I must admit that I’ve led my life a bit on the selfish side so far, and haven’t been involved much in charitable deeds (charity is also much less developed as a common goal in Germany than, say, in the UK). Now, you don’t have to go to the other side of the world to change that, but if that helps, it’s already a good start.
My decision to offer volunteering services and my experience at Green Island School have opened my eyes a bit more for the opportunities that are out there. Volunteering or other support of people who need it is a two way street: As a volunteer, I’ve got the feeling to help a little by offering time, money and/or skills (one shouldn’t take oneself too seriously though, it’s not about oneself); at the same time, I get something back, be it that I get to know and appreciate different ways of life or other people; or the good feeling that comes from simply Giving. Happiness theorists have known it for a long time: It’s not the Porsche in front of the door which will bring lasting contentment or happiness (although it’s nice to have it in front of the door); it’s doing something good for others, putting other people above one’s own self-interest, which – next to family, social environment, health, freedom and a certain financial independence – forms part of the generally acknowledged happiness principles.
I don’t want to become a „guddy two shoes“, but also don’t want to walk through life without regard to the needs of others anymore. Here are a few tips for people coming to Nepal and who want to become involved through volunteering or donations, all experienced in the last week:
Curry Without Worry, Kathmandu, Nepal
Guided by a friend’s recommendation, I together with Mary – a traveller I met by chance, sharing a car from the airport to the hotel – went to help this organisation, which every Tuesday distributes curry to the needy on Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, and is always looking for volunteers to help preparing and distributing the food.
Curry Without Worry exists in San Francisco and Kathmandu; for $180 (Kathmandu) a donor is sponsoring food for 350 people, amongst them street and disabled children, the homeless, orphans, the elderly and the poor. If no donor can be found, a committee of the founding members will pay for the food. Volunteers can of course also donate if they so wish.
The food is prepared in the yard of the Paropakar boy’s orphanage and carried over to Durbar Square where the hungry crowd is already waiting. Here, it’s still: Women and children first.
It was raining, but a bit of water does not deter really hungry people. Curry Without Worry is a great initiative, and the founders are currently in the process of identifying additional countries.
SKY Memorial Foundation
Dorji Tsering Sherpa is the coordinator of Curry Without Worry Kathmandu; in 2010, his daughter died when a plane crashed on the way to Lukla. Together with two other parents, he founded the SKY Memorial Foundation (Sarah Kendra Yuki in memory of the three children), which now supports a school located on the site of the plane crash which is always looking for volunteers. I talked to him for a while, and am thinking of spending time there after my return from Junbesi. The link to their website is here.
Walk With Me / Welcome to my Yard
Looking for a guided city tour, I came across Walk with Me, an initiative by Welcome to my Yard, a non-profit organisation supporting street children by providing training, education and work. The city tour is partially led by the young people, and the very reasonable fee as well as any voluntary donation support the organisation and their projects. They are always looking for volunteers teaching English, IT, etc. I enjoyed the tour, the guides are very knowledgeable and I fully recommend them (and by chance I met Sumit again whilst walking along Pashupatinath, the cremation ground of the Hindus, and he gave me a brilliant tour there too!).
ROKPA (Tibetan: Help)
I’ve left the hotel near Durbar Square and have moved in with ROKPA – a charity supporting and managing projects in Nepal, Tibet, India and Africa.
Here in Boudha in the Kathmandu Valley (about 5km from Kathmandu city center), they maintain a children’s home for street children, a soup kitchen, craft projects generating income for disadvantaged Nepalese women, and a guest house, which provides jobs to former street children, and where the money paid for the room is benefiting the organisation. ROKPA’s motto: The best way to help yourself is to help others.
The guest house is very nice and very close to the largest Tibetan Buddhist monument outside Tibet, the „Great Stupa“ or Chorten Chempo.
I recommend a stay here, where you’ll find nice rooms and a beautiful quiet garden, and you do good simply by being here. Also, you have the opportunity for bespoke tailoring – I’ve asked them to make me a nice dressing gown. The organisation are also looking for volunteers, mainly for 6-12 months stays.
In Nepal, there are numerous organisations offering projects for volunteers. Many of them charge a high admin fee and also a high amount for accomodation and food. Careful! These organisations are rarely non-profit or benefit the people they are purporting to support, but rather pay the money into their own pockets. They are responsible for „voluntouring“ having received a bad name. It is for example not unknown that orphans are „created“ who have a fully functioning family. Therefore, one should do research or read reports by other volunteers or travellers. Books such as „The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook“ by Shannon O’Donnell or her blog blog.grassrootsvolunteering.org provide useful tips, resources and recommendations; or keep your eyes and ears open on site – there are always opportunities to help.