Surveying my little office in the ambient light from the hallway (only a few hours of power outage in Kathmandu today), one can immediately tell that it's been a busy month here at the Volunteer House. Photos, journals, maps, and reminder notes cover the desk and walls. It's only June and we've already welcomed 65 volunteers from 15 different countries and five continents across the globe. That's more volunteers than many Peace Corps countries welcome in a year!
In my time as Program Director for the Volunteer Nepal program, I've had a chance to get to know some truly exceptional people as they've passed through the Volunteer House. High school students whose confidence, maturity, and selflessness have shattered stereotypes. Volunteers well into their sixties whose energy and passion for helping others have energized those around them to reach into their hearts and give more enthusiasm, time, and effort to their host communities. And of course, the many amazing individuals in their twenties and thirties who are building an experience and new perspective on the world that will influence the rest of their lives.
So far in 2012, our volunteers have donated their time to a total of 21 different volunteer placements, from large hospitals surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Kathmandu valley, to the most remote schools and medical clinics that are only reached after walking for hours through rural hills, and of course to our small suburb of Dhapasi with the wonderful kids of Nepal Orphans Home. But regardless of age or the type of work they've done here in Nepal, every volunteer has in some way, big or small, had an effect on me. I am lucky to be inspired on a daily basis by the stories of volunteers' experiences, or those of people in their Nepali host communities.
One volunteer's account of the diligence of village school children who really wanted to learn...or another volunteer's surprise that the young nuns at the Buddhist monastery can, despite being nuns, be naughty and rowdy during English class - Both stories are delightful to hear, and while the classroom experiences certainly do sound like they differed, I have a feeling both experiences offered valuable lessons to be learned for all. I've seen people change over the course of their time with this program, growing in self confidence, empathy, and passion for a cause or new path to follow.
Here is a quote from a journal entry shared by a recent volunteer:
"Taking care of the next generations is a burden we all must share, regardless [of the] passports we hold. I am involved in several social and community projects across my country, but it was important for me to do something in global context. I'm sure that Nepali people will never be able to express their gratitude to your operations. Thank you so much for what you're doing, and for letting me take (small) part in your mission."