I decided to head to Nepal to volunteer at a nutrition rehabilitation centre, to give myself some experience in the field of dietetics.
On my first day, I was bombarded by energetic children wanting to play. These children were to become the centre of my life for the next month. Although quite ill, the positive spirits of these children allowed them to play and act like any other child that age. The centre is situated on a hill, providing stunning views of the fields of various crops and farm animals and even the Himalayas on a clear day! I was very impressed by the condition of the centre.
My host family played a large part in helping me to settle in, as did my fellow volunteers. The experienced volunteers were able to help me fit into my role of carer for the children. My host family was very welcoming and we would sit together and chat in the evenings, as well as play with my two young host brothers.
Most evenings I would be greeted with a huge cheeky grin and the ever-hopeful question; ‘can we play Uno now?’ If not playing Uno, my host brother and whichever volunteers were free would play soccer in our living room, card games or receive imaginary tuk tuk rides to momo restaurants where we would get cooked amazingly delicious imaginary momo’s. Life at home was never dull.
Volunteering in Nepal
During my time at the centre, I was able to teach children basic reading, writing and math skills as well as some basic nutrition and hygiene practices. Of course, we played lots of games as well! The children were both eager to learn and cheeky. Safe to say we had loads of fun! Along with other volunteers, we also created a learning resource for parents and helped to run a nutrition outreach day (assessing the nutrition of children at a local school).
I was also invited to do a home visit, where I experienced the slums and met some severely malnourished children. Although upsetting, the home visit reminded me of the importance of this project and that there is so much still to be done in Nepal. Projects Abroad also provided some professional development classes, including teaching basic English and math and managing behavioural problems.
I believe I was most helpful as someone to keep the children occupied. In particular, teaching them basic math and English was important as they were missing out on school while at the centre. Some children had not yet been to school so this was an opportunity to teach them some basic writing skills and familiarise them with some vocabulary before they were immersed in the school system.
Free time in Nepal
On weekends, I headed off to discover Nepal, often accompanied by fellow volunteers - my new friends. I got to know Thamel, the tourist centre of Kathmandu, like the back of my hand and would rarely walk through the town without bumping into another volunteer I had befriended. The comradery experienced through travel is like nothing else.
I spent my first weekend at a peaceful monastery just outside of Kathmandu. The next weekend I discovered Chitwan, where I was lucky enough to see two wild rhinos, a wild elephant, peacocks doing their mating rituals and even track tiger footprints through the jungle. I also met some wonderful volunteers who I travelled with to Pokhara with the weekend after. Pokhara has so many outdoor activities and incredible views of the Annapurna range. I spent my final weekend hiking to Narkagot where I met a new lot of fun volunteers. I could have easily spent more time discovering Nepal and would have enjoyed moving to another placement to see what the other programmes had to offer.
I love all types of cuisines and Nepali food is no exception. The food at my home stay was delicious and I was always ready for a big bowl of hot food at the end of the day. We would always head to Thamel to eat on a Thursday or Friday night; you can get pretty much any cuisine you want in Thamel. Not surprisingly, the Indian food in Nepal is amazing and I almost always had an Indian feast on the weekends.
If you have not been to a third world country before you will most likely be shocked by the living conditions of some. I do not think this is a bad thing; it is important to broaden our horizons and travelling with Projects Abroad is a way to do this safely. Despite all the poverty, the Nepali people are very friendly and willing to help. I was charmed by Nepal’s chaotic and haphazard way of life and their laid-back people. I would love to head back again.