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                    Volunteering in Nepal

                    Scenery to rival anywhere else on Earth, a breath-taking gamut of culture and ancient tradition, palette-expanding cuisine, a land of adventure and a people of gentle grace await those willing to open their minds to Nepal. Prepare for your senses to be captured forever on a trip not to be forgotten. Nepal is home to most of the world’s largest mountains, including the renowned Mount Everest, Nepal is home to a lifetime of outstanding sights, sounds and varied experiences, from lowland jungle safari to snowy Himalayan peaks.

                    Why Nepal?
                    Nepal is also home to some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world, people who have little access to basic services like healthcare, education or road transport, whose lives are dependent on agriculture, food deliveries on the mule train and unsustainable foreign aid. It is estimated that 60% of Nepal’s growing population of 30 million are living in poverty. Nepal has higher levels of child malnutrition than its South Asian neighbours, weaker health facilities and also appalling adult-literacy. About 71% of adults are illiterate – one of the lowest rates in the world.

                    What’s the Need?
                    Years of political unrest and civil war have left their mark on Nepal in the form of a gaping hole in the country’s infrastructure – educational standards are low, attendance lower. You will find that the sort of placements and volunteer opportunities on offer cover the following areas:

                    ? English Teaching & Educational Training
                    ? Child Care & Orphanages
                    ? Fund Raising & Grant Writing
                    ? Medical / Healthcare & Hygiene
                    ? Construction & Manual Labour
                    ? Environmental Education
                    ? Community & Youth Empowerment

                    There are a wide range of opportunities in Nepal for those willing to donate their time. But be prepared to pay large sums of money for these chances. Volunteering in Nepal through a volunteering organisation will more often than not mean paying anything up to, including and even over $350 – $3500 USD for varying durations of time – but often in the range of 4-6 weeks.

                    Do Your Research
                    An internet search of ‘Volunteering in Nepal’ will result in many hits worth of volunteering organisations, volunteering opportunities and more than likely, pictures of happy/destitute children vying for your emotions. There are many horror stories available on the internet about unscrupulous volunteering organisations that charge inordinate fees for what they claim will be the experience of a lifetime, then leave you stranded at the airport with no word ever heard from them again. There are stories of children living in ‘orphanages’ under excruciatingly awful conditions, set up simply to attract foreigners’ money – money which will never benefit anyone other than the crooks running the show.

                    Unfortunately there are a seemingly endless string of ‘orphanages’ – and new ones springing up every week – in Nepal that may or may not be legit and/or to the benefit of the children living there. The moral of this story: Do your research. It doesn’t talk 10 minutes of your time to enter the name of the organisation you are curious about in a popular search engine and read up. Look for online forums where people might discuss their previous experience with this organisation, be thorough, spend some time weighing up the available opinion from other’s experience and decide for yourself.

                    Responsible Volunteering
                    If you are considering donating your time and money to an organisation in Nepal, or anywhere for that matter, you might find the following guidelines useful.

                    1. Research the impact of the organisation.
                    How does the organisation define success? How do they measure success? What are their goals? What failures have they experienced and how have they learned from these failures?

                    2. Check out the management and transparency of the organisation.
                    Ask to see audited financial statements, receipts of donations and goods bought with these donations, ask for references from past donors. You could check out the reputation of the organisation in the local community – as they are more likely to understand the intricacies of the impact they make than other donors/volunteers.

                    3. Think about the sustainability of what the organisation does.
                    Are they affecting change? Is what they do a band-aid solution or are the underlying issues being addressed?

                    4. Ensure the organisation is locally-run and agendas are negotiated not imposed.
                    Ask about ownership and decision making lines, who is in charge? Try and meet with them – do you trust them? If you don’t trust them you might feel like you can’t trust the whole organisation.

                    5. Be sure volunteers are not taking away local jobs.
                    Is a volunteer the best person for this role? Who will perform this role when the volunteer(s) leave? Will your input leave the organisation with more gaps or a greater dependency, or with a greater capacity to solve these problems in the future?

                    6. Question any organisation diverting extensive resources towards catering to foreigners.
                    Whose needs are being served best in this organisation? What are the motives for this organisation to take volunteers?

                    7. Think about the impact of a foreigner doing that role.
                    Are Volunteers’ roles designed to reinforce the roles of local staff? Are volunteers is managed and supervised by a permanent member of staff, not the other way round? Is speaking English taking precedence over other, more important skills?

                    8. Question any organisation that lets un-vetted volunteers work directly with children.
                    Why is a volunteer doing that particular role instead of another member of staff? Whose interest is being served? Would this be allowed in your country? What kinds of background checks does the organisation do on the volunteers? What kind of training is given?

                    9. Question any organisation that allows volunteers to do anything they would not be qualified to do at home.
                    Would you be allowed to do this job at home? Would the organisation put a local person with the same skills you have in the role they are offering you?

                    10. Ensure that a volunteer is not too big a burden on the organisation.
                    Will providing the necessary supervision or support for the volunteer actually distract staff from the main mission of their organisation? Are paid staffs taking time out to instruct volunteers?

                    Nepali people always welcome visitors to their country, just be sure you are there for the right reasons. Do the job that helps the most, not the one that is most exciting. Good luck and work hard!

                    *The above guidelines were originally developed by PEPY Tours in Cambodia.
                    ~ This article is compiled by Rory McCormick for VisitNepal.com



                    Nepal: Remittance as Business

                    The sharp rise in the number of people working abroad in the past two decades has seen with it a major rise in the amount of money coming into Nepal via remittance companies.?Nepal’s history of migrant employment originates in the early nineteenth century when Nepalese soldiers began working for the British army. In the following decades, hundreds of thousands of Nepalese worked for the British and Indian armies and currently, over 60 thousand Nepalese are working in the Indian Army and other government institutions in India. According to the National Planning Commission (NPC), the number of overseas workers has grown, on average, by 30% in the last few years. There are now an estimated 1.2 million Nepalese working in 40 countries, excluding India.

                    The financial streams generated by those working abroad are substantial, and it is clear that migrant workers’ remittance is a strong source of income for Nepal. It is estimated that in 2004 money transferred from migrant Nepalese reached Rs.100 billion (official and unofficial channels) – making it a bigger source of financial gain than tourism and all exports combined. Workers remittance is now considered a backbone of Nepal’s economy. According to a study by the Department of International Development (DFID), the value of foreign remittance from migrant labourers could be equivalent to 25% of the official gross domestic product (GDP).

                    Remittance income is playing a vital role in the economic growth of Nepal, and the rush in remittance has led to a surplus foreign exchange reserves. Remittance through official channels rose from Rs. 65.5 billion in 2004/05 to Rs. 209.70 billion in 2008/09. Plus, the share coming through the official channels has increased. For example, while in 2004/05, just 27% flowed into the country through official channels as opposed to 73% unofficial, but in 2009/10 almost 90% entered through official channels.

                    Today, the process of money transfer to Nepal from abroad has become much more efficient and hassle free. EasyLink Pvt. Ltd, first licensed remittance company registered in 1999 to operate money transfer business in the country. Then after the door had open for all national & international companies to transact this business. There are now 52 remittance companies including big international names like Western Union and MoneyGram, transferring money from all over the world into Nepal Since 2001, the flow of remittance into the country has grown at an annual pace of 15% – 20%. It is expected to continue this way as the number of people going abroad in search of work is increasing day by day. Remittance market studies show that approx. 40% of the total inward remittance to Nepal is collected within the Kathmandu valley.

                    As well as the international players – Western Union and MoneyGram, – the major remittance businesses in Nepal are the Himalayan Bank, International Money Express, NABIL Bank and the Bank of Kathmandu. The Himalayan Bank brings in almost $20 million USD per month and International Money Express (IME) brings almost $12 million USD per month. Western Union is handling 18,000 remittance transactions per month with a 30% increment p.a. and an average amount of $700 USD per transaction.

                    Sending or receiving money via remittance companies is simple, secure, reliable and more often that not – extremely quick. Massive improvements in transaction time mean that money sent to from abroad can be picked up in Nepal 10 minutes later. Remittance businesses are playing an increasingly large role in the economic development of Nepal. They are contributing to economic growth and development that benefits the people of Nepal.

                    Tansen Palpa – stunning places to visit and rich natural beauty

                    Tansen, the headquarters of Palpa district, is?an ancient hill town that lies at an altitude of 1350 meters above sea level. Palpa is a district in the Lumbini zone of Nepal. According to legends, the name Tansen comes from Magar language that means northern settlement. It is a typical Nepali town with a multitude of fairs, festivals, religious and cultural events.

                    Tansen is easily reachable through Siddartha Highway, and lies between Pokhara and Lumbini. Tansen, most probably, is one of the best hill stations of west Nepal in terms of its location and climate.

                    The climate of Tansen is very pleasant, and is fairly mild all year round. Apart from the excellent weather, there are a numerous places to visit in Palpa. Srinagar Danda (hill) is one of such places. This wonderful hill offering the magnificent panoramic view is at a height of 1650 meters. The hill is covered with dense pine woods that add to its splendor. The forest comes to life in the rhododendron blooming season. Rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal that blooms in spring, making all of the forest turn red. This hill sees a huge number of visitors all year round. Besides, the hill also is the best viewpoint for watching the sunrise and sunset. The hill also offers a majestic view of the Himalayas, and not to mention, Tansen bazaar.

                    Tansen Durbar, an age old palace and the administrative center of Palpa district is also worth paying a visit. The palace is said to be built by Pratap Shumsher built in 1927 AD. A famous public square called Sitalpati is also one of the popular tourist destinations.
                    Besides its beautiful places, Palpa is also renowned for a few articles that you could bring as a souvenir. Dhaka, the most famous of them, is a Nepali hand woven fabric that is acclaimed nationally and internationally as well. It is used in making Nepali caps, shawls and purses. Other articles include Karuwa, a traditional water pot made of bronze.

                    For those who want to taste the authentic Nepali culture, Palpa could be the best destination. The place hosts a number of melas (fairs) like Maghe Sakranti Mela, Satyawati Mela, Pravas Mela, Lalpati Mela?and Rambha Pani Mela. All these fairs are conducted at different times in a year, and no matter when you visit there, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of one.

                    Stunning places to visit, rich natural beauty, a serene and calm environment along with the age old culture and architecture of Palpa is not be missed by anyone visiting Nepal. So, if you are in Nepal, take a few days out and pay a visit to this beautiful and tranquil place. The memory of pleasant Palpa is bound to remain in your heart.

                    Quote of the Day…

                    You can travel the world and never leave your chair when you read a book.
                    ~ Sherry K. Plummer

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