Julia in Ghandruk

Quick takeaways:

Ideally looking for a longer term volunteer, the kids definitely could use the help with English among other things. This is an awesome placement if you’re interested in trekking (its only a few days from Annapurna Base Camp and one day from Poon Hill), and accommodation is in a trekking guest house with full continental menu and heated shower. 

Journey: Two days total.  

Day 1: Microbus to Pokhara from Kathmandu followed by getting trekking permit (4000 NPR) in Pokhara then a 3 hour jeep ride to kimche in Annapurna Conservation Area. Then we hiked over an hour in the dark to Ghandruk.

Day 2: Hike about 3 hours (beautiful!!) to the school. When coming home, I stayed the night in Pokhara instead of Ghandruk and that worked well.

School:

This placement is for English teaching in a government school located along Annapurna base camp trek. The school was very small (~20 kids) and 3 teachers.  The kids’ English is not very good at all and it was sometimes a bit difficult to teach them because they didn’t have much of a foundation. For example, I would say, “Repeat after me...” and they would nod and say, “yes” instead of repeating. Despite the language barrier, it was apparent that the kids are incredible, energetic, loving, sometimes very naughty, and unfortunately very poor. School runs from 10am - 4pm with a tea break from 1-2pm.  I taught the whole time in 45-minute blocks. The school is organized by grade even though some classes only had one or two students. The teachers and principals do use corporal punishment, so be prepared to see that. The kids also sometimes try to discipline each other by hitting each other and calling each other insults. 

Community/accommodation:

I stayed at a guest house run by the Chairman’s Family. You can also stay in one of the teachers’ homes if you prefer. I had a private room and the family was very accommodating when it came to sharing laundry powder, meals, hot showers, etc. In October it was pretty cold in the afternoons and at night. I brought a sleeping bag and was glad I did because I think it might have been cold with only a blanket. The food was all very good and I usually woke up and had a little something to eat and tea, then dal bhat at 9, then dinner in the evening, either dal bhat or something off the menu. The family’s English isn’t great, but the chairman is conversational and there were lots of trekkers coming through to have dinner with. 

It almost seemed like the whole village was somehow related to the chairman (exaggerating a little), and they definitely cared about the wellbeing of the school. I was there during Tihar when the school was closed, and lots of the dads would come to the school and work on construction. As I was leaving, the school picked up ~5 boarding students. I decided to come back to Kathmandu on my own (without accompaniment of VN) and two of the dads walked with me to Kimche, where you catch a jeep to Pokhara. They were going because there was a drop off of mattresses for the boarding students. They strapped them up and carried them the 3.5 hours back to the school. This showed me how much they care about the school and the kids. The school also had a farewell celebration for me and everyone expressed how grateful they are for volunteers and how important English is to their success.

Tips: 

  1. If you can, bring toothpaste/toothbrushes or mouthwash to give the kids or their parents. I noticed a lot of the kids had bad cavities and seeing how many trekkers brought the kids candy, it’s not surprising their teeth are taking a hit. 
  2. If you plan on trekking while you’re there (and you should if you’re able - the mountains are humbling!) download the app maps.me ahead of time for Eastern Nepal. It works while your phone is in airplane mode and shows you all of the different treks and where all of the guest houses are, and is very helpful if you’re trekking without a guide. Also the chairman has family who own guest houses along the ABC trek and offered free or discounted stays which was extremely generous. 
  3. Teaching: When it comes to teaching the kids, have fun, get creative, and sometimes throw your plan out the window and go with the flow. I usually spent the first half of class working on their English books with them, then would improvise the second half of class (they loved hangman, also some of them liked stories, categories, Duck Duck Goose, etc.) 
  4. Cell network: NTC works better than Ncell. Chhomrong is also only about an hour away and is a major trekking hub where you can buy WiFi (and a decent pizza and cappuccino!). 

Have fun! I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did.