment. Asim & I hopped on the Motorbike, and went to meet the Director and see his facilities. We were impressed with the concept, the facilities and the Management.

The next trip was to interview the Principal of a Private School in Godawari, a small village in the Kathmandu valley. The school have expansion plans and were interested in INFO's input and support.

Now, just 4 days before I leave, Asim has gone north to Goljung, this time on the bus, he has a meeting with the village committee tomorrow and will return on Christmas Day. As Rabyn is in India with his family, and Namrata is in Narayangarh with her family, I am, for the next 3 days, the INFO Nepal office staff !!

As my Nepali is " "ali ali" answering the phone is interesting. On Christmas Eve Bhoj Raj arrived and as promptly welcomed as chief phone answerer!

Now the time has come for me to leave Nepal, and all my wonderful friends. In my time here I have stayed with 5 Host Families, and even those I stayed with for a short time now include me in their family, so I now have a huge family and am surrounded by so much love

Ka Kite Ano
Rose Falconer
Homeward bound Kiwi


Rose - New Zealand
(INFO - Nepal)
Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to return to Mongolia this year, to a project I'd been volunteering with.
So, with limited funds, and 3 months available I went surfing the Internet. The INFO Nepal site caught my eye- "Volunteering on a limited Budget" That's me! I downloaded it, was impressed with their concept and programmes, however it was obvious that most of their volunteers were heaps younger than me!

I zapped off an email, and to my astonishment received a reply from Rabyn within 2 hours! Even though I had travelled in Asia for many years, often solo, by August, due to International publicity and New Zealand Government Travel Advisories I was a bit concerned about the political situation in Nepal. The INFO Staff assured me that neither projects or staff were ever at any risk.

KATHMANDU
27th September was arrival day at Kathmandu, as I disembarked there was a welcoming party on the tarmac presenting gifts to each passenger- Handcrafted Felt Bags for the Ladies and Topi for the men. I hadn't realised it was World Tourism Day and the Government was both welcoming and thanking tourists for visiting Nepal.

Outside the terminal Raj, the manager of the Kathmandu Peace Guest House was waiting with my name aloft. We piled stuff in the car (My luggage weighed 43kgs as I,d brought books puzzles etc)

The Guest House is neat and very friendly. I was to have 3 days at my own expense, re-acquainting myself with Kathmandu, however due to the adverse overseas publicity several potential volunteers had cancelled, so it was on to the fast track Nepali language training with Bicky, an excellent teacher. I was surprised at how quickly I picked up the basics.

A 2 day Strike (Bandah) was in force in Kathmandu, there was no evidence of Protests or unrest, but it was so easy to walk the streets without all the buses, taxis and normal congestion, and the guys at INFO were not phased in the slightest, they just loaded me on the back of a motorbike and we continued the sightseeing schedule! I reckoned it was about 24 years since I'd been on a motorbike.

There’s a subtle, effective system operating between the Guest House and the INFO Staff. After a language lesson the Guest House Staff gently insist on Nepali responses!

GODAWARI
The next phase of training was a 2 day stay with a family in Godawari Village in the Kathmandu Valley to continue language training and learn a little of village life and, if it is your first visit to Nepal, learn to eat dal baht twice a day. I enjoy dal baht, so for me that is no hardship.

My host family was lovely and wanted me to stay till December! I left that one for Bicky to manage. Back in Kathmandu for a day of packing, sorting final language tuition and goodbyes to new friends.

My placement is to be in Amarapuri Village Library, Nawalparasi province, Southern Nepal. Asim and I setoff on the Tourist Bus early in the morning, travelled through amazing countryside, rolling hills and valleys overflowing with rice ripe for harvest, and through a twisting winding gorge bearing the scars of the recent monsoon, down to the valley floor and the jungle area of the South.

AMARAPURI
We arrived in Amarapuri mid afternoon to meet my host family, the Rijals. Sumitra greeted me with heaps of love and very good English. typical of Asian families I had no idea who, of the many smiling faces actually lived in the family home- about a week later I had that one sorted out!

On to the library to meet Bhoj Raj the INFO Area Coordinator, and see inside. There were more books than I,d expected, but as the Library had been closed for some time it was in need of some tender loving care.

That evening, I did manage to sort out the children of my host family and give them each small gifts I,d brought from home. I went to bed exhausted and happy.

Next day Asim called (with motorbike) to take me to the library. Bhoj Raj was cataloguing books, I set to and sorted through piles of stuff, found both junk and treasures.

The decision had been made that I teach 4 library classes daily for 8 weeks then return to Kathmandu and assist in the INFO office.
Some of the parents were keen for me to run the classes as homework and prep time. Ok we’ll play it by ear- I am not a trained teacher.
The schedule is: First classes 7a.m-9a.m then home for Dal baht (First food of the day! I wasn’t at all sure how my western body was going to handle that!) return to the Library at 2p.m. and teach again 4.30-6.30p.m.

The first morning there were kids waiting at 6.50 a.m.! I soon discovered that these two 6 year olds showed up for every class, and it was a constant challenge to channel their enthusiasm! Very quickly I discovered that the "Homework" idea was not a starter, these kids already spend a long day at school, and were not interested in more of the same.

My policy is "If you don’t strike oil in the first 5 minutes, stop boring!" I was confronted with glazed eyes.. time for Plan B. I’d brought felt tip pens, puzzles, building sticks etc from N.Z. so switched to Interactive Learning.

We embarked on a project of combining beautifying the library, with learning new skills, using English, and introducing basic environmental awareness. Many of the children had never used scissors, Gum etc, and posters collages and montages were new experiences. They set about it with great enthusiasm, and a constant flow of ideas. Asim tossed in another couple of ideas:- have an Exhibition/Party after about 6 weeks, and also have the senior class embark on a small book project "My Journal. They wrote and Illustrated, I made pink card covers which they decorated, and took photos of each student for page one. This not only kept them happy for hours, but developed many new skills. They got so enthusiastic that their friends started turning up for classes, that was a challenge, incorporating new students in while working to a deadline.

Wow! the person who learn't most was me! Asim had approved a shopping list, before he returned to Kathmandu, so the first Saturday (there’s only one day off here) 2 senior girls took me shopping in Narayangah. We had a heap of fun, worked our way through the list, and they had one request left - a soccer ball- OK I donated one, it proved to be a great motivator, ball games at the end of each lesson.

Each group also set about learning an Item for the Exhibition. For the seniors it was The Hoki Toki, weeks of giggles preceded the final performance! By this time the Dasain Festival, Nepal,s biggest, spanning 3 weeks was upon us. The seniors asked to continue classes, even though school was on holiday. Many families go to their relatives, so numbers were down, but enthusiasm never wavered.

The Festival with my host family was an unforgettable experience. By this time, we had settled into a happy routine. My only problem was that I was not permitted to lift a finger to help. Now that’s not the Kiwi way and I found it very difficult. The main day of Dashain dawned and shortly after the 3 women of the family came to my room with a Sari and bodice.. Great, except Tilkmari is 3 sizes smaller than me, however, 3 determined women pushed and tugged and got the hooks closed. Breathing was really not all that easy!. The whole effect right down to the painted toenails brought delight to both family and friends.

Later we assembled for the Dasain Tika Ceremnoy. Vanui, the elder, performed the ritual, I, at the family’s request took photos. Then came the shock. As I was the eldest I must perform the ritual for Vanui. The most vertical learning curve of my life! The whole family delighted in my efforts and happily endured my errors.

The following day Asim arrived, between Asim and Bhoj Raj, I was constantly cared for by INFO Nepal, never wanting for anything. Asim,s news was that I,m to move on at the end of next week!So the Exhibition/Party was rescheduled to next Saturday 6th November.

Barbara, another Kiwi, had arrived in Kathmandu and would continue here.
On the 5th Barbara and Asim arrived. The children of the village are just wonderful, they were really sad that I was leaving, and rapt that Barbara was coming. They see their Library as a very happy part of their lives and volunteers as a privilege.

It,s very humbling. Next day, Asim, Barbara, Lucy and Nohal, two volunteers on their way to placements in Chitwan, and Bhoj Raj, Tim and Sarah from Chormara were our honoured guests. The kids greeted them with Tika, Mala and flowers, then sang, danced recited and we all had a great time.

For me it was an emotional rollercoaster.....So sad to leave....So happy to have a whole new Amapuri Village Library Family. Throughout my 5 weeks in the village I had been surrounded by so much love. Not at any stage was there any political threat, only the occasional raod block when travelling, and there I was always treated respectfully by the armed guards.

LIFE AFTER AMARAPURI VILLAGE
Hi, this is Kiwi Rose again. After leaving Amarapuri the plan was to go with Asim on a fact finding mission to all the INFO projects in the South. I found so many facts that the inside of my head is like a washing machine!

SAUHARA
After the party at the Amarapuri library finished, Asim, Lucy, Nohal and I left for Sauhara which is the village at the entrance of the Internationally famous Chitwan National Park. Lucy and Nohal continued their language tuition, and we all had time for both sightseeing, and relaxing on the banks of the Rapti river, also the location of the Holy Pub.

Two days later we dropped Nohal off at her placement. A n orphanage run by the Women and Children’s Promotion Centre of Sauhara. A warm and friendly home for 14 children. Now after just one week, Nohal has transformed the place! She teaches the children Karate classes in the early morning, then after they return from school they share many activities, like making flags of other countries, for their walls, Cheer Leader Pom Poms, active games like Potato Races, educational projects: e.g. using a map of the world, small groups choose a country, then learn the capital city, language, and good morning and thankyou in that language.

PARBATIPUR
Asim, Lucy and I continued on to her placement at Parbatipur, detouring via Ganangagar, as the library there is currently unused, Lucy chose a stack of books to take for her students to have some fresh reading material.

Lucy’s host is the local Doctor’s family, and they greeted us warmly, and had dal baht ready, by this time it was after 11 a.m. and food was very welcome.

The 12 year old son of the family, Sagar became Lucy’s self appointed guide, assistant, interpreter (his English was very good).
After we had rested a while, typical of Nepal, a motorbike arrived, Asim was handed a key and off we headed to our next destination, leaving Lucy exploring her new environment.

PATIHANI
The community of Patihani, with assistance from INFO, are constructing a new library, using all local volunteers. The day we arrived was a holiday and about 50 people of all ages were hard at work, carting shingle, mixing concrete and transporting it up to the roof where the concrete layers were hard at it.

Asim immediately pitched in to help, I sat and just enjoyed the atmosphere of co-operation and pride.
At sunset we returned, just in time to see the last load laid, and the completion of a job well done.
We sat in the twilight and drank tea with some of the local committee. Asim, by this time was bursting with pride too.

GANANGAGAR
After leaving Patihani in the afternoon, Asim and I returned to Gananagar, for me to meet my Host Family for the night, and to do a bit of tidying up, both inside and outside the building. Asim also had a meeting with some of the local people.

This community has also been very active, with assistance from INFO, building a wildlife viewing platform and picnic area in the Sitamai Jungle, with the hope of attracting tourists. I had read of the project in the August INFO Newsletter . I was keen to see this, so onto the Motorbike and off we went. The access road was blocked, no this doesn’t deter my Nepali Boss!

We head off cross country! A Honda 125 is a good little machine, but not really designed for a rough life Well that’s what we in the West might think! We went over sandbanks, along shingle spits, across small stream, up another sandbank and into the jungle. The footpath was one of the one foot in front of the other variety! These guys certainly know their local conditions.

I was delighted to see the project, another great example of INFO provide the co-ordination for local initiatives. Next stop was to visit the home of one of the INFO scholarship children. The family is very poor, has no land, and the mother has poor health. The sponsored girl was very bright and just loving the chance to attend school. As well as fees, INFO assists with uniforms and other clothing. Later in the day we also called on the Principal of her school.

Then on to the Tharu community who live by the banks of the river, in very basic mud huts. The only access to income these families have is fishing, and the hope of then selling the catch. A very hard life. INFO had a long term volunteer working on very basic hygiene issues with these people about 2 years ago, and the photos taken at the end of that time, showed a big difference in the people. However,since then, no volunteers have come to Nepal with both the expertise and time available , so the community has slipped back into the old ways. Another on INFO’s plans is to be able to sponsor some of the children in this community

Our next stop is the Gananagagar Tharu Village, for Asim to meet with the Youth Club Leaders to choose 10 young girls for a sponsored education. Girls in this culture get few opportunities for education, and in a community such as this, the poorest tribe, none at all. It was agreed that we would return very early next morning for the list.

At 7.15 a.m. the motorbike was at my door, we arrived at the Tharu village as the people were cooking their meal, a few grains of corn, poked into the embers of a small fire, until it pops. The committee must have stayed up all night! The list was complete, each of the girls was photographed, alone and also with her family. INFO will now set about seeking sponsorship for this new project.

CHORMARA
After the village we called in on Lucy, who was happily teaching her first class, with Sagar there to help. The motorbike was returned, we got on a bus to go to Narayangad, and on to Chormara, the home of Bhoj Raj, my District Co-ordinator when I was at Amarapuri.

Chormara has also been working hard on a new library building, this is all but complete, with just the windows and the interior painting to be done. Tim and Sarah were not involved with classes, so it was great to see their home too. Tim has artistic talent and is going to paint, maybe a mural, on one of the new interior walls. Sarah, a Nurse, has been busy organizing a Health Camp, which will take place in a couple of weeks. This will be a 3 day camp, involving 50 families and 120 kids. I saw the huge box of toothbrushes and toothpaste that will be given out. The really basic and regular hygiene

Practices will be taught and demonstrated , also drama and games are used, and prizes are given too. It sounds like a great programme. We had to get a bus back to Amarapuri, collect my luggage, then on to Narayangah and Kathmandu.

An incredible journey from start to finish.




Word from Asim's Friend, Susanna - UK
(INFO - Nepal)
When I was volunteering here in 1999, I met Asim because he was my language teacher and we became really good friends. When I left in 2000, Asim decided to set up INFO Nepal and asked for my help in setting up the Website and writing and editing the text so I have always had a strong personal interest in the running of INFO Nepal.

I didn't return to Nepal until now due to various reasons ( I wish I had now!) but was excited to see this brilliant country and all my old friends and family I made here before. Asim introduced me to his lovely family and friends and showed me all the work that INFO Nepal carries out. I must say I am really impressed with the projects in place, the host families and the volunteers. The programme in comparison to any other organization I have come across is extremely good value for money and the most flexible to the volunteer's needs, with training being provided and projects being put in place in the villages.

Asim was keen to take me to Ganganagar, in Chitwan on his motorbike (!), where I had visited on my last trip. I couldn't believe it and was totally overwhelmed. When I was there before hardly anyone came and spoke to me and then only a few of the men because either they were extremely shy or didn't know much English but this time everyone came and talked to me and I had some brilliant conversations with the youths and people. Sushilla, who I stayed with before even told me that she didn't speak to me before because she was too shy but this time we talked for hours! This is obviously due to having volunteers who were really respected and skilled being placed there and the people have gained increased confidence and English skills. And the library! Such a good thing for the community. I had never seen a library in a village in Nepal before and was really impressed, not just because of the building and resources but how well it was used as an informal English teaching center supplementing the English teaching in schools and a place where the children and youth could come and socialize with the volunteers and each other and there were even computer classes!!

Asim took me to many more places in Patihani, Nawalprassi etc.. with libraries from INFO and computer classes. I saw a library half under construction and met all the volunteers and local coordinators. I saw the volunteers teaching the Tharu kids, Ben playing Ludo!! And made many more friends. I know INFO will continue to grow strong because Asim's enthusiasm in showing me INFO's projects and all the new ideas that come up at an alarming rate, the INFO staff who are so flexible and friendly - more of a family and the good quality of volunteers that come here. I definitely want to return very soon and will keep being involved with INFO.

I want to say thanks to Asim and Namratta for taking care of me and my friends whilst we were here and to Dinesh and Rabyn for sharing a wicked time trekking with us and Bicky who is just always friendly and happy! Xxxx




My home in Jankauli, Chitwan - Volunteering at INFO Nepal's Children's Resource Center - Emily - UK - August

For two months I have been 'Emily Miss' in an incredible Tharu village 20 minutes walk from my host family in Sauraha. My daily routine was get up early enough to clean oneself, and any clothes that had been on the floor for too long, under the pump in the backyard under the watchful eyes of the family cow and a small collection of goats, chickens and ducks. Breakfast was the Nepali staple minus the bhaat, instead we had chapatti or if we were lucky the biggest mound of Choudhray special fried rice imaginable. Brolly in hand, along with a few liters of water, to replenish what gets sweated out, we would pick our way through cow and elephant poo and muddy puddles trying not to flick our flip flops and dirty our nice clean clothes. 25 minutes into our journey, which takes us passed a military camp and where they never appeared to be doing anything but playing volleyball, we would be greeted (every morning) with a chorus of "hello Miss", "good morning Miss" all the way to the Aamaa's house (the President of the Pragati Women's group whom we [INFO] collaborated with to make use of the library, (we never knew her name) to collect the key for the library. Aamaa's house was always a bustling hive of activity and we usually were set upon by more kids and sometimes even fathers delayed us wanting to practice their English! Nepali language training for 2 weeks and everyone wants to speak English! So the greetings get more frequent as we approach the library and we have acquired a following of bright eyed and bushy tailed, (every morning!) gorgeous kids.

Flip flops off, shutters opened, fans on. At 10 o'clock Anna Miss takes the first lesson of the day – the day care kids, the youngest, noisiest and naughtiest group. About 45 minutes of excitement and shouting, by the teacher! and its my turn. I have the second group of first grade children. A pretty naughty bunch but fantastic at drawing animals, we sit on the floor for a story and I get flattened by them all wanting to sit on top of me. So the daily shower is almost totally unnecessary as by 11 o'clock you've been covered in grubby, yet utterly adorable children.

Anna's up next, my partner in crime from New York State, with her grade two and three class, my four class follows and by 3.30 we have both taught about 60 kids between us, more to come though.

Apart from the teaching we are constantly yelling at the kids, who are not being taught, to go away from the windows or bribing them with tennis balls to go away and play together (a notion Nepali's do not understand – the concept of sharing!). We thought the novelty would wear off but after two months the same endless window battles took place everyday. The older students were divided into 5,6,7 class and I had 8,9,10 class at 5 o'clock. Lots of verbs and grammar were of particular interest to my last class along with talk of weddings and marriage, dancing and singing and how in England we all want to marry doctors as they make the most money, unlike Nepali doctors apparently. Our collective 130ish students have all become one big village family, but only after we managed to remember their names! (Emily and Anna were too difficult for some of them though as even after Anna left I was still be referred to as 'Anna, hmm,no Emily Miss')

Jankauli became our home, not Sauraha where we actually lived, and the last class would continue to the wee small hours if we didn't have to be home for dhal bhaat. Saying that our host family were also Tharu and I started to dream about her cooking, especially her dhal!
The kids appeared everyday and if someone was missing we would eventually find out that they had gone to help in the fields or maybe to play in a football match in the next town.

In-between my classes and lesson plans, I would be given Nepali dancing and singing lessons from the kids, the best Nepali chiya and biscuits or maybe even noodles we donated by the women and much laughing, smiling and playing was had to distract the rest of the village away from Anna's class.

Once a week we would teach the women English, by their own request and we would have a fantastic hour introducing ourselves and meeting each other amidst girly giggling and hand shaking.

5 days were formal classes and Sundays became 'play-day', a whole day where Anna and I were allowed to wear trousers to school so we could play football and roll around with the kids without flashing white leg.

I won't attempt or even try to describe how I feel as a member of that community. I was truly a part of something incredible and I am heartbroken to be leaving but what we have achieved is momentous and their amazingly contented spirits will never leave me. I was transformed, literally, into a Nepali woman by my kids and their families. One night after school we had our noses pierced behind the library on the steps of the chaarpi! Yet another spectacle we made of ourselves. Wedding invitations; massive rice consumption on behalf of over zealous, force-feeding local women; roxy intoxication and thereafter Nepali dancing; bathing and washing clothes in a leech infested river; all aided our integration into the culture, but most of all being surrounded and in contact with so many incredible and happy children makes the constant brow wiping and being the evening meal for mosquitoes thoroughly, thoroughly worth it.

Rebecca - UK
Things we'll remember from Nepal
(INFO - Nepal)

Nepali language classes - ma bujhina.
Our first bus journey to Chitwan - thinking that because it was raining we wouldn't be traveling the next day, everybody went and drank instead of sleeping, leading to an interesting bus journey the next morning. Travelling along the non-existent road to Mugling and the equally poor road to Narayanghat.

Having to shower between two cows because it was raining.
Bugs: be they mosquitos, stinging ants, lizards running around in your underwear or spiders urinating in Jeroen's eye whilst he was asleep (yes, really).

Bringing a fellow volunteer to my house having told him that my house was very calm and quite, only to find a saddhu sitting by the door, wearing a Father Christmas hat and a loudspeaker, smoking merrily away on his pipe of hashish (holy men can smoke it in Nepal)

Jeroen having to drain an abscess on Lindsie's foot on the day of a strike so he couldn't get any anaesthetic for her. And having my hand crushed by Lindsie as he stuck the needle in. Jeroen being chosen by his family to sacrifice the goat for Dashain.

The volunteers' trip to Sauraha in the Chitwan National Park - getting a free taxi due to greedy hotel touts, walking in the jungle, beginning the walk by counting how many leeches people had and ending the walk having pulled a couple of hundred off ourselves in total, going on an elephant safari and seeing rhinos, cocktails on the beach at sunset.

Tihar - overdosing on sel roti, dogs running around with tika and flowers around their necks. Being woken up late at night by 70 people from another village who wanted me to dance for them, having students come to my house to sing & dance for me

Lumbini - being told it was a 3 hour journey but actually taking 6 hours to get there, staying in the Nepali monastery, meeting the Venerable Vindalarma who's mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook. Seeing the most peaceful place in Nepal.

Buses to Kathmandu - sitting on the floor for 8 hours, squeezing along with 9 other people onto a seat designed for 5, spending hours queuing to get through the checkpoint into Kathmandu Valley.

Nepali buses in general - 120 people, 1 goat, several chickens, 20 sacks of rice/potatoes, all fitting onto a bus designed for 50. Riding on the roof and ducking to avoid cables. Getting onto the wrong bus as kindly Nepali people mishear your destination. Jumping off said bus at high speed when you realize that you're on the wrong bus.

Activities - going bungee jumping. Going rafting and falling in (Jens, where's your fork these days?). Going trekking and getting stuck in the snow at Annapurna Base Camp. Going paragliding (got your next paraglide planned yet Vish?).

Going to the Tibetan/Chinese Border and having a huge group of Chinese police run over to take photos of themselves with the foreigner.

Getting a shave and back massage Nepali style.
Animals - seeing rhinos (being chased by rhinos), elephants, snakes, chameleons, frogs, crocodiles, monkeys galore, trekking with donkeys, being chased by water buffalo.

Volunteer discounts - discovering there are 3 prices for everything in Nepal - Nepali people prices, tourist prices and cheaper volunteer prices.

Getting to Kathmandu and thinking the email was slow, then going to Narayanghat and discovering what slow internet really meant. Returning to Kathmandu and thinking its internet access was incredibly fast.

Parties - in Sitamai, as well as Ganganagar and Pokhara. Always finding an excuse to hold one.
Leaving the village and being coated in tika and flower garlands. Realising 5 hours later that the flowers are full of ants and my neck is consequently covered in ant bites.

Making so many new friends, both Nepali and other volunteers.

Bungee Jumping in Nepal: Rebecca Greenhalgh

Whilst in Kathmandu renewing my visa, several other volunteers were also around - Jet, Loki, Jens (a new volunteer), Jet's friend Joel and Loki's friend Jenny. Jet and Loki wanted to take their friends around Kathmandu, leading to the suggestion that they hire a couple of motorbikes to get around the Valley quicker. That soon expanded into all 6 of us, plus Asim and Rabyn from INFO, on 4 motorbikes. The original plan was (from memory) to visit the temples in the valley, but since somebody had read about a bungee jump just outside the Kathmandu Valley, we decided to go and look at the jump first. Heading out of Kathmandu we went over Dhulikel mountain, beyond which the bungee jump could supposedly be found. There then followed a series of villages in which each village told us the bungee jump was a little further down the road. Eventually, 3 hours further down the road, we found the bungee jump. Instead of being just outside Kathmandu, it was actually 14km from the Tibetan border (moral of the story: never trust guidebooks).

The bungee jump is situated on a narrow metal suspension bridge across a deep river gorge, 160 m high. Going across the bridge to enquire about prices, we were told that it was $65 per person. Given that I've always been afraid of bungee jumping and that this is one of the highest jumps around, I was surprised to find myself actually getting upset that I couldn't afford to jump. The man in charge of the jump seemed to share my pain because, being asked about discounts for volunteers, he said that he wanted to help volunteers have an enjoyable time in Nepal and he could see that I couldn't afford the price. As a result he said, if all of us (initially 6 volunteers, but then Asim decided he had to jump as well) were to jump he would let us jump for $50 each. At which point it's very hard to back out even if I had never intended to do a jump, as without me everyone else pays more. Soon enough I was signing my life away on the bungee waiver form, joking with Jenny that it would be ok - we girls could jump first and then the nerves wouldn't set in.

The only problem with that plan, I soon found, was that we had little choice about jump order. Heaviest first, lightest last. Jenny and I were the lightest. So we'd have to watch all 5 men jump and keep our nerve enough to still jump ourselves. Great.

Out on the bridge (Rabyn was taking the photos by the bridge), what I was about to do still hadn't sunk in until the Jet, threw himself off the bridge. At that point my brain momentarily awoke and asked what I was doing, a question which I tried not to answer. Slowly the group on the bridge thinned out. Then Jens came out with a strange comment, "This is the best $7 I ever spent". It took a moment to figure out what he meant, but we slowly realised he'd thought the quoted price of $50 was for all 7 of us to jump at $7 each (it was only his 2nd full day in the country after all so he was still adjusting to the rates of exchange. At least, that's his excuse). Upon realizing that he had actually just handed over Rupees equivalent to $50, his only response was "Well I guess I'd better jump then". Quite.

Finally there was only Jenny and I on the bridge, then Jenny was gone and I had to keep my brain unaware of what I was going to do for long enough to get to the edge of the bridge and jump. I just made it - as the jump master was counting from 5 to 1, I started to question exactly why I was about to launch myself off a very high bridge with only a piece of elastic around my ankles. Jumping was the only way to stop myself completing that thought, so I jumped. And it was absolutely fantastic.

Not quite so fantastic was the hike back up the gorge at the end. Especially with asthma. Once at the top, we saw a video of our jumps, but then had to rush off as a checkpoint on our route back would close at 8pm and we needed to get back to Kathmandu that evening. Racing along the twisting narrow mountain roads, we dared to think we might make it back, until Joel's hire bike blew a tire. The only solution was to put an extra person onto Jet's hire bike and let Joel drive the bike to the next village for repairs. However, that plan was soon plunged into chaos, as Jet's bike decided to join the action and promptly lost a brake. Somehow we made it to a village and got the bikes repaired, but then we really were racing against time to get through the checkpoint. We carried on speeding through the darkness, got to the checkpoint, only to find that it was closed. The soldiers were on no account prepared to let us through, so we had to go back and spend the night in a Nepali hotel. We ended up having a fantastic evening - great DAL BHAT, countless bottles of Virgin whisky, singing and dancing to Nepali songs.

Bungee jumping will stick in my mind for years to come - it just goes to show that doing things without a plan in Nepal often ends up giving you the most unforgettable experiences



Dana, Jana and Michael - Slovakia
(Langtan - Golgung Library)

Namaste! You were all certainly unhappy not to hear from us for more then one month. After lifetime experience in Goljung we have pent one week in Kathmandu's Happy Home. Suddenly we found ourselves in bus to Pokhara where we were to meet Asim. With him and his son we spent a nice day rowing on the lake, talking and finally having dinner. The next day our host father took us to our new home for next four weeks.

Kaskikot is a beautiful quit village situated on a green hill between Fewa lake on one side and Annapurna range on the other. We have lived in a traditional house, with a very nice family with three lovely girls. Thus we were able to observe an everyday life in a nepali village. We had a great opportunity to watch a traditional wedding in a neighboring house. As it was only ten minutes to climb the hil with one of the best views of Himalayas, we have spent many mornings looking at beautiful sunny peaks.

We were teaching in two primary schools, which was a great experience. As we taught classes 1-5 we have spent most of the time playing games and singing songs.

One month wasn't long enough time to spend in this lovely place. We were very sad to say goodbye, hopefully to come back one day.
This is also the end of our volunteer work. We'd like to thank Asim and all the Info stuff, as well as our host famillies and all the kids we had a chance to teach. You all have made our time here an unforgettable experience!!



Maggie and Carla – Austrilia
Jan to Feb
(Langtan - Golgung Library)
We arrived on New Years Eve in Kathmandu where we met two follow volunteers: Mark and Andreas. The four of us spent the following week together, completing our training between the restless excitement of the Happy Home Orphanage and the peaceful village of Sanga. Training involved a combination of language classes (together with our patient and wickedly funny guru Krishna), sightseeing in Kathmandu, as well as gaining insight to Nepali culture through our time Sanga - where we became immediately attached to our beautiful host sister Deepa. Unfortunately, by the end of this rather chaotic, action-packed week, we both found ourselves with miserable head colds, whilst our Chilean comrade, Andreas, spent the evening in the room next door throwing up from a nasty belly bug. As always, however, our lovable Irish larrikin, Mark, was there to lighten the mood, lift our spirits and somehow fill us with excitement about the 10 hour bus journey that would get us all the way to the Langtang region.

After arriving in Surrabessi, we spent an exhausting three hours trekking up the mountain side to Goljung, where we would spend the remaining three weeks of our volunteer placement. Initially, in awe and greatly inspired by the mystique of the Langtang mountains, we had planned to complete our journey to Goljung with no assistance. Twenty minutes into the walk, however, and with Serabessi only an arms reach away, we accepted the limitations of our physical fitness, threw our rucksacks onto the ground and Bicky (from Info Nepal) went in search for a porter, while we thought to ourselves; "We are volunteers not mountaineers, we are volunteers not mountaineers". In Goljung, we were met by Dana, Jana and Michael (the three volunteers we would replace in Goljung library), who introduced us to our friendly host family and gave us the basic run down on how to get by in the village. It seemed that the only problem we would face was having spent a week taking Nepalese language classes, only to find out that the people of Goljung spoke Tamang. Despite this initial hurdle, by 8am the next morning we were in the library and for the following few weeks it was an endless stream of 'hokey pokey' dances, afternoons of colouring in, learning the alphabet, months of the year, colours, numbers and every other educational activity we could conjure up from our childhood. One of our favourite memories is the early morning bathing ritual at the tap behind the library. It was a rule that none of the children were permitted into the classroom with dirty hands. When given the opportunity to play with a bar of soap, however, the children of Goljung could not resist almost diving under the tap for an all body cleanse.

Aside from our time in the library, we managed to catch up with our much missed friend, Mark, from down the hill in Serra Bessi . Together we trekked around the Tamang region, which included an unexpected guide from a check point soldier, as well as a rather close encounter with a herd of goats whilst relaxing at Parvatakunda. We also managed a weekend away to Tatopaani (hot springs) before saying goodbye to our host family and beginning our long journey back to Kathmandu. Our month of volunteer work was an incredible and unforgettable time of both challenge and satisfaction. Thank you INFO NEPAL for this tremendous experience.



Jan , Dana and Micheal
(Langtan - Golgung Library)
Dec -
Hello' Here we are again after three wonderful weeks that we have spent in Goljung village in Langtang.After very useful two training weeks ( that we could fully appreciate just when we lost contact with any English speaking people) Surendra and our new host father Singe took us by bus to Syabrubesi.The other day we climbed big hill to get on unbelievable view of Himalayas and of Goljung .Our new home for the next three months.

It is a lovely traditional village, stone house surrounded by terrace fields with great view of Langtang and Sanjin Himal.Three hours hiking from the town gives you a felling of being far from civilization, but an electricity and satellite phone in the village keeps your life standard at the pleasant level. Village is a good starting point for one day trips to many interesting places like Hot Springs or Parwati Kunda Lake. And from Syabrubesi you can start popular Langtang and Gosaikunda treks. Our host father and mother are very warm always trying to make us being involved in to their everyday life but we still missed the trust of the youngest family member. After two weeks 2 years old Pemba gave us a big smile ..Just now we knew we are really a part of family.

Villagers are also very friendly even after three weeks they seem to be amused when we walk through the village. And when we are taking a shower under public tap , it is always and cows watching us and having a great fun. First it seemed to be a bit two much top send three volunteers to set up one library , but after few days we could see that two people would not be to organize 100 children coming every day to library at the same time. Just so more than we expected first day eager to play, draw, read and learn English. Luckily community is very keen to help us , they are so happy to have a library here. They even made a special committee for the library and helped us to a make a routine for kids. Now we teach two classes in the morning dividing children in to three groups in the three corners of very large room.

After school open again just to read and play games. We have lot of fun with children decorating the room and student are always ready to teach us some Nepali and Tamang words in turn for learning English ones. We also teach in local School Jana and Dana here in Goljung and Michael walks every day 1 hour uphill to the next village for his school.

Yesterday Asim and Surendra came to Langtang to see libraries and to chose new village to set up a new library. What a nice surprise ? So tonight there will be a lot of fun and nice Dal/Bhat cooked by Asim in our house.

We'd like to make a short trek before winter comes and in December Asim organized a nice break in Kathmandu, that we will appreciate for sure.
There's still a lot of work to do and so many things for us learn in the next two months we will spend in Langtang. We keep writing more ….
3rd Report



Jana/Dana and Michell
(Langtan - Golgung Library)

It was a great privilege for me and my companions to write a few words about our two week holiday. We left our host family after having boiled egg in the morning because we were not hungry that early. From Goljung to Syabrubesi we made it in a good two hours. We headed straight to meet our guide Nima, had dal bhat and then looked forward to our one week trek in Langtang. We left Syabru at about eleven o' clock; the weather was fine and our mood as well. Unfortunately, I had an awful pain in my left foot, so we did only a short distance to Bamboo. As we started to drink raksi and started to talk with the local people we observed more of the Tamang singing and dancing.

The next day, we were still in good condition, so we travlled from Bamboo to Ghola Tabela, where we were surprised by a hot shower and of course raksi. It's amazing how these people like the attention of tourists, so we again danced and sang. The third was the mot difficult. We left Gola Tabela quite early and headed to Kianging Gompa, that was 7 hours trekking and we arrived squeezed as lemons! We stayed there for 3 days in unbelievable scenery near the Tibetan border. On the first day we trekked to small Kyangin Ri, in preperation for 5000m Tserko Ri. Folks, that was the thing, I've been asking myself maybe twenty.



Lisa and Freya - Australia - A new INFO Library in Gatlang, Langtang
Our Experiences in Gatlang
Where to start? The task of setting up a library in a remote village in the mountains of Nepal seemed a daunting one at best but we decided we were up for the challenge. Heading off into the mountains armed with loads of books, stationery and library supplies we began our adventure. The ten hour bus ride was the start of our eye opening experiences; crammed into our seats, dust blowing in through the open window, huge trucks passing us on the narrowest of roads next to steep cliff edges, and the windiest rockiest roads imaginable – I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. But the views were remarkable, the countryside constantly changing and as the journey continued and we glimpsed the first snow capped mountains I couldn’t help but feel a shiver of excitement and awe.

We stayed a night in Thulo Barkhu and a night in Sybrubensi, meeting the volunteers there and sharing ideas and tips as well as checking out their libraries. This was a great opportunity to get a feel for the INFO Nepal presence in the villages and to gain valuable insight into the workings of established libraries. We left feeling enthused and energized and really excited to get to Gatlang and start work.

The walk from Sybrubensi to Gatlang took us around four hours. It starts with one of the steepest, hugest hills I have ever encountered. It definitely tested my fitness, which at that stage probably wasn’t what it should have been, but that certainly changed after five weeks. This first time we were lucky enough to hitch a ride in a truck about halfway up but we were not so lucky every time. We had two porters with us carrying the bulk of our luggage and the library supplies which was a huge help. I would definitely advise anyone walking up to start their placement to make sure some porters are organised. Once up the top of the hill (which takes two to three hours) the walk is fantastic and I really enjoyed it. The track winds around the ridge with incredible views of the mountains and overlooks a few villages situated in the valleys below. For my first time walking in Nepal it was amazing and I felt so lucky and inspired.

We finally saw Gatlang village, our home for the next month, perched on the side of the hill. It was a relief to finally arrive after so many days travelling. I will never forget the reception we received when we first walked into the village. Children of all ages, dressed in the most amazing array of colourful clothing, began appearing from every direction and soon we must have had over one hundred children all following us, pointing and whispering. The sheer number of children in their colourful ragamuffin outfits against the backdrop of the traditional little wooden and stone houses and the mountains was incredible. It felt like we had been spirited back in time.

Our first few days were quite a confusing and frustrating time. The communication barrier was huge; most of the villagers speak Tamang with only a little Nepali and no English. Nothing seemed to be organised and no one seemed to know where we should stay or who should decide this. We were adamant we wanted to stay with a host family and not just above the library where they first suggested. It took some fairly strong persuasion before they showed us a few options for host families. Nobody was home at either and we decided to stay at the nicer, cleaner house which we were told was a guest house but that a family lived there also. This turned out to be the right decision as a few days later our host father arrived and as he speaks good English we were able to sort out many issues and questions we had.

But in those first couple of days our spirits dropped a bit. It seemed that the people in the village didn’t want us there or maybe it was that they didn’t understand what we were there to achieve. We couldn’t really talk to them properly and so felt at a bit of a loss and very much as outsiders. It was quite an isolating feeling. A couple of days later a delegation of young men informed us that the community would prefer the library to be located up at the school and not in the tourism building. The Headmaster took us to the school and offered us one of the tiny, dark and dirty rooms to use. This room was not even spare; as it was there was a whole class level having their lessons outside.

It took quite some effort to explain that we couldn’t have the library there at the school and after much discussion a compromise was reached, whereby we would continue with the library in the tourism building on a temporary basis and when new buildings were built at the school it would be moved up there. I was left feeling quite bewildered and disappointed at this stage. We were only here to help the community and look out for their interests and it felt like they resented our presence even though we were assured that the community had specifically requested for an INFO Nepal library. I think it didn’t help matters that all these discussions and arguments were going on around us in Nepali and Tamang and we were only have bits translated back to us.

In the days and weeks that followed things improved and our spirits and motivation increased. We spent time at the school teaching classes and hanging out with the teachers. The teachers did a lot more hanging out than they did teaching and when we found out in later weeks that the academic level of Gatlang students was amongst the poorest in the region we weren’t a bit surprised. Still, they were a very friendly and funny bunch and delighted in teaching us some Nepali and practising their English. Only one teacher could really speak English and he used to try and translate jokes, the result must have been quite funny because the teachers would be in hysterics while we often sat there quite bemused.

The library was a huge attraction for the children, particularly the younger ones, and the first day we held a class in our opening week we had over one hundred children pushing and shoving outside to be let in. It was quite overwhelming. We had trouble communicating with the kids and they couldn’t understand even the most basic instructions. We both became very good at mime. Luckily some older students showed up that day (as the teachers who promised they would come and help never did) and they were able to help us somewhat in controlling the kids.

Over the next few weeks as the kids got more used to us and our rules they were better and we able to have some proper classes. It took a long time to discourage them from peering in through the windows when a class was on and blocking all our light. You would be inside teaching and suddenly realize it was really dark and quite hard to see and then you would notice the kids in the windows. They would be back five minutes after you had shooed them away. I think they thought it was a great game; you could only laugh.

Drawing pictures, browsing through books and particularly story time were favourites of the younger kids. They didn’t understand much of what we were reading to them but would listen and look attentively and parrot what you said. The older classes enjoyed drawing and writing as well, especially using coloured pencils and textas and were really enjoying games such as UNO and memory when we left. These were my favourite library classes, we could actually teach and communicate, even if it was a struggle but you did feel the students were getting something out of it and they were so enthusiastic and thirsty for knowledge.

Overall, we had a really great time in Gatlang. The kids are just gorgeous if a bit grotty, but very enthusiastic and friendly. Our host family was lovely and we had many fun evenings playing cards with the extended family and friends. When we discovered that the girls could knit we spent many hours knitting together and they loved teaching us new patterns. The Headmaster is quite a character and would insist on being our tour guide and taking us out for outings. We had several adventures with him and the local little blue truck and he loved using his broken English on us.

On the day that we left it was with mixed feelings. I was starting to feel more settled and accepted and was really enjoying the time there and it was hard to contemplate leaving. At the same time I was really looking forward to the trek back to Kathmandu that our host father was taking us on. I feel that the time we had there was too short, to set up and establish a library you really need to have a lot of time up your sleeve. Still, I hope and think that we have made a good start and am confident that the next volunteers who have several months there will have great success. It is a beautiful little village with some beautiful and amazingly hard working people living there and I feel privileged to have shared in their lives and their culture.



Sandra Hopkins - Ireland
Syabrubensi Library
My unforgettable 3 months volunteering in Nepal has taught me so many things that I am coming away hoping that if the people I taught learned as much as I did I will consider my job well done.

My placement was in the small Himalayan metropolis that is Shyabrubensi, at the start of the Langtang Himal trek. The town that is never spelt the same way twice! Here I taught English and Environmental Awareness to the women and children for five hours a day, early in the morning, afternoon and the evening. I also taught in the local school for two hours a day up until the local exams and holidays.

The library where I taught was never in short supply of children and their enthusiasm to learn was overwhelming. I nicknamed the younger classes “the crazies” as before coming into the library the throngs of hyperactive four to ten year olds outside would always worry me. But this seemingly unruly crowd of kids would turn into the most attentive and sweet bunch of children once inside. During my time there myself and Nancy (my fellow volunteer) decided to brighten up the little library building with a morel of the mountains. We also tried our best to brighten up the inside with plenty of projects and paintings by the children, who were only too delighted to see their work decorate the walls.

Shyabrubensi is quite the bustling town and to be honest not what I expected to come across after the ten hour bus journey. Having trekked to some of the surrounding villages of Gouljan, Gatlang and Bridim, Shyabrubensi is definitely a lot warmer and sheltered, something I learned to appreciate. Also I learned how lucky I was with the numerous hotels and shops in the town where the basic necessities ie batteries, fruit, peanutbutter and Snickers were easily found! I also had the luxury of a tato pani (hot spring) nearby where I could wash in the open air and bathe in the hot baths while listening to the gushing glacial river that flowed by only feet away. A real experience especially if you were accompanied by a few locals!

My host family, Yangen and Guromi Tamang and their two children, Asish and Achhen, were great. Their house was situated right on the main street of the village where every evening the daily buses from Kathmandu would trundle to a halt for the night. The same buses that insured that I was awake every morning at 6:30 and earlier due to the revving of engines and beeping of horns, which it seems is necessary even in the mountains! I was spoilt for choice when it came to food with noodle and other various types of soup, chowmein dishes, pancakes and of course tasty dal bhat. However, on St. Patricks day my green blood could not help taking over the kitchen and mash potatoes were dished out. Now Achhen’s favourite food!

The people of the town could not have been nicer as I was made feel so at home and completely accepted as a member of the community. The constant drinking of yak butter tea (a taste I quickly and surprisingly acquired much to the dismay of my arteries) and the cooking of nettles with local flour dough were a regular occurrence. This involved numerous neighbours sitting by an open cooking (smoking) hearth, indulging themselves in the goodness that is the Nepali stewed nettle. A taste I did not so quickly acquire but hey, when in Rome!

The Losar festival in late February celebrates the Tibetan New Year and myself and Nancy were lucky enough to experience it and all the preparations involved. It included the making of traditional sweet and salted Tibetan bread which we helped out with, watching Yangen make 40L of the local brew “raikse” and the constant playing of traditional music (not chart topping stuff, yet I find myself humming it, non-the-less). A two day picnic ensued following the New Year which involved all of the villagers. Also (and unfortunately) the fresh butchering of a buffalo which was cooked and eaten with the tastiest dal bhat and washed down with oceans of Tibetan and milk tea. All this was enjoyed by the locals in their best and most colourful dress, in bright sunny weather amongst by beautiful clear views of the surrounding mountains. One of the many images I will remember of Shyabrubensi.

I was also lucky enough to fit in a few treks to neighbouring villages during my. Most weekends I would meet up with fellow volunteers who would come to Shyabrubensi to restock and indulge themselves in a hot shower or two at the local hotels! We experienced some amazing views and even more amazing people. The true beauty and peace of the Himalaya’s was in its inspiring people and their numerous traditions and cultures.

I feel absolutely privileged that I was able to spend my time in Nepal within such a great little community but also that during my stays in Kathmandu I was able to stay at Happy Homes orphanage. For that I thank the children, Asim, his wife Namretta and their two beautiful sons, for being so welcoming and making my stay there so much fun. I would also like to thank the charismatic Bicky, in whom we trusted and was always there to lend a helping hand. Also all the other volunteers who I was lucky enough to share my whole experience with and will look forward to keeping in touch with.



Nancy- Canada
Syabrubesi Library.
During my 6 weeks volunteering with Info Nepal I was placed up north in Shybrubensi, which is in Lantang National Park, about 20 km from the Tibetan border. SB is the starting point for the very popular Lantang trek, positioned at the bottom of a valley with a beautiful Himalayan river running through it. The host family in SB is very lovely, and they are great cooks. Both the mother and father cook a wide variety of dishes, including dhalbhat, chowmein, and noodle soups. SB also has a hot spring right in the village, down by the river, which is a great place to bathe, wash clothes,etc.

During my placement the village celebrated the Tibetan New Year and it was great to see the changing of the village flags, replacing all the year old, fading flags with the new and colorful ones. Since the school was closed for a week, Sandra (the other volunteer placed there with me) and I decided to paint the outside of the library as it was just a plain concrete building. We thought that a great way to inject a little color into the village for the festival was by painting a mural on the side of the library..... the kids just loved it. And the kids are great!!! You will fall in love with them almost immediately, they definitely know how to pull at the old heart strings, especially the little ones in class 1 & 2. They are all extremely enthusiastic, at times we would have up to 30 kids in class, and they are all genuinely interested in being there and very eager to learn.

The days were spent between the library, the school and planning lessons. With 2 classes in the library before school, then a few classes at the school in the morning. In the early afternoon we would spend an hour with the village women who wanted to learn English to improve their communication skills, to be able to deal more effectively with the customers visiting their hotels, shops, etc. Then the afternoon would end with 2 more classes in the library. A pretty busy day, but a really great way to just throw yourself into the community.

If you are placed there and you have some free time, I highly recommend doing a few things. A walk to visit the other volunteers in Goljung and Gatlang is a great way to spend a couple days, and a great chance to see some very traditional Tamang villages. If you have a little more time to spare, and you don’t mind a ‘little’ climb, the hot springs, or Taato Paani (literal translation meaning hot water), just past Goljung and on top of the next ridge is a lovely place to visit. With the great reward of some really hot springs to sooth your aching muscles at the top, its definitely worthwhile. Also, a one day trek into Lantang NP, to stay at the Ganesh View Hotel and Lodge in Rimche for a night is well worth it - at 50rp a night for 2 people (that’s about 50c each!!), great food, hot showers, new mattresses and amazing views it’s pretty hard to top.

So overall it was a totally fantastic experience and I wouldn’t change a thing... Nepal Rocks!!!



Mike and Anna - UK
Our Experiences Teaching in Nepal
(Thulo Bharku)
Well here we are back in Kathmandu nearing the end of our two months with Info Nepal. It has been a fantastic experience.
Arrival
We arrived at the end of July and soon started on out training program which lasted for ten days. It started off with language lessons with Krishna (a great teacher) and various outings in and around Kathmandu. We are both teachers in the UK so it was a nice change being pupils again. As well as seeing the famous sites (Pashupatinath, Swayambhu etc) we also did some more unusual things – swimming in the river above Budhanilkhanta and eating samosas in the pouring monsoon rain will always stand out.

Sanga
Our first placement was in the village of Sanga on the edge of the Kathmandu valley. This was a three day training placement and we were to each stay with a Nepali family. Facilities were much more basic than in Kathmandu but we found it easy enough to adjust. Washing at the “dhunge dhara “(stone tap) was an experience and we had never had such a scenic walk to the bathroom! As well as continuing with language lessons we did a lot of walking in the local area, visiting Panauti and Dhulikel. Each evening we would return for dal bhat (a lot of it!) and attempted to communicate with our families. It was difficult to understand and speak Nepali but, after only three days, it started to get easier.

Thulo Bharkhu
Our main placement was in a small village called Thulo Bharkhu, located in the Langtang National Park. Although not far from Kathmandu as the crow flies, it was a ten hour bus journey. We spent most of it on the roof - great views, more room and less smelly! At one point the road had been damaged by a landslide, and we had to hike between buses. Thulo Bharkhu is situated on the side of a steep valley, with the river far below. The views are breathtaking with many waterfalls plummeting down the valley sides.

Whilst staying in the village we helped to set up a children’s library and also taught at the local primary school. The library was just an empty room when we arrived but is now a popular place for learning and meeting. The children really appreciate it and find so much pleasure in learning English, reading the books and playing simple games. Teaching at the school was fun too. Back in England we have so many teaching resources, however, in Thulo Bahrkhu it was back to basics. Despite this, the children were well behaved and eager to learn.

Our host family was very friendly and we soon got used to eating dal bhat twice a day. At first we showered at a local tap, but later constructed a dam below a nearby waterfall, out of sight of prying eyes!

The villagers in Thulo Bharkhu were very friendly and welcoming. By the time we left we had been accepted as locals. We had also been introduced to the local wine, raksi, and beer, chiang. In fact, both were brewed by our host family.

As our placement was in the Langtang National Park, we had plenty of opportunities to trek. Our first week coincided with the Janaipurnima festival in Gosainkund, a holy lake situated 2500m above Thulo Bharkhu. Many of the villagers, in fact most of them, trekked up to Gosainkund. We joined the party. They sang and danced up to the top, and we did our best to keep up with them. It was a difficult trek, but worth it for the cultural experience. During our last week we trekked up the Langtang valley. The monsoon rains had now started to clear, and we therefore experienced some magnificent views. During this trek we had the opportunity to speak Nepali with the locals and this worked to our advantage when negotiating a price for rooms and food.

By the time our placement had finished, our spoken Nepali had improved to the point where we could communicate most things we needed to. We left Thulo Bharkhu feeling sad to be leaving, and happy with what we had achieved.



Tracy Godd – UK
Placement Summary
(Thulo Bharkhu)
Well, I have finally come to the end of an exciting 2.5 months of volunteering and still have much more to do in Nepal! After an exciting New Years in Kathmandu, I happily returned to Thulo Barku and got stuck back into life in the library. We organized many competitions for the children to keep them occupied during the school holidays, these included: drawing, writing, running, colouring and alphabet tests. The children were very enthusiastic and really enjoyed themselves, it was great to see. Unfortunately my time in Thulo Barku soon came to an end, and I handed over control of the library to Pepe, who from day one was a great replacement for me. I will however, be returning to Thulo Barku for 1 month after my placement for trekking and to stay with my wonderful host family as I have now been accepted as one of the villagers. It has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life.

After leaving Thulo Barku, I spent several days in Kathmandu visiting the children at Happy Home an sorting myself out before my next placement. This placement was for 2 weeks at an orphanage home in Sauraha, Chitwan. I managed to get a direct bus to Sauraha where some children came to meet me with a banner that they had made; it made me feel very welcome! We then took a rickshaw to meet my host family, who made me feel welcome and special from the moment I walked through the door. After resting and getting to know my family, I went to meet the children at the orphanage home, which was only 10-15 minute walk or 5 min bicycle ride away.

The home had 16 children ranging from 6-17 years of age. They were so happy to get another volunteer that I ended up staying with them until well after dhal bhat time. My typical day would be with the children from 7.30am to 9.30 am, and then from 4.30 -6.30pm. During that time I would help the kids with their homework and played some simple games, and also helped in the home in the kitchen, cleaning, and getting the younger kids dressed for school in the morning. We also spent some lovely evenings watching the sunset over the Rapati River. We spent our Saturdays and holidays swimming in the river and sightseeing around the area. The children were great guides and I was very happy to go along with them! At the end of my 2 weeks, I organized a picnic for the children at the elephant breeding center in Corsa.

The picnic was wonderful. We spent a lovely day visiting the baby elephants, eating and playing by the river! Everyone was sad to go home at the end of the day. My time in Chitwan came to an end too quickly, and I was very sad to leave the children, however, I will be returning to Sauraha for 4 days for a safari before I go. I am sure that I will be seeing all my children and my host family soon.

Now that my time of volunteering has come to an end, I will be returning to Thulo Barku for trekking and visiting my new friends. I am sure that everyone will give me a memorable birthday there! After going to Thulo Barku, I will spend some time going for a safari in Chitwan, and then to Pokhara to relax for one week before heading home in April.



Giuseppe - Italy
(Thulo Bharkhu)
Jan to Feb
First of all, I have to say that my two weeks in Thulo Barkhu were something unique in my life: this means that I learned very much from this experience, but also that I had never practiced with children, school and anything similar previously.

On the first day, Tracy showed me how library activities are organized: unfortunately, that day there were very few children (it was holiday and many kids were out or otherwise engaged), so I found myself a little unready as around 20-25 children "invaded" the library the day after.

The library was open since 8,30 to 9,45 am and since 4 to 6,30 pm. In the meantime, it was school time, where I had to teach, as agreed with the headmaster and the other teachers.

At the library, I used to let kids draw and play by themselves for the first 30 – 45 minutes, while they were arriving little by little. Then, I made them play all together some games useful to learn some English words: for example, Bingo, Hangman, Pictionary, Shiva Says … Actually, I could involve only older kids, that is ones of class 2 at least: they like game competition and are able to attend rules. Sometimes, I bought some biscuits and gave them as award, so their interest came to be greater. I had no way to involve younger kids, the ones of class 1 and of no class: this is because they have different interests and because there was no communication with them. I just looked after in order they not to get "damaged" too much and not to do anything wrong.

Indeed, my great problem was that I could speak only very little of Nepali, but their school does not teach them enough English. It is not my duty to say who is really responsible for it or who is to blame, but I just can say that very few children understand some basic English sentences. I used to ask these kids for a sort of help to organize activities and control their mates. Fortunately, all they seemed to be more insightful when there was something interesting for them…

As for behavior, I have to admit that the most of Thulo Bharkhu children are quite polite and respectful of some common rules: whenever I asked them for a help to clean the room after class or told them to put all the things in their right place, they were very collaborative: it is something I did not have to teach them, they already knew it had to be done. Usually, kids were quite friendly with me, even if did not seem to grow fond of me: anyway, there has not been time enough and I had to be somewhat severe with some of them.

At school, I tried to have a more formal style: as possible, I made some little lessons about group of English words, but it was very hard to me to do it using so little of Nepali. Sometimes, I taught some songs and made them play Hangman or other games easy to play.

In the end, I wish to leave some little suggestions on how to try to improve library activities. I think that children that are not yet in school age should not to go to the library: actually, they have nothing to learn and they can do approximately the same things on the road (that is not so dangerous in Thulo Bharkhu …) or in their homes: furthermore, it can be dangerous for them if moving close to older and bigger children in a small space.

As for the school age children, it is hard not to overlook some of them. So, either two volunteers should always be present, or a sort of turning over system should be established: for example, three days a week the library is for kids of class 1 and 2 the other three days it is for class 3, 4 and 5. Maybe, this decision should be taken after rallying families and teachers (school can be a good mean to carry messages out) and explaining the reason. In fact, I stayed for too a short time to make it and take this responsibility.

As for me, it has been nice to find out that these kids love a shared space and are ready to do something for it, not only to receive. The library in Thulo Bharkhu is a place that children and families are sure they can have and they are not to get fed up, if the service it can supply keeps friendly and careful.

Bye bye, see you next time!


Anna – UK
My Birthday in Thulo Bharkhu
This year my birthday coincided with my placement in Thulo Bharkhu. The local people in the village were keen to celebrate this with me and we organised a party in the evening. After our library lesson we headed to the hotel Sherpa, owned by the parents of Sita and Sudip, two of our lovely students. After an initial setback (the village was experiencing one of their frequent power cuts), we finally arranged some music. Whilst our host family and some other villagers cooked food, the children in the village flooded to the hotel with flowers, and two also brought cucumbers for me.

We ordered some raksi (local wine) and awaited our food. The food was delicious- we first started with a home made chocolate and raisin cake and apple pie, both exceptional, and then following this with some chicken curry. Some of the local people also gave me gifts including a beautiful belt made by one of the young ladies in the village. The rest of the night was spent dancing to both Nepali and English music. Many of the Nepali children now know how to dance to Madness! I was overwhelmed by the effort everyone had put in to make my birthday so special.



Michelle – USA
My Stay in Kaskikot, Pokhara
I spent a wonderful month and a half in the village of Kaskikot. There I spent quality time at the school, with my host family, and the village. The Village. Kaskikot is located on a hillside, about a one hour bus ride outside of Pokhara, and a half hour passed Sarankot. If I walked about twenty minutes to the top of the hill, one would have a breath-taking view of the Annapurna Himalayan Range.

The village is filled with wonderful members, mostly of the Brahmin and Chettri caste. My "Namaskar" or "Namaste" was always warmly returned. Many were eager to speak to me with the English they knew and many were willing to use simple Nepali so I could understand. I always felt very welcome wherever I went.

My family. My host family was quite lovely. My host brother, Durga Giri, was also the teacher I would work with over the next several weeks. He and his wife Sardah have three beautiful daughters aged 11, 9 and 3. The houses itself was a built several ago by Durga and his brothers. I was given my own room, however, was always welcome in the kitchen and common room to watch television. My host family also owned several animals including three goats, one buffalo, and one chicken.

I was very eager to participate in the daily routine of village life. Sardah showed me how to properly harvest millet, cut grass, carry water from the local tap and well, plant saag, and even distribute manure in the fields (although I didn’t know that was what I was doing initially). With limited language skills on both sides, we communicated mostly through gestures, simple words, and much laughter. During the time I stayed there, I felt we had become quite close despite our different native tongues. I even learned that Sardah had the same birthday as my sister in the United States! By the end, I felt we had truly become family.

The School. I taught alongside Durga at Shree Pragatishil Primary School located less than five minutes away from their home. The school has classes 1-5 with two permanent teachers and two volunteer teachers. Durga and I focused on teaching the basics to classes 3-5. The most effective techniques included games, drawings, and individual one-on-one attention. The school had only been recently built, and many things are still needed such as furniture, a better roof, and additional teaching materials. After much searching and bargaining, Sally, another volunteer, and I, helped fix the class five room with furniture, paint, and a wipeboard. However, many things are still needed throughout the school. Additionally, Sally and I helped to develop a website that will hopefully connect the school with the outside world.

Special Events. There were so many wonderful events that took place while I was in the village. They included a festival for the new farming season, the school picnic, and a Women’s Picnic. The festival was held at the top of the hill near a temple. It included dancing, food, and a cultural program. The picnic was wonderful as well. The children of the school were given an opportunity to dance, eat fresh goat meat, and play in the fields. Finally, the women gathered for their own celebration, cooking sil roti (deep fried bread) and achaar for nearly five hours. The women laughed and danced. More importantly, they had a day off to celebrate themselves.

I had a great volunteer experience in Nepal and I hope to continue my support even when I return to the United States. Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!



Dave Bonnici - Australia
ASHAR FESTIVAL, Pokhara
Well, what an amazing couple of weeks! I am about to leave Kathmandu to leave for my six week placement in a village known as Sanga, 25km northeast from Kathmandu. Before I leave I need to describe the amazing time I have had in Nepal leading up to now. After arriving and settling in at Kathmandu Peace Guesthouse courtesy of Raj, the owner, I wandered across the street to meet the I.N.F.O. Nepal gang. Within hours I found myself facing my first of many Nepali language classes. Since I came to teach English, it is only fair that I suffer the same fate and try to learn a language too!

After spending some time at Happy Home getting to know the children and eating Asim’s Dal Bhaat, I went off to do some sightseeing before my placement to try to beat the monsoonal rains. After a few days in Chitwan Province with Elaine, Mimi, Molly and Jay (other INFO Volunteers) to visit to Royal Chitwan National Park, a local orphanage and experience local culture in local villages we headed northwest to Pokhara at the base of the Annapurna Himalayan Range. A couple of days hiking to get the heart started and the lungs full of clean mountain air before finding out about a local festival known as Ashar Festival.

I was exited to unexpectedly learn about a festival because I think it adds to the excitement of it, or so I’ve found on other travels. The Ashar Festival is celebrated every year in aid of rice planting throughout the country at a time when heavy rains are expected. The locals explain that villagers set a timetable and help each other to plant the rice field’s so that everyone can prosper together. Attending the festival itself unveiled a series of comical events that helped to ensure everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly while learning about one of Nepal’s critical and timeless agricultural events.

I started the day completely clean and comfortable. On arrival and without much ado I found myself trying to steer two harnessed oxen around a rice paddy field while locals chased me kicking mud all over me! This degenerated into an all out mud fight where I felt compelled to use my size and height to topple a few people into the foray. The whole affair remained lighthearted and jovial and became larger by the moment.

After a short time, an announcer proclaimed that the major sponsor, Mt Everest Beer, was donating a box of large bottles of their product to the winner of a foreigner only race up and down the rice field. That was all the incentive I needed to run fast and after a good start from the blocks, I was unable to hold on, taking third place. Happily, the winner provided me with one of his beers and another sponsor gave dinner to 2nd & 3rd place-getters. A free lunch and more mud fights ensued before I retired for the day, heading up to Lake Phewa (not before being giggled at by several pedestrians) with some other foreigners and some local children to clean off in the river. An amazing day; plenty of laughs, great people, learning and experiencing the local culture. what more could you ask for?


Dave BONNICI, Australia
Grace - Medical Experience - July 22

my placement with INFO started with our training week. we had some excellent language lessons before spending a fw days with a family in the small village of Sanga. Although Sanga has very basic facilities the family i stayed with were so enthusiastic and it was a real chance to see how another culture really lives. After that i started the first part of my placement in Kathmandu. My co-ordinator Bisua took me on his moped to some government health posts and in the aftrenoon showed me some beautiful views and temples. I also spent some time at a private polyclinic where the facilities are much better. There with the doctor we screened a school of very poor children and gave them free mediines. After 1 week I headed to Chitwann for the rest of my placement where I am based at the local goverment hospital. I spend the majority of my time in emergency where there are the most interesting cases but there is also plenty of scope to go to the outpatient clinic and most of the doctors speak very good english. They are very keen to explain cases and many of them have taken me to their other clinics and enjoy introducing you to their families. My host family are very friendly and fortunately the mother knows how to cook several meals other than the staple dhalbaat!
I'm having a great time here and its a really great chance to discover the diversity of Nepal both from a medical and cultural perspective.



Neil Horning - USA
SAFE NEPAL --??
(Pokhara)
I am a volunteer from Berkeley U.S.A. I thought it would be a good idea to go for a 10 day trek between my language training and my placement in order to beat the monsoon. The first 4 days of the trek (from Nayapul to Tatopani) I was in established Maoist Territory. I found it is actually more convenient to trek in the Maoist area’s because there are no police that stop you and ask you for your trekking permit every few hours.

When I actually saw the Maoists they were quite busy and seemed uninterested in hassling me in any way. There were two of them squatting over a hand held radio on a rocky overlook. When they spotted me they gave me a little red salute and simply asked where I was coming from, where I was going, and if I was alone. Then they just let me pass. I even asked if they wanted any money, as they are known for extracting 1200RS from tourists in their areas, and they said it wasn’t necessary. When I did go past I actually went the wrong way, and they called after me and pointed me in the right direction.

Don’t believe whatever the State Department has on their website about travel in Nepal. It is perfectly safe for Americans, or any other foreigner to be here. Now I can’t wait to start my placement.

Neil Horning, USA
May-June


Anja - Belgium
My Village Experience
(Pokhara)
I arrived in Nepal at the end of August. In this time, all Western governments strongly disadvised to travel to this country, and Western news pictured Nepal as very unsafe for Western travellers. After arriving in Kathmandu however, I could see how overblown this news giving was. Although there are many things going on in Nepal, I can assure you that this political situation in no way affects foreigners in Nepal. Being in Nepal now for three months, I haven`t been confrontated with any fights or bombings and I haven`t been attacked by any Maoist or army man. It`s seems that also tourist are slowly realising this: while I didn`t see any tourist in August, I can see many of them now walking in the Kathmandu and Pokhara streets.

I`ve been placed in Sarangkot near Pokhara. Thanks to many bus connections, this village is only half an hour away from the city. Surrounded by impressive mountains and very nice people, Sarangkot is just the most beautiful place I can imagine. I feel very accepted in this village, in my host family as well as in the school where I`m working in. I`ve been teaching English in the local school. It`s a big school with 500 students and 15 teachers, doing a lot of activities like speech competition, Pokhara bus tour, HIV seminars with Red Cross - all very interesting. There are so many things to see and experience in this country, you would almost wish to be Nepali yourself!!!

My family is just lovely. There are grandparents, parents and 3 daughters (2, 4, 7 years old) all of them trying to do their utmost best to make me feel at home. Grandmother being so patient with me while we're having small Nepali conversations; Grandfather always trying to tell me jokes; the children hanging on me all the time; Krishna (Father) always ready to help me with practical problems; and Ambika revealing to me all the secrets

Anja, Belgium



Pamela - UK
Experiences while volunteering with INFO Nepal
(Pokhara) - September

May I have had an incredible time here in Nepal. The only thing I regret is having come for such a short time.
Congratulations for the work you've done so far, Info has a lot of possibilities in my opinion, and hopefully it will continue to grow. I really cannot express how I felt about it all. I met wonderful people in my time here, and I hope we will keep in touch.

Nepal is a great country and I hope I will be able to keep on contributing to your cause - education and cultural exchanges, because I believe this to be important, not only for Nepal, but also for Foreign Countries.

As a volunteer here, I learnt so much. Nepali culture has some invaluable lessons to teach the "West" and the hearts of the Nepali people are examples of kindness and openness. During my time here a lot of events in the public Nepali environment took place giving me the opportunity to see the way Nepali people act as a society and within their society.

The space is too short for me to write it all, and I also know that in the short time I was here, it was impossible for me to know much about the culture, because it is so rich. However, I can say that I will try to apply all that I have learn't about Nepali culture, which I find so valuable to my everyday life.

The warmth and helpfulness and curiosity about other cultures that I found in Nepal is never going to leave me, it is really a great inspiration. So basically, I can only say I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experiences I've had here, these have really enriched my life, and I hope that the friendships I have made here continue for many years, since working together, I believe we can continue to teach and learn from each other - for a better future for us all

Thank you so much
Pamela



Dan and Cheryl
A report from the placement.
(Chitwan - Parbatipur)
10th Dec 05
We arrived at Kathmandu 1st Nov and stayed at the Happy Home orphanage, with Asim (INFO boss) and his wife Namarata, their 2 boys and Rani and Dolma, from a Tibetan village, who have learnt Nepali in only 1 year with Namarata's teachings.The next day Nepali Language Classes started with an amazing teacher Krishna. She has known Asim for 10 years and has worked with INFO since it was established (2000).

Our arrival in Kathmandu coincided with the 4 day celebration of Tihar Festival. At night all of the windows and balconies around Kathmandu were lit up with fairy lights, this is so the gods visiting during Tihar would be able to find thier way. On the last day of Tihar (where the sisters pray for their brothers) Asims family came to the happy home, and we felt very lucky to be part of the celebrations, receiving tikas and garlands.

Our mornings were taken up with N L Classes and some afternoons we were taken sight seeing by the cheeky chappy, Bicky (info co-ordinator). You could see why Kathmandu is called the city of temples-you could stumble across a temple every 20 mins of walking! Kathmandu is a very higgedly piggedly place, with narrow roads and in some places car, motorbikes, bikes, and people going in all directions! Some shops are little cubby holes, just big enough to sit in and there are tiny doors and alleyways that lead to courtyards and the Labrinth of Kathmandu. There are amazing carvings on buildings everywhere. We love the history and atmosphere of this place is tangible, and so, unfortunately, is the smog.

The people are so friendly and once you speak a little Nepali they open up even more. On the 9th Nov after N L Classes we moved to Sanga village for further training. Upon arrival we had to walk up the hillside to our home for the next 10 days. We met our host family at their house, and they proceeded in talking Nepali to us, some of which we understood, most of it went over our heads and the Hajur aamaa (grandmother) thought this was hilarious! we must have looked like lost lambs!

The house had 2 floors made from wood and red mud, the doors were a perfect fit for Hajur aamaa.Our room was on the ground floor next to the main living room, and Dan banged his head more times than I could count.

We ate Dhal baat (rice and spiced veg) twice a day, in the main room, ducking through the doorway, taking our shoes off as we entered. When in we were told 'basnus basnus' 'please sit please sit' where they would lay a straw rug for us as the clay floor would be cold. It always took a few moments for our eyes to adjust to the lack of light in here. Hajur aamaa would sit in the opposite corner crouched over the stove, made from the same red clay, about a foot high with a hole at the front to put the fire wood in and 2 holes at the top for the pans to sit on. There was also a set of wooden steps leading to the next floor.

Every morning after she blessed the house Hajur aamaa would milk the buffalo, then we would see the animals trot past our door to graze by the side of the house. Then we would brush our teeth, sometimes going to the stone carved tap on the hillside. Sometimes it seemed like half the village would be there, mostly women, with large baskets carried across their head with a strap, on their journey to the paddy fields.

Krishna came to Sanga everyday, to a house a few mins away, to continue our language training. The walk to this house afforded amazing views in all directions- the hills ran down to terraced valleys and further on, the astonishing sight of snow capped mountains. Rajesh (Eng teacher and INFO coord) said to us that we must look at the mountains at every opportunity as they welcome us to Nepal. We liked this!

A few afternoons we went to nearby Dhulikel where we had class oberservation with Rajesh, and then taught a couple of classes. Quite scary at first but after a while immensely rewarding.

On the 20th November we headed back to Kathmandu, sad to leave the innocence of Sanga, as the people made us so welcome.

Back at Kathmandu, it was good to catch up with everyone at the Happy Home again, and to have the privacy of a bathroom. The 21st November was Asim's son, Nawarash' sixth birthday although birthdays are not really celebrated here (Asim told us he didn't know when his birthday was until he was about 24 and had to ask his Mum).

The next day, with Bicky and Spella (volunteer), we headed by bus to Chitwan, and our placement. It took about five hours, and as we traveled we followed what started as a stream to a wide river. The large, rocky, pointed hills gradually lowered and rounded off, and the vegetation grew lusher and more verdant. Before we knew it, the hills had disappeared, and we arrived at our placement in Parbatipur.

Parbatipur is quite modern from what we were used to, with one straight road going through it and paddy fields either side. Our family here are great, the dad Rishi, the mum Rama, look after us well, and they have two daughters and a son called Sagar, whose English is very good, but that hasn't helped us to practice our nepali. Their house is modern with running water and a kitchen table.

On our first day off we cycled to Ganganagar to see Spella, with Sagar, and his friend Parmesh. We met Parmesh's sister who invited us in and fed us. At the INFO library we caught up with Spella, Gita (volunteer) and Krishna, and then went our separate ways. Some local kids here took us to the Jungle and Rapti river. It was amazing here and on the other side of the river were monkeys playing in the sunshine. After awhile we set back, looking forward to visiting again.

At Parbatipur we have the Info library just a couple of steps away. We have lessons Sunday to Friday, 7-8am then 8-9am for the younger kids, and from 5-6pm, half a dozen older kids whose English is very good. We have loads of ideas for the library, and we are glad we are here for a long time to set things up, and hopefully see an improvement in the kids English. We have the option to help in the local schools as well, and Dan has started some adult classes in a clubhouse down the road. I would like to push women's classes as it's mainly men and boys that learn. I have become quite the feminist!

We have settled in here- when we first arrived we missed the mountains very much, but the other day the horizon cleared and we could see them again. Which is crazy as we are only 20km away from India but we can still see the mountains on the other side of Nepal!

Nepal is so varied, We have seen many aspects of it and there is still plenty to see and learn. Everything changes from the castes to the varied geology, history, vegetation and wildlife. The only thing that stays the same is eating Dhal bhat twice a day!

The people are great and so are the other volunteers, and INFO look after us really well. At the end of Dec we are going to Pokhara to renew our visas and meet up with three other volunteers- Sally, Michelle and Petra, to see the new year through together. We are spending xmas at Parbatipur after telling Rama about xmas, showing her our advents and seeing our enthusiasm about it, she said she will make a xmas day for us. Yeah!



Sarah - Canada
My Experience Volunteering in Nepal
(Chitwan - Parbatipur)
After finishing my undergraduate degree in Canada I decided to take a year off to travel while applying to medical school. I knew that I wanted to do something that would enable me to experience a very different place in depth, and volunteering seemed like an excellent way to do so while hopefully making a positive impact, however small, on the area I visited. Nepal appealed to me as a fascinating destination so, after doing some research, I decided to volunteer for a month with INFO Nepal.

I arrived in Kathmandu after several days of flight delays and was warmly received at the office and Happy Home. My training, which took about a week, consisted of morning language classes and sightseeing at various famous places around Kathmandu such as Pashputinath and Boudhanath. I found Nepali difficult to grasp but learned enough to get around and better my experience in the country. I was assigned to a health care placement in the Chitwan district, and was somewhat apprehensive after hearing reports of the incredible heat!

It was indeed very hot when I arrived in the village of Parbatipur. My host family consisted of Rishi, the father, Rama, the mother, and their three teenage children Rina, Dina, and Sagar. The father is a community health assistant and runs a private pharmacy as well as the district sub-health post. From the beginning they did everything possible to make me feel welcome and even gave me a Nepali name, Coruna, or called me "Sister". I had my own room with a fan, and lived in relative comfort thanks to a cold shower and electricity, which tended to cut out at odd times of the day. The village also had a phone so I could call home when I liked. I was certainly well fed with massive amounts of daal bhaat, and soon learned not to say I was hungry unless I really wanted something to eat right away - and also made much use of the word "pugyo" – which means "I have had enough".

My first week there was dominated by the biggest festival of the Nepali year, Dasain, which involved a lot of goat sacrifice and some interesting ceremonies. I went with the family to visit relatives, who all live very close together, and was given tika, a paste of red powder, yogurt, and rice, which is applied to the forehead with blessings and gifts of money. I drank lots of delicious lassi and was offered the boiled blood of a sacrificial goat to eat, which I could not bring myself to finish despite my best efforts. During this time I went to visit the National Park, rode an elephant, and saw many interesting creatures like rhinos, crocodiles, and deer.

In the second week I got sick for a few days with minor stomach problems and was tended to by all members of the family. It rained for a while, which to my relief lessened the heat of the day. When I finally had the chance to visit the health post, I was surprised to find that it was a small concrete shack in the middle of fields. Supplies were donated from various health agencies, including WHO, and there were several staff members to take care of patients. Unfortunately, because it was their 'cold season', there were very few patients to observe, most with minor complaints such as headache or muscle sprains. I was told that in the 'hot season' there could be as many as 30-40 patients a day, which would surely have overwhelmed the facilities there. Care was subsidized by various organizations but the people still had to pay a small fee for medicines.

I was joined in my last week by a British volunteer who ran morning and evening programs in the village library. I was glad for the company and we got along very well. When it came time for me to leave I was sad to say goodbye to the family, who had been so kind and had truly made me feel at home. It was great to see that Rina, the oldest daughter, would soon be going to attend nursing college, which is excellent in a country where so many girls have few opportunities for education. I visited Pokhara, a beautiful and relaxing place, before returning to Kathmandu. My experience in Nepal was challenging but worthwhile, and I did not encounter any Maoists or feel in danger at any time. I hope to visit the country again in the future, maybe as a doctor, and learn more about this fascinating place.



Audrey and Jane - Ireland
Working in an Orphanage
(Chitwan - Sauraha)
We can’t express in words how fantastic our time volunteering in Chitwan has been. The people, the children, the scenery and the wildlife seemed to amaze us in new ways every day. We spent one month volunteering and during that time we worked with fourteen super kids in an orphanage home in Sauraha, Chitwan. No two days were ever the same during our placement! Each morning we would help the children with their homework and again in the evening time when they returned home from school. The children had difficulty with Maths and Science in particular so we spent a lot of time teaching them concepts in these two subject areas. However teaching was only one of the many activities we undertook with the children. Fishing with the children and swimming down at the local river (where we sat safely on the river bank) was one of the many memories we will take home with us. The children teaching us new games that we will use in the school yard when we return to Ireland and also teaching them games that we ourselves played as children was again another activity that we enjoyed immensely! Listening to the children telling various myths and legends of Nepal and spending time talking and interacting with them was so enjoyable and the nights seemed to disappear so quickly!

The village itself was such a delightful place to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of Katmandu. The countryside was so peaceful and its beauty was captivating! At first you can’t believe that a herd of elephants are your nearest neighbors but you quickly find yourself adjusting to the lifestyle and not batting an eyelid as you stand in along the roadside to let elephants pass as they return from the jungle. I must admit that the local wildlife were one of my biggest fears when we planned this journey but thankfully I could cope with the lizards and the only other reptiles we saw were in a museum!

We can honestly say that at no time did we feel in danger or uneasy during our placement. The people were at all times so warm and welcoming and made every effort to ensure you felt part of their community. They were very helpful which made it much easier to appreciate the natural beauty of their village when one would go exploring the local countryside.

It was very exciting to be placed so close to Royal Chitwan National Park and I think the children guessed that we were a little nervous about this at first when they would tell us stories about local farmers been attacked by the tigers so they quickly reassured us telling us not to worry that the animals did not attack tourists!

Overall we were extremely happy with our placement. We could not have asked for a nicer host family, children or area to be placed working with. Everything from beginning to end was so enjoyable and we would recommend anyone who has any interest in traveling to another country to experience something so different but yet so fantastic to come to Nepal and spend some time working with Info Nepal and the people here in whatever area you are interested in.

We cannot thank Info Nepal enough for the experience we have had! Thanks everybody!!!
Audrey and Jane, Ireland


Sue Driscoll - Australia
Volunteering
(Chitwan - Patihani)
Hi, My name is Sue and I am from Australia. I arrived in Kathmandu at the end of January and along with another volunteer, Barry, from London, I received a very warm welcome from Asim and Dinesh from INFO, and Raj and staff at the Kathmandu Peace Guest House. It was a great way to begin my time here.

We started into Language Classes each morning. These classes provided lots of laughs as I made mistake after mistake ( like saying "the children go to school to get hit" rather than" the children go to school to learn"!!) Dinesh showed endless patience with me!. What has surprised me is how much I did actually learn when I didn't think I was taking it in at all ! The content of the language classes was excellent in terms of the things we needed to be able to say and understand to have good basic communication with our host families and the children in our classes. It was a very well thought out course taught well by Dinesh.

I am now with my host family in the village of Patihani in Chitwan. Their hospitality has been overwhelming and I feel very much at home with them and have learnt lots from them. I can now eat Dal Baat with the best of them while sitting cross legged on the floor, and today I finally succeeded in having a "shower" at the outdoor pump without my clothes blowing into the fields, without my sarong falling down and without drawing any interested onlookers!! And I can chase chickens out of the house with wonderful Nepali words - they ignore my English words!!

I have four classes of children - all different. In Patihani itself, I have a class of 10 boys ( aged 11-13 yrs) at 7.00am - they are a great "wake up" group. This is followed at 8.00am by a mixed group of 12 children - boys and girls, mixed ages and very mixed abilities.

In the afternoon I walk 20 minutes to a small village on the bank of the Rapti River which borders the Chitwan National Park. We have our classes sitting in the open on the bank of the river - it is absolutely beautiful. There hasn't been any volunteers in this village before now and the children are so keen to be involved that I have ended up with 65 children in the 4-9yr old group, and 35 in the 9-12yr old group - and it is great!! The children are enthusiastic and totally focused and not at all distracted by the crocodiles and elephants that appear in the river during class - which is more than I can say for me!!

I am finding volunteering with INFO to be a wonderful experience, and a very safe experience. They are very aware of the political situation, monitor it carefully and the safety of the volunteers is always carefully considered and put first. Despite all the political upheavels of the past few weeks I have felt totally safe and extremely supported by INFO.

22 year old, Buddhi Mahato, from the Bote village, is assisting Sue with the riverside classes, along with having English language tuition from Sue for 2 hours each day. Buddhi is very keen to both help the children of the village, and improve his own standard of education.

Sue Driscoll - Patihani



Loic Menzies - UK
My 2nd visit for INFO Nepal
(Chitwan - Ganganagar)
As I reached the end of my short but wonderful month in Patalahara / Ganganagar , I was in no doubt about my intention to come back. Every time I said to my friends and students "holaa arko bharsa ma Nepalmaa parkhane" (Maybe next year I will return to Nepal), they shouted "NOT MAYBE!" and they were proved right.

All year I saved what money I could and then got £500 off Shell (yes the oil company!) and soon enough was marching back along the familiar road into the village. My first surprise was to see my father walking towards me when I had expected him to be in Malaysia, my surprise made the re-encounter even stranger and happier. It made me glad to see him looking healthy, having put on weight and with a welcoming smile on his face. As I got nearer the house my mum came into view and I had to keep reminding myself that Nepali culture demanded I not give her the big hug I wanted to. Instead I was able to restrict myself to a very enthusiastic "Namaste" and soon I was putting my heavy bag back down on a familiar bed. While last year I had thought of myself as "roughing it" in an isolated village, this time the comfort contrasted with the budget rooms in which I had stopped over on my way from India, this room felt cosy and welcoming. However, I soon left it to re-discover my friends in the village and the reactions were wonderful. They began with utter disbelief but soon turned to pride and satisfaction that I had travelled all the way back to see them. I also met the two volunteers in the village at the time, Kim and Leah and began to find out about what they had been doing which encouraged me to begin setting up work to keep me busy.

My plan was to continue in my project to train young people to teach other less educated children. Asim and Anil had already begun to get a group of enthusiastic young people together. There were three people from the Tharu village and two from Ganganagar. Anil and Pariksha, the two from Ganganagar were already teaching a class each every day and we agreed that I'd come along and help them to run them, finally, I also got together a group of higher ability students to teach in the morning.

All in all that gave me four classes which was enough to keep me very busy and continually raise my stress levels. Problems never fail to arise, we had inter-caste tensions, problems with physical punishment and difficulties with some of the teachers not turning up to their lessons. However, I hadn't expected an easy ride and with the bags of enthusiasm everyone brought with them and the support of all the community, the projects were a real success, as the amazing recognition my friends in the village gave me proved.

Coming back to the village gave me a chance to strengthen my relationships with everyone there, improve my Nepali and watch the children and young people progress. I felt that my experience and understanding of the tensions, difficulties and attitudes that prevail in the village enabled me to pursue the projects with greater success than had been possible in my first brief visit. On top of all of that, this year, my mum (my real mum from home) came to visit and was welcomed as everyone's aama. Everyone loved her and couldn't wait to speak to her, she was even given the traditional tikka covering goodbye when we left.

Leaving the village this year was sadder than last year, when I had planned to return soon. This year I feel that with so much more of the world to see, next year I should go to a different place and make new discoveries. However, I will never forget the amazing friendships I built, the dedication, warmth and love that the villagers exude and the memories of the last two summers. After a few more years, who knows, I may come back for the marriage of my brother, sister, pupils or friends. In the meantime, I only hope that the villagers can continue their dedication to improving their lives, helped by info and its volunteers' dedication

Loic Menzies, UK



Cornelie – Holland
(Chitwan - Ganganagar) - October
It has already been 2 years (about) since I left Ganganagar, but now finally, a note from me. I had the best time in Ganganagar. It was a real experience, especially with the family you put me in. During the year I was here and also during all the times I have come back, I enjoyed helping you with culture classes, answering mail etc.

As you know I will be coming back and I will help you whenever I can. BUT because I usually come back as a Dentists Assistant, you have to promise that you will help same project next.

Love, Cornelie



Host family
Interview with Krishna Hari Sharma
(Chitwan – Patihani)
Q. How long has INFO Nepal been placing volunteers with your family?
A. INFO Nepal has been placing volunteers with my family for 2 years.

Q. How did you first get involved with this programme?
A. Maybe they thought that volunteers would be comfortable staying with my family. I was interested in our social development, that's why they chose me.

Q. Do you feel that it's been a positive experience for your family?
A. Yes, I think it is good for my community also because our community gets good knowledge from the foreign volunteers about education, about health problems and also other countries and civilizations.

Q. How have the volunteers generally adjusted to living with your family?
A. I think very well, and I think the volunteers feel very comfortable with my family. When they return to their country, they write telling me that had a good time and have many fond memories of the time they spent with my family.

Q. What problems, if any, have you had?
A. No problems at all.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the way INFO Nepal place volunteers with Nepali families? What advice would you give to volunteers who will be living with Nepali families in future?
A. I think there are some problems for volunteers living with Nepali families because the lifestyle is different. Actually, I think when they come to a remote area; they must adjust to the host family. If not, it can be a problem for the host family also. It's a Nepali family; they eat the same dishes all the time, dhal bat. Only on a few occasions do they eat different dishes. The Nepali family, they talk frankly, very frankly, so volunteers must also be frank and they must co-operate with the host family.



Neal Turkington - Northern Ireland
Volunteer Article
(Chitwan – Patihani)
When I arrived in Pattihani in June, I was lucky enough to be greeted by the experienced presence of Liam. This became a very important starting point, as not only did Liam introduce me to the village and the children, he also acted as a good advisor on how to act and assimilate within the new environment.

Therefore, on my first evening I was taken on a long bicycle adventure, which included my first experience of quick sand, a wash in the Raapti and drowning my sorrows with a few beers in the village afterward.

Unfortunately, Liam departed a little later due to visa restrictions but not before explaining to me his own little Rhino adventure in which the villagers chased the rice-munching fiend from the fields with fire torches, if I am correct. Of course I thought this was an interesting story but did not believe it would happen again.

Three weeks later I was proved wrong when I was fetched by Surindra and brought to see a Rhino sitting happily in a field not more than 50 meters from the village. This was great and as the only foreigner I immediately ran forward to take a few snapshots. However, I became more and more intrigued and ventured as close as about fifteen feet.

Unbeknownst to me, a local villager had taken it upon himself to, at this stage, unleash a bombardment of stones upon the unfortunate beast. This startled both the rhino and myself and resulted in a bit of a race. I, helped by the fact that I feared for my life found that I could run at quite a clip but it also appears that rhinoceroses have talent in this area as well.

Needless to say there was a bit of stumbling, swearing and laughing (this coming from the entire village who for some reason found this quite funny) followed by myself finding a sudden belief in a higher being. As you can tell the colossal beast spared me after a pitched battle of wills and determination on both our parts, to be honest I think the little bugger was quite frightened. Between you and I, I provide quite an imposing figure sprinting away from you expressing my talent for diverse and intelligent expletive language.

Although to me this period of time seemed to last hours it apparently lasted a few seconds (ridiculous). However, this short period emphasized the tremendously different opportunities in Nepal and how removed from everyday life it is. I hope that a few of you can gleam some sort of comedy from this episode and realize that, essentially, volunteering remains and will always remain good craic.

Goodbye from the INFO Family and Good Luck to you all.



Liam Anderson, Greenock - Scotland
Monthly Feature Article: "From the mouth of a volunteer…"
(Chitwan – Patihani) - June
Having spent my 5 months with INFO Nepal during 2002, I certainly fall into the trip down memory lane category of volunteer reminiscently referred to in this month's newsletter. It's hard to believe that my "tour of duty" ended in November of last year, but being back in Nepal seems to have brought everything flooding back and it feels just like yesterday that I was standing, sweating buckets, in my classroom in Patihani.

I was teaching English language at the INFO resource center in Patihani, in Chitwan. There were approximately 45 students ranging in age from 15 to 32, with the average age being around 18/19 (there was only one guy of 32). The students were divided into 5 classes based, unfortunately not on ability, but on when they could make it to class, which was normally in between lessons and chores.

My brief was to help build generally on what the students were learning at school and assist in the development of skills that could be useful in the workplace. In the end, what the students actually wanted was to practice conversation, practice more conversation and practice even more conversation. I felt that I should also be covering stuff like grammar and vocabulary, which we did cover, but to be fair it probably bored me as much as it bored them, ke garne?

What struck me most of all was that here was a selection of kids, all roughly the same age, from the same schools, but with such a wide and varied range of abilities. The position at the government school was explained to me by one of my students Mohan - A (we had two Mohans in the class - no prizes for guessing what the other Mohan was called). Mohan told me that in class the teacher asks a question, a bright kid answers, and the teacher moves on, and so on and so forth. If a student doesn't get it, too bad, they're left behind.

My small class sizes meant that I could do it a bit differently from the schools. I could check understanding before moving on, they hated this, as they were embarrassed to get things wrong. We soon overcame this problem and everyone tended to join in more as time went by.

I don't know if I made a difference by coming to teach in Nepal, I don't feel that it's my place to say either way. I did see improvements in a number of students and I think that generally they were far more confident at the end of the course than they were at the start of the course; this was particularly the case with my female students. I was just happy that I could help a little with something that I enjoyed doing, and if the students got as much out of it as I did, then my time in Nepal wasn't wasted. Mr. Carlsberg would no doubt agree!

INTERVIEW WITH BEN
GOLDEN TIGER YOUTH CLUB/INFO NEPAL LIBRARY
(Chitwan – Patihani)

Susanna (interviewer)
Ben (interviewee)
Susanna: Hi Ben how are you?
Ben: Very well thank you although it is quite early!

Susanna: So, Ben, you live here and volunteer in Patihani, what type of volunteering do you actually do?
Ben: I started off teaching English to young children up to the about the age of 11 and then I changed those classes to older children, teenagers, and we are also doing some computer classes for the community as well.

Susanna: Why did you change the programme from younger children to older children and teenagers?
Ben: That was the decision of the Youth Club actually because they believe that in order to raise more funds for the youth club it would be better to teach the older kids.

Susanna: OK, so how do you think your volunteering here has benefited the people and the youth and the community in general?
Ben: It has benefited the students in so far as they can all speak a little bit of English and have a basic understanding, however, they just need someone with whom they can speak English to and someone to practice with who can correct them when they make a mistake.

Susanna: Like benefiting from a native speaker? And how do you think the computer classes help the community?
Ben: Well, it certainly helps them in so far as giving them an introduction to computers so when they are presented with a task perhaps at school or in the working world like a job interview for example it wont be a completely new item of equipment for them because they have worked with them here and can operate them, they will have confidence and wont be intimidated.

Susanna: As a volunteer here, how have you found your experience and what do you feel you have gained from volunteering?
Ben: I have thoroughly enjoyed myself in Patihani. It's been a wonderful experience and it's a wonderful village. Everyone has been really friendly. What have I gained? I have learned a little Nepali language, made lots of friends and generally had a wonderful time and daily I've had many new experiences as well.

Susanna: And talking about learning Nepali Language, what do you think you have learned about Nepali culture, I mean how is staying with a host family different than staying in a hotel or guest house for example.
Ben: Well staying in a hotel or guesthouse, you tend to be removed from the community so staying with a host family means you are effectively part of the family and part of the community. You are more involved and tend to be more accepted. You can move around the village more freely and are not treated like a complete stranger. So as far as Nepali culture I certainly learned the basics, such as washing your hands before you eat Dhal Bhat and how to behave at mealtimes like eating with your hand and in the culture in general. Although I think it would take much longer to fully appreciate the depths of the Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

Susanna: So what's different then from living at home to living in Nepali host family?
Ben: What's different? There are many similarities such as kids fighting with their parents like at home. There are always similar things but just done in different ways, such as eating in different ways, like the men eat first and the woman waits. To me everything is the same as at home but just done slightly differently if you know what I mean? So it is good, an interesting experience.

Susanna: This village, it is a beautiful village; you obviously have some free time when you are not teaching. What is there to do around here?
Ben: What to do, well there is the Rapti River nearby where you can go swimming and you can come down to the Youth Club and play Ludo or Pothi as they like to call it. You have hang out with the kids and play Karam Board or marbles or generally go for a walk around the village. Chitwan National Park is just across the river and Sarauha, to the east, is the popular tourist town. There is also Naranghat to the north which again has all the conveniences of a large town so there is plenty to do in your free time.

Susanna: So you have the benefit of living in a rural village whilst also being a short bike ride away from conveniences you might need.
Ben: So although the village might not have all the facilities you want it is just an hour to Naranghat where you have everything, all the conveniences such as email, photocopying, banks, you name it,. It's easy easy easy.

Susanna: So all in all you have enjoyed your experiences as a volunteer here.
Ben: Oh I thoroughly had a good time.

Susanna: So you think it is a good programme to continue, people do benefit from it.
Ben: Definitely a very good programme. I certainly enjoyed it, my students seemed to enjoy it, my family enjoyed having me stay as I enjoyed staying with them, It's been a pleasure.

Susanna: So you would recommend it.
Ben: Definitely, I would recommend it.

Susanna: Thank you Ben.
Ben : No Problem.

Previous Volunteers' Experiences
Christina Sousa (Chitwan)

I cant believe my time in Nepal is over! Two months goes by fast - it's been a great experience. I was so impressed by the great work INFO Nepal, doing in Chitwan. The INFO Libraries have brought so much to the community. The children's enthusiasm for English and learning about other countries was an amazing thing. Living in the village is an experience I will never forget. I was warmly welcomed and made to feel a part of everything. I'll leave Nepal with very warm memories of my experience here.

Thanks for everything - you've been amazing and good luck to INFO in the future - keep up the good work, thanks and take care, Christina.


Meir – Israel
(Chitwan)
Well, I was at Chitwan only 2 ½ weeks (out of a month I intended). I never planned to volunteer in Nepal, I was just traveling through from China to India. I ran into INFO Nepal by chance and I'm glad I did. It gave me a chance to see a little bit of the culture and traditions of Nepal and also to help - as much as I could. There's still so much to do there and so many people that need our help.Even in such a short period I got really attached to all the children in the Tharu village. It's been a long time since I met children who are so eager to learn.

Thank you for a wonderful experience! .........Meir


Jeroen Deconinck – Belgium
(Chitwan – Ganganagar)
Describing 3 months in 3 minutes…
Coming to Nepal is one, staying here for three months is two and don't want to leave anymore is three.
When I signed up with INFO to come and do some volunteering in a health post, I could never think that I would get so much appreciation from the village people in Ganganagar for my work on the one hand, and lots of responsibility from the medical staff where I was placed on the other hand. What was supposed to be working in a health post as a nurse (I'm an nurse in Belgium working in the emergency department) from 10am to 5pm, turned into being busy all day and some moments in the night. It all started when I got my reputation in the village and my volunteer post. The medical staff from the health post treated me as a doctor (although sometimes they are hard learning).

And some time after, the village people followed this idea, after curing a seriously ill woman in the village next-door (Sitamai) at a 10 pm emergency (and they spread the news around). The result a couple of days later was that many village people came to my house - before or after my shift in the health post - to be checked by the Belgian doctor. So instead of one, I suddenly had two jobs. And then I haven't mentioned the 'night time emergencies' yet that I had. In no time I got famous.

I can tell hundreds of stories about my volunteering. The work I did, the village people and my family (I'm really going to miss them so much), the Belgian parties I organized in the village, trekking and parasailing, the many places I visited and the many volunteer friends I made (guys, spending my time with you was fantastic).

Thanks INFO for this unforgettable experience.......... Jeroen Deconinck.


Euginie - France
My Nepali Memory
(Chitwan – Ganganagar)
This month has been full of emotion for all the new volunteers and for myself. I am amazed to see how much has happened within my village and the whole info family constantly growing!!! The best part of the month for me was my birthday--an amazing, unforgettable experience here in Nepal. My 21st was part of my adventure here. I was expecting a normal simple birthday in my village but it ended up being another unreal story in my Nepali memory. All the volunteers organized everything and they joined together to arrange a big party.

It all started with amazing Belgium cooking, with a fresh chicken from Margot’s house!!! The preparations were all made in Ganganagar and then the whole troupe went to the jungle where we all planned to celebrate my birthday: spending the night in Sitamai and sleeping there. We got there and the party started: drinks, nice food, great atmosphere and amazing people--everything was perfect for me. I still can't believe how those people that I had only know for a small period time made this night crazy and unreal.

I don’t think that a party back home would have been as good! It is funny how in a short period of time all the volunteers and INFO have created this sort of family environment. Everyone gets on well, we are all here for the same reason and we can all understand each other laugh about each others’ stories in the village and our own experiences. Here we all learned how to appreciate simple things and enjoy life in a non-materialistic way!!! For example, you cannot imagine how excited we all were with this European-style chicken; for you it’s just a chicken but for us…We are all really different in character and lifestyle in our own countries, but here we create an international family that is enjoying its Nepali adventure!!! And thanks to all of them for showing me that on my birthday…And cheers for the bottle of French red wine. That was a wicked idea and all the other unexpected presents were great also.

Snapshots of memories:
Me swimming in the river at the stage where I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. Asim rapping and singing, Jeroen falling off this sort of sand dune………..each of us made our unique mark on that night and I’ll keep in mind each of them. Once more, thanks to all of them. Now the good times keep on going. After a great time with my village students we are off to trek the treasure of Nepal: the Himalayas

Teacher in the community
Interview with Shree Ram Devkota
(Chitwan – Ganganagar)
Q. Where do you currently teach - which school, which subject?
R. Currently I am teaching in the lower secondary school, Ganganagar, and I am teaching English.

Q. How long has INFO Nepal been placing volunteer teachers at your school?
R. At my school, the first volunteer was in 1999, they were from Holland.

Q. What is your overall impression of the job volunteer teachers do in Nepal when teaching English?
R. It depends on the volunteers backgrounds, their academic fields- some are quite specialized, so the teaching is quite effective and the students get a lot from them, whilst others come with out the background in teaching. This means that they cannot give as much to the students but it is important that conversational and complimentary English is used in the classroom and this is where the volunteer is essential. At least the students get practice speaking English, and are taught the basics.

Q. What has been the reaction of the students at your school?
R. In my school, the students are quite interested to have an English speaking volunteer, because in-front of me, the students feel shy and don't speak; maybe the reason is that in Nepal, whilst teaching, if the student makes a mistake, the teacher will think that the students are wrong, so if I have a volunteer, the students are very interested to speak with them in English. In fact they always ask me, if there is a gap in the volunteers, when the next volunteer is coming, which is a very positive point.

Q. Is there anything that INFO Nepal could do better when placing volunteers in schools?
R. In my opinion, since 1999 I have had regular volunteers in my school; some from INFO, some from the …… Safari Hotel, and although I think most of the volunteers who come through INFO, these volunteers, if they are going to teach in the government school, in my opinion, INFO should organize a program, like an orientation class, and how they are going to teach, what they are going to teach. The volunteers should know from the beginning how many students are in the class room, and how to handle the Nepalese students, so if a 1 or 2 day program like this was held with INFO before getting to the school, then the volunteer would know there were 50 students in the class room, and the class room is very small, they can ask themselves "How can I manage the class room?" before they go. So in my opinion, if a volunteer who is new to the field of teaching, they should have some classes before going before the students.

Q. Do you feel the library programme being developed by INFO is a positive step forward for the community?
R. Of course it is a positive step; what INFO has done is great, but it must be continuous- doing something is important, but continuing it is a great thing. Now in the community, INFO has started the community library, many students come to see the library books, and they are interested- at least if the student doesn't understand the English properly, the younger kids can see the pictures and associate words.

Q. From your observations of the programme, what areas do you feel could be improved upon?
R. There are a number of areas that can be improved upon. Firstly, when considering teaching it is important to stress the importance of a lengthy stay for the volunteer. This is due to the fact that the first two weeks are spent familiarizing the volunteer with the students and then it will take two-to-three months for the volunteer to complete a suitable syllabus. Also, it is important in order to integrate within the community over a long period.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?
R. Firstly, I would like to thank INFO Nepal for the changes it has made in my community and the volunteers it has brought into the lives of children. I hope just for this to continue for the children. Also it is good to see the changes that occur to the volunteers as they teach and help, as we are all developing.



Eugenie - France
A Memory from pervious volunteer
(Chitwan – Ganganagar)
Two years ago when I was in Nepal.
Time where memories will stay. I was gonna turn 21 and I was in Nepal .I thought of this great time not long ago as I turned 23.Time of compassion and sharing where there between this amazing group of volunteers. We were going through the same patterns the same amazing experience and I know we all gonna keep a strong memory of those days there.

Then the day of my birthday strong day for me as I was away from people I knew from my family and my own country, I realize that day that I had a new family with friends and people around that were caring for me and took care of that day to make sure that I wont forget my 21st .I remember like if it was yesterday when Belgium prepared the chicken with mango....yeah at that time we all had Nepali name and nickname.

They all prepared an amazing surprise for me going to the jungle at night celebrating with a beautiful meal drinks and party and you know what in those days we didn't need much just be there together no need to justify anything just be there the joy of my students and their memories that i kept inside are still pushing me forward and the time there has make me appreciate what I have and I don't have my pramila didi this absolutely gorgeous and full of innocence woman and her beautiful songs that comfort my thoughts the spectacular view that you have every morning when you wake up and even if some days might be harder than others cause the difference you learn how to appreciate them and those guys the group we had; gee that was fun!!! we talked ,we sang, we trek together ;shared our thoughts of cultures envy of food now I am still a travel bugger!!!!!!and I have to say each place and each stay has brought me to understand and see life a more magic way it was 2years ago and still feel like yesterday

Genie


Rafa Serrano - Spain
RAFA'S VOLUNTEERING STORY
(Chitwan - Ganganagar)

The first mission that I was sent to was to go with Dinesh, from INFO, and with the two little girls Dolma and Chyambarani to their little village in the mountains of the Lantang National Park. The purpose of the visit was to asses the family situation in which they were living, in order to decide if they were good candidates to join in the new INFO Nepal orphanage project called the Happy Home, set in Kathmandu.

We started the trip going by local bus which I had to admit it was such an experience, over a hundred people in a bus with capacity for forty-five, at the beginning the road was pretty flat but as we were going up the mountains it got funnier, it was a good opportunity to interact with the locals. After many hours we arrived, and the two girls literally ran to their houses.

First we went to the house were little Dolma was living with her grandparents, it was one of the tradiotional beautiful houses made out of stone and curved wood, in a tiny village called Thulibharkhu in the district of Rashuwa, Lantang. She lived with both grandparents after her parents disappeared following a rupture in their marriage, she was brought up speaking thamag, the region dialect, and living in this remote village and not going to school resulted in her not speaking nepali. This was obviously going to make difficult her settling in Katmandu, with a new environment, far from her family and the big challenge of learning a new language, in the case of being chosen.

The family situation of Chymbarani was different, her father died not long ago leaving her mother and grandmother with seven children, struggling to raise such a big family, this together with the very basic knowledge of hygiene made this family a choice to consider when choosing the people for the Happy Home. From among the seven brothers and sisters, Chymbarani was the chosen one.

In reality, the levels of health and personal hygiene in the whole village were low, as you could see by the look of the kids and their houses, as they were they levels of education.

So while Dinesh talked to the families and villagers I carried taking pictures of the kids and their environments. And then we left the place after our work was done, in order to do some days of trekking in this area of breathtaking landscapes, at an altitude of 3.500 m. Dinesh and I started to do this trek until we had to stop on the third day due to unexpected snow, blocking the road, for which neither of us was prepared for.

However the trip was enjoyable enough till the point we got to. After this we came back to Kathmandu to get ready for the next program.
Rafa Serrano, Spain


Diana's letter to INFO Nepal after returning home –Italy
(Nawalparasi)
Thank you so much for making my short stay in Nepal a fantastic one and a journey that I will never be able to forget. The work you do is to be admired and I hope Info Nepa goes from strength to strength. I know that sometimes it must be very difficult and certainly not easy dealing with so many volunteers all with different personalities and expectations but never forget that what you are doing for all the people in Nepal is absolutely brilliant and I am sure very much appreciated by everyone even though sometimes it must not feel like that!!

Well I am now back in Italy and I have to say I miss you all very much. My life seems very quiet and dull now after my hectic month in Nepal. Please say hello to all your family for me and I hope they are all well. How is Nabarash now?

I had a great time and have so many fantastic memories and photos. I just wish perhaps that everyone could at least once in their lifetime volunteer and share their lives with other people from totally different cultures to learn and experience first hand and totally appreciate what we have here in the West.

Anyway, dont forget if you need any help please write and I will be more than happy to do what I can. Did Rani manage to change her coat ok?
Here is a list of some of the things that I experienced, I am sure there are many more too that I cannot think of at the moment:

• Not to take anything for granted - hot water, food, work etc
• Beauty and friendship are deeper than what money can give or provide
• Money gives only a temporary happiness, a feel good factor for a short period of time
• Community spirit
• Support and friendship
• Sharing of everything, money, food, feelings • To understand and experience new cultures and religions
• Time is so very important
• Time to listen and share
• Please keep in touch, I know you are very busy but I will always enjoy hearing about you and your family and how things are going at Info Nepal.


Diana – UK
Painting, Decorating and teaching English at Amarapuri Library
(Nawalparasi)
It has been an ambition of mine for many years to visit Nepal so for my 50th birthday I decided that I would make my dream come true. I did not want to celebrate my 50th (or commiserate!!) by having a party, I wanted an adventure and an experience that I would never forget. I have to say it has been an incredible journey in my life. I have met the most beautiful people, learnt so much about the different cultures and experienced first hand living with many different Nepal families.

I was very apprehensive before leaving London, as were my family because of the Maoists problems here and the possible risks involved but I have to say that I have not encountered any dangerous situations at all. I am so pleased I listened to my heart and took the decision to come. When I arrived at Kathmandu Airport I was still feeling a little anxious because I was a couple of hours late due to a later flight, obtaining a visa etc. and I wondered if anybody would still be waiting for me at the airport. Needless to say, there was Raj from Kathmandu Peace Guest House waiting for me with a big smile. I felt a nice warm feeling and felt that everything was going to be ok. The next morning I met Asim at Info Nepal and we discussed my placement. It was agreed that I would go to Amarapuri Library, Nawalarparasi to teach English. The first few days was spent at Happy Home sight seeing and learning Nepali. My Nepali teacher and tourist guide was Bicky and I have to say that he was brilliant and looked after me very well. Infact he now calls me Mum! Within in the first few days, I managed to lose my glasses which was an absolute disaster for me but needless to say Bicky came to the rescue and we ran around on his motorbike to several Opticians and the Police Station which I have to say was an experience in itself on the back of a motorbike in Kathmandu. It was a great adrenalin rush!!! There are no rules on the road only to get to your destination. Anyway, I managed to get an eye test and my varifocal glasses made in 3 days for the price of sixty pounds which was absolutely incredibly cheap.

Now feeling a lot happier that I could see, I went to Sanga with Phillipa for 4 days training. It was the first step into acclimatising and living the Nepali way! No showers, no hot water only a cold water tap in the village to wash and an outside loo next to the goats, chickens and buffalo. The family were lovely and made us so very welcome and we enjoyed practising our little Nepali. Mitho Chha seemed to be my most used phrase!

I was now ready and prepared to go to my placement. Phillipa and I went on the local bus which took about 4 hours. I was sad to say goodbye to Phillipa because we had spent many hours together and shared many stories. I was met at the Bus Park by my family and soon were in Amarapuri in my families house. I was greeted by what seemed the whole village who were all brothers and sisters! It took me days to realise who belonged to what family. I was accepted immediately and made to feel as if it were my own home. I was dressed in Saris and invited to the local evening of dance and song. I was very sad the day I had to say goodbye and I could not help shed a few tears. Teaching at the Library was a challenge and the age group ranged from 3 - 16 years. Given more time I would certainly have split the children into different groups. The children were brilliant and so keen to learn. Every morning at 7.10 am about 10 children would meet me outside my house and we would sing and march to the Library and then we were greeted by all the other children patiently waiting outside the Library with big smiley faces. The games were always enjoyed but I had to put a stop to singing the Cokey Cokey because the boys became over enthusiastic and I thought I might be rushing to the nearest Accident and Emergency unit in the local hospital!!

My biggest sense of achievement was painting and decorating the Library. It was very dirty, and the walls were grey, it certainly needed brightening up and a new look so I took on the challenge helped by Pratik and Ashok, two young men from the local village. We worked together as a great team. I felt a little under pressure to complete this task because unfortunately my time was very short in the placement. At the end of the week we had finished the challenge and we felt so very happy and satisfied with all our hard work. All the local villagers kept popping in to see what was going on and everyone was pleased with the end result. I was invited to dinner by one of the local families who presented me with some lovely gifts. In the middle weekend Phillipa and I went to Chitwan National Park riding elephants and taking a lazy trip down the river in a canoe. Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see any Rhinos but we did see crocodiles, deer, monkeys and wild buffalos.

After my placement I took the Green Line bus to Pokhara. I spent a great week relaxing around the Lake and did a small trek around Astam and Sarangkot watching the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. My biggest disappointment was that I did not have time to complete the Annurpurna Base Camp trek but there is always another year. A great excuse to return to this beautiful country.

I can only say that my time in Nepal has moved me in so many ways and I really hope that one day I will be able to return to visit the many friends I have made here.

Thank you Info Nepal for giving me this fantastic experience..


Joost en Karin
Our Two months volunteer work in Nepal
(Nawalparasi)
After two months in Nepal, working for INFO Nepal, we had like many other volunteers, an unforgettable experience.
We took four months of from our jobs to go traveling and working abroad. Through internet we found INFO-Nepal. After a few e-mails back and forth we decided to join them and it turned out to be a very good choice.

A week before we left Holland, we read the news about the deteriorating political situation in Nepal. The strange thing about this is that while we were in Nepal we haven't been in any threatening or dangerous situations. It was no restraint for our stay and travel in Nepal.

Before we started in our placement we enjoyed our Nepali classes in the Happy Home, together with Shin another volunteer, who started at the same time.

We worked in Faram, a little village close to Chitwan National park, in the South of Nepal. We taught English to the children in our village, did a project on the environment and recycling on 8 primary schools in the region and worked together with the local social work committee.

Our host family is a traditional Hindu family. The family consists of ama, buwa, their two sons and their families. They have their own land and grow rice and vegetables. They have two buffalo's for the milk. At four in the morning the women get up to milk the buffalo, start up the fire and start to make tea. Our wake up call, around six, was the smell the fire from the stove just outside the kitchen.

We knew that working in the Nepali context was going to be different. But knowing and experiencing is something else! On request of our local social work committee we decided to give them a training on project management. We both have a background in training and HR. We thought we taught them only the basics, and we thought they were really enthusiastic, but after the first lesson, with 11 students, the student numbers gradually went down to one on the last lesson. Luckily our last student turned out to be our best student and together with him we worked on a project proposal for a library in the village!

Teaching English to the children of the village was very rewarding. The class kept growing every week. Even though it was very hot (over 40 C) the children kept coming to our class. The last weeks we taught outside under a big tree and we had over 50 children in our classes. The children came an hour before to ensure a good view on the whiteboard.

Our good bye after 6 weeks was very warm and heartily, and we can really say that we had a wonderful experience working and living in Nepal.


Joost and Karin volunteers from Holland
May - June


Barbara - Kiwi
My volunteer experience in the Himalayan Kingdom
(Nawalparasi - Amarapuri) - November

I am a New Zealander travelling away from my country for a year, until now most of my time has been spent teaching in China with as much travelling tacked on as possible.

Before I left New Zealand I knew I was coming to Nepal and I was keen to do some voluntary work within my limited capacity, INFO Nepal caught my eye and I applied, was accepted and here I am straining my brain to make it all happen in an orderly and useful manner - first mistake ! - nothing is orderly here....I am on a huge learning curve.

My pre-decessor Rose had left large shoes to fill at the Amarapuri Library, and I hear constantly about HER pre-decessor as well !. Rose left the Amarapuri library with new life, the walls were decorated and the children environmentally aware.

I have come with the instructions to pin them down to grammar and conversation....not quite as severely as that but whilst they speak English, and read and write beautifully their tenses and sentence construction is sadly lacking, imagination and creativity in speaking and writing is also a battle, they are quite happy to copy one anothers work, or let me think up the ideas !.

The two junior classes are a total delight, their enthusiasm is wonderful and they learn even basic grammar quickly - I brought with me a cassette player which has been a blessing and a curse in some ways, the children ADORE dancing, and we incorporate it every class but music and dancing is becoming their focus and they can be pretty strong in their demands, in the meantime I am getting fitter and it's a great way to get warm on a foggy autumn morning.

The senior class is more challenging, they are teenagers, their minds are frequently elsewhere and they see any serious work as a huge threat not fun or a challenge, I find things the junior class latch onto and embrace readily the seniors throw their hands up and say "too hard miss !"....I'm working on it but I think there's effort required on both sides.

The children are all wonderful, I love their joy for life, and their pride in their homes and villages. The village has been warm and welcoming - peoples curiousity about who I am, why I'm there and the texture and colour of my hair has been endless !!. I have taught them to dance to the Beattles and they have taught me to dance for Diwali !! - in fact as I travelled round the village one evening with a group of performing teenagers I was made to do my warped impression of Nepali dancing at every stop !.

What I am aware of is the community spririt, there are no fences, doors are not a boundary in a house to neighbours or friends, someone may and probably will walk into your room at any time !. People are constantly coming and going, people work as teams on gardens, farming etc etc, and of course Diwali has added flavour and excitement to all of this....while the mature people play cards for hours and hours I have been playing "fish" and "snap" with my host family's son and his mates...their interest in playing anything, be it cards or ball is insatiable.

I spent a day in the Government school last week, a real eye opener for me, I was totally intimidated by the grammar lesson, even I was struggling as the grammar terms were tossed about. I did give one class but other than that I spent alot of time singing the New Zealand national anthem, so not only is the village subjected to my dancing but my singing as well, if I don't improve their English I hope I have at least made them smile !.

Barbara


Loki Johnk - Austria
My last month in Nepal
(Nawalparasi – Chormara)
My last month in Nepal, passing in a series of fragmented images across my over stimulated senses, brought a sense of completion to an experience already brimming with richness. My time was divided between office work and placement review, bonding with volunteers and just traveling. This final stage gave me an even broader view of Nepal, after 4 months of adjusting to the microcosm of village life.

After leaving my placement in Nawalparasi (not without its share of tears shed) I returned to Kathmandu for a trek with several other volunteers in the Langtang region. While riddled with all the essentials of a trek-breathtaking views, snowcapped peaks, perfect weather, blisters and altitude sickness-one short anecdote serves to illustrate best the serendipity that one comes to view as commonplace in Nepal. Jet and Joel had decided to tackle the Ganja La pass, while Eugenie, Jenny and I opted for the softer beauty of the mountain lakes of Gosainkunda, so on day 4 we parted ways in Kyanjin Gompa and agreed on a meeting spot 6 days later, in Tharepati. Numerous locals had expressed skepticism at their abilities to do it sans guide or map, but they seemed confident (well, Joel did), so we cheerfully waved goodbye and secretly hoped that all those head-shaking locals didn't mean their certain demise.

Five days later found us much further along than anticipated, and when Eugenie took exception to an anomalously rude innkeeper and proposed pushing on to the meeting place a day early, we agreed. Now, any external observer would of course realize that this is the point where the travelers get caught outside after dark as an opaque, bone-chilling fog fills the air, but there are some disadvantages to not being external. We arrived at Tharepati somewhat dispirited only to discover that our meeting hotel didn't exist. After trudging around to find the best deal, I passed a well-lit dining room with a crackling fire and heard the unmistakable sound of a warm, relaxed Aussie: "Ehhhh Loco!" They had arrived an hour earlier and even warmed up the common room for us. This is the magic of Nepal.

After returning, there was a brief interlude, involving whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, rented motorbikes with dysfunctional (or absentee) brakes and Dutchmen with inexplicable forks in their pockets, after which Asim, Rabyn and I embarked on a motorbike journey to visit and evaluate prospective volunteer placements. I now believe that any trip to Nepal that doesn't include a motorbike trip with Asim is sadly incomplete. This is the realm where Asim truly shines and every one of his impressive array of skills comes to the fore. While discussing options with local representatives of library and school councils, Asim left me speechless. He is the perfect diplomat, articulate, clear and supremely convincing; I was proud to be a member of an organization that would have him as an ambassador. Additionally, Asim is capable of an equally impressive symphonic range of snores, a quality not conducive to restful nights but more than compensated by the stories it inspired. In addition to the three placements we visited between Butwal and Pokhara, we also visited Lumbini and spent a night in Tansen, one of the more beautiful towns I've seen in Nepal.

Finally, in Pokhara, it was time for the volunteers to say adieu. Asim, having heard all the Aussie stories concerning barbies, wanted a taste of the experience, and graciously offered to organize a farewell barbie for the crew. "Don't worry about it guys. I'll take care of everything", was our last report and we wandered off, confident in the abilities of our fearless leader. Asim, meanwhile, scratched his head a bit, wondered what a barbie is and how one goes about organizing one, and then resorted to an old Nepali tactic for just such situations: he purchased 3 kilos of buffalo meat and a grill. The group converged at the prearranged time (several vegetarians in tow) and found Asim, pleased as punch, piling logs on the fire.

These are just a few of my multitude of memories of Nepal, but as I write this, countless more spring to mind, each more precious than the last. Now that I have returned to Austria, I am struck by how much I miss not only these major experiences, but just the simple pleasantness and beauty of everyday life in Nepal. Both my volunteer and social experiences there have taught me more than any school ever could and I know the friendships will last a lifetime. At the moment, I have other projects on my plate and other countries to visit, but I know I will be returning to Nepal many times in years to come.


On Being Lost and Found : Loki - Austria
(Nawalparasi – Chormara)
After two months of monsoon, I was preparing for a short break with some of the other volunteers; a few hours of kicking back and recharging for the next round of volunteering were in order. I took the bus from my placement to Narayangot, a quaint, growing town, made interesting by its complete lack of any redeeming qualities, then started the search for the elusive buses to Pakaudi. One driver nodded and waved me up to the roof, where I was promptly joined by Jack Johnson via headphones and 437 curious Nepali boys and men. The curiosity, friendliness and openness with which these visitors greeted was only slightly marred about 40 minutes later by their shouting over each other to be the first to tell me that I had boarded the wrong bus. I had been unable to distinguish the difference between Pakaudi and Meghauli over the roar of trucks, buses, tuk-tuks and cows making whatever sounds cows generally make.

Faced with the option of turning around and going back, or visiting yet another unpronounceable Nepali village, I naturally opted for the latter, and promptly found myself in Vijay’s house, a Coca-Cola salesman of 17, whom I gathered was my new best friend. After the requisite chiya and hobnobbing, he offered to ride me to Pakaudi on his ca. 1422 model bicycle. I assented; after all, how far can 7 km really be? I can drive that in a little over 5 minutes in Europe. Now, for those readers unfamiliar with the shape of the “back seat” of Nepali bicycles, they are roughly similar to the surface of a grill, but less comfortable. The designers also never remotely considered the possibility that someone 6’3” would ever sit on one. The journey began.

To say it was a comfortable, relaxing passage would be akin to saying that flowers find it fun to be plucked, but I still enjoyed myself immensely until it started pouring and my dampened spirits and I had to seek shelter in a tea shop. My mood was considerably improved by discovering that this tea shop actually came complete with tea and I entertained the owner and fellow refugees with my versions of Nepali songs, which must sound like Kurt Cobain singing Frank Sinatra.

After tea, I felt ambitious enough to seize the reins and promptly discovered the results of 2 months of insufficient physical activity. The one gear on the bicycle was the equivalent of 27th gear on Lance Armstrong’s bicycle, the gear with the disclaimer saying, “Warning: Do not use this gear unless falling off a cliff, as your legs will fall off from the strain.” This, of course, promptly happened, and I was once again relegated to the shotgun seat as a 17-year-old a fraction of my size chauffeured me along the winding back roads. There was, of course, the breathtaking beauty of the rice fields and villages along the way, but these details are somewhat blurred in my memory.

Two hours and massive posterior reconstruction later, we arrived at my original destination, Pakaudi. There are plenty of overused, trite, but accurate clichés which spring to mind, “The journey is more important than the goal” among them, but I hope the message is imparted. I have experienced challenges, successes and failures along the way in my now 4 months in Nepal, but it’s snapshot memories like this that lend flavor to the journey and make it an experience I will cherish forever.



Fay Chang, Toronto, Canada
Monthly Feature Article: "From the mouth of a volunteer…" Letter Exchange
(Nawalparasi – Amarapuri)
As a teacher in Canada, I am always looking for opportunities to expose children to new experiences. When I decided to come to Nepal to be a volunteer English teacher, I saw the perfect opportunity for a cultural exchange between children in Canada and children in Nepal.

Before I left Canada, I went to the school where I teach and spoke to three grade five classes (10 to 11 year olds). I told them what I would be doing for six weeks in Nepal and explained that it was a third world country. Many of the children did not know what "third world" meant. They did not realize that many of the thing we take for granted, such as electricity, indoor plumbing and television are not available everywhere.

It was my wish to develop a relationship between children in Canada and children in Nepal. The Canadian students were asked to write letters to a potential pen pal in Nepal. They were to tell them a little about themselves and their lives in Canada. They were encouraged to ask questions about their potential pen pals. They were also told about the limited number of school supplies students in Nepal have. Many of the students donated new and slightly used school supplies to be distributed to children in Nepal. Participation was voluntary for the students. I received over seventy letters and packages of school supplies. The Canadian children were very excited about writing the letters and possibly becoming friends with a Nepali child. The act of selecting and giving school supplies to a child in Nepal was also exciting for them.

The letters and supplies were distributed to children in three different villages in the Tarai region of Nepal - Amarapuri, Patahani, and Ganganagar. I brought a set of letters to Amarapuri, where I was placed. I handed out the letters to children approximately the same age as the Canadian students and taught them how to respond to the letters. The Nepali children were really excited about the letters. They could hardly wait to respond. However, they did need to be encouraged to write about the things that they take for granted, such as, having tropical fruit trees, fields where they grow corn, raising goats, buffalo or cows. They were not aware that the children in Toronto, Canada did not have these things. The Nepali children truly enjoyed responding to their new pen pals. Many of them sent presents back in return.

This experience was a valuable learning experience to the children in both countries on many levels. On the most basic level, the children were able to practice their letter writing skills and their English. However, they were also able to learn about life in a different country and to see their own lives in a different light. Now, I can only hope that some of the children will continue to correspond and become friends.

We would like to extend a special "thank you" to Chris, Fay, Amy, and Max for their wonderful work teaching at the library and research center and to Cornali for her work at Chitwan. Specifically Chris, we would like to thank you for your organization of the youth picnic where the youth had the opportunity to share ideas, knowledge, and special talents. Chris, your frankness in your conversations with the females you encountered, and your encouragement to improve their situation is much appreciated. Fay, your novel idea of the pen pal system is one that will undoubtedly be incredibly useful and beneficial to children of both cultures and will surely prevail in the future. The letters will prove to be of great encouragement to the children of the library in their English studies and will also ignite a passion to learn about other cultures and people in the children. The letters will provide much insight to children in both countries about the lifestyles of the native country of their pen pal. Amy, your assistance in the pen pal program is also much appreciated. Your candor, compassion, and humor in your encounters with both the children in your classes as well as the youth group has made a lasting impression. Max, the presence of a positive and open-minded male role model was enormously valuable and much appreciated. Your completion of the hard work done by James and Neil in the building of the library in Chormara, Nawalparasi, will undeniably be incredibly beneficial to copious lucky children to come. Cornali, your work with the children of the Tharu and Bote tribes devastated by the Rapati flood of August 2002 proved to be a tremendous success story evidencing the ideals of INFO Nepal and volunteers. Your work, continued by Virginie and Antje, in organizing, initiating improved hygiene, and educating the children of the region attested to the power of human compassion and the supreme ability of positive change. Of 23 children, 10 have embarked on a consistent journey of education and learning; hopefully the other 13 children will follow in their footsteps.


Darmuid - Ireland
My three volunteering placements in Nepal
(KTM)
I arrived in Nepal at the end of August and I begun my Nepali training after spending two days sightseeing with the other volunteers, and there was also a Nepali style birthday for a volunteer's.

As I was in Nepal for just over three months I was sent on a number of placements allowing me to fully experience following two additional days of training in Sanga, I began my first placement in the local boarding school, Dipendra police school which lasted for two weeks there I was trying to English as best as I could without being distracted by questions like who is my favorite wrestler or favorite footballer to young students. I spent the evenings playing basketball and soccer and I shared a hostel with class ten students, and eating the best dal Bhat in all of Nepal.

After Dipendra I took a short break to Tibet with sonya my good friend whilst Tibet was okay I was glad to return to Nepal.For my second placement I went to a orphanage in Sauraha,Chitwan,which very much enjoyed even though a lot of the time I was not kept busy because the children were in school but in the evenings I played sports with them and i organised a picnic to a lake with the children and a fairwell party.I would also like to thank the baby elephants,Rhinos and crocodiles they made my trip more memorable.

For my third and final placement I went back to chitwan because I loved chitwan and the Chitwan people, this time I was working on a farm for a two week placement were I experienced the real Nepal in a way not many foreign people can,The host family I stayed with very very nice and they really made me feel welcome for my time there and for the Tihar (Lighting) festival.

For my overall experience in Nepal I am very happy there was a few rough patches like jet lage,getting groups with Nepali shopkeers here and there but I really am sad to leave and I know it will be a massive shock when I go back to france to stay with my second mother (my sister).I would like to thank all of the voulenteers who I met along my travels they made the trip even more enjoyable,and I would like to give a special thank you to Philly,Sonya and Aron.


Dana, Jana& Michael - Slovakia
Our two weeks training with INFO (KTM)
It’s 28th of October and we are just about to start four months stay in remote mountain village. But maybe I should start from the beginning…
Jana, Dana and me, we arrived to Kathmandu on the 14th October. We came later than expected. It’s 8:30 pm and we’re somewhere in Nepal’s capital. All we have is Asim’s cell phone number, so we’ll give it a shot. Not even 10 minutes later we stand in front of our lodgment – that’s how things work with INFO Nepal…

Next morning we are introduced to ‘Happy Home family’, unfortunately it’s just Dasain festival running and so no children are in the house. Anyway we really enjoyed our stay here. Although we took Nepali language lessons three hours a day we couldn’t avoid few funny misunderstandings. Asking for a tea, more rise or saying simply ‘enough’ is worth thinking before you enter the kitchen. Kathmandu is beautiful city and definitely worth the visit. Everyday we went out with somebody else from Info, but at the end it didn’t really matter, because everyone we went with was helpful and made our time here happy. We didn’t even realize and a week was gone, and we were just about to move to Sanga. Luckily our guru Krishna didi was still nearby to help us. She took us to the village and came everyday for our Nepali lessons. These took place in the first house on the hill. That’s how we continued for another week. After morning tea and first conversational part we had morning Dahl/Bat, which was unbelievable tasty, although sometimes we could act like dragons. What else needs to be said, maybe that Nepali people just love chili. After two more hours of vital conversation with our teacher we went to walk around the beautiful green hills and interesting places. Just opposite to our classroom during the clear day one could see Anapurna and Langtang range. In one week we saw quite a lot. Very nice was Yoga center placed on the top of the forested hill. Unfortunately only ten minutes walking down the hill was frequent road with lots of horning buses and trucks polluting this beautiful spot? Even visiting Hindu or Buddhist’s temples was nice. Maybe we like mountains and hills too much, but there you always have white peaks in front of you and green hills to hike. Sometimes I think it was unbelievable that after whole day in the evening we were able to talk to children in Nepali, draw pictures or playing cards.

What a nice time there. Now we look forward to Langtang, but that will be another story to tell.


Hild - Belgium
Samjhana’s birthday (KTM)
We’re the 24th September and on the 29th it’s Samjhana’s birthday. Since my placement in the orphanage in Balaju doesn’t start until later I have time to spoil Samjhana for her birthday and I take her to Thamel. I was going to take her for a little trekking together with Theresa, a German volunteer but she caught my cold and wants to take it easy, clever girl!

A couple of weeks before, I had taken Sanjita into town and Samjhana was summing up the things I had done with her. She wanted the same treatment I think. That’s just what I wanted to do, spoil her…….

I let her choose a new dress for her birthday and when she saw a blue dress in a fixed price shop her decision was made. A real lady, she fancied the most expensive dress we had seen all day!!!

She also received a package from her sponsors Leah and Adam from Australia. Namrata and Asim were just as excited and helped her to open the package….in fact Samjhana was somewhat overwhelmed with her new t-shirt, a puzzle and chocolates and sat there with her hands in her lap. She took it to her room and put everything in her box. We had to ask her to put her t-shirt on. It seems when people get a present they hide it because it is so special.

On the 29th I was meeting a Belgian friend at the airport and we were both invited to dal bhat in the evening. After a quick introduction as to how to eat dal bhat Freek tucked into it and enjoyed it. It was a ‘meat’ version so indeed very tasty.

Before dinner (yes) we had the birthday cake, a nice chocolate one. It tasted nicer than mine on the 1st September, I must ask Asim where he bought it! Mmmmmmmm


Joean Griffiths – Wales
Life living and Teaching in the Village
(KTM - Dhulikhel)
I spent a total of three months in Nepal and during that time I taught English in a school in the village of Dhulekhel for a month and a half. The classes were large with between 30 and 70 pupils but the children were so enthusiastic and eager to learn that it was a pleasure to teach them.

One of my best experiences at the school was a festival celebrating teachers. That day was a school holiday but the following day classes finished early so that the children could prepare something special. They all ran out into the school yard and the area surrounding the school and collected armfuls of flowers. All of the teachers including me were then invited to sit outside on a long line of chairs, there was a table in front of us decorated with flowers and pictures of Saraswati the god of knowledge and learning and there were sticks of incense burning. The children all walked passed us and gave each of us some flowers a red Tikka on our foreheads and some food. Then to my surprise they threw red powder on our clothes and faces. Later I felt slightly embarrassed walking around covered in red but the other teachers assured me that it was a mark of respect. What was so touching was that the children organized the whole thing themselves with no input from the teachers.

Living in Dhulekhel was an amazing experience; life in a Nepali village is very simple and traditional. The people are almost self-sufficient, they grow their own vegetables and rice and many people have cows and goats and chickens. Everyone was very friendly and I was always being invited to drink tea at different houses. It was wonderful to share their way of life for a short time and learn to do without all of the things I rely on at home such as an indoor toilet and running water. I learnt so much from my time in Dhulekhel both about the people and culture of Nepal and about myself.


David Bonnici – Australia
Volunteer's get-together dinner
(KTM - Sanga)
Since the commencement of a three day village training and orientation program in the village of Sanga, 25km North East of Katmandu, the area has become somewhat of a focal point for INFO volunteers.It is often the first real taste of Nepali rural village life a volunteer gets and can be sometimes nerve wracking and confronting. But any anxiety is offset by the beautiful surrounds and welcoming village people who are becoming more familiar with the sight of foreigners in their town. Waking up to (weather permitting) views of snow capped mountains, surrounded by greenery in all directions from the hilltop training facility is a sight to be reckoned with.

On Monday 12 September , shortly after I returned from a 6 week trip to China, I was pleased to participate in a dinner arranged by INFO for several volunteers with staff and friends of INFO to get to know each other better and share their experiences in Nepal. The dinner came at the right time too after an unfortunate circumstance of dishonesty within Happy Home which led to a Nepali helping resigning from her position.

All tension and negative feeling caused by this was stripped away as everyone enjoyed each others company on the hilltop. The children of Happy Home ran around with the local kids, the adults chatted between picking at the delicious pre dinner foods and the weather even held out! The main dinner was amazing catered considering the location and everyone raved about this traditional feast. We all had our fill and as night settled in, it was time to return to our various homes, some locally and some in the valley.


Hild – Belguim
A momery working in Orphanage
(Nepaltar - KTM)

I had a short spell in an orphanage in Nepaltar, Balaju. The family consisted of KP and Hari Maya, their 3 children and 12 ‘adopted’ children. 3 years ago, on the day KP lost his mum, an accident happened….. The army dropped a bomb in the West of Nepal on what they thought were Mao’s but they were just people constructing an airport. 12 of these people were the fathers of the kids staying in the orphanage.

KP left his well-paid job to look after the children and came to Kathmandu. They live off donations and I can imagine it is very tough at times. During my stay several people came to visit the orphanage and each time the kids had to sit down and KP explained the situation. It didn’t make me feel happy seeing how he had to like beg for money but what to do………….

His wife is a member of a microfinance programme for women and makes incense to sell and make some money.
Asim gave me 2 mattrasses to put on the kids’beds but the mattresses he had given last time hadn’t been used. I made sure he unrolled them and I hope the kids sleep in separate beds rather than 3 of them in each bed now.


Antoinette Branson - USA
Volunteering at Happy Home
My experience with INFO Nepal has been safe, enlightening, and very enjoyable. Nepal has a very rewarding cultural environment. The initial culture shock is quickly turned into a sense of belonging. I have never once felt anything but at home and completely welcomed.

I was placed in the Kathmandu Happy Home with children ranging from six years old up to twelve years old. Although my stay was very short in Nepal I was completely accepted as part of the family. The children are supremely bright and receptive. It came to my attention that they had only been introduced to English 10 months earlier, which was shocking because of their comfort and ability with the language. I will miss their melodious singing, spelling out every word and everything that passed us by on our walks... “L-O-V-E, love.” Never have I known children that are so interested in learning and reading.

The training program is very good (ramro chha) even if your length of stay is short. The organization is centered around hands on training. If you are not comfortable with something, they will make the necessary changes, and that is something worth praising.

This was my first time traveling outside of America to volunteer and I think that I was very lucky with my experience and placement. I was shown the truly beautiful side of Nepalese culture and geography while helping just a little bit. I feel more confident in traveling to other countries and in bringing my family back to Nepal for trekking and rafting in the future.

Antoinette Branson, USA

Anju Rani - UK
Volunteering in a school
(KTM – Sanga)
I decided that I was coming to Nepal, hoping to participate in some volunteering work, but things did not go to plan in my first two weeks. I arrived in Kathmandu on the 11th July, all alone in a country which I knew nothing about. It was quite daunting as I had never traveled alone before. Within my first 2 weeks I was homesick, I was suffering from sickness and diarrhea and things were not going to plan with my volunteer placement.

Things were going from bad to worse, so I decided that I was going to book my flight back home on the 6th August. After I had arranged my flight back home I went on a desperate search on the internet - not wanting to give up, that’s when I found out about INFO Nepal. I sent an email letting them know about my situation and I received a phone call that same evening from Asim. The following day I went to the office to speak to Asim and the rest was history.

I spent a few days at Happy Home, where I had Nepali language lessons to prepare me for my placement, which I really enjoyed. My placement started on the 1st August in a place called Sanga. The views were amazing it was so nice to get away from the busy streets of Kathmandu.

During my two weeks stay I was placed with two host families and even though it was for a short period I had a wonderful and unforgettable experience. Living with a Nepali family was a real eye opener - they work so hard especially the women working from early morning until bed time. It was astounding how self sufficient they were from cooking, cleaning, washing, etc they don’t let anything go to waste. The simplicity of the whole Nepali village lifestyle is something that I am glad I experienced. I have never experienced teaching before so I was a little anxious at the beginning especially when I was put in front of 70 Class 6 students at Mahendra School, but as each day went by it got easier and more enjoyable.

Teaching English was very rewarding and I would definitely like to come back and stay for a longer period as I thought the time I had was very short. The main problems I had were with bed bugs and mosquito's but I suppose it all added to my Nepali adventure. When I was coming to Nepal I was told by many people that it is not safe to travel because of the political situation, since I have been here I have had no trouble.

The Nepali people have been so hospitable and welcoming which has made my stay a memorable one and it will always be cherished. I am glad I did not go back home on the 6th August, it was an easy option for me to give up, but then I thought about why I was here and that these children don’t have the same options and freedom as us foreigners, it was nice to give something to them and expect nothing in return. It was nice to selfless for a change. Good luck to all the present and future volunteers of INFO Nepal.

Anju Rani, UK


Wim Getkate - Dutch volunteer
Maha Shivaratri
(Happy HOme)
On this festival day, the New Moon day of the Nepali month of Falgun, the birthday of Shiva is celebrated. Festivities take place in all Shiva temples in Nepal, but especially in the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, the most sacred of Shiva’s temples. Worshippers from throughout Nepal and India come together to pray and celebrate.

Together with Asim, Santi (our 'Didi' at Happy Home) and the other volunteers (Rose, Anja, Nadia, Christie and Greg) I went to the Pashupatinath temple. When we arrived, there was already a queue extending about five hundred meters, four persons wide, waiting to get into the temple; and the queue kept on growing. This was an impressive sight: all those devotees, with all the different colours. waiting so patiently to get in. Because of the heat we did not want to wait that long and decided to take a short walk to the other side of the river in order to observe the temple complex and the pilgrims.

We were welcomed many times by Sadhu's, holy Hindu-men devoting their lives to the service of Shiva. Often they wear red or yellow clothes, have remarkable faces with big beards and foreheads painted with red, yellow or white, or a combination of these colours. A lot of these people, however, turn out to be fake and only want some money in exchange for having their photograph taken, or expect a financial contribution after giving a tika. However, many of them are real, genuine and deeply religious people. So, a certain amount of respect is definitely appropriate. A tika is a blessing by the gods and can be worn by women as well as men. It varies from a small dot to a mixture of yoghurt, rice and sindur (a red powder) that is smeared on the forehead. The tika is the symbol for the all-seeing, all-knowing third eye, and receiving this blessing is a common part of most ceremonies. It is a recognition of the divine presence at this occasion and a sign of protection for those who receive it.

On this day it is very common for people to smoke Ganja (hash) in order to get “into higher spheres”. So, the group of volunteers who went to the temple shared a couple of joints too.

Undersigned also smoked, so as not to miss experiencing the very interesting Nepali culture! I must admit that it did nothing to me or the other colunteers in our group, however, we noticed several other people who were somewhat away from this world.

After a very nice walk through the temple complex, we decided to return to the Happy Home to finish this day with a delicious meal together with the children.

Greg and I shopped at the local shops to buy two chickens, a water melon, a pineapple and some bananas for our dinner. In the evening our host Asim prepared a delicious meal, while my insignificant little person took care of preparing a fantastic roasted chicken. Okay, I must admit that Asim’s mix of spices made a small, but not unimportant contribution to the taste. The chickens had been previously cooked (to exclude possible germs ) and after that roasted above a wood-fired barbeque on the balcony of the Happy Home. From the fruit Greg and I bought, the men in the house prepared a superfine fruit cocktail to finish our meal. After sending the children to bed, the volunteers sat round the fire and talked for some while, once again inhaling the toxic and intoxicating fumes of a joint. Once again, the author of this article did not experience any extra-terrestrial things, so I decided that this is not a thing for me.

The other volunteers decided to call it a day and went to bed. Asim, his younger brother (bhaai) Dinesh and I stayed some time warming by the fire. I have got one big problem: always when there is something to celebrate, I cannot leave. I think I have some kind of “separation phobia”. During the late hours we ate one more Nepali dish, called Kurauni. This dish is obtained by boiling milk for quite some time and allowing it to thicken to a kind of crumbly cheese with powderlike characteristics. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to tell you all what it’s like. So, when anyone comes to Nepal, try it yourself and figure out how to describe it.

After a day full of impressions, culturally and culinary, I laid myself to rest, tired but very satisfied, knowing that Nepal will offer me a lot more of strange, exotic, weird but especially delicious and fantastic experiences.

Wim Getkate, volunteer from Holland

Michael Gardner - USA
My experience as a volunteer
(Happy Home)
I am currently a first year student at Nottingham University, UK, with a BA Management and Asian studies. I am a first time volunteer with INFO Nepal.

Even though I had only a couple of weeks to help at INFO, I have to say it has been a mind blowing experience that has given me so much happiness and a sense of achievement. I found learning the language slightly daunting but after a few solid hours with our guru, Krishna, I was more confident in my abilities. After a few days training 4 of us were sent to a village called Godawari. Godawari is about one hours drive out of the city and the change in scenery was amazing. The village was spread out across the base of a mountain range in the middle of nowhere. This was the real Nepal. My house was very ancient, with cows and goats in the room next to the kitchen. The Dal Bhat was eaten on a mud dried floor. It was a superb time to get away from all the material possessions that I have become so dependent upon back in London. Even if the food did slightly disagree with my stomach.

On return to the capital city I went straight into my placement at the Happy Home. I was welcomed by seven smiling faces and seven hugs. I was amazed at the trust and love the children shared with me after knowing me for barely 5 minutes. The basic day was an early rise followed by exercise. The kids had great energy that needed to be utilized. Then came their class with the English teacher. I was able to just sit with the children and provide help with spelling, speech and writing. Dal Bhat came next before heading off to school at ten. When the children were occupied elsewhere I would head into the office to do some paperwork. School ended around 2, a very short day!!!!

We would usualyy have a few games in the afternoon. Such as hide n seek, cycling, drawing and reading. The second time for the english teacher to come was at around half five. I can definetly see the progress they are making which will help them at school. Dal Bhat at 7, followed by more games and the occasional comedy programme on TV. Bedtime was early at 9pm, but remeber in Nepal most people are up by round half 5 to 6am. My placement was too short for my liking and I am already planning my second trip in a few years time. My role as older brother and supervisor was demanding but also rewarding at the same time. I recommend voluntary work in Nepal to anyone who is searching for a fantastic opportunity to give something back to the community and come away feeling very fulfilled.