Rachel's Volunteer Nepal Experience

RACHEL LACEY - GEOGRAPHY STUDENT

(AN INTERVIEW)

At Smaller Earth, we offer a chance to volunteer in Nepal for 2-4 weeks. This is mainly doing construction work, rebuilding the local area. We caught up with former volunteer on the Smaller Earth programme, Rachel, about what it is really like. Rachel recieved the 'Go Global' fund to go out there in the summer of 2016

How was the process of getting out there, the flights and everything?

Dead easy. We booked it all together, as the two going out, with a connecting flight, with an eight-hour layover. We then took a connecting domestic flight to Katmandu, and GVI pick you up from the airport, and take you to your hotel there. You then travel to Pokhara, an area in the heart of Nepal. Return flights were £650, and the flight to Katmandu was around £100. You can get a bus to Katmandu, but I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, it takes about 8 hours, or longer.

What about the country itself, how did you find Nepal?

Amazing. I thought I’d go there, and find out, you know, about women, I thought they’d be more second-class citizens. There are a lot of social hierarchies, but they are internal, they love foreigners, they love white people. There are five social levels, castes, and they don’t tend to interact between them, there are still arranged marriages and everything. The man who was teaching us this, did not seem to agree with it, but he said, that is how it is.

What was the work/volunteering like?

It’s hard. Depends on what you’re doing, but everything’s hard because it’s hot. There’s no air-con in Nepal, obviously you don’t expect there to be. It’s around 30 degrees Celsius, and 100% humidity, and you have to cover up most of the time. It should be mentioned that girls could wear shorts on this project, even though the dress code in Nepal is to cover the arms, legs and body.

The first day we were mixing cement, by hand, in the sun, everything’s manual. We were building a better day care centre for the kids, improving the facilities. But it changes each year, at the moment I know they are building a living residence for boys. The days were really nice, you left the house at around 9am, travelling by bus and walking for about half an hour. You worked on it all morning, had lunch, and stopped around 2:30pm, because of the heat. Then the rest of the afternoon’s yours, until dinner at 6:30pm. You have a lot of free time.

What were the living arrangements?

I thought it was going to be communal living, with shared bathrooms and dormitories. Really lovely, you have your own space and bathroom, with a fan and it is fairly spacious. But everything is cold water; there is no hot water. There were about 20 of us in the house at the time, with about 5 of us working on the construction programme. There were also those there on a teaching project, kids project and women’s empowerment project. Summer is usually a busier time – we went in the summer.

What would you do in your down time?

Firstly, it sounds awful, but we’d take a nap, to cool down after all the work. There are loads of cafes in the town, with really cheap drinks, and WiFi everywhere. Absolutely everywhere, you are never without signal. We’d often get boats out onto the lake, or go on walks in the area. We could drinks most nights, the alcohol is cheap, but the bars and clubs all close around 10pm, which was our curfew. On a Friday and Saturday, there were clubs open until 2am, but you would have to book a hotel to stay out. But between nine people, it was the equivalent of 50p each.

We had some time off in Katmandu, totally around 4 days, and it’s a really intense city, so busy, feels like the buildings are falling in around you. We also had a weekend off, so we had some time to travel then.