"volunteering in Nepal" Top 5 Page for this destination Nepal Travelogue by into-thin-air
Nepal Travel Guide: 4,160 reviews and 11,337 photos
One of the most common questions on the travel forums is about volunteering in Nepal and this travelogue will try to explain a little about both Volunteering as well as the ever-growing Voluntourism sector.
First of all volunteers tend to fall into two distinct categories
1) Those with a relevant skill to offer and usually with sufficient time (Normally counted in at least weeks if not months) to be able to make their volunteering experience worthwhile for both the placement they volunteered in as well as themselves.
2) Those with no relevant skills and little time, typically having a week or two to spare after a trek or during a round the world trip.
It is mainly to those in category Two that this travelogue is aimed at, as usually it is only in the voluntourism (Pay to volunteer) sector that offers placements to volunteers without relevant skills on offer and often only a timeframe that can be counted in days.
Volunteers in the pay to volunteer sector often actually end up doing a lot more harm than good, although they are usually oblivious to this fact – What do I mean, well here are a few examples of what I mean.
1) Short term volunteering in an orphanage, First of all nearly all of the orphanages in Nepal that accept short term volunteers are completely unregulated, No background checks are ever made on any of the volunteers, Paedophiles can easily volunteer and due to the lack of supervision in most orphanages they could more or less do as they wish. – In the genuine orphanages, when volunteers are only looking after the children for a few days at a time it must be very unsettling for these children as there is no continuity, they only jut get to know someone and then they disappear – Remember that these children have already usually had a very disturbed start to their young lives and a constant throughput of ever changing volunteers won’t give them the settled environment that they need.
2) I have heard stories of some short-term pay to volunteer orphanages that close down and the children go back to their families when the volunteers leave. The children sometimes even belonging to the staff of the voluntourism organisation.
3) I have also heard of an organisation that took on short-term volunteer outreach workers, supposedly to try to improve the lot of the street children. These so called “outreach workers” spoke no Nepali and the street children only spoke enough words of English to enable them go either beg or worse – So, What help to these unfortunate children could these volunteers possibly be?
4) Short term volunteers that pay to volunteer to teach, paint a school build a toilet, dig a well or similar, all well and good until you realise that the villagers who stand and watch on are possibly the unemployed teacher, painter, plumber or labourer that You have put out of a job. By doing this, and paying a hefty price (usually to either an already very well of Nepali, or now sometimes even to a foreign company) for the privilege, you have put several local people out of a job, and out of a job in Nepal means no food for themselves or their family and no education for their children – Well Done that volunteer
I could go on but I am sure that by now you get the idea – But just in case you don’t, did you know that one of Europe’s Biggest package tour operators has recently bought out Nepal's self-proclaimed leaders of the cleverly named 'meaningful-travel' operators - a seemingly less offensive way to refer to commercial volunteer placement agencies – Why ?? Maybe because they are concerned about the welfare of the less fortunate in Nepal, Or maybe they see the potential profit in what is the largest growth sector in tourism in Nepal – I will let you decide ;-)
November 2013 Update - Channel 4 in UK have just filmed a report about orphanages where children are trafficked in just so that volunteers can be sold placements – Children stolen from poor parents and then used as commodities so that unscrupulous evil people can make a LOT of money
For those interested and with strong stomachs, you can watch the documentary yourselves Here
So, what can you do if you still want to volunteer but haven’t either a relevant skill to offer and probably only have a couple of weeks available.
There are a handful of genuine organisations that might still take you on, but sifting out what is genuine from what is not is a Huge Problem.
Pay to volunteer organisations are very good at hiding the fact that they are in fact part of the voluntourism sector – But when you come to the charges it soon becomes obvious with prices typically of $250 upwards per week, OK in “Western” Terms this doesn’t sound like a massive amount of money, but if you think you can still find a room with a sometimes even with a private bathroom in a small hotel in either Kathmandu or Pokhara that will sleep two people for less than $5 ($2.50 each person) and eat healthily (3 good meals a day) for well under $10 per day – Say $80 per week and you start to see the Huge potential for profit !!!!!!
So – How about an alternative suggestion to volunteering that will Certainly do a lot of good by genuinely helping some of Nepal’s less fortunate children. How?? Easy, take the $80 per week, (in fact treat yourself to a couple of beers to and make in $100) which I mentioned above and go and chill out in Pokhara and send the remaining $150 to an organisation like
Instead of spending at least $250 with a Pay to volunteer outfit and lining the pockets of an organisation that neither needs the money nor worries about the consequences of what harm their business is doing to those less fortunate people of Nepal.
Food for thought maybe ??
Good Luck and Happy Travels
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