Tim Crowhurst - Building, Disaster Relief in Nepal
I was shocked by the images of the earthquake in Nepal and the ensuing devastation. While trekking in Nepal was my initial plan, my priorities changed to how I could help. This led me to investigating volunteer companies. To help with my decision, I spoke to a few people who had volunteered overseas with Projects Abroad and they spoke highly of the company. Upon searching the Projects Abroad website, I found the Nepal Disaster program.
Arrival to Nepal
On 5 June, I embarked on my trip to Nepal from Adelaide with the aim to volunteer for 21 days. This was my first solo overseas trip, but I felt confident that I would be in safe hands with the amount of safety and backup that Projects Abroad had in place.
Upon arrival at Kathmandu Airport, the staff took me directly to my accommodation. This was at a local hotel, as the normal homestay arrangements were still being sorted out following the devastation. On arrival, the Projects Abroad staff will show you around the local area & familiarize you with the city. They will also give you an orientation so that you are familiar with the rules and regulations, as well as cultural sensitivities. Due to the dangerous nature of certain parts of Nepal at that time, we were given additional precautions such as avoiding unsafe areas and carrying a mobile phone at all times.
What was exciting for me was that each day new volunteers arrived. I now have Facebook friends from all over the world, and they are all offering me invites to come and stay with them! All of the volunteers were there to make a difference on the project. We were to build classrooms and a toilet block for Sunrise School as the previous compound was uninhabitable.
From the onset, my expectations of the Nepalese people were exceeded. Despite being told of their kindness, I was still struck by their gentleness and composure, despite being surrounded by such tragic conditions. They are shy but so welcoming and for me they are some of the kindest people you could ever meet.
Volunteering in Nepal
My days at the site varied, comprised of several different roles ranging from mixing cement, digging trenches, moving dirt, brick laying, filling foundations to moving cement and bricks. The days at the start were very physically demanding, as were had to dig the foundations, but it did get easier after that. Don’t worry if this doesn’t sound like a role for you, as this heavy work was voluntary, and there were always less physically demanding roles available.
Like any army (in this case, volunteers) they run on their stomachs, so a highlight in the day was lunch at roughly 12.30pm. Lunch varied a fair bit and it was brought from a local restaurant each day by the staff. Meals comprised of local delicacies such as dal bhat as well as momo’s (my personal favorite) – little tasty pastries with vegetable curry inside, akin to western food such as pizza.
After lunch, work continued until the taxi arrived at around 2:30pm, but the finishing time varied depending on the enthusiasm and energy of the cohort. After work we were free to do whatever we wanted, this included venturing to local markets or temples, as well as chilling out with newly made friends.
Dinner was at about 7pm and was generally a dal bhat which is a lentil curry cooked fresh by the host family which was always Mito cha (delicious). Nepali people serve their food like they treat their guests; generously. You can expect that each night you will feel as though your stomach will explode as the hosts will continue to fill your plate with an assortment of fresh vegetables, rice and soup.
The food in Nepal
Trying local cuisine is a must! I found that there were many places to eat out in Kathmandu, but I advise to only stick to places that are fairly busy - seeing lots of people in a restaurant is comforting and it must be popular for it generally means that the food is freshly bought.
In addition, a top tip is to only eat cooked meals as it is easy to get sick. I would also stay away from fish and dairy products. I would stay away from chicken whilst over there though as it is mostly not boneless making your meal a little finicky and generally vegetarian is cheaper and safer to eat.
If I was to return I would be a vegan despite loving meat. I found that everywhere I went the vegetarian dal bhat is delicious. The host family you stay with cooks traditional meals for both breakfast and dinner and they are lovely people and really appreciate it when you enjoy their food.
Read more about Disaster Relief in Nepal.