Last summer the two of us were lucky enough to spend a month volunteering in remote community schools in rural Nepal, thanks to the amazing work of a local grassroots NGO called ‘HELP’ (Helambu Education and Livelihood Project).
HELP is funded by the UK-based charity Mondo Challenge Foundation and it aims to improve the quality of education in government-run schools in the Helambu region (about 80 km from Kathmandu). Currently it works with about 35 schools and supports around 6000 children. Volunteers spend at least three weeks teaching English in one of HELP’s partner schools whilst living with a local ‘host’ family nearby. The opportunity to ‘live like a local’ is a massive part of the experience and allows volunteers to immerse themselves in Nepali culture.
Although we volunteered in different schools, our experiences were very similar. We both agreed that the highlight was meeting all the wonderful students we were lucky enough to teach. The attitude of them all – their warmth, generosity and enthusiasm – and their complete dedication to their studies was inspiring. They were polite and inquisitive, and tried to learn as much from us as they could, which made teaching them a pleasure. Little did they realise that they were teaching us just as much in return! The role of volunteers is to work with the teachers and encourage them to approach teaching from a more interactive and engaging perspective, instead of monotonous textbook rote-learning. In this way, the programme provides long-term benefits, by guiding teachers in ways of teaching they can continue when volunteers leave.
After our time in Nepal experiencing the difference that local organisations such as HELP can make, we were inspired to continue to promote its work in the UK, by taking on the role of co-presidents of the student society ‘CU HELP’, which recruits volunteers for the Nepali charity. We managed to recruit 30 volunteers, who will all be flying out to Nepal this summer to work in different schools in the region. We hope they learn as much as we did, and come back as enthused and inspired to promote the incredible work of HELP in the future.