Harrison Milne - General Building Projects in Nepal
In hindsight, it was a bad idea to begin my gap year by volunteering with Projects Abroad in Nepal. This is because this experience set the benchmark for overseas travel so high that all that followed could not compete.
My name is Harrison Milne and in the months of August and September, I volunteered in both the Building and Conservation Projects in Nepal. Having travelled to India two years prior, I was not completely new to countries in this region of the world. However, I was filled with immense curiosity at what I would be faced with.
My initial days consisted of an orientation to the country. Projects Abroad organised for me to be picked up from the airport, where I met with a Volunteer Coordinator who clued me up on cultural information and life as a volunteer. I was also introduced to my host family and other volunteers, and learnt more about the surrounding area.
My host family in both projects were among the most lovely and thoughtful people I have met, and to be living and volunteering with like-minded people from all over the world is quite an experience.
Mt Building placement
The Building Project, which operates in Kathmandu, started each morning by being picked up in a bus around 9:30am and being taken to the worksite, which is most likely a school project, such as building classrooms or assembly halls. Tasks included clearing up the worksite, mixing cement, carrying and laying bricks and painting. The opportunity to work side by side and to converse with local people was deeply satisfying.
While this project does require some physical effort, the sense of accomplishment is a lot more tangible, as you see a building go from dug trenches, to cement foundations to stacked bricks to painted buildings to shaking the hands of principals and teachers whose faces reveal the immense appreciation they have for you.
The project is far from all work and no play. Often work would be put on hold when a soccer ball was kicked in our direction and a game was started with the children attending the school. Nights were spent venturing into the tourist district, where we tasted local cuisine and listened to live music. Weekends were filled with partying, exploring surrounding tourist attractions, and even taking a few extra days to hike deep into the mountains of Nepal, which Projects Abroad was more than happy to assist with.
My Conservation placement
The Conservation Project offered a completely different experience to have in Nepal. It began by catching a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the town closest to the village you stay in. From here, you take a jeep ride and a short hike to the village of Ghundruk. At roughly 2,000 metres, this place is a world of its own.
Tourists are rare and as a volunteer, you feel more a local than a foreigner. An average day can include hikes to the beautiful surroundings while surveying for birds, venturing into the jungle to set or collect camera traps, which may contain footage of wild animals, and taking leisurely walks through fields surveying butterflies.
While the location for conservation doesn't allow for conventional tourism outings to places like monuments, temples, bars, restaurants, and all you would expect from big cities, it does offer a unique experience. As a volunteer, your free time can consist of reading books in peaceful bliss, staying up late talking to a new face from a different side of the world, going for hikes to one of several awe inspiring peaks (I suggest Mulde Peak), or just living in a small village in Nepal that sits in the wake of the magnificent Annapurna Mountain Range.
So that is a quick recount of my time in Nepal in both Conservation and Building Projects. I hope this helps to paint a picture of the experiences you too could have while volunteering with Projects Abroad.