Why did you decide to volunteer with Insight Nepal?
Fionnuala: Insight Nepal was recommended to me by a colleague who had volunteered with them previously. She spoke very highly of the program, and because I wanted to visit that part of the world, it seemed a good idea to go with such a reputable organisation.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Fionnuala: I volunteered with a children's charity in Pokhara. I would cycle or get the bus there in the morning, and help the school-teacher with English lessons with her class of preschool children. We would play games, sing songs, dance and tell stories - the children were so engaging and fun. The children went home mid-morning, and I would help out with administration at the women's craft workshop: completing funding applications or designing and editing the uncatalogued. I would also prepare classes or games for the next day with the children. The staff would come and chat with me, and delicious food and tea were provided. Certain afternoons I helped to teach computer literacy to teenagers.
Home life was fantastic - I stayed with a couple with two small children, they were really kind, welcoming hosts, they couldn't have been nicer to me. In the mornings, the family rose very early (5ish!), but I would emerge about 7.30am, and have biscuits and tea, until our main meal before 9am! The food was fantastic, rice and curries and dahl and chutneys, I never got sick of it. In the evenings we ate another big meal together, and I would play with the children, or watch Hindi soaps with my host Mum, read, play cards, sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view....I taught my host mother how to cook pizza and cookies, she taught me how to make potato roti with mint chutney, it's heavenly. Other evenings I would go to Lakeside, the tourist area, to buy souvenirs (beautiful shawls, blankets, jewelry) or down to the local market to watch the world go by.
I always felt very safe, there was no sense of threat in the city. Other highlights included climbing a mountain in the early morning to watch the dawn over the Annapurnas, attending a family wedding dressed in a red sari, attending a celebration at an ashram, a 90 minute massage from two incredible therapists at an Ayurvedic health home in Kathmandu and of course, 5 days trekking through the mountains with a fantastic guide.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Fionnuala: The experience of volunteering with Insight Nepal was fantastic. It renewed my desire to see more of the world, and made that feel achievable and safe - it's a very secure and trustworthy organisation, particularly for lone travellers, I felt really protected by the staff. I'm planning a trip to Africa this year, I just hope it works out as well as Nepal. I couldn't recommend this organisation more highly.