Volunteering at an Elderly Home in Kathmandu

During my time volunteering at Briddha Ashram alongside the Mother Teresa nuns, I lived at a homestay with a Brahmin family a few blocks down the road. Engaging with the homestay mom, my Ama and her two adult kids, while learning from an anthropological case study on widowed Nepali Hindus, framed the experience I had volunteering with the nuns at the ashram. At Briddha Ashram, the elderly home, there are over 180 residents spread throughout the building located at Pashupatinath. The process of reserving a bed is lengthy and the residents consider themselves very lucky to be able to live in Nepal’s only government-run elderly care facility.

The people who lived there were unfazed by the constant flow of new volunteers while the aide who came more regularly had established connections with the residents. Going there day after day, talking to an assortment of people, I got more accustomed to the tasks that the nuns perform 6 days a week and learned about the nuns’ roles. Their help is much appreciated and in their company I was welcomed by the community. At Santi Bawan, the Kathmandu Mother Teresa home, there are about thirty-five residents located in a cleaner and less trafficked facility than Briddha Ashram. There was a spectrum of women there, some with mobility issues, others with mental handicaps, and some that are just older. During the time I spent there, I did not have a designated job to do, but was just someone to interact with. I never worked with the nuns while there, but rather with the kitchen staff. One woman, Om Karima, immediately latched onto me and we became close, spending many of the early afternoons I worked there “communicating” in our own way. Although she was deaf and I had no means of speaking Nepali, we interacted through drawing, dancing, and smiles. If I were to go back to both Briddha Ashram or Santi Bawan, I would find some way of translating Nepali from the residents and record stories from the women at both locations. I think this could’ve have been a great opportunity for story-based qualitative study as well as a unique and important way to connect to widowed Nepali women.