We hope to answer most of these initial questions in this prospectus.
We assure you, volunteering in Nepal through Volunteers Initiative Nepal is an investment for life and one that will impact all the decisions you make in the future. We are a small dynamic NGO that started as a direct response to the ongoing conflict within Nepal to support communities. Our goals, education, peace, understanding, and true sustainable development, are reflected in our ethos as well as our extremely low fees.
Helping those in need is a job bigger than one country. We therefore invite all interested individuals, groups and organizations to extend their helping hands to help achieve better and fairer world with no poverty. Instead, Nepali people will enrich you with full of culture and aesthetic value. Let’s go hand in hand to alleviate ignorance and poverty from the country.
Q .N 1. What sort of volunteer work is possible?
There are a number of volunteer opportunities available either within the community; at a monastery or nunnery; or assisting at the VIN office, each type of placement offers a unique and rewarding experience.
Community Based Projects:
The main community based projects are Women’s Empowerment (including Women’s Education; Income Generation; Savings and Credits; and Health, Sanitation and the Environment); Children’s Development (including Early Childhood Development; Flexible Schooling for conflict victims and support for Orphanages); Youth Development (including a youth club and language development class); Teacher Development (including workshops, seminars and exchange visits and teaching English) and the Health Program.
There are also opportunities for Construction and Manual work in the Community, and for Agro forestry projects.
Monastery and Nunnery Placements:
VIN works with many monasteries and nunneries in the Kathmandu valley, to place volunteers to teach English, life skills and creative activities.
Office Based Placements:
VIN also welcomes volunteers with the following expertise to help assist in the VIN office: Grant Writing; Fundraising; Website Design and Administration skills.
There are also opportunities for Home Stay Programs; Cultural Exchanges, and Volunteer and Trekking programs.
Your placement will be tailored according to your individual needs and interests.
Q N 2. Do you have any information about Nepal?
Nepal is a geographically and ethnically diverse country located in South Asia, bordering Tibet to the north and India to the south, east and west.
Throughout most of its history Nepal has been a monarchy, but it is now officially a federal democratic republic since the end of the decade long Maoist revolution. The capital city is Kathmandu, and there are 14 zones, 75 districts, 3914 Village Development Committees and 58 Municipalities. The population of Nepal is approximately 30 million.
Nepal is predominantly Hindu, but the minority faith of Buddhism is linked historically to the country, as it is the birth place of Siddhartha Gautama who, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.
Although only 147,181 square kilometers, Nepal’s landscape encompasses the mountainous north (including eight of the world’s ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest), to the flat Terai plains in the south, with an altitude range from near sea level to 8,850 meters above sea level. This huge altitudinal variation results in an incredible variety of ecosystems and a dazzling array of wildlife and vegetation.
As well as the amazing geographical and wildlife diversity, Nepal also hosts an amazing ethnic and cultural diversity.
However, it is also one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. An estimated 30% of Nepalis live below the poverty line – some 82% of Nepalis live on less than US$2 per day.
Nepal is a mostly rural nation with 85% of people living in the countryside. It is in these rural communities that development issues such as poor education, health and sanitation are most acutely felt. Gender and social inequality are also part of daily life here too.
For more information on Nepal, there are plenty of informative guide books, such as the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Nepal and the Rough Guide to Nepal.
Q.N 3. What is Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN)?
VIN is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) which was founded in 2005 by a diverse group drawn from development workers, educationalists, social activists and other professionals.
Unlike many other development NGOs, VIN serves to directly put efforts for change in the hands of local people. It actively encourages people to volunteer within their communities, aiming to unite all sectors of society in working together to set up and run local projects.
VIN has a board of advisors and a board of directors, of whom Bhupendra Ghimire is the Chief Executive Director. VIN also works in partnership with like-minded national and international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
VIN is officially registered under the Society Act with the District Administration Office Kathmandu (Reg No. 147/062/63), and is also affiliated to the Social Welfare Council Nepal (SWC) (Affiliation No. 20910).
Q.N 4. Do I have to be from a specific country to volunteer?
No, you can volunteer with Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) from any part of the world.
Q.N 5. What age do I have to be to volunteer?
You must be at least 18 years old to volunteer; there is no upper age limit. Volunteers should be in good health however
Q.N 6. Do you provide any financial support?
Unfortunately we are not in a position to offer any financial support. Our programs operate through the kind support and cooperation of our volunteers and donors. You should find the funds to support your volunteer program.
Q .N 7. What vaccinations will I need?
Although you do not officially require any immunisations for entry into Nepal, you should seek medical advice from your doctor or an international travel clinic before travelling, to see which vaccinations are recommended and check if your prior vaccinations are still up-to-date.
As a guide only, the following vaccinations should be considered for Nepal:
Diphtheria and Tetanus
Japanese B Encephalitis (risk dependent on time of year and location)
You should plan your vaccinations in advance, as many require more than one injection.
Please note that if you are entering Nepal from an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to be vaccinated before entering the country.
You should bring a small first aid kit with you, and if you are taking any medication we suggest you bring a full supply from your home country, along with the prescription.
Pharmacies are available for over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, cough syrup etc.
Q.N 8. Do I need to speak English to Volunteer?
Yes, it would be helpful if you speak English, even if English is not your first language.
When you arrive in Nepal you will be provided with an intensive language course on basic Nepali phrases that you may need while volunteering here.
Q.N 9. When should I arrive in Nepal and what induction will I receive from VIN?
VIN group volunteer inductions and training begin on the 1st and/or 15th of each month, so you need arrive in Kathmandu at least one day prior to your induction start date.
You may wish to arrive earlier to allow yourself adequate time to settle in before commencing training. If however your itinerary does not fit in with starting the VIN induction on the 1st or 15th of the month, then please contact VIN, and we will try to accommodate your request.
Nepal only has one international airport in Kathmandu, so all international flights arrive and depart from here. A member of the VIN staff will pick you up from the airport.
Your VIN induction and training also include the following within your volunteer fees:
- Guest House accommodation and lunch at VIN’s office for the duration of your program induction. N.B. This is booked, arranged and pre-paid by VIN on your behalf.
- A half day sight seeing tour to Kathmandu main cultural heritage
- Stationeries required during induction / training;
- Nepali language class and advise on cultural tips;
- Program Orientation;
- Training if required (e.g. TEFL tips);
- Transfer to host family / placement;
- Support from VIN staff.
Any additional expenses incurred during the induction and training period, will be your responsibility.
If required, additional training will be provided at the site of your volunteer placement.
Q.N 10. Do you have any ideas for fundraising for my volunteer experience?
VIN will be happy to e-mail you a detailed list of fundraising ideas upon request.
Q.N 11. What are the living arrangements when volunteering?
Your living accommodation during the duration of your volunteer placement is arranged by VIN, and is included within your volunteer program fee. During your volunteer induction / training, you will stay in a guest house in Kathmandu, and thereafter you will be placed in accommodation either in the community (with a host family); at an orphanage or at a Monastery or Nunnery depending on your selected volunteer program.
For volunteers who arrive earlier or who want to stay longer, it is not possible for VIN to arrange and provide accommodation, but we will help volunteers to find a reputable, inexpensive place to stay.
Please be prepared that your accommodation will be of a Nepali standard, and will not have the same facilities and utilities as you may be used to, such as a western style toilet or a hot shower. Although your accommodation will be basic, it will be clean.
Q.N 12. Do I need travel and medical insurance?
As with any overseas travel, insurance is highly recommended and comprehensive travel and medical insurance should be obtained before traveling to Nepal. Check on line to see what offers are available or talk to your travel agent.
Make sure that you check the details of your policy and check for exclusions to ensure your policy adequately covers you for any activities you plan to undertake. Please note, if you are intending to travel at altitude in Nepal, please check that your insurance policy provides cover. Many policies do not provide cover over 2,500 metres.
You are advised to take out full insurance cover for medical treatment, accidents and evacuation by helicopter. It is also a good idea to have cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen or lost cash, cards, passport, luggage and any loss damage or liability resulting from terrorist action.
You are responsible for your arranging your own travel and health insurance, and VIN cannot take responsibility for the financial compensation for the any loss or theft of possessions or medical assistance required, during your volunteer placement.
Q.N 13. Are there additional expenses once I arrive?
Irrespective of which volunteer program you have chosen, you will need extra spending money during your time in Nepal. The volunteer program fee will cover accommodation and two main meals per day, during the period of your volunteer placement. Your accommodation will always be located in the vicinity of your program placement, so there should be no additional work related travel expenses, and if there are VIN will cover these.
All other expenses during your volunteer placement at VIN are your responsibility. These may include buying bottled water and extra food items; socializing with other volunteers and friends in your spare time; shopping for personal items and gifts and the departure tax when leaving Nepal.
Please note that your airfare; travel and health insurance and visa costs are not covered in the volunteer program fee, and are your responsibility.
If you arrive early, intend to stay in Nepal after your volunteer placement, or wish to visit places during your days off, then you will need to have sufficient money to cover this.
You can change all major currencies and travelers cheques in Kathmandu, and there are numerous ATM machines in Kathmandu.
Q.N 14. How safe is it to volunteer in Nepal?
VIN does its utmost to ensure your safety during your volunteer placement in Nepal, and to make sure you are placed in a safe environment while volunteering.
Attacks against tourists are extremely rare.
Politically Nepal is continuing to undergo a period of change, and in light of this you should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations. Bandhas (shutdowns), rallies and demonstrations can cause widespread disruption as they are often called at short notice, and disrupt transport. However, in general VIN volunteers are not impacted by these types of demonstrations, as their site of volunteering is in close proximity to their accommodation.
If you plan to go trekking during your stay in Nepal you are advised to use reputable trekking agencies, to keep to established routes, and to always walk in groups. Trekking alone is not recommended.
VIN can recommend a reputable trekking agency to volunteers.
Volunteers should also avoid travel on overnight buses in Nepal.
Lastly you should not become involved with drugs. Being found in possession of even very small quantities of drugs can lead to imprisonment.
Q.N 15. How many volunteers are there on a site at the same time?
This varies throughout the year, and is dependant on how many volunteers there are at any one time. Usually there are between 3 and 10 international volunteers at each induction. Where possible, you are placed with one other person in the local village when you are volunteering.
Q.N 16. What resources are available for teaching while I am volunteering? Do I need to bring my own?
If you have resources that you think may be appropriate, please discuss this with us via email prior to coming to Nepal, to see if you should bring them. Most likely anything you have will be of help, as resources here are limited.
Q.N 17. What is the course content of the training?
Depending on your volunteer program and how long you are volunteering for, the training can vary in length from just a few days up to two weeks. Typically it is divided into two parts, the first of which is based in Kathmandu and the second part is based at your volunteer program site.
The majority of the training is dedicated to learning basic Nepali. You also will receive an introduction to the Nepali culture, including cultural tips.
If your volunteer program includes teaching, then you will be given an intensive English as a Foreign Language (EFL) class, focusing on child friendly teaching approaches.
Q.N 18. How would my family members be accommodated while volunteering?
Your volunteer fee only covers the cost of food and accommodation for yourself, during your volunteer placement. You will be responsible for paying any additional costs for accommodating your family members in Nepal. Some volunteer placements may not have additional housing available, so you should discuss your requirements with VIN before confirming your placement.
Q.N 19. How can I get in contact with previous volunteers?
You can find feedback from former volunteers on the VIN website, or you can contact us directly to get the email addresses of previous volunteers who have worked with us.
Q.N 20. Who organizes my flights?
You are responsible for organizing and paying for your flights / travel to and from Nepal.
Q.N 21. Who organizes the visa for my volunteer placement and what are the visa requirements?
You are responsible for arranging your own visa for Nepal. All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa.
Any visitor to Nepal is allowed to stay on a tourist visa for up to a maximum of 150 days (five months) per calendar year (January to December). Please note that international volunteers who arrive in August can work up to ten consecutive months, split across two calendar years i.e. August to May).
You can obtain a multiple entry tourist visa from the Nepalese Embassy in your home country or a single entry visa upon arrival at Kathmandu’s TribhuvanInternationalAirport or road borders (you will be asked to fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph).
We recommend that you obtain your visa in your home country, as it saves time and you can avoid the long waiting lines at the airport.
If you stay longer than the duration of your initial visa, you will need to obtain a visa extension at the Immigration office in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
Please note that your passport needs to have at least six months validity.
Non-tourist visas are very difficult to obtain.
To find your Nepalese Embassy abroad, please go to http://www.mofa.gov.np/missions.php?type=nepalese
Q.N 22. How can I communicate with my family back home?
Email and Internet access is widely available in Kathmandu and the larger towns in Nepal, and currently costs approximately 100NPR per hour. There is also access in smaller towns, but this may be more limited, slower and expensive.
It is also easy to make international calls, either at one of the numerous private call centers or via an internet phone, which is the cheapest option.
The easiest way for volunteers to receive important post / packages from friends and family abroad is to use the VIN postal address in Kathmandu, and you can then pick up your mail from our office.
Q.N 23. What are the school hours?
In Nepal, schools run from Sunday to Friday, 10am to 4pm (although times may differ slightly depending on location and season), and volunteers typically have Friday afternoon and Saturday off work, in addition to local festivals and holidays.
Your teaching load will vary depending on the specific school, and volunteers should discuss their anticipated workload with the headmaster / principle of the school at the beginning of their placement. On average volunteers teach for 4-6 hours per day.
Q.N 24. What is the climate like and what clothes should I bring?
Nepal has a typical monsoonal climate, with a dry season from October to May and a wet season from June to September. The main monsoon is from mid-June to September, and the very best times to visit are Autumn (September to November) and Spring (March to May).
Kathmandu is not as cold as many people think. Even in the winter months (December to February) the day time temperature in the sunshine can reach a pleasant 20 degrees, but night-times can fall to near freezing. In the summer the temperatures in Kathmandu climb to 30 degrees and above.
Obviously climate charts and temperature extremes differ across the country and temperatures are much colder in the north, and warmer in the south.
If you are volunteering in the winter, please bring warm clothing (think layers), and cool, summer clothing is suitable for the remainder of the year. If you are here during the monsoon, please bring a waterproof jacket and an umbrella.
If you are planning to go trekking, it is possible to hire cold weather clothing, such as down jackets etc.
We advise female volunteers not to wear sleeveless tops, shorts, or short skirts in villages. Although Kathmandu is becoming more progressive and attitudes are shifting, most Nepalese people dress modestly and cover their bodies.
Q.N 25. What should I bring to Nepal for myself?
This will vary depending on the time of year in which you visit Nepal and what additional activities you intend to participate in during your stay in Nepal.
With the exception of some medicines and high-tech trekking gear, you can buy everything that you would need for your placement in Kathmandu (and it is likely to be cheaper than in your home country). Here are a few suggestions on what to bring:
- Basic First Aid Kit
- A full supply of any medication which you require for the duration of your stay, along with the prescription.
- Torch / Flashlight (a head torch is especially useful during power cuts)
- Sleeping Bag / sleeping bag liner (depending on season)
- Hiking boots
- Flip flops
- Waterproof jacket (a lightweight fold-away jacket is fine)
- Fleece jacket (during winter months)
- Light-weight cotton clothing
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun cream
- Water purification tablets and/or high quality water purifier
- Face mask (depending on the time of year, Kathmandu can become very polluted and dusty).
- Photos of your family / friends / home
- Souvenirs from your country for your host family etc
- A few examples of your local currency
- Basic Learner’s English/Nepali dictionary
- Coloured pencils and pens, drawing books, stickers
- Books on teaching English/English Grammar for your reference
It is also a good idea to bring with you a photocopy of your passport and visa, and keep this in a separate location to the original documents. If possible you should also e-mail yourself a scanned copy of important documents before departing for Nepal, as this will facilitate things in the event of loss or theft of the original documents.
If you wish to get a Nepali SIM card for use during your stay in Nepal, then you can bring an unlocked mobile with you from your home country.
Q.N 26. What should I bring for my host family?
The Nepali people are very friendly and generous, and giving gifts to volunteers on their day of their departure is common. If you would like to bring gifts from your home country for your host family, below are some suggestions (but this is not compulsory):
- A small photo album with pictures of you and your family/friends from home
- A ‘coffee table’ book of your home town or country
- Posters, stickers or magazine pictures from your country
- Children’s books from your home country
- T-shirts (new) from your country
Alternatively many volunteers choose to take and print photos of their host family as a gift at the end of their stay.
Q.N 27. Is there anything I can bring with me that would be useful to your organization?
We would be very grateful for educational resources (e.g. books on grammar, TEFL, science, health, illustrated books and children’s books) and donations of clothes and stationery are also very much appreciated.
In addition, if volunteers have any old laptops which they no longer require, VIN would really appreciate these and can put them to very good use.
Q.N 28. How can I prepare for teaching English prior to my arrival?
It is not essential for you to do extensive preparation for teaching English prior to volunteering with VIN, as you will be provided basic TEFL instruction during your training period. However, it would be helpful for you to brush up on your grammatical knowledge of the English language.
You could also consider bringing English language textbooks to refer to, and or TEFL books that you may find useful as they are difficult to find in Nepal.
Q.N 29. What Makes a Good Volunteer?
It is not essential for volunteers to have formal qualifications, but we do ask that all volunteers have a genuine desire to help people, and a commitment to seeing work through to completion. A positive and flexible attitude will also help you to get the most out of your volunteer work.
If you are applying to teach English or train teachers, a strong command of the English language is a necessity. Similarly, if you are interested in volunteering at the Health Post, prior medical experience is needed. For some specific programs such as teaching computer skills, environmental awareness programme etc you should possess the skills and knowledge necessary to work within these programs.
The following attributes are essential for volunteer work, regardless of the program:
- Good problem-solving skills
- Sense of humour / ability to laugh at yourself
- Willingness to share
- Enthusiasm to learn about new cultures
With regards to volunteer work in general, it is useful to come with an open mind, and be realistic in your expectations of volunteering, as it is impossible for the projects and work here to be as structured as what people are used to in the west. It helps to be flexible and adaptable in how you work, and understand some of the constraints in terms of language, resources etc.
How much volunteers contribute and the exact work they undertake can largely depend on where they feel their skills can best be utilised, and on how proactive they themselves are.
Q.N 30. What is the current political situation in Nepal?
On the 21 November a peace agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Maoists was signed, thereby ending a decade long conflict in Nepal. Both sides agreed to a permanent ceasefire.
In 2008 a Constituent Assembly was sworn in following a democratic election and the Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a republic. The Maoist-led coalition government took office in September 2008, but in May 2009 the Prime Minister announced his resignation, increasing political uncertainty.
A new Prime Minister has been sworn in, supported by all parties except the Maoists. The process of government formation continues.
Q.N 31. How long can I volunteer for?
VIN accepts international volunteers for placements ranging from a minimum of 1 week up to a maximum of 5 months per calendar year (the maximum placement in any one calendar year is restricted by visa requirements (please refer to the Visa Requirement question)). However, please note that international volunteers who arrive in August can work up to 10 consecutive months, split across two calendar years i.e. August to May).
The longer you are able to volunteer for, the greater the impact you can make.