Papa’s House has received much interest from across the world from potential volunteers. In fact, NOH can be selective in accepting volunteers. A volunteer coordinator, Prakesh Poudel, with a Masters in English, was hired to assist Michael in running the program. In 2007 over two dozen volunteers came to Nepal to work with NOH. The volunteers came from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, and the United States. Seven of the volunteers are members of NOH Boards. The NOH volunteer program is strong and growing.
The NOH volunteer program is thriving, with over fifty volunteers from a dozen countries coming to Nepal in 2008 to work with us. Seven members of the NOH Boards also came to volunteer. In addition, a group of young missionaries from Australia came in October, bringing clothes, games, and books for Papa’s House children and engaging in remodeling and renovation projects at the girl’s home in Dhapasi.
The volunteer program continues to grow, even with the weak global economy and the ever-present domestic struggles in Nepal. Eighty volunteers from a dozen countries came to Nepal in 2009. Ten of the volunteers were returning for second stints. In March NOH leased a residential house for the volunteers, also in Dhapasi and near the main campus of Papa’s Harmony House. By the end of the year, volunteer lodging was set up in a new, bigger house with better facilities, a more secure and less expensive lease, and even closer to the main campus.
Our volunteers continue with their important service: including introducing healthier and more environmentally sustainable briquette ovens to the villagers of Dumrikharka, teaching classes throughout the country, offering yoga and music instruction to our children, leading writing workshops, assisting in medical clinics, as well as tutoring, mentoring, and playing with Papa’s House children. In the Terai one volunteer, an emergency medical technician with plans to attend medical school, brought $10,000 worth of donated medicines and supplies to a small clinic to help in his work assisting the local physician.
Volunteer Nepal not only advances the NOH mission with talented and compassionate individuals serving in numerous capacities the poor in Nepal, the income from volunteer fees significantly contributes to the operation of Papa’s House.
Over the year, 105 individuals from countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Spain, Finland, and Australia volunteered through VN. A half dozen of the volunteers were returning for second or third stints. During the summer, three members of the NOH Board of Directors and one member of the Board of Advisers also volunteered at Papa’s House.
Also in June, NOH advertised on Idealist.org for an assistant to the director of operations to replace Emma Brakes, a former volunteer from England, who had managed Volunteer Nepal for the first four months in 2010. In late July, Brian LaGuardia of New York City began his work as the Deputy Director of Operations for NOH, joined by Alexis Fisher, also from New York City, the new Deputy Director of Programs for NOH.
In early October, however, Brian and Lexi submitted their resignations, but NOH was fortunate to hire Sonam Dolkar, born in Nepal, educated in India and the United States, fluent in Hindi, Tibetan, Nepali, and English, who had been interning at the Human Rights Watch in the Asia Division before coming to NOH.
In addition to those who volunteered through Volunteer Nepal, Papa’s House received a number of visitors during the year. Among the groups were the Jersey Cricket Club from the Channel Islands, the participants from the Yoga for Freedom experience organized and led by Jesse Bach of the NOH Board of Advisers, and Amanda Tapping and Jill Bodie of the Sanctuary for Kids Foundation.
Among the initiatives during the year were a revision of the Volunteer Nepal Handbook, the institution of exit interviews with volunteers, and the development of a contract for volunteers specifying liabilities.
The number of volunteer placements offered throughout Nepal has significantly increased over the last year. In 2011, over a hundred individuals from countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Spain, Finland, and Australia volunteered through VN.
Besides the important services they provide while in Nepal, often our volunteers contribute before they arrive and continue supporting Nepal Orphans Home after returning to their home communities. Some examples are:
Before leaving with her mother and an aunt for VN, one high school student solicited eyeglasses from local optometrists, determined the prescriptions, and brought more than two hundred pairs to Kathmandu, where they were donated to a home for the elderly.
Two friends from Australia who volunteered at the Special Education and Research Center (SERC) collected and shipped three dozen boxes of sporting goods, toys, school supplies, and books to Papa’s House, even incurring the ‘hostage fees’ imposed by the postal authorities in Kathmandu. Another volunteer raised funds to buy new mattresses, pillows, and quilts for all the Papa’s House children.
In October, a former volunteer hosted a Nepal night fundraiser for NOH and VN in Adelaide, Australia, featuring Nepalese cuisine and handicrafts, and a video presentation of the volunteer’s experience. A volunteer from this summer returned for the Christmas festivities bringing 125 back packs which he had solicited from Samsonite.
Some volunteers even start their own non-profits. For instance, a VN volunteer from Cleveland was so moved by her work at Bal Mandir Children’s Home, a government-run orphanage, that she established a foundation to help children in Nepal with special needs. And a teacher from Washington was so inspired that, upon returning home, she founded her own charity, with a focus on supporting the education and future livelihoods of Papa’s House children.
A volunteer, who served a nonprofit in Nepal that works with children and adolescents at risk of being trafficked, after returning to her home, not only has continued to assist with the organization’s website but has become active in anti-human trafficking efforts in the United States.
In addition to those who volunteered through Volunteer Nepal, Papa’s House hosted visiting mission groups during the year. A yoga group arranged with VN for a trekking and spiritual adventure in Nepal to help support Papa’s House. NOH assisted an Australian team of medics in setting up clinics in Dolangsa and Bigu, remote regions of Nepal. In turn, this team, impressed by the care provided to the children of Papa’s House, made a generous donation to NOH before leaving.
During 2011, Volunteer Nepal had three different directors, each very talented. The first, Sonam Dolkar, left in April for a job with the British Embassy. A former volunteer, Jehan Seirafi, capably filled in over the next few months, but had to return to her home in the United States in December. Before leaving, Jehan found her own replacement, Christina Baldarelli. Christina earned a B.A. from California State University and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, with a focus on international education, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She has experience in Spain, Germany, and Kazakhstan.
Jehan will continue working for NOH from stateside. In addition to editing the NOH newsletter, she will help maintain the other NOH social media platforms. Recent volunteers have put together videos and brochures describing some of the placement locations and experiences. Jehan will coordinate with Christina in organizing and expanding this collection.
Officially, there were 131 volunteers in 2012 from eleven countries. In December Volunteer Nepal (VN) was moved to a five-bedroom house near Skylark School. The former VH is now home for two of NOH’s college students, with space for overflow crowds of volunteers.
During the year there were two directors of the program. Christina Baldarelli, who began in December 2011, reluctantly had to resign in September when her husband was relocated out of Kathmandu. Erin Murphy, who overlapped one month with Christina, unfortunately left in November. Michael filled in after Erin departed. NOH then hired Nancy Ko, who is scheduled to begin her work in Nepal in February of 2013. Nancy has extensive international experience, including service as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Guyana, a WorldTeach Volunteer in Bangladesh, and most recently as Deputy Director, Minority Culture & Heritage Center in Guizhou, China.
A new VN Teaching Manual includes many helpful hints and even simple lesson plans for experienced or novice teachers who plan to teach at some of our placement locations. Other convenient services added are money exchanges and a portable medical kit for volunteer placements outside of the Kathmandu Valley.
More frequent postings about special events, new placement opportunities, and advice for volunteers, were made this year on the NOH page and the VN+NOH group page on Facebook. At the end of 2012, there were more than 700 members of the VN+NOH group.
Volunteer feedback from the online exit surveys from the past year was compiled and has been helpful in improving the experience of future volunteers. Reviews by volunteers are available on the NOH profile on GuideStar. For the eleven reviews posted, Volunteer Nepal received the top five-star rating.
Volunteer Nepal (VN) continues to bring extraordinary people of all ages from around the world to Nepal where they serve in a variety of ways to improve the lives of the poor. In 2013, Volunteer Nepal received 115 individuals, which makes the third year in a row there have been over a hundred volunteers. The volunteer experiences are often profound and even life changing. Positive reviews of over a dozen recent volunteers can be found on the NOH profile on GuideStar. And thanks to the initiative of Jehan Seirafi, former director of Volunteer Nepal, the ninth edition of Lonely Planet: Nepal lists Volunteer Nepal (and Nepal Orphans Home).
In 2013, there were three different directors of Volunteer Nepal. Mike Hess, in addition his work as director of operations, managed Volunteer Nepal until Nancy Ko arrived in mid-February. Unfortunately, Nancy left after only a couple of months on the job. Sunita Pandey, the woman who taught our new children in our home school, was hired to manage the volunteer hostel in the interim. The NOH advertisement in Idealist.org quickly generated over a dozen good applicants, with the top one a recent volunteer. Michael Triozzi, a 2012 graduate of Ohio State University, had served with Volunteer Nepal from March through May. Michael has done an outstanding job since taking over in July, and the following is from his annual report for Volunteer Nepal.
“I would like to begin by stating that I am especially proud of the team we have brought together. Special commendations must be given to Sunita for her diligent management of the Volunteer Nepal budget, and to Prakash, whose unflagging enthusiasm has earned him the friendship of almost every volunteer who has come through our program. Many volunteers have commented on the strength and cohesion of our current volunteer coordinators, and they deserve high praise.
…Over the past year we have established a new agriculture/cultural exchange placement at Tutung in the Nuwakot District, a village health post and school placement in the Pokhara valley, and a placement at an orphanage called “Our Children’s Protection Foundation” within easy walking distance of our volunteer house. In addition, we have re-started our Lower Mustang placement, and several volunteers have had wonderful experiences teaching in our village there. The Bigu nunnery remains our most popular out-of-the-valley placement, and the new “Our Children’s” orphanage placement has become our most popular placement within Kathmandu, mostly because of its proximity. The EDUC community school in Kathmandu has proved to be a popular placement as well.
In December we organized the annual Team Med trip - a group of a dozen Australian medical students from Monash University in Melbourne who spent ten days in the mountains, setting up a succession of two-day-long medical camps in three villages (Bigu, Lotteng, and KhopaChagu). These medical camps saw between 100 and 150 patients daily…. This trip poses significant logistical challenges that we wouldn't normally have to deal with: preliminary visits to the villages, creating posters to advertise the medical camps, arranging to bring along food, cooks, porters, translators, etc. Prakash and *Hikmat must be commended for their skill and flexibility in managing the group along the way. A follow-up report written by a volunteer mentioned that they were "professional, supportive and always positive."
[*Hikmat was one of the first children to come to Papa’s House in 2005. He is now the oldest boy, and while in between college and university, Hikmat is helping out with Volunteer Nepal.]
Several volunteers, after returning to their homes, have been inspired to start their own non-profits including: Jesse Bach, who set up Imagine Foundation to fight child trafficking and end child slavery across the world; Jehan Seirafi, who founded Sunsar Maya, which provides financial support to better the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children around the world through education; Anne Zrenda and her Aakriti’s Kids Foundation, dedicated to supporting orphans with special needs in Nepal; and Justin Nimick and Laura Handy-Nimick, founders of Life's Handy Work, whose mission is to provide the children at Nepal Orphans Home with the opportunities to seek a college education, vocational training, housing, and small business grants as they grow into adulthood.
Volunteer Nepal in Action: Lost in Translation?
This has been another good year for Volunteer Nepal with a stable and reliable staff led by Michael Triozzi as director who held the post for 15 months—a record among our seven previous directors. Mrs. Pandey has been assistant director for over two years, managing the accounting of expenses and fees and arranging the logistics of volunteer travels within Nepal. Four other staff members include a cook/housekeeper and three others who run the orientation program for new arrivals, and who accompany volunteers to and from their placements. For the year there were 113 volunteers.
Michael Triozzi established positive relations among the VN staff and created a welcoming environment for our volunteers. An improved orientation for incoming volunteers has involved more volunteers with the activities in Papa’s Houses, especially helping with after school homework sessions and participating in Saturday events with the children.
This year also included a smooth transition to a new director, Eileen Witham, a two-time volunteer (2012 and 2014) from New Zealand. Eileen arrived in mid-September, a couple of weeks before Michael Triozzi left, for orientation to the operations of Volunteer Nepal, and quickly was doing a great job.
Volunteer Nepal has many placements, including teaching at schools, assisting in medical clinics, improving community health, assisting at government orphanages, helping in village agriculture, and working with other nongovernmental organizations. A relatively new placement is with Chhori, formerly CAP-Nepal, a non-profit organization based in Kathmandu that addresses gender-based violence in Nepal through advocacy, education in grade schools, counseling, and providing shelter for abused women.
Sirkkha from Finland has volunteered numerous times
Volunteer helping renovate a village school
In spite of the turmoil from the earthquakes and the trade blockade, 2015 was a strong year for Volunteer Nepal (VN) with 124 volunteers representing eighteen countries. The top four home countries in 2015 were the United States (36%), Australia (30%), United Kingdom (8%) and Canada (7%).
Eileen Witham continued into her second year as the VN director. Sunita Pandey, the assistant director for the last three years, manages the accounting of expenses and fees and arranging the logistics of volunteer travels within Nepal. A cook/housekeeper maintains the VN House. Other staff help run the orientation program for new arrivals and then accompany volunteers to their placements.
Eileen and Volunteer Nepal staff
Scottish Volunteer Elizabeth teaching a new stitch
VN offers nearly twenty placements in the Kathmandu Valley (including Nepal Cleft and Burn Center, KAT Animal Shelter, Pashupati Elderly Ashram, and Hope Rising Children Home) and a dozen placements outside the valley (in Dumrikharka, Dolpa, Tutung Village, and Charikot). A new placement in 2015 was in the remote town in the Sindhuli district in the northern Terai region, where two volunteers spent three weeks teaching English classes and helping repaint the government school.
An example of the good services provided by volunteers is EDUCNepal. One of the most popular placements in the Kathmandu Valley over the last three years, EDUCNepal is a small charity school for children of local street vendors and squatters. This year, after the earthquake, one VN volunteer, a nurse from Australia, performed health checks on the children, and then teamed up with another volunteer to provide toothbrushes and toothpaste for all the children. They also worked with teachers to establish a daily hygiene routine, where the students brush their teeth after lunch.
Volunteer Nepal’s work in the aftermath of the earthquake was especially commendable. All volunteers were contacted and accounted for soon after the quake hit. The VN staff also contacted placements to assess the damage and need. Robin, one of the volunteer coordinators, then travelled to placements to provide immediate relief. Among other aid, Robin delivered three large water tanks to the village of Chaturi; money, food, and tents to an orphanage in Charikot; and 450 blankets, as well as tarpaulins, to two small villages in the Dhading district, one of the hardest-hit areas.
Relief for Dhading
Robin with funds for Shree Sham School
In addition to the volunteers through Volunteer Nepal, each year Nepal Orphans Home receives numerous visitors. This year was the third year that the NOH children and ARAMCO children from a private Saudi Arabian school have spent a memorable day together learning about each other’s culture and developing friendships.
The ARAMCO students in red t-shirts and their NOH friends
Annually members of the NOH boards visit Papa’s House. 2015 was no different. Board Adviser Laurie Levine from Sydney manages at least one trip each year. A teacher, speaker and author of books on living a better and more purposeful life through spiritual affirmation, Laurie, led workshops on yoga and brought ten reconditioned laptops with her.
Sisters Liz Early and Anne McCadden, also on the board of advisers, have volunteered several times. This year, they helped the children prepare for and celebrate the international Billion Rising Dance movement.
Laurie with some of the Harmony House girls
Dancing at the Skylark School with Liz and Anne
In 2016, Volunteer Nepal hosted 99 individuals representing nineteen countries, a drop off from the 122 volunteers in 2015. The top four home countries in 2016 were the United States (35%), Australia (22%), United Kingdom (9%) and Canada (7%). While the number of volunteers dipped, the average length of the volunteer’s stay increased, so that the total number of volunteering days rose to 2,478 in 2016 from 2,385 in 2015.
Perhaps the best way to capture the work of Volunteer Nepal could be found in a volunteer’s review, which was posted on the Nepal Orphans Home profile on GuideStar in September 2016 (See http://greatnonprofits.org/whitelabel/reviews/nepal-orphans-home-inc).
Working through Volunteer Nepal has been an incredible experience. All of the people whom I have had the pleasure of working with at this organization are friendly, generous, and exude a positive energy while working together to make a change in the local community. My intentions for coming to Nepal were to volunteer in a medical capacity, and Volunteer Nepal was among the first group of organizations that popped up on my Google search. After close communication with several different volunteering organizations that offered "medicine" among other things, I am lucky to have chosen Volunteer Nepal for its genuine and selfless nature. At the time, Volunteer Nepal stood out above the rest as being a program dedicated to helping women and children and selflessly giving back to the community. Volunteer Nepal … also supports efforts such as The Chelsea Center - a local center that empowers women through offering skills and English language classes; EDUC - a local preschool that provides an effective and motivating framework for their children to learn; participating with Curry Without Worry - an organization that cooks and provides a hot meal to homeless people every Tuesday evening in Kathmandu; and many placements both in Kathmandu and outside The Valley in medicine, agriculture and development, and teaching English.
I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in many of the aforementioned projects during my 2 months stay in Nepal, and will be leaving today with a greater sense of accomplishment than I thought was possible. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful of an organization Volunteer Nepal is - and I've worked with a few others in the past, this one is undeniably top notch. Thank you for all of the lessons you've taught me, the friendships I've developed, and for allowing me the opportunity to do something good in this world.
Cheers & Namaste.
Volunteers, while in Dhapasi, often join Papa’s House children on Saturdays and holidays. For example, on Sports Day, volunteers designed events that were meant to challenge dexterity, endurance as well as the ability to perform while laughing hysterically.
Annually members of the NOH boards volunteer in Nepal. In 2016, Glenn Detrick and Carola Drosdeck of the Board of Directors and from the Board of Advisers, Laurie Levine, Liz Early, Anne McCadden, Cici Caillet, Ted Seymour, and two new members, Yoav Deri and Suresh Acharya, spent time with the children at Papa’s House and helping at the Chelsea Center.
Membership on the VN+NOH group page on Facebook continues to grow, exceeding 1,400 by the end of 2016. There have been weekly posts from the Director of VN highlighting activities at the Volunteer House or at placements. Sometimes specific questions are posted by volunteer applicants; they are usually answered quickly with at least a couple of replies from former volunteers. Volunteers are added to our Vertical Response (newsletter) list and therefore receive information about NOH and VN. Many also stay in touch via Facebook.
Sports Day at Papa’s House with VN Volunteers
In the fall of 2016, Shreya Upadhyay, a 2016 graduate of Thames International College, with a degree in business administration, became the new Director of Communications of Volunteer Nepal, replacing Eileen Witham, a former volunteer from New Zealand who had served as VN director for two years. At Thames, Shreya was the president of the Student Council in her senior year, after serving as the treasurer in her junior year.
Mrs. Sunita Pandey has been Assistant Director over this time, managing the accounting of expenses and fees and arranging the logistics of volunteer travels within Nepal. Four other staff members include a cook/housekeeper and three Volunteer Coordinators, two of them our former children, who run the orientation program for new arrivals and accompany volunteers to and from their placements.
In 2017, Volunteer Nepal (VN) hosted 97 individuals representing seventeen countries. The top three home countries in 2017 were the United States (59%), Australia (18%), and New Zealand (8%). While the number of volunteers dipped slightly (from 99 in 2016), the average length of the volunteer’s stay increased, so that the total number of volunteer days rose to 2,396 in 2017 (from 2,271 in 2016). A new volunteer placement in teaching English in a small school was added in Ghandruk in the Annapurna range.
With the completion of the new Chelsea Education and Community Center2017, Volunteer Nepal offices and accommodations returned to the former Chelsea Center building. The rooms were repainted and carpeted, new couches were added and the VN house received its first refrigerator.
Shreya Upadhyay continued her good work as VN Director of Communications, assisting Sunita Pandey, Director of Education and Outreach Programs. Three former Papa’s House children, now young adults, worked at Volunteer Nepal. Saroj Darji, the first young boy to come to Papa’s House in 2005, after completing his formal education a few years ago, has been an effective member of the VN staff. Himal Shahi served a second year as VN House Manager. In November, Amrita Chaudhary, another young woman from Papa’s House, replaced Kalpana Khadka, who began her maternity leave, as the cook for the VN house.
In 2017 among the volunteers was a group of nineteen college students from Evergreen State University in Olympia, Washington for a month-long study abroad program that began in late January. A group of eight adults from Thrive Global, a nonprofit from Honolulu that assists in the transition of disadvantaged teens to adulthood, volunteered at a school in Pharping for a week in July.
Evergreen State students on site
Volunteer with Mother Teresa nuns at an ashram for the elderly
In 2017 Nepal Orphans Home earned recognition as a Great Nonprofits top-rated charity, largely from the favorable reviews of volunteers. Two examples follow.
I volunteered with NOH during the month of February (2017), as part of a study abroad program through my university in the USA. What an amazing experience! From the outset, the staff were incredibility thoughtful, providing packing lists and all sorts of information to orient volunteers before even arriving in Nepal. They also took time and care in placing volunteers where they could not just contribute something, but also feel comfortable and take a real interest in the work.
During my time in Nepal, I saw that NOH not only took great care of their volunteers, they were doing amazing work, caring and providing for Nepali children. Upon first entering one of NOH's children's homes, I saw that the children were joyful, excited, and well cared for. As I got to know some of the staff a little better, it soon become clear to me that these were some of the most kindhearted and dedicated people that I had ever met. NOH is an incredible organization; in fact, I was so impressed, I am currently making plans to go back to Nepal and spent more time working with NOH.
Volunteer Nepal gave me by far the best volunteering experience, making my stay absolutely unforgettable! From the warm and friendly ambience at the Volunteer House, to the beautiful, eager children at EDUC and the Happiness Center, doing volunteer work in Nepal with Volunteer Nepal felt awesome! Shout-out to the wonderful team, who were always on call and ready to accompany us in the streets of Kathmandu.
Volunteers, while in Dhapasi, often joined Papa’s House children on Saturdays and holidays. Many volunteers also offered workshops at the Chelsea Center. Annually members of the NOH boards volunteer in Nepal. In 2017, Rajesh Trivedi, Glenn Detrick, Carola Drosdeck, Boo Hess, and Peter Hess of the Board of Directors and Suresh Acharya, Liz Early, Anne McCadden, Cici Caillet, Ted Seymour, and Tyler Drosdeck of the Board of Advisers spent time with the children at Papa’s House and helped at the Chelsea Center, leading workshops and assisting the staff. In particular, Anne, Liz, and Cici have been strong supporters of NOH Outreach to the Goldhunga Blind Children’s Home.
Membership on the VN+NOH group page on Facebook continued to grow, exceeding 1,500 by the end of 2017. Weekly posts from the Director of VN and the NOH board’s Volunteer Nepal Committee highlighted activities at the Volunteer House or at placements. Questions posted by volunteer applicants were usually answered quickly by former volunteers and VN staff. Volunteers were added to our Vertical Response (newsletter) list and therefore periodically received information about NOH and VN. Many also stayed in touch through social media.
NOH started Volunteer Nepal (VN) in 2005 as a program to connect volunteers with talent and passion to serve the poor across Nepal. The VN mission statement concisely reflects this ethos:
Volunteer Nepal seeks to foster uplifting change in the lives of underserved people and communities in Nepal by providing heartfelt, profound and enlightening volunteer experiences for groups and individuals.
Through Volunteer Nepal we have been able to financially support education programs in many areas, as well as bringing guest instructors to them. Medical camps in remote areas have been run. Within three days after the earthquake of April 2015 Volunteer Nepal staff had traveled to placements devastated by the quake to deliver blankets, food, tents, and cash, to the people there.
Shreya Upadhyay continued her good work as VN Director. Three former Papa’s House children, now young adults, worked at Volunteer Nepal. Himal Shahi served a second year as VN House Manager. After completing his formal education a few years ago, Saroj Darji, the first young boy to come to Papa’s House in 2005, has been an effective member of the VN staff. Amrita Chaudhary, another young woman from Papa’s House, prepares meals at the VN house.
In 2018, Volunteer Nepal hosted 83 individuals representing ten countries. The top three home countries with their shares of volunteers were the United States (42%), Australia (29%), and the United Kingdom (12%). The most typical volunteer stint was between one to two weeks, followed by stints of one week. One individual, however, volunteered for six months, and another for five months. With both the number of volunteers and the average length of service declining, the total number of volunteer days for VN significantly fell from 2,396 days in 2017 to 1,552 days in 2018. For seven of the months of 2018 there were two or fewer volunteers.
Volunteer in a classroom at Bigu
Volunteers in the paddy fields at Pharping
Among the volunteers in 2018 was a group of 14 high school students and their 10 chaperones from Maleny State High School in Australia. The group volunteered with VN for two weeks in April as a part of their school excursion program to Nepal. They volunteered at the orphanage at Bal Mandir, Education and Development for Underprivileged Children of Nepal (EDUC), Pashupati Elderly Ashram, and the Happiness Center (Buddha Park). Apart from the volunteer placements, they also led evening workshops at the Chelsea Center as a part of a Summer Camp organized with our Papa’s House children.
Because their experience with Volunteer Nepal was so meaningful, the Maleny group invited Shreya and her staff, along with NOH Director of Operations, Sunita Pandey, to visit Australia for three weeks in the fall...all expenses paid. While in Australia, besides sight-seeing and fun activities (including swimming in the ocean, boating, bushwalking, and rock climbing), the VN group visited different schools, attending classes with the students and giving presentations about life in Nepal, taught Nepali folk dancing, and spread the word about Nepal Orphans Home and Volunteer Nepal.
In the summer Volunteer Nepal also hosted a group of 19 volunteers from New York's HEAF Global Routes who served for a week with our teaching placements and the Happiness Center in Kathmandu, working with children between the ages of four and eight.
Maleny State High School group at the VN House
VN group in Australia with their Maleny hosts
Volunteer group visits like Maleny and HEAF Global Routes greatly helped in offsetting the reduced number of individual volunteers in 2018. The drop in individual applications to VN may also reflect more organizations in Nepal offering volunteer opportunities directly as well as continued “bad press” regarding voluntourism, especially with orphanages, not all of which in Nepal are reputable.
In 2018 NOH again earned recognition as a Great Nonprofits top-rated charity, largely from the reviews of volunteers. One reviewer who has since joined the NOH Board of Advisers, effectively captured Volunteer Nepal:
I have been volunteering with Nepal Orphans Home since 2009 from the U.S. and on the ground in Nepal. I have spent time in rural placements in Nepal, taught in the Kathmandu Valley, stayed in the volunteer house and have come to know the directors, advisers, volunteers, and the staff in Nepal. Over the past nine years I have come to know the organization as family, which I know is the experience of many other volunteers.
I have made friends from all over the world during my time in Nepal. During my last visit (July 2018), my husband and I stayed in the volunteer house with our seven-year-old son. We spent the majority of our time volunteering at the Chelsea Center and enjoying time with the children and college students. We did some sightseeing as well. The young men who run the volunteer house are former children on NOH (or maybe it's best said "forever children of NOH") and were kind and thoughtful when interacting with our son and helpful in making arrangements when our poor Nepali skills didn't suffice.
I could share hundreds of stories that convey the confidence and admiration I have for this organization, but the gist of it is that it is an organization run by honest, hardworking, caring, compassionate and accepting people. I highly recommend Nepal Orphans Home for anyone looking to make a positive impact in a country where poverty is overwhelming, but so is the kindness of its people. Whether you travel to Nepal to volunteer, raise money from afar or make a donation, your time, money and energy will be well spent.
Another reviewer in August wrote:
I was given the address of this organization " Volunteer Nepal " by Kopan Monastery. My adventure in Kathmandu was really great and this experience has changed I can say my life. All people @ Volunteer's house are special: Sunita/Shreya/Saroj/Himal. I knew all staff [are] fantastic. The house is clean / food very good/ good organization. I was never alone, so I felt secure and protected during my visits to the city and to the orphanage. I'm very satisfied to have had this opportunity and it was very useful for my spiritual and personal growth.
Volunteers, while in Dhapasi, often joined Papa’s House children on Saturdays and holidays. Some volunteers also offered workshops at the Chelsea Center. In 2018, Carola Drosdeck and Ted Seymour of the Board of Directors and Suresh Acharya, Liz Early, Anne McCadden, Cici Caillet, Elizabeth Early, and Laura Handy-Nimick of the Board of Advisers spent time with the children at Papa’s House and helped at the Chelsea Center, leading workshops and assisting the staff.
Membership on the VN+NOH group page on Facebook continued to grow, exceeding 1,500 in 2018. Frequent posts from the VN Director and the NOH board’s Volunteer Nepal Committee highlighted activities at the Volunteer House or at placements. Questions posted by volunteer applicants were answered by former volunteers and VN staff.
In 2019, Volunteer Nepal hosted only forty volunteers, a sharp decline from earlier years. The volunteers came from eleven countries. The top four home countries with their shares of volunteers were the United States (45%), Australia (13%), France (13%) and Austria (8%). Half of the volunteer stints were for two weeks or less. The total number of volunteer days for VN significantly fell from 2,396 days in 2017 to 1,552 days in 2018 and to 825 days in 2019. In ten of the months of 2019, there were four or fewer volunteers.
Four French medical volunteers with staff in front of a hospital in Pharping
In part, due to the declining number of volunteers, Shreya Upadhyay, the VN Director, worked on an ‘as needed’ contractual basis beginning in January. At the end of November, VN house manager, Himal Shahi, a former Papa’s House child, left for university study in Australia. He was not replaced. By the end of the year, only Saroj Darji, as volunteer coordinator, and Amrita Chaudhary, as VN housekeeper and cook, remained on site in the Volunteer Nepal House.
Nevertheless, based on posted reviews, largely by VN volunteers, on GuideStar’s Great Nonprofit’s web site, NOH earned the Great Nonprofits Top-Rated seal for the third year in a row.
Top-Rated 2019, 2018, 2017
Three of the volunteer reviews from 2019 captured the ethos of Volunteer Nepal:
My friend and I had an amazing time in Nepal thanks to this organization! We spent two weeks volunteering at the primary school in the remote village of Ghurjung (just past Ghandruk) after being led there by our wonderful Volunteer Nepal guide. We were able to help out very much at the school, and we had a great time doing it. I’m so glad I was able to come to Nepal and volunteer through this organization because it clearly has such a pure and honest mission. I felt that I was really making a difference, and that the money that I spent on the volunteer fees (which was very affordable for the care and guidance you are provided) were helping out a great cause. I would highly recommend this organization as the best nonprofit to volunteer with for any traveler looking to volunteer in Nepal!
I first visited NOH in 2010. It’s become an annual event. My three grown up children have accompanied at different times and this year my husband is joining me. I love to show them what an incredible organisation this is. To feel the love of the children, to meet volunteers from all over the world and be totally inspired by the outcomes and achievements of Michael Hess’s vision to help people in need. This commitment is overwhelming and with the NOH organisation so much good for so many people is brought about. Each time I visit I return inspired, filled with hope and a feeling of seeing the world in a whole new perspective. About to head off again and can’t wait to be immersed again in this fascinating part of the world.
My experience in Nepal, guided by Volunteer Nepal, has been irreplaceable. Firstly, the program recognized the importance of cultural understanding through their orientation. Upon my arrival the organization guided me through Kathmandu to visit historical sites, and sat down with me to explain customs, traditions, and language. This was a unique experience that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and try to immerse myself in the Nepali culture. Volunteer Nepal also has a series of placements around the nation that range from teaching to agriculture. I am currently at a teaching placement in Lubra, and it has been such an amazing experience thus far. Volunteer Nepal organized my stay at a lodge, helped me navigate the hectic bus system, and frequently checks in to make sure everything is running smoothly. This volunteer organization is exceptional in the sense that it helps the volunteer’s struggle in navigating a new country, while instituting a sense of freedom, which allows the volunteer to make the biggest impact on others and themselves.
In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic and imposed international travel bans, Volunteer Nepal hosted only six volunteers in the first few months, with five cutting their stays short to return to their home countries. In early March, a second student volunteer group from Maleny State High School in Australia, that had planned to join us in April, cancelled their trip.
Included on the Volunteer Nepal website are blogs from volunteers, including three from early 2020. In one, a young woman, who gave English classes for teachers and children at a small primary school with only two dozen students near the Annapurna Base Camp, reflects:
Out of my own comfort zone, into the school class: I admit, in the beginning I had a queasy feeling that only lasted for a short time. I was very impressed by the openness of the children meeting me as a foreigner, their motivation to learn new things, but also their patience to teach me Nepali. We loved playing games together. And so, it became a routine to meet after school at the lodge where I slept to play Memory, Uno or any other game. It’s so relaxing to see these kids playing and laughing, and sometimes enjoying a piece of chocolate. I felt the kids’ trust and couldn’t have been more proud when they picked me up in morning to go to school together or dropped me off after school – surely, not leaving before having a game together.
…. In addition to all the joy and positive mood during my visits, I don’t want to forget the challenges that teachers and students face every day: Having no warm shower, no running computer, no Wi-Fi, bad phone connections, no separate rooms for girls and boys, almost no privacy, only basic kitchen facilities for providing meals for the kids as half of them stay there in the hostel and many, many more.
Donation box for the Ghurjung School
On the right, our volunteer at Ghurjung in March
In April, given the situation and the reduced number of arrivals at Volunteer Nepal, Papa’s House NGO decided to repurpose the Volunteer House to reduce overhead costs. Later in the year, after Michael retired to the U.S., Sunita Pandey moved with her family to the Volunteer House, which then became the Papa’s House Office Building. The first floor is used for offices and the second and third floors occupied by Sunita Pandey’s family. The rent for the building is paid separately by Papa’s House NGO and Sunita Pandey for their respective spaces.
The VN Committee and Communications Director of Volunteer Nepal continued throughout 2020 with posts on the VN+NOH group page on Facebook, with over 1,300 members. Former volunteers also posted on this page. Rather than the usual posts highlighting activities at the Volunteer House or at volunteer placements, however, there were retrospective posts of earlier volunteer activity, which allowed the Volunteer Nepal family to remain in contact even during the COVID days.
Nevertheless, based on ten posted reviews in 2020 from former volunteers and NOH board members who also had traveled to Nepal to serve, NOH earned the Great Nonprofit’s Top-Rated seal for the fourth year in a row.
Excerpts from two former volunteer reviews (https://greatnonprofits.org/org/nepal-orphans-home-inc) are illustrative:
I visited NOH for the first time in 2011. I was barely 20 and had just lost my mother. Meeting the children, staff and Papa was an absolute transformative, healing and empowering experience. I have been going back ever since! I am lucky enough to have seen the children grow over the years, some into adults! The great care and love the children experience there is unbelievable.
…. Going there you get to learn about the country, the culture, you can push (and find!) your limits in a safe environment. You will be guided by qualified, friendly locals. Whether you want to stay in the valley or join a placement in a more remote area, NOH will take you there! You will do good and you will receive A LOT in return. I know I have. NOH is my family and I feel so lucky to have crossed their paths.
Last year, as a 15 year old high school student, I visited Nepal for the first time as a volunteer for Nepal Orphans Home. I spent two weeks volunteering with the children and at many of Nepal Orphans Home’s outreach programs. I hosted a knitting workshop, a bingo night, a book talk, and spent many afternoons just hanging out with the NOH kids. I had such a fun time connecting with the children and have created friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. Volunteering at Nepal Orphans Home was one of the best experiences of my life and I would recommend it to anyone interested in making a difference.
In 2021, no international volunteers were able to come to Nepal.
The NOH Boards in their virtual meeting in April of 2021 discussed reimagining Volunteer Nepal from being a traditional international volunteer organization hosting individuals for weeks’ long placements, toward one of cultural exchanges, where groups would learn about and experience Nepal. Volunteers, ideally as part of a group, would be housed in local Airbnbs, hotels, or even homestays. Adventures such as trekking and visits to Chitwan could easily be incorporated. The VN staff could continue with orientation and guidance of the visitors. Participating in activities at the Chelsea Center and evening meals and Saturday tiffin at Papa’s House could still be offered. There even could be a few ‘mini’ placements like those organized for the Maleny High School Group in 2018.
In 2022, there was only one volunteer. At the end of the year, Nepal Orphans Home decided to close Volunteer Nepal.