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A personal journey to Kathmandu - a summer of volunteering in Nepal

Dylan Goveas
25th June 2018

Dylan’s story of his time volunteering in Nepal

Last April, I had to make a difficult decision. Explain to my manager that I had to quit after only a year. This only came about after I had received confirmation that I had been given a place on a volunteer project for 10 weeks over that summer. Naturally, I assumed that three months holiday would be shot down immediately. Luckily for me... I was working for Mediablaze.

After a few meetings to iron out the details, I was given a three-month sabbatical off work with the promise my job would be there for me when I got back - ideal!

Volunteering your time to support a worthy cause

So where was I going and what would I be doing? Well, let's start at the beginning. In January 2017 I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw an ad, which read 'Volunteer abroad at no cost to you!' - who wouldn't be intrigued? The ad had been posted by International Citizen Service (ICS), a UK Government-funded organisation that works with international development charities around the world. After an online application, a phone call and, finally, a face-to-face interview, I was given a place on the program - I'd be going to Nepal for 10 weeks with Raleigh International!

Challenge yourself to change your world

What followed was many weeks of preparation - shopping trips, vaccinations, life admin and general chaos. But, after what seemed a lifetime, on June 16th, 2017 I arrived at Heathrow airport, along with 40 other young volunteers from all over the UK, ready to throw myself into what was going to be the best 10 weeks of my life.

Returning from an immersive experience in Nepal

Since coming back from Nepal, I've found it incredibly hard to explain what I had experienced to someone who wasn't there or who hadn't done something similar. When I say it was an immersive experience, I mean it in the deepest sense of the word. Upon arriving in Kathmandu, we were introduced to our Nepali counterparts and immediately split into project teams - there were 13 of us in total on my team - seven Nepali and six UK volunteers. We got on a bus and were driven three hours outside the city and dropped off at a tiny village in the foothills of the Himalayas; this is where we'd spend the next 10 weeks of our lives, living in the homes of an incredibly generous and welcoming Nepali community.

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Volunteering family portrait - the whole village of Patpati including us Raleigh volunteers seated at the front. (And yes that really is the whole village!)

The time we spent there was nowhere near long enough. Not even close. Our aim was to work with the villagers and create new opportunities in the community - especially for the youth, who had no stimulation apart from school and farm work. By volunteering we spent the first couple weeks getting to know the people, learning about their history and culture, talking to them about their dreams and aspirations. We helped them farm the land, build ponds for water collection, ran training sessions on business and enterprise, held a youth empowerment session at the local school and went through about 10 bottles of insect repellant each.

Sustainability and community building

Sustainability was paramount in everything we did.  We made sure to involve the locals in the decision-making process. We helped them set up a youth group, a women's group and a community development group. The thought behind this was why should we come to their village and tell them how to run their community when we were only visitors?

Our job wasn't to come in, tell these people how to live their lives and then leave again without another thought of what was to come of them.

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A business training session we held in the village - a great turn out as usual!

It's been almost a year to the day since I set off on this adventure, and what's stuck with me the most are the small moments; like spending time eating with my host family, sharing stories of my home and listening to stories from theirs. I believe that a lot of the world's problems could be solved if more people spent time immersing themselves in another culture. We have so much to learn about the world and it's only when we step outside our comfort zones that this learning can truly begin.

You can sign up for your own ICS adventure right here. Believe me when I say volunteering is more than worth it!

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