Volunteering and voluntary work is an activity researched by many of us, young and old alike, wishing to do something meaningful and worthwhile either at home or abroad. This can take the form of working with charities, animals, nature or often the most sought after; working with local less fortunate people and children, this time in a less well off foreign country.
Does the typical $700 ish fee for volunteering actually provide anything for the cause we wish to consider supporting?
Sometimes it must do of course, but often the fee forked out by the well intentioned volunteer simply lines the pockets of the go-between.
So is there any other option?
My partner and I have travelled extensively in India and Nepal over the past 4 months and apart from gleaning valuable research information for this website we have also openly been looking for volunteer or charitable activities with no up-front volunteer fees.
How to find the opportunities
We wish to become involved ourselves in a meaningful project and at the same time felt we might highlight potential opportunities for others to follow.
We did not ring around or go knocking on doors in search of opportunities but rather have found that good willed people and causes have been presented to us without effort on our part…it seems that the “Law of Attraction” has applied itself to us in this instance and through the power of thought we have been presented with a number of worthwhile causes to consider.
What we are conscious of though, is the scepticism of many people when considering charitable organisations or simple “do gooder” type set-ups The fact is though, that If we are to have any association with a group then we determined that we must assure ourselves that it is a deserving cause…AND…that it is also well managed and not just a bottomless pit for foreign aid and money. By visiting the projects and meeting the people we hope this might give you the same assurance without the need to visit each of the projects yourself prior to possibly volunteering.
Lets talk about the Volunteers
This brief blog, however, is more to do with the volunteers than the positions they found themselves enjoying. We have met each of them whilst checking out these opportunities in India and Nepal and so let me talk about these fantastic young folks we have met in the past months.
There are so many FREE volunteer positions ranging from teaching posts in remote village schools to physiotherapy positions working with the disabled so there is absolutely no reason to consider paying out extra for an agency to find a position at cost to you, the volunteer.
John O’Connell, a DJ from NW England spent 6 whole months working as a volunteer teacher in the remote Himalayan Village of Thulopatal and I was fortunate enough to be invited there by one of the founder members of the school just as John was coming to the end of his term there.
I witnessed (and was part of) the incredible leaving ceremony put on for John by the school children and the very grateful and humble village residents.
John lived as the only westerner for many, many miles other than those climbers at Everest Base camp 30Km as the crow flies!!!….it needs a special type of person to volunteer for a position like this but I also know that he gained a great reward and made loads of lasting friends whilst he was there.
The proof of the pudding on whether this was a meaningful volunteer position is the fact that John is going back home for a few months to eat pies, fish, chips and burgers along with a few pints of Guinness before returning to Thulopatal for a further 6 months and back to a diet of Dahl baat and Rakshi.
John was placed here by Nepally Dream which is not quite a charity but rather the Dream of a driven young French girl Nelly Jimenez, herself an ex volunteer who has now developed a network with volunteer requirements for 4 schools and 1 orphanage in differing areas of Nepal. (Hit the link to be taken to Nepally Dream contact details) Nelly WILL realise her Dream to help the Nepali people.
Whilst in India we happened upon two small schools in need of assistance; one in Khajuraho and the other in Varanasi but only the one in Varanasi had foreign volunteers helping.
The school in Khajuraho most certainly would have welcomed volunteers but there was no system in place at the time we visited.
Sarah and Sophie were two volunteers from Germany whom we spent time with in Varanasi and determined that, despite the massive culture shock which is India, they were, through volunteering, experiencing something absolutely unique and worthwhile.
Indeed, as Di and I walked through a remote village close to Rishikesh, in India, a call rang out from no other than Sarah who greeted us and we sat with a coffee to reflect on our time in Varanasi. She even found that her experience there had prompted her to change her career and become a teacher in Germany.
There are still places to be filled in this great little school in the intense and spiritual city in India by contacting the German Brown Bread Bakery Cafe (Learn for Life charity) in the middle of Varanasi (click the link for the contact details)
Back to Nepal
Back to Nepal and the wealth of volunteers required there.
I have already mentioned Nepally Dream but there are other organisations and groups looking for volunteers all the time. One of them is dealing with the handicapped people of Nepal….both children and adults alike.
There is virtually no government support in place for the many unfortunate disabled people in Nepal
Any group or charity set up to alleviate this sad position are very worthy of anyone’s support.
Volunteers in this arena are likely to experience an exceptional feeling of self-worth and achievement, during and following, their period as volunteers.
In Kathmandu there are two places seeking volunteers helping the handicapped and these are the Nepali Children’s Trust and Khagendra New Life Centre. I have had the great pleasure of visiting both of these on numerous occasions and meeting the staff, those living there and the volunteers.
These visits were extremely emotive and very humbling but meeting with the volunteers was really enlightening….they simply loved the work they were doing….passionate.
There were 4 graduate physiotherapists Holly, Joe, Heather and Lucy from Sheffield University with Dave another volunteer from Bristol and Audric from Australia. By the time I have completed writing this post, Lucy and Heather will have left returning to the UK and will have been replaced by two other physio students, Rob and Liz, from Sheffield University gaining valuable field experience in Nepal.
The kids at the centre just love the volunteers and the adults in the mainly spinal injury unit benefit so much from their presence.
Paula is a volunteer from Liverpool but now living in Australia, who happened upon the Khagendra centre when another of her placements fell through at the last moment. She became engrossed in the project and specifically concerned herself with one quadriplegic patient who needed specialist care. She set about raising
funds for a specialist bed and solar power needed during the routine power outages in Nepal. She even managed to highlight the needs of these wonderful people in her local newspaper.
Paula has also been involved with Friends of Himalayan Children another good cause being well run but they do have a small charge which is used to take the volunteers to the school by trekking for 2 days and it also includes their food. This puts this cause in a SLIGHTLY different category but it should not be discounted.
Make a difference
All of the volunteers make a massive difference to the quality of life for those at the centres. I will be writing more about the individual positions but if you wish to see more on these centres and make contact then click the hyperlinks.
Give and Receive
Another number of placements exist with an organisation controlled from Australia by some very passionate members. Peter and Lia hail from Perth, visit frequently throughout the year but maintain firm control through their good friend Maria and Raja the project manager who live in Kathmandu. Their charity “In Giving We Receive” (IGWR) provides orphanage care, school care, family respite care and are also engaged in school building programmes in different areas. I have met up with all of them and have visited one of the houses which has been nicely renovated to house 13 children. I do know that they themselves sponsor one of the children from the Nepali Childrens Trust disabled centre and so there is a real closeness about the relationship of the individual causes. Volunteers are welcome all year long and can be engaged in numerous rewarding roles.
Rather than flood this post with photos of the opportunities I have included separate galleries for you to browse so please go to the links for inspirational pics…some crap ones too though because I haven’t filtered them!!
All of the volunteers and the people managing the individual concerns have also been instrumental in raising funds for their respective concern. Fund raising by the volunteers has taken place in home countries and in Nepal and the results have ranged from Solar power for specialised beds in the spinal unit, orthopaedic tilt tables and wheelchairs for the disabled centres and books with dictionaries, white boards and computer printers for schools…the list is growing and it isall due to the determination of the volunteers who have each been touched by the people they have met.
The volunteers themselves decide where their well earned fundraising money goes (with advice from the organisation administrators who are best placed to know what is needed at any time) and this gives further confidence that the money is not being misued.
Many of the volunteers and organisers listed above have returned on more than one occasion so there can be no stronger recommendation for the programmes they have been involved in.
I will gradually add to this list and hopefully once posted on the net I will be made aware of the plethora of other positions FREE to volunteers.
If I have given you any reason to doubt the commitment or passion for this important volunteer work then spend 10 minutes watching this video presentation by IGWR and realise it isn’t an easy road!!! Well done Peter.
There are obviously considerations when volunteering for these organisations and of course the main one being air fare followed closely by accommodation.
Air Fare is invariably YOUR outlay but in many or most of the posts I have mentioned above there is very favourable accommodation options available….I will not go into these in detail but I do know that in one position you would be hosted by a local family and in another there is a request for a small contribution towards your keep.
Volunteering is not for everyone but an awareness for the issues of others should be
Contact me if you want any further detail (I have all the individual volunteers email addresses and they are very content to encourage others to follow them and so are happy to be contacted to hear their experience) which is not available through the individual contacts I provide above….good luck with your search and enjoy helping these wonderful people.