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Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Nepal
Lauren Tebbetts is an eighteen year old from New Jersey and currently attends Towson University in Maryland. She is undecided in her major as of now, but she is looking towards something in the social sciences/social work area. She loves to travel, read, make new friends, and spend a lot of time outside.
GO: Why did you decide to volunteer with Projects Abroad in Nepal?
Lauren: I was originally going to go with my friend to either India or Nepal because we were in club that worked towards raising money and awareness for children in poverty, especially in third world countries. My friend searched for programs to travel through and stumbled upon Projects Abroad. Although she soon found out she could no longer make the trip, I was undeterred. I explored the Projects Abroad website and went through the hundreds of reviews, FAQs, pictures, and videos and found it to be a reliable, fun, and affordable program to use. I found a two week special for Care and Community for teens to Nepal-- a country that I was very drawn to, despite not knowing much about it. Once I found out that Projects Abroad offered an escort (one of their adult staff members) at the airport I would be leaving from to Nepal, I was completely on board.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Lauren: I lived in a hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu with other teen volunteers and three other project leaders during my two weeks. Every morning we would have breakfast at the hotel, then take a van to our placement (a school for kids mostly around the ages of 5-13, although there were younger and older students). I worked with eight other volunteers around my age, plus our program leader. During the morning and early afternoon, we worked to clean up and repaint some of the classrooms to make them brighter and more kid-friendly.
We would also play, dance, and even paint with the kids, many of whom actually knew a surprising amount of english, and all of whom had such bright, friendly spirits. After our work at the placement we would eat lunch at a place nearby, then head back to our hotel. Then, we would either get some free time to nap, relax, or explore the city, or we would go on little excursions to places like temples, an orphanage, and a center for kids with HIV/AIDS. We even had the opportunity to make authentic Nepali food! For dinner we would either eat at the hotel or go out to a restaurant nearby. After that we were free to do whatever we wanted. There was no specific time we needed to be back in our rooms; we just needed to be up by a certain time in the morning to be ready to work.
On the weekend in between our two weeks, we traveled to Chitwan National Park and stayed in a hotel there. Instead of volunteering, we did a lot of adventuring and exploring. We went to cultural shows, went on nature walks, canoeing, and rode elephants. The entire weekend was such a blast. Both hotels (in Thamel and Chitwan) always offered huge (purified) water bottles, as it was hot and the tap water was not safe to drink.
GO: What made this experience unique and special?
Lauren: My trip to Nepal was such a huge learning experience in so many ways. It's not glamorous; you are surrounded by poverty and the struggle of a small country, stuck between two bigger and more developed countries, trying to make it. There's pollution, homelessness, and other injustices, yet through it all, the Nepali people managed to keep positive attitudes, falling back on their rich culture to carry them through. Despite the many broken-down buildings and hustle and bustle of the city, Nepal held this certain beauty, this wonderful acceptance of the flow of life, and the carefree abandonment of the confines of "time." Nepal was gorgeous: the Himalayas constantly painted into the background of any scene, and outside of the city, everything was so green and alive.
One of the biggest lessons I learned while staying in Nepal was that there are so many people worse off than yourself. There is a lot of poverty and struggling, and plenty of unfairness, and the innocent people caught in it are absolutely worth helping. However, it also showed me that even through hard times and the destruction of anything, there is always some sort of beauty, if you're willing to see it. No matter how hard life gets, it's ultimately your mindset that makes your life an overall positive or negative experience. On a different note, the relationships I made in Nepal are so valuable. It's been almost two years since I went when I was sixteen, and I am still good friends with some of the people I volunteered with. No matter how long the relationships lasted though, every one I made made my experience in Nepal that much better.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Lauren: After volunteering in Nepal I realized that volunteering and traveling are extremely important to me, and am now working towards incorporating it into my current life and future life as much as possible. Not only does my time in Nepal give me a great background and experience for future jobs, it was also the catalyst for me discovering what I wanted to do in life. It was one of the reasons I decided to focus more of my studies on people and to open up my heart even more towards those in need.
About Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is a global organization formed around the need for gap year programs abroad designed for students taking a break from studying. Since its inception, Projects Abroad has expanded to offer high school volunteer programs, and a vast variety of programs geared towards those taking a gap year or a career break. Visit the Projects Abroad website for more details on volunteer, teach, study and internship programs abroad.