Having travelled widely on holidays, Rosie felt that it was time to combine travel and new experiences, and with a lifelong friend, she decided 2018 was the year to dip a toe into the world of "volunteering abroad".
Why did you choose this program?
We were very impressed with GVI from the first contact that we made with them; whilst many of the GVI team being based in Cape Town, communication was always quick and professional, and nothing was too much trouble.
The company is building a great reputation for sustainable volunteering in developing countries, and have a broad range of projects, with something for everyone. Having enjoyed a fulfilling career as a woman in a largely male environment, I felt that I had much to offer a Women's Empowerment project, and chose Nepal as being a country that was something unlike anywhere I had visited before. Being a "mature volunteer", I was attracted by the range of ages on the program, and the value that GVI place on all their volunteers with the variety of skills that they bring to their projects.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The GVI staff was there to advise on the initial selection of the project, provision of pre-project information, booking of alternative accommodation (which we chose rather than the communal homestay), safeguarding checks, local cultural day trips and local transfers to and from the airport.
Volunteers are responsible for organizing their own visas, flights and any pre and post travel.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Both of us returned form our first GVI project, inspired to do more trips and encouraged anyone who would listen to try it for themselves! We have booked on another project for this year, and are already thinking about what we might pre-prepare in terms of activities on the project. Whilst flexibility is essential on project as things can change with little notice, we felt that a little more detail of what the daily routine may have included could have helped.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Each day starts with communal breakfast in the homestay, then volunteers head out to their respective projects. Our project was split between acting as support teachers in a rural primary school set in the middle of paddy fields, working with 7/8yr olds teaching maths, English and science.
After a lunch in a local café, we would head to a community centre in Pokhara to teach English to local ladies. The day generally finished around 4pm, or 5pm if there was an after school club to be supervised, then volunteers did their own thing.
An evening meal was provided each day, and then the evenings were your own. The middle weekend was a chance to see more of the local area or just relax!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I don't think there was any major "fear", just an intrigue of what we had let ourselves in for. We need not have worried. From the start, the GVI staff in the project were very helpful and supportive; the other volunteers were welcoming, even to us "oldies", and we very quickly felt at home.
My advice to others embarking on their first project would be to go with an open mind, and remember that all the volunteers are there because they have something to offer to the project and having that in common is a great starting point.
What made this trip meaningful to you?
Reflecting back on our 2 weeks in Nepal, it was a great experience on many levels. It took us to a country we would have been unlikely to visit, we met a wide range of volunteers of all ages and nationalities. On a personal level, it allowed 2 old friends chance to rekindle a friendship of over 40 years, share some amazing experiences, and survive a 24hr travel delay without so much as a crossed word, and inspired us to book another project for 2019.