We consider this type of volunteering very rustic – if you do not feel comfortable bathing outside, sleeping on basic mats, or require internet access, this program may not be for you.
Post Disaster Relief in Nepal
On May 15, 2015, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Since then, the world has been sending aid in the form of supplies and in-country volunteers. As an international volunteer organization, Build Abroad has decided to take part in this aid by sending volunteers to rebuild in Kathmandu and the surrounding Himalayan villages. Now that most of the disaster relief has been completed, we have turned our efforts to post disaster relief and long term development in the mountain villages.
These villages are more remote and therefore have less access to supplies and labor. Volunteers can expect beautiful scenery as they trek through the Himalayas to build schools and homes.
Since the start of the Nepal volunteer program, Build Abroad volunteers have helped rebuild two schools in rural villages effected by the earthquake. This is a great start, but there is still plenty of work to do. Progress is slower in the mountain villages due to lack of resources and geographic isolation. Take a look at the before and after photos below:
Nepal is home to Mt. Everest and is one of the few places on earth where you can see both the Bengal tiger and the one-horned rhinoceros. Learn more about Mt. Everest and Nepal Culture here.
A Rustic Volunteer Experience
Nepal is home to the Himalayas and one of the most scenic places on Earth. Upon arriving in Kathmandu, the surrounding mountains will be the first thing you notice. People in Nepal are very welcoming and will most likely greet you with a bow and the word “Namaste,” a typical greeting that literally translates to “I salute the God in you.”
Build Abroad provides all accommodations for program participants. Living accommodations during the week will be in mountain villages outside of Kathmandu. These villages are located in a very rural part of the Himalayas and do not have access to many modern amenities such as running water, higher voltage electricity, and internet access.
Again, we consider this type of volunteering very rustic – if you do not feel comfortable bathing outside, sleeping on basic mats, or require internet access, this program may not be for you.
On the weekends, you have the option to go back to Kathmandu to do laundry, take hot showers and get access to WiFi.
Local Nepali food is provided at least twice daily at your home-stay. Nepali food is heavily influenced by Indian culture. Most meals consist of rice and vegetables. Meat is sometimes served and is usually chicken, goat or buffalo. Beef is not eaten in Nepal as it is considered sacred.
Aside from volunteering, you will have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area or even take weekend trips to nearby destinations in Asia. Many volunteers trek the nearby mountains, and some even trek to Everest Base Camp!
“The trip exceeded all of my expectations. Nepal is beautiful – not just because of the scenery – the people and culture are amazing too. We helped rebuild a school in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier with the contributions I made to the project. ”
– Nicole N., Volunteer
A typical week for our volunteers
Volunteering takes place during the week, Monday through Friday in the mountain villages. Your first week will be a cultural immersion week. Please note a minimum of 2 weeks is required for our Nepal trips.
Typical Day: Volunteers will work a morning shift and a shorter afternoon shift with a lunch break in between. A typical day is as follows:
8:00 AM – Travel to job site to build after having breakfast with host family.
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM– Morning shift ends and volunteers have their lunch break.
3:00 PM – Work day ends and volunteers are free until dinner.
8:00 PM – Dinner with your host family.
(Please note, this schedule can vary as project phases change.)
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More About Nepal
Stretching from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya to the subtropical jungles of the lowland plains, Nepal has long lured trekkers and cultural enthusiasts for its breathtaking landscapes and ancient architectural sites. But in April 2015, a major earthquake caused extensive damage across the country and the rebuilding efforts are still ongoing.
For those who opt to volunteer in Nepal, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the religious and cultural sights of the Kathmandu Valley, spot endangered wildlife in Chitwan National Park and experience some of the world’s most iconic multi-day treks.
Top tourist destinations near Kathmandu
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Packed with temples and palaces which exhibit Nepal’s rich architectural heritage, together with the Kasthamandap “wooden house” which gives the city its name, Durbar Square lies at the heart of Kathmandu. While it suffered some damage during the 2015 earthquake, it is still a must-see destination in the capital and home to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex which was the royal residence until the 19th century. Wander its elaborately decorated state rooms with beautifully carved panels and wooden windows and witness the Kumari Chok where the Raj Kumari, a human incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess, is worshiped.
Located just to the south of Kathmandu, Patan makes an ideal day trip, with its impressive Durbar Square a UNESCO World Heritage-listed landmark. It features some of the most beautiful temples and palaces in all of Nepal and is renowned for its handicrafts, with plenty of workshops where you can watch craftsmen at work and purchase directly from the maker.
Around 45 minutes east of Kathmandu is the picturesque medieval city-state of Bhaktapur whose cobblestone streets are lined with traditional red brick houses and open out into picturesque squares. It has a strong Newari culture and numerous artisan pottery workshops to explore, with its traffic-free streets the perfect place to wile away an afternoon.
Chitwan National Park
Nepal’s premier wildlife-viewing destination, Chitwan National Park, lies 150 kilometers to the west of Kathmandu in the Terai Lowlands. Its forests, marshes and grasslands are home to deer, monkeys and the endangered greater one-horned rhinoceros with its distinct plated-skin, not to mention elusive Bengal tigers. It’s also a fantastic birdwatching destination, with more than 500 species recorded, including the critically endangered Bengal florican, the vulnerable lesser adjutant and several species of grass warblers.
Langtang National Park
Situated to the north of Kathmandu is spectacular Langtang National Park, home to the sacred high altitude lake of Gosainkund and the towering peak of Langtang Lirung. It offers exhilarating trekking past remote Buddhist monasteries and with breathtaking views towards Annapurna.
With influences from Indian, Mongolian and Tibetan traditions, Nepal’s culture encompasses its diverse ethnic groups and their religions, art, music, folktales and celebrations.
Nepali is the most widely spoken and official national language, while Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu and Tamang are among the other minority languages in the country. Around 80% of the population identify as Hindu, while Buddhism is practiced by around 11% of people and both Islam and the indigenous Kirant religion represent the beliefs of around 3% of Nepalese.
Nepal has an ancient and unique dance tradition, with dances on the Indian subcontinent believed to have originated in the Nepalese Himalaya where Lord Shiva first performed the tandava dance. Tharu stick dancing is among the most well known, together with the impressive peacock dance. Music is often associated with festivals, with lyrics discussing marriage rites, war stories and the harvesting of crops.
The majority of festivals are religious, with Dashain (known as Mwohni by Newars) the most important and stretching for 15 days over September/October. It celebrates the victory of good over evil and sees expat Nepalese return home for two weeks of feasting, religious rituals and processions through the streets.
As a result of the country’s cultural and geographic diversity, the cuisine of Nepal differs throughout, depending on the ethnic group and landscape. It combines influences from Tibet, India and Thailand, as well those from China, as seen in the local version of chowmein.
One dish that is eaten throughout Nepal is dal-bhat-tarkari, a soup made from lentils which is served over rice, along with unleavened flat bread, vegetable curries (tarkari), pickles and other spicy condiments. Curried meats, chicken and fish are also eaten when and where available, apart from by the Khas Brahmin caste who are vegetarian.
Throughout the Himalayan region, the Tibetan influences are strong, with buckwheat, barley and millet often processed into noodles and tsampa. The meat of yaks is used along with their milk, while butter tea is made by mixing butter, salt and tea leaves. Momo dumplings are popular and stuffed with both meat and vegetables, and potatoes are an important staple crop in a region that is too cold to grow rice.
Thakali cuisine is eaten in the region between the Himalaya and lowlands. It is named for the Thakali people who live along an ancient trade route in the Thak-Khola Valley. Both yak and sheep meat feature, with meat sliced and dried on thin poles near cooking fires and later added to vegetable curries or dipped into timur-ko-cho soup. Locally grown buckwheat, barley, millet and dal are all staples, as is rice and maize imported from the lowlands, together with a large variety of vegetables.
The Kathmandu Valley is home to the Newars, a largely urbanized ethnic group whose cuisine makes wide use of buffalo meat, dried fish and a large variety of fermented foods. Feasting is an important part of their culture and there is a far greater variation of food available, particularly in and around Kathmandu.
Airlines which fly to Nepal from Europe, North America and Australia
Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is the main gateway for those coming to volunteer in Nepal and situated just to the east of the city center.
Kathmandu lacks direct flights to North America, with connections through the UAE with Emirates or Etihad the most convenient choice from the East Coast and through China with China Eastern Airlines or China Southern Airlines the most economical from the West Coast.
For those coming to volunteer in Nepal from Europe, flights through the UAE with Emirates and Etihad, India with India Airlines and Turkey with Turkish Airlines are the most direct and economical. If you’re flying from Australia, then flights connecting in China with China Eastern and Bangkok with Thai Airways may be the best option.