Tell us a little about EHN and your role at the company.
Wayne: EHN is like a growing child you never know what is around the next corner because one day you are working on one project and then the next something comes up and its too good to miss. Just recently we were told about Bio stoves which are excellent for people in the Mountains and next minute we are planning a test run with them.
But we do have a rough goal to work to, our aim is to create a volunteer organization as a foundation from which we can launch special projects funded by us rather than rely on charity. Projects like the mobile health clinic and response team all come from personal experience and over the next couple of years will start to become a reality and these will be projects that can save lives.
When this is achieved EHN-Nepal will then become an organization that uses what Nepal has to offer to fund programs and projects that help its people rather than expect hand outs from the outside world..
My part in this well I am the co-founder and I suppose joint head of EHN. But my work is so varied I work on advertising, talking, website, developing new ideas and generally everything that needs to be done because everyone who works with EHN has a say in what goes go. But my personal goal is to see these special projects running because there are real stories behind each one and to achieve them means that we may have a part in saving many children’s lives in Nepal. Which isn’t bad for an organization that started with a website and £200.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Wayne: My first thoughts for EHN Nepal came in 2007 when I volunteered in Nepal for the first time, I was happy with the placement, the people and the area but not so happy with how things were run by the organization who ran it. Not really knowing the system in Nepal I kept quiet and just observed how things were not being done properly etc and thought I could do better.
So after returning home I decided I would try, went back to Nepal and found its not so easy to set up because everywhere you go there are Westernized Nepali who want brides so to speak to do their work. Many have come to see foreign people as walking wallets. So I had two choices one give up and go home or two to stay work a while and meet the right people to work with.
So I stayed met my wife and several good people and studied how to work in the Nepali culture and systems without going mad (because its very different to our own). Then in 2010 Mina and I decided to return to the UK to promote EHN while Raj stayed in Nepal covering the Nepali side of the operations.
What makes EHN unique?
Wayne: We are unique in many ways I suppose because our aim is to build an organization that helps people, we don’t actually like charity because we believe that you should use the natural resources of Nepal to help its people. Saying that if organizations want to invest in charity work then EHN are the people to work with because we will provide you exact records of where your money goes and how it is spent. But many come for trekking and volunteering so its only right to use this as a way to fund our work.
Another thing that makes us unique is the passion behind our work, everyone connected to EHN has the drive to do better, help more and see our projects work. When the medical centre was finished and opened we were on such a great buzz for a week. Also the final point is this, we don’t see EHN as a business but as a hobby for helping people, I am currently based in London and I work 50 hours a week here to support myself and then an extra 20 hours min for EHN because I believe that all of the fees should go to Nepal where its needed. One day I will return there to run EHN and take a salary but it will be£2000-£3000 per year rather than £20000 a year needed in the UK.
In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?
Wayne: A good volunteer is someone who can understand that they are entering a third world country and the standards will not be the same. I have seen many volunteers when I was there before EHN was created complaining about the conditions of certain orphanages I know because they were basic. I use to say to them these are basic conditions but think where the children have come from, the streets, mountain huts and other places where life is far harder than in a home. Least where they are now its two meals a day, education and safe environment where they can at least sleep without fear of getting hurt. But what I say to may volunteers is this, don’t be afraid to try everything once, keep an open mind and have fun. You will learnas much from this experience as the people you are trying to help.
How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Wayne: With a lot of hard work is the only answer to this. Our personal EHN projects we are constantly working adapting and trying new ideas (if one way fails then we try another) and this is the way forward by never giving up. Its not easy to work in Nepal as many people know but things can be achieved if we are willing to adapt to the situation.
Regarding projects we support every volunteer can provide feedback and we because we donate far more than most organizations to the placements we also have a certain say in what goes on. Currently one placement wants to set up on its own because their partner organization isn’t supporting them. So we have said we can give you website support, provide more volunteers and if you find several other placements in the area then we will send them though you which will provide more support. But as with us there is a catch the standards must be kept up to ours.
EHN have actually refused to work with a number of orphanages and a monastery (my colleague was met by the head monk who was driving a range rover which in Nepal costs around £50,000 which put us off straight away) because the money clearly doesn’t go where it should. We have a duty of care to the volunteers as well as the placements.