“Volunteering to Learn” is a non-profit, non-governmental organization providing rich volunteer and learning experiences in Nepal. So far, we’ve served the interests of more than one hundred volunteers from various countries.
Our organization builds on the belief that mutual understanding is at the heart of improved relations across communities, cultures, nations, and religions. Through our own experiences both in community organizing in Nepal and with visitors from around the world, we’ve learned that personal encounters and conversations among people working together create some of the best opportunities for mutual understanding.
Our goal is to provide volunteering opportunities in Nepal that make it possible for both hosts and visitors to learn. Volunteers gain a sense of satisfaction from contributing to Nepalese communities, but they also learn language and gain insights into culture, ecology, history and geography. Host families and communities benefit from enthusiastic helpers, teachers, and organizers, but they also learn about diverse cultures and perspectives that help them see beyond stereotypes.
Whatever your interests – language, culture, economics, agriculture, forestry, flora and fauna, history, sustainability, appropriate technology, community organization, leadership, entrepeneurship, children, women, human rights – we can place you with organizations, communities and families that will enrich your understanding of Nepal while also giving you opportunities to learn more specific skills and knowledge.
Our Core Programs:
• Environmental Awareness
• Homestay and Cultural Exchange
• Teaching English
• Orphanage Program
• Organic Agriculture
• Women’s Empowerment
Like other countries, Nepal is suffering from rapid deforestation, global warming, decreased biodiversity, soil erosion, and desertification. In our land-based economy, these problems have immediate effects on people.
Our Environmental Awareness Program places volunteers with communities to promote understanding and implement practical solutions.
Based on interests and expertise, volunteers may…
• work with community forest development committees to promote the equitable and proper management of meager forest resources.
• teach in various environmental awareness programs, showing villagers how to smokeless stoves, solar energy, or biogas for fuel and waste management.
• provide leadership in local schools or community groups to develop eco–clubs, plant trees, promote kitchen gardening, improve waste management and recycling, demonstrate smokeless stoves, build composting toilets.
• help youth clubs or women’s groups share ideas, skills and knowledge on environmental issues.
Homestay and Cultural Exchange
Family is the cornerstone of Nepalese social life. Those who wish to immerse themselves in language, culture, and daily life should consider spending time with a host family. This provides an intimate experience of Nepal and also allows the host family to learn about other cultures, lifestyles, and languages.
Most placements are arranged in rural areas with typical Nepali-style houses. Volunteers participate in activities based on their interests:
• helping prepare food
• taking care of the kitchen garden
• looking after the animals
• teaching English or other subjects to children
• contributing to social mobilization on different issues
Of course, homestays can be combined with other volunteer work available in the local community.
We have ongoing arrangements with host families of various jati (caste or ethnic group) who are always keen to welcome guests and provide optimum care and satisfaction. Typical Nepali meals will be served at least three times a day and include simple, but nourishing rice, vegetable curry, dal (lentil soup), chutney, milk, fruit, and sometimes meat. The food is prepared in good hygiene and is mostly organic. No worries for vegetarians. Host families can easily accommodate them.
Nepal is still rooted in agriculture, so spending time on a farm will shed light on many aspects of Nepali culture and language. But volunteers have been drawn to this program for more varied reasons: to learn skills in running an organic farming operation so they can start a business back home, to take a sabbatical from desk jobs by working outdoors for a month or longer, to learn techniques to help relieve hunger among impoverished people without using toxic pesticides or fertilizers.
No matter what your skill level, you can volunteer with our Organic Farming and Permaculture Program and gain hands-on experience helping farmers, students and local communities cultivate and harvest organic crops, vegetables, fruits, herbs through sustainable farming methods. We work with several vibrant farms within Kathmandu Valley, Chitwan and Pokharawhere a variety of vegetables, crops, fruits and herbs now thrive.
Staying on our farms, you will have opportunities to learn more about organic farming, experience rural Nepali lifestyles and practice Nepali. Volunteers participate in the seasonal and daily rounds of the farm and household and can also engage in community projects. Specific activities may include:
• milking buffaloes
• planting or harvesting vegetables, fruits, crops and herbs
• developing forest farms
• helping to design new projects
• preparing compost
• controling pests with organic methods
• preparing organic liquid fertilizers
• preparing biogas.
Of course, growing food is only part of the job. Next comes all the work that gets that food to the table. In Nepal, that work is often done by women, but in many of our host homes, men are encouraged to join in too. So volunteers may learn to churn butter, grind turmeric and specialty flours, prepare spicy chutneys, and learn how to make homestyle Nepali dal bhat.
Every year, hundreds of children leave their destitute villages to find work in Nepal’s crowded cities. And, many children become orphans due to natural calamities, conflicts or natural deaths. Most of these children lack education, basic health care, food and end up working as child laborers in restaurants, hotels, garment factories or as domestic servants.. Many also become street children as well. These disadvantaged children need attention, love, care, and the opportunity for education.
We place volunteers with organizations that provides orphaned children with care and education that can lead them to brighter futures. Activities may include:
• teaching basic English
• teaching drawing, painting and other creative outlets
• teaching math and science
• organizing tours, games, singing or dancing
• helping children get ready for school
• guiding them through homework
• preparing food and providing maintenance in their living quarters
Our Orphanage Program is an enriching and life changing experience for both volunteers and the children. Many of ormer volunteers report that this project in particular has changed the way they view the world.
Knowing English has become essential for men and women throughout Nepal. It is an official part of the curriculum in all schools. However, few native English speakers are available.
Teaching English Program is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in daily life and customs and make friends while leaving lasting impressions on the people you work with along the way. Native English speakers are needed to teach and help children with conversation, writing, reading and listening. In return, you can enjoy the satisfaction, smiles and laughter of the children.
The Teaching English program allows participants to choose from giving informal lessons to their host family or local communities, or assisting or teaching at the elementary, middle or high-schools level or helping out with libraries.
In schools, students range from 5-16 years old. Each class typically includes 30-50 students. Daily lessons follow the Nepali students’ standard book. However volunteers are also encouraged to create their own lesson plans; many have found inspiration for lessons online.
Each institution has its own permanent staff member who assists volunteers with their teaching and in communicating with the children and colleagues. Classes generally run six days a week, with four to six class periods each day and a break for lunch.
Volunteers may also help establish community libraries and support the current library in the community schools. For this, both technical and financial support from the volunteers will be highly appreciated. If possible, the volunteers are kindly requested to bring English books, teaching materials, stationery items and sports materials.
Throughout Nepal, women are organizing to pursue healthy and sustainable livelihoods, cultivate leadership and political opportunities, improve family health and literacy, ensure personal safety, expand and protect their rights, and develop safe places where they can discuss other challenges in their daily lives.
We support women’s organizations throughout the country and can place volunteers in diverse settings where you might participate in the following activities:
• help organize or conduct literacy classes
• train literary facilitators
• provide leadership training
• help organize or conduct trainings in community development, savings and credit, income generation.
• teach specific skills in organic farming, candle-making, pickle-making, sewing, knitting.
• teach basic English skills
Whatever your level of expertise, your efforts can make a big difference to women in marginalized communities.
Why do I have to pay a registration fee?
The registration fees goes towards the running of the organization (office space, staff, computers, email/internet, stationery, etc.). VLN has a central office in Kathmandu and a branch office in Chitwan.
What kind of volunteers is VLN looking for?
VLN has worked with other volunteer organizations, community schools, women groups, farmers co-operatives, clubs, youth groups and individuals. You do not need any specialized training to work with us. We will provide you with appropriate orientation and training for your prospective program, although experience in teaching, organic agriculture, health work, social mobilization or environmental project can be advantage.
When should I arrive in Nepal?
We are very flexible and as such you can arrive at a date which is best suited to your needs. You are welcome to arrive a few days earlier than the start of your program. Our representative will meet you at the airport holding a sign with your name. He will take you to the hotel. We can arrange your accommodation if you arrive a couple of days earlier, but you will need to pay the costs for the extra time yourself, and for any non-VLN activities. In some cases, the dates of your program can be adapted if you contact us.
Do I meet any VLN staff at the airport?
Yes, one of our representatives will meet you at the airport to pick you up holding a sign with your name and take you to the hotel.
Where will I be staying during my training period?
During your training period, you will stay at Guest House and Homestay (that will be walking distance from the office) in Kathmandu.
How much money do I need?
If you prefer to come before starting the progrram, you can get a room for $5- $8 a night, regular food for about $4 to $8 a day, internet access for about $1 per hour, laundry for about $3 for a medium-sized of load (they charge by the item). Transportation is relatively inexpensive too. We recommend that you purchase the Lonely Planet guide to Nepal. The travel guide for Nepal will help you estimate how much money you may need.(Remember that you need money for your visa and your flight tickets as well).
What kinds of thing do I need to bring with me?
• Sleeping bag
• Warm clothes (during winter months)
• Sun cream
• Mosquito net/repellent
• Water purification tablets and water filter
• First aid kit
• Any other personal items which you might need
What other useful items can I bring with me?
• Children’s books and other goods
• Stationary and sport materials
• National flag, local currency, stamps
• Your photo albums
• Any other things which you might consider useful for VLN and its programs.
Is there an age limit in the program?
Yes, the prospective volunteers should be at least 18 years old.
What types of immunization/ vaccines do I need before coming to Nepal?
• Hepatitis A & B
• Malaria (but first consult with your doctor)
Do I need any travel medical and accident insurance?
Yes, we highly recommend that you have travel, medical and accident insurance.
Does VLN pay for my trekking and other activities?
No, these are non-VLN activities so you need to pay for them yourself. However, we can organize and recommend some trekking, rafting, travel agencies who will help you to arrange these activities.
Is Nepal safe?
Nepal is the land of Buddha. A couple of years ago it was one of the most peaceful places on the earth but these days because of political unbalance crime is increasing and there is some violence but, unlike many developing countries, Nepal is quite safe. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourist visit Nepal. These days the situation is getting better.
What’s the weather like in the placement areas?
Nepal’s climate is seasonally changeable and different in different regions. Geographically Nepal is divided into three parts. The mountain region of Nepal is very cold in winter while the mid-hill region (Kathmandu and Pokhara) and mid-terai region (Chitwan) have different climate in different seasons. The weather is cold from December to March, humid and quite hot in the summer. The spring and fall are cool and pleasant. Please bring your winter clothes if you are coming in November, December, January, February and summer clothes for the rest of the months. We advise female volunteers not to wear short skirts in villages, and male volunteers not to wear shorts. It is traditional for Nepali people to dress modestly and for girls to cover most of their body.
In case you miss our representative at the airport or if your flight schedule changes suddenly, please give us a call at 9841787136 or 9841538578. If you dial from outside of Nepal, please dial the country code 977 before making the call.
What We Provide
You will be met outside the airport terminal by a VLN representative holding a placard with your name on it. The representative will take you to your guest house. Please provide us your flight information as soon as possible so that a punctual pick-up can be arranged. If you are planning to arrive by bus let us know when and what time you are arriving in Kathmandu. Just in case give us a call.
Orientation and Training
We offer 3 days to 5 days of orientation and training at our office, depending on the type of programs. These trainings help volunteers to understand our organization, various programs and opportunities, country, Nepali language and culture, safety measures, visa issues, dos and don’ts, etc. During the orientation and training period in Kathmandu, we arrange placements in local host families within walking distance of Thamel. This provides them an introduction to Nepalese family, language and culture.
During the orientation and training period, you will be participating in:
• 2 hours basic Nepali language class per day
• Cultural information/safety issues
• Volunteers’ interests, programs & opportunities, and placement information
• Sightseeing in Kathmandu every day after training
• Shopping opportunities upon request
Note: If you want to take a break for any reason after the orientation and training progrm, for sightseeing, trekking, etc. then, of course, you may do so. And, we will be pleased to provide you with assistance.
After the orientation and training, we transfer you to your working area. Our staff will accompany you to the host family and help you settle in.
Volunteers either stay at a home with local families or if working in an orphanage they often stay in the orphanage and volunteers working at monastery stay at the monastery. Nepali people are extremely hospitable and volunteers will be well looked after however the accommodation will be typically Nepali and therefore basic by Western standards. Toilets and showers are usually Nepali style, and the electricity supply in many places can be unreliable. Most of our homestay families have lots of previous experience in looking after volunteers. Volunteers staying in orphanages or at the monastery are given their own room within the orphanage. Volunteers with families stay in a simple single room with a bed.
Based on Nepalese dining customs, the host provides two major meals a day plus two tea and snack breaks. Tea is served around 7 am. Brunch is served around 9 to 10 am and is usually typical nepali food, dal/bhat (rice, lentils, and vegetables). Tea is served again at around 2 pm with local snacks. Dinner is at around 7 to 8 pm. The food is very simple but also extremely tasty and filling. In addition, you can purchase other food items if requried.
The number of hours worked by volunteers will depend upon the area of volunteer work. The Nepali work week falls from Sunday – Friday with Saturday being the only day off. Volunteers work from 3-5 hours per day with the opportunity to work more if you choose. Times for each placement vary, when working in children’s homes or at the monastery you will teach and help them in the morning before school and for a few hours after school. Hours are approximately 6:30-9am and 5:30-7:30pm. However these are just approximations, as we try and tailor your hours to the needs of the children.
Letter of Appreciation
Once you finish your placement, you will get a VLN’s letter of appreciation stating the time and place you have worked.
For more information please visit http://www.volunteeringtolearn.org
Email Us at [email protected]