Street Kids Centre
Pin the tail on the elephant - Pokhara, Nepal
Nepal is a diverse country of exquisite landscapes, rich culture and unbelievably friendly people. It is also the place where I chose to spend a month volunteering, as part of a year travelling. Journeying alone is an education like no other, but combining it with the experience of working in the community that you are visiting, takes it to a whole new level. I was based in the centre of Nepal, a place where the snow-capped mountains of the Annapura range, the placid waters of Phewa Tal and the bustling town of Pokhara all meet. On first glance Pokhara is clearly accustomed to the tourist trade, but spend a little time there and you'll experience every ounce of culture and affability that the Nepalese have to offer.
The beginning and end of the volunteer experience are the hardest: having to choose between the plethora of countries and organisations at the start, then saying goodbye to, in my case, the most gorgeous, vibrant group of kids I was lucky enough to spend a month with. All the bits in between will just leave you with the memories of a life time! I chose to work in the 'Street Kids Centre', a place where children who are living on the streets of Pokhara are invited in to be given food, shelter and support. Once they are settled in the centre, efforts are made to firstly find their families, which is not always possible, then ascertain why the children are not living at home; this ranged from alcoholic parents, child abuse or the family not having enough money to care for the child. If attempts to make the family home a better environment for the child to live in failed, then he or she would continue to live at the centre.
From the moment I walked in I was pretty much left to my own devices; a lot of the time the staff saw volunteers being there as a chance to have a sit down with a well deserved cup of chai. But as long as you throw yourself in and be prepared to make an idiot of yourself entertaining the kids, then you'll enjoy the freedom of the laid-back system that many of the institutions adopt. From pin the tail on the... elephant, making colourful paperchains, practicing the alphabet and singing English nursery rhymes, that they know better than you do, volunteering with children promises to be an exhilarating, worthwhile and enlightening way to experience a country.
By the end of my month in Pokhara, I really felt volunteering had let me understand the culture and local people in a different way that simply travelling through the country would have done. From being recognised and greeted by the local market sellers, knowing better than fresh faced tourists the places to eat the best dal bhat and building relationships with people from walks of life that you never thought you would.
And if you come away with nothing else you'll know 'Namaste'; as you can't pass a single person in Pokhara who won't greet you with this and a smile on their face.
- Personal Overseas Development helped me to arrange my trip and I would recommend them to anybody. www.thepodsite.co.uk