NewsAs a volunteer in Nepal

As a volunteer in Nepal

As soon as I stepped into Nepal I was at peace, and I could forget all the stress I had back in Finland. I think it was love at first sight. It is hard to explain where that peacefulness came from, maybe from the people.

It was easy to adjust to Nepal and its culture straight away because 20 years ago I was living in India for one year and the culture was very similar to Nepal. Loo Niva, where I did my internship as a volunteer, took me in as their family member.

Nepalilainen mies ojentaa vuosipäivyrin suomalaiselle naiselle
The Executive Director Mr. Narendra Dangol wishing me welcome to Loo Niva

At first everything felt very difficult at work, and I didn’t know how to get started with my volunteer period. During the first week I got familiar with all the projects Loo Niva had at that moment and on my second week I got the chance to participate on a fieldtrip to South Lalitpur where one of Loo Niva’s project, PREP, were located. That was an eye-opening experience for me, and I started to realise what exactly was the work Loo Niva was doing and what kind of work is involved in the field of development cooperation.

Working in the field and in the office

The joint project of Interpedia, Loo Niva and Patan CBR became familiar to me after joining the fieldtrip in rural area. In the fieldtrip we monitored the projects and the results and wrote reports based on what the project school’s teachers, students, parents, members of municipality and other officials told us during our visit. During the visits and while listening to the teachers I realised that the training for teachers Loo Niva provided was a very impressive experience to the teachers.

Kenttämatkalla Nepalissa työryhmä elehtii kuvaajalle kalanviljelyaltailla
During our fieldtrip we got to experience for example the fish farm in the village of Bardev

I told my observation to our Executive Director, Mr. Narendra Dangol, and he suggested that I could organize a small workshop for teachers in Kathmandu and South Lalitpur in kindergartens sponsored by Loo Niva. I started my project by reading about early childhood education system in Nepal and by visiting some government and private kindergartens. I talked with the ECE teachers and based on that I started to plan my workshop.

The idea of my workshop was to help the ECE teachers to build a more child-friendly environment for the children and to help them to use recycled materials because usually the money is the issue and government don’t provide enough materials for the kindergartens to be used. In my presentation I also talked about Finnish education system and the importance of play while learning.

I was very excited about my “own” little project and the staff at Loo Niva were very helpful with this project from the start until the end. Especially my supervisor Mr. Gyan and our program officer Ms. Suchitra were guiding and helping me with translation.

Ryhmä nepalilaisia varhaiskasvatuksen opettajia askartelemassa
Doing art in our workshop by using recycled materials and the materials from nature

Free time and Festivals

Autumn in Nepal is filled with festivals. During my stay in Nepal the locals were celebrating Dashain and Tihar and during that time there were a lot of holidays.  For me it was a great chance to explore more of Nepal and I went outside of Kathmandu to get some fresh mountain air for a change. I made two longer trips; one to Bardiya to see some wild animals and to Pokhara to relax in a sound healing retreat. Luckily, I also got the chance to experience the joy of the festivals.

In Kathmandu I stayed quite close to Loo Niva’s office. The area I was living in was very quiet and safe. I had a small room, and I shared the common areas with my two Nepalese flatmates.  Normally I used to walk to the office but sometimes I took the local bus, because Kathmandu is very polluted and walking among the traffic every day can be harmful to your health. But you don’t have to go far from Kathmandu to experience the beautiful nature, fresh air, valleys, forests and the amazing mountain views. And the best part is the Nepalese themselves and their friendly and helpful character.

Nepalilainen vanha nainen piirtää tikaa suomalaisnaisen otsaan, taustalla vuoristomaisema
Sound healing retreat in Pokhara

My volunteer work and my studies

I cannot say exactly if my volunteer period meets the expectations of my internship but at least it fulfilled my dreams and because of my volunteer period at Loo Niva I now have a specific goal to reach after I graduate. I’m also planning to connect my thesis into my workshops I had in Nepal.

In the future I want to work in developing countries and help the local ECE teachers to build a more child-friendly environment in the context they are living. I want to share my many years’ experience and knowledge in the field of ECE to the countries that might need that kind of help. And my observations and conversations with the local ECE teachers showed me that teacher training is something they want and need. This experience in Nepal gave me a dream to establish a kindergarten and a teacher training to Nepal and I would be honoured if my dream one day becomes true.

After returning to Finland and continuing working in the kindergarten, I had this peaceful flow which I got from Nepal, I didn’t feel stressed like the normal me would have felt. I am also able to appreciate how good our ECE system is in Finland compared to many other countries.

Some tips for those who want to do volunteer work in Nepal

First thing would be that start your trip with an open mind! You can plan your trip as much as you want but the reality is often everything else than what you had planned. Secondly, study the culture you’re going to, it will help you to adjust better to the country and its habits. And lastly, you’ll need a lot of initiative and motivation while working as a volunteer. But I guarantee it will all be worth it! Loo Niva was a perfect place for a volunteer; they took me in as a volunteer, but I left there as a family member.

From Nepal I’ll be missing mostly the people I met there but also the incredible nature and Nepal’s atmosphere in general.

Petra Damén

A student in the University of Oulu and doing her master’s degree in early childhood education. She did her two months’ internship at Interpedia’s partner organization Loo Niva Child Concern Group in Kathmandu in autumn 2023.

Istuva nainen tekee sydänkuvion käsillään ja katsoo ikkunasta auringonnousua

Read more about Interpedia’s work in Nepal

More information on the development cooperation project PREP (Education for vulnerable children in South Lalitpur, Nepal)

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