Alumni Spotlight: Dee Chopan


Dee Chapon is semi-retired, living in Maui, Hawaii. She is President of the Board of Volunteers Initiative Nepal, a recently established non profit organization. With her partner, she does couples communication coaching and mediation.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VIN in Nepal?

After searching through several web sites of volunteer organizations, I choose VIN because it is a locally based organization. Because of this, all volunteer program fees stay in country and also the programs are developed and run by people who are directly involved and knowledgeable about local conditions. I was also impressed by VIN’s comprehensive and sustainable approach of bringing together education, enterprise and community development to create social change in rural Nepal.

I lived in a village outside Kathmandu with a local family of 5 to 8 people, depending on which family members were visiting. We had simple rice meal twice a day, morning and evening. Showers were stream fed in an outhouse but our house had an indoor toilet.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

I taught English to grades 4 to 6 in a small rural school. After school on many days, accompanied by one of VIN’s staff who acted as an interpretator, I spoke to different groups of women who were part of the micro-finance program run by VIN. I spoke with them of contraceptive methods and women’s health issues. On other days, I accompanied VIN staff as they supervised toilet construction in the village and did routine visits to some of the women carrying out agricultural projects that they financed through the micro-finance program. Weekends were often spent in Kathmandu at the small local hotel that served as the residence for VIN’s volunteers during orientation and language training.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special? What advice do you have for future volunteers?

My experience with VIN was very rewarding because, although my stay was rather short, I felt that I was part of an organization that’s staff and volunteers (both international and local) were very committed to their shared goal of making an impact on the community, especially the women and children. Because of this, I felt my small contribution made a difference in the lives of those with whom I interacted.

I regret not staying longer, for many reasons, and would encourage others planning to volunteer to stay a minimum of a month and hopefully longer. I would also encourage potential volunteers to become as familiar as possible with the program they are planning to volunteer with by reading annual reports and program progress reports, so as to be familiar as possible with the projects prior to arriving in country.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Because of the beauty, friendliness and courage of the people I met in Nepal through VIN and the importance of their humanitarian work, I am inspired to continue to support VIN and similar programs in Nepal. Since returning to the U.S. I have, together with other former VIN volunteers, formed a non-profit dedicated to raising funds and encouraging volunteers to “travel with a purpose” by volunteering with VIN.