Incorporating volunteering into your travels is a wonderful way to give back to local communities while gaining a richer understanding of local life and culture. There are many ways to accomplish this, from practicing English conversation to working with local or international NGOs, from disaster relief to conservation to working on organic farms! Some opportunities are free; others require fees or donations that help to cover program costs, materials and placements. This Guest Post, by Katie Evans, features the work of Habitat for Humanity. Their mission: “Habitat for Humanity believes that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. We build and repair houses all over the world using volunteer labor and donations. Our partner families purchase these houses through no-profit, no-interest mortgage loans or innovative financing methods.” Katie will return to Nepal in September for the third time to lead a build in the village of Chitwan. Her work is part of Habitat’s Global Village volunteer program. If you’re interested in getting involved or joining her team, details are at the end of the post!
All photos in this post © Katie Evans.
Nepal is one of the poorest and least-developed countries in Asia. Yet it is hard for me not to think about the beauty that can be discovered within its borders: prayer flags draped across Buddhist stupas fluttering in the wind, snow-capped mountains stretching across the horizon and old towns lined with temples intricately carved.
Nepal is a very naturally and historically beautiful country. I am blessed that in September, I will return to the country for the third time to lead a two-week Habitat for Humanity Global Village build in Chitwan.
For me, though, the real beauty of the country exists in the people who call it home.
I’m reminded of Raja Ram Tharu. Raja and his family expressed their thanks to the volunteers who had traveled from the United States, Canada and Germany to help work on their house and other houses in their village for two weeks in 2011.
“I am so thankful for you all, that you would choose to come here and help us,” Raja said. His voice cracked. “I don’t want you to leave. My heart is heavy, knowing that I won’t see you tomorrow.”
Raja’s words were translated into English for us, but it wasn’t necessary. Throughout the previous 10 days, my teammates and I had learned how to communicate with the members of this village, located near Tikapur in western Nepal, though we only understood a few simple words from one another’s languages. A translator wasn’t necessary in that moment because we knew the emotion coming from the words Raja was speaking; we felt it, too.
Global Village teams are sent around the world to help provide decent, affordable shelter for those in need. The work of volunteers includes the construction and renovation of houses alongside members of the host community. The volunteers raise money to help further support the housing construction program in the host country.
I am actively recruiting men and women, ages 16* and older who are willing to approach this journey with an open-heart and open-mind. Local construction masons will guide team members in the construction of a house designed for the culture of the local setting and made of locally-available materials.
The composition of the first Global Village build I took part on included a 20-year-old first time Habitat volunteer and a 69-year-old repeat Global Village volunteer. The 69-year-old fed off the energy of the 20-year-old, while the 20-year-old valued the wisdom shared by the 69-year-old of why these builds are meaningful opportunities. The camaraderie that develops among team members during the build really can be life-long.
Included in the itinerary are two days away from the build site to give the team the chance to learn more about Nepal as they immerse themselves in the culture during the build. The expectation is that at the end of the trip, volunteers will be left with the sense of being part of something bigger than themselves and they will return home with many wonderful memories.
Make a decision to experience all of this first-hand. Choose to discover the beauty of Nepal and its people. Choose to make an impact.
(*Individuals under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.)
For more information, check out Katie’s project page Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Chitwan, Nepal, Sept. 13-28, 2013, or send her an email at katie4habitat “at” gmail.com.