Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Exciting start to 2012 for PoD Nepal

We are very excited here getting ready to meet our first volunteers of 2012 and to welcome back Susan Skene, a PoD Volunteer from last year who is returning for a second tour of duty at Annurpurna Primary. Alongside preparations for the coming year, we have also been busy with our ongoing work at our placements in Pokhara and with projects a little further afield...Looks like it's time for an update!

Handing over donations to the Head at Shree Kalika
Firstly, PoD has been venturing out into rural Nepal.  We stocked up on teaching resources in Pokhara, took them on a rickety old plane to a rickety old airport on the top of a hill and then carried them for 7 hours along narrow, steep footpaths until we reached our destination, a small village called Chindeswara.  The local school there, Shree Kalika Lower Secondary School, was delighted to receive our donations of wall charts, pencils, vocab books, stickers, number boards and ABC games.  Above all else, staff were excited at the potential that our involvement has for raising the profile of the school in the community.  It is hoped that this will increase attendance levels by emphasising the importance of education to local families, encouraging them to prioritise the long term benefits of education over the short term gains of having children working.  Staff were so grateful for our support that they insisted I give a speech, receive flowers and tika and then dance for them.  Yes, dance.  It was all rather awkward as they gathered in a circle and started clapping and singing whilst waiting for me to get up.  Eventually, I stood up quickly, waved my arms about a bit and sat right back down.  All in the name of PoD!
'Dancing' at Shree Kalika

Back in Pokhara, we were pleased to hear of a donation to Shree Dipya Jyoti school via PoD volunteers Amber Souter and Liz Riches.  These lovely ladies went on a trek before Christmas, and upon their return, Basanta, the businessman who introduced us to the school, arranged for all profits from their trek to be donated to the school.  This resulted in a cheque for 10,000 Nepalese Rupees being handed over (approximately £100). 

We also received a lovely parcel from Reta Butterworth, a volunteer from back in September who just couldn’t get the children and staff from her placement at Ward 6 Day Care Centre out of her mind.  She sent pencils, sharpeners, chocolates, clothes, wool and all sorts of other goodies that were gratefully received.  Perhaps more touching than the donations themselves was how happy the staff were when they realised that their centre had made such an impression on Reta that she still remembered them and had gone to the effort to collect and send gifts.

Children at Ward 6 tucking into Reta's Christmas chocolates 
We’re also very excited on behalf of the Street Kids’ Centre as they plan to move into a new home.  Their current building is in a dilapidated condition and located on a busy main road.  Their new building is brand new, in a quiet location close to school and – most importantly in the kids’ eyes – overlooking some beautiful open fields, perfect for playing football!  Stay tuned for more updates and photos here.

Finally, we are looking to the year ahead, planning how our time and resources are best spent and identifying needs in the community.  None of this would be possible, however, without your help.  So please, get involved with PoD Nepal this year and find out how you can contribute to our life changing work.

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our our team, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  If you would like to help, but don't have the time to come in person right now, you can always make a donation to the PoD Charity and help fund our work here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy New Year!

So, the festive period is officially over for another year.  I hope you all had a sufficiently fun-filled, stomach bursting festive season and are now feeling suitably refreshed and ready to get planning your year ahead.  I also hope that your New Year plans include a visit – or for some of you, a return – to Pokhara.  If f they don’t, we really are a bit stuck as we can’t continue to supply our community with the support, resources and smiles they so desperately need without you.  Your help is the key to the real changes we bring about here.  Returning volunteers bring extra benefits.  A second visit tells the community that you saw something special in your time here, that you really value the bonds you made and want to continue to support them in their work.  Anyways, as if that isn’t enough motivation to get you booking flights right now, I’ve come up with the ‘Top Ten Reasons to Volunteer with PoD Nepal in 2012’ list to persuade you.

1.       Make a real difference
Volunteering with PoD Nepal is not just about what you will achieve as an individual; it’s about how you will contribute to our wider programme of work.  Our team members are ever changing, but PoD Nepal has a consistent presence in the community, supporting and improving the lives of those most in need.  So, whether you have a 12 month Gap Year or a 3 week holiday to fill, your contribution is sure to make a real, long term difference in the lives of those you work with.
2.       Give something back
Lots of people take time out to ‘see the world’.  They meet new people, learn a new language, taste new foods...All great stuff, but a fairly one sided relationship.  By sharing your skills with your hosts, both sides will benefit enormously.  You could give an English course for Street Kids, art classes to Women at Risk, a smile to anyone who needs it.  Whatever you do, volunteering abroad gives you the chance to give something back to the people who have opened up their community to welcome you.  
3.       Reap real rewards
Pryagha getting tika and flowers as thanks for her time at APS
Volunteering overseas is not only about giving, you will also reap many rewards yourself.  You may receive tangible rewards; a thank you card, a flower garland, a gift.  But the real rewards are more often intangible – the giggle you elicit from the scared newcomer at the Children’s Home or finally seeing the shy kid in Class 5 getting involved – each one giving you an unmatchable high.  The rewards are endless, you just have to get here to find out what yours will be!
4.       Enjoy an amazing location
As a PoD Nepal volunteer, you will be based in the stunningly beautiful Himalayan town of Pokhara.  The town sits on the shores of Phewa Lake with the snowy peaks of the Himalayas dominating the skyline.  It is the starting point for treks, whitewater rafting trips, mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoning and paragliding, but, if you’re not into all of that, there are plenty of opportunities to simply relax and recharge your batteries in spas, ashrams, retreats and lakeside bars.
5.       Become part of the community
Volunteering abroad is pretty much an ‘access all areas’ pass into the local community.  You aren’t just passing through, ticking off ‘things to do’ from your guidebook, you are dedicating your time and skills to improving the lives of others.  The people here understand and value that and will demonstrate their appreciation by opening up their homes and lives to welcome you.  In doing so, they present you with a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a totally new and exciting culture.
 6.       Gain new skills
Michael discovering his talents as a super maths teacher
As an overseas volunteer you are bound to face some situations and challenges you have never even dreamt about, and we know just how overwhelming this can feel.  With this in mind, our local staff run a weekly team meeting to celebrate your successes and offer guidance and support in overcoming any difficulties.  Because of this, daunting situations become suddenly less so and instead become a fantastic opportunity to gain and develop a whole host of new skills.
7.       Surprise yourself
Being a volunteer abroad not only opens up doors into others’ lives, but will introduce you to qualities in yourself that you never even knew you had.  Who knew you could communicate so effectively in sign language? that you could learn to read Nepali script? that you could deal with a mutant cockroach on your own?  So come and find out what you can do, you may even surprise yourself!
8.       Enhance your CV
Te skills you will gain as PoD volunteer have their uses back home too, show them off by including them on your CV.  Prospective employers and universities LOVE applicants with experience of volunteering overseas.  It indicates a whole host of desirable skills and experiences; motivation, resourcefulness, adaptability, independence, confidence...all great for boosting your CV and your chances of success.
9.       Have fun!
Ovia and Alice enjoying lunch whilst rafting the Kaligandaki River

Above all else, you will enjoy every minute of your time volunteering with PoD.  You will make friends for life and build amazing memories.  You and the rest of the team will share experiences that genuinely make you smile, and probably some that make you laugh in spite of yourself.   But whatever’s going on, it’s sure to be ridiculously good fun!
10.   It's a once in a lifetime experience
All of the above combines into a trip of a lifetime.  Where else could you build an experience that makes a difference in the lives of some of the world’s most disadvantaged people, gives something back to your host community, provides you with untold rewards, takes place in one of the most amazing locations on the planet, allows you become part of the local community, builds and develops your existing skills, boosts your CV and, above all, is just really great fun?  Not many places.  And that’s exactly why you need to make volunteering in Nepal part of your plans for 2012.

If you would like more information on our work in Nepal and how to get involved, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  We hope to see you soon!