If you really want to get to know the people of a country, volunteering is the perfect way to do so. There are various opportunities, for example, if you are a teacher, or interested in art or music, it would be natural to volunteer at a school. Many people consider volunteering, but few go through with it. Sometimes it is made difficult by the organisation, or sometimes it seems too time consuming. However, in Kathmandu, Nepal there is a great place to give of your time and energy and be thoroughly rewarded for having done so.
The children at Bhakta Vidyashram are bright and excited to have a foreign teacher. The local teachers also like chatting with you about Nepal and your home country. It’s nice when travelling in Nepal to chat with people who don’t want to sell you Tiger Balm, take you away in their rickshaw or taxi at an inflated price, or sell you a mountain trek in the monsoon season. The people at the school are real people who are just curious about foreigners and want to share something about themselves.
The school allows for some flexibility when coming up with a teaching schedule. You can just teach a couple of classes a few days a week if you so choose; so it isn’t like you’ll spend your entire holiday in the classroom. Also, you don’t need to be a teacher in your own country to volunteer at Bhakta Vidyashram – you just need the right attitude and a kind heart. Furthermore, it’s one of the few places you can volunteer without paying for the right to do so. There isn’t any administration or placement fee, which allows you to spend your time and limited funds on the children directly.
The school is incredibly poor and appreciates anything you can do; yet no one asks you to buy or do anything. It’s ok to just do art projects and read to the students. The children don’t have many possessions and are thankful if you do decide to buy them crayons or the like. Taking a photo with your class and offering one to each of your students provides a nice memento for them, and you; most of them have never had a photo taken and certainly not with a foreign teacher.
The volunteering facet of this school began fairly recently and is an ongoing project for all involved, in particular, Waters From Heaven, which puts prospective teachers in touch with the school. The school is in a state of renewal after receiving donations to build more classrooms, nevertheless it is still very small and crowded as more parents realise the benefits of education.
So next time you’re travelling the world have a thought about what you could do to help the people in the country you’ve so enjoyed. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, just a little of your time and there are schools and organisations out there that don’t require payment for your services. Search them out and perhaps you’ll have a rewarding experience like we did at Bhakta Vidyashram.
Photo Essay by Susan Blick
Photographed and written in Kathmandu, Nepal
18-19 June, 2013
Special thanks to Stephanie Rummel, Nina Greenwood, Belinda Swank and all the staff and children at Bhakta Vidyashram
Copyright © 2013 Susan Blick
All Rights Reserved.