Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Elinor's Diary Part 1

Elinor was a recent volunteer in Nepal who came out for the 2 week Volunteer Experience and then stayed on for an extra two weeks. She very kindly offered to share her email updates she sent home to give you all more of an idea what life is really like when volunteering with PoD in Nepal. As there's a months worth, I was going to put up a few days over the next few weeks...Enjoy and thanks Elinor!

Dated 23 September.
Hi everyone,

Hope you're all well. I'm doing one e-mail to everyone as I've got the same things to tell you all and the key board is really sticky, so I can tell I'm going to get frustrated just doing one!

I arrived in Kathmandu at 8.30am and was met outside by my guide and taxi driver and we did the drive to the hotel through Kathmandu city centre.  If you have ever been to Cairo or India you will know what I mean when I say that the driving is MENTAL! You just have to go for it and hope for the best.  Arrived at the hotel, checked in, had my first shower of many since I've been here (it's freaking hot all the goddamn time!), a sleep and then I went to the Garden of Dreams, the Monkey Temple, Durbar Square and Freak Street so felt I made the most of the day.

The next day I was up at 5.30 and the same taxi driver took me to the bus station and made sure I was on the right bus.  The people are all lovely and very helpful.  Now, I know that some of you will be disappointed that I wasn't on a regular bus and handed a pig, a chicken or a baby, as previously discussed, however, I was quite happy to spend my journey talking to Shakir from Winchester who was visiting his sick mother who lived 10km outside of Pokhara.  I arrived in Pokhara after a very hot, very bumpy and quite hair raising journey at times at 2pm and was met by Chrissy from PoD and taken to Bindu's Guesthouse.  My room is basic (single bed - boo!) but I have my own bathroom which is great.  In the evening, we went for dinner and I met Sinead (18) and Luke (not sure - late twenties I think) who are also volunteers.

On Sunday, I was fitted for my traditional dress which I'm expected to wear to some of my placements and then we had a free afternoon, so Sinead took me on a mini tour of Pokhara.

Today, we have been sightseeing, swam in a lake, visited two caves and a monastery, so a really good day, however, I'm knackered and it's only 9.50pm!

Tomorrow, the work begins, as we are taking a group of children from the local primary school to the Gurkha Museum.  I think I'm as excited as everyone else!

I have to say that I'm really glad I chose Nepal. It's a fantastic placement, the people are lovely, and I feel that I will make a difference whilst I'm here.

Oh, I had my Nepali lesson this evening.  Still only to know how to say Namaste!!!

Love you all, miss you loads.  Please pass this on to anyone that might be remotely interested.  I'll try and stay in touch as much as possible.

Elinor xxxxxxxxx

27 September.

Well, Wednesday was the first full day of work, with a trip to Annapurna Primary school in the morning to do our face mask making.  It was very manic, as the teachers just kind of leave you to it and the children can be very demanding when they all want to use the materials you're providing at the same time, and the materials we have are very limited, for example, we only had one pair of scissors to cut up all the face masks and bits of card and shiny things to stick on.  Nevertheless, the kids had a good time and that's all that matters really.

In the afternoon, Luke and I went to the street kids home, which is an entirely different experience.  Basically, it's 10 boys who live with a 'mother' called Ama, and she looks after them, however, she is funded by charities, like PoD, who pay for the boy's food, rent, school fees, etc.  We're there to help them with their English homework and then play games and activities.  Their English is amazing and they are good fun to be with.

Yesterday, we went to a local nursery in the morning.  This is called Ward 6 and it is for about 20 children between 3-4 years old.  It is a very dark, hot oppressive room, and the children are just left to their own devices for most of the time.  We took balloons and bubble blowers and musical instruments and they definitely enjoyed the attention.  This is a hard place to work in, as the children just want to be hugged and played with.  Some placements suit certain types of people and I suppose that's why they always need lots of volunteers.

Today we're going to take the children from the mountain orphanage Asha, for a trip to the lake, so Sinead has just picked up the bag of life jackets.  She looks like one of the women on the street who carry the vegetables on the back of their heads!

Right, must dash, loads of love, 
Elinor xxx

29 September.

So, where did we get to?!  On Friday, just after my last email we took the children from the Asha Orphanage down to the lake and took them out on the big peddle boats they have here.  The children from this orphanage go to school during the day, then when they get back they go out onto the farm and work in the fields, so they have a very tough life. They are also not used to busy town life, so I think everything was a bit overwhelming, however, the cutest thing about them was that they had all dressed in their best clothes for the outing so the girls had their hair done and their best dresses on and the lads had jeans and checked shirts on so they looked 'cool', particularly the lad who had his collar turned up!  The downside to this is that they didn't want to go anywhere near the water, so only Luke and I ended up going for a swim which was much needed after peddling the boat in 35 degree heat!!!

After the boat trip we took them into a local food shack and they had buffalo momo's (like dumplings) and then we loaded them back onto the bus for their return trip back into the mountains.  We see these guys once a week on a Friday afternoon, so next Friday we will be going to see them where they live which should be interesting as it is a twenty minute taxi ride and then a twenty minute walk into the hills.

On Friday night, we were well deserving of a few beers so we went to the local tourist bar which is called Busybee and had cocktails.  Now, I have to warn you, if you're ever in Nepal, they don't really understand measures, so they just basically pour alcohol into a glass until it's full!  After 3 cocktails, I couldn't see very well and had to call it a day!  I woke up on Saturday morning quite dehydrated and in need of quite a bit of water to get me going.  The rest of yesterday was a bit of a chill out day, so I decided to wash the family dog, who is an Alsatian called Rex, and is completely loopy as he runs around the garden chasing his own tail. He looked at me as if to say 'what are you going to do to me woman?' but once I had covered him in water a few times, he realised he really liked it and just stood there enjoying the experience.  Then I took him out for a walk in the fields at the back of the house for about half an hour.  I think he smelt every bush, leaf and flower he could find!!!

In the afternoon, I went to the bus station to meet the new volunteer who is here for three weeks.  Her name is Kay and she is from Watford, although originally from Burma.  She owns her own construction company and has two grown up sons.  She is 51.  It definitely attracts all sorts, this volunteer malarkey!  We took her on a bit of a tour and had a snack, then left her to relax.  

Today, Sinead and I went to the Peace Pagoda.  This is on top of a hill on the opposite side of the lake.  In some ways it looks really near however, when you actually decide to do it, you can either take a taxi to the bottom of the hill and do a ten minute walk up the steps or you can decide to do what we did and take the most round about way to the top, through the 'jungle' being bitten by mosquitos, and walking through little villages, whilst shouting 'Namaste' to you as you walk by!  I think it's fair to say that we think we had the more adventurous journey, which made the views from the top after our two hour trek, even more beautiful. The Peace Pagoda is one of 71 currently built around the world with another 29 planned and they serve to spread the word of peace and harmony, according to the Lord Buddha.

Then the rain came!  So, we decided not to push our luck and got a taxi back to Lakeside!!!  We were a bit shattered, very sweaty and tired and it was our reward for the uphill climb.

This afternoon, I have had a spinal massage and Sinead has bitten her nails to the quick whilst waiting for me in the bar next door.  She says I mother her - can you believe that?!!!

So tomorrow, we are off to the Gurkha Museum with Shree Krishna, which is a local school for 3-16 year olds, so we'll have a real mix of ages with about 30 expected to come on the trip and then in the afternoon, we're having our cooking lesson on how to make Dal Baht, which is essentially rice and lentils and is the staple diet here.

I can't believe I'm going into my second week already and time is really flying by, however, it is still really great to be here and I'm looking forward to the week ahead.

Miss you all and love you loads,

Elinor xxxx

More updates coming soon! But in the meantime if you would like to join the team in Nepal and volunteer with PoD, then please email Gemma on  You can also see photos of Elinors trip here

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dashain Holidays 2013

It's the holidays!

This week the schools broke up for (maybe) 2-4 weeks. When we break up for holidays, we're never entirely sure how long they will be off for, but then neither are the teachers!

One sad thing to update you all on is that Bindu, our house mother, was unfortunately in quite a nasty accident earlier this week. A young motorcyclist knocked her over whilst she was walking home and she has been in hospital ever since. She has broken her leg, and has severe bruising, but she has had an operation which has gone well and will hopefully be home in just a few days to recover. I know everyone is praying for her quick recovery and I wanted to say thank you on behalf of the family to everyone who has phoned and emailed us. It really means a lot to them, so thank you !!!

This holiday is for Dashain, which is the main Hindu festival in Nepal, it's the equivalent to Christmas in England and is a very family orientated holiday. As such the majority of the children from SOS Bahini and Asha foundation are going 'home' to visit family. Some of them have no parents, but if there is an aunt, uncle or grandparent out there then it is really important for the kids to visit them during this time and I personally think it is great that Asha and Bahini support this and help them get to their families. Some of the children will be travelling as far as Surkhet to get home for the holidays.

As we cannot go to school during these weeks we have been spending our time at the Street Kids. Ama (the mother) is the only member of staff there and trying to take care of 13 children whilst doing all the cooking and cleaning can be a bit overwhelming, so we provide a bit of rest bite for her by taking care of the kids so she can get on with other thing. Our volunteers made a great timetable of what we would do with them including trips to the park, games, arts and then gave all of them a new exercise book that they could keep a holiday journal in. We also gave them new shorts and tshirts each as a Dashain present (we knew we would get them filthy playing in the park and didn't want to ruin their best clothes so brought them some playing clothes!). The highlight of the week was definitely taking the children out on to the lake on a pedalo.  

The PoD Charity very generously donated some money towards buying the children a goat for Dashain. Most families in Nepal will buy a whole goat to feast on over the holidays, and it's lovely to be able to provide this for the children! We celebrated on Saturday evening by going over and having a small feast with the children.

However, it hasn't all been plain sailing. We have had one new arrival at the Street Kids, Dinesh, and he is finding it very hard to settle in. He has tried to run away several times already (twice with the PoD volunteers when we were down at the park, fortunately we got him back both times). He is not used to the structure and living in a family. When they come straight from the streets they are used to doing what they want, when they want. At the center they are expected to go to school, do their chores, make sure there homework is done and generally be well behaved. The older one are rewarded with some freedom and are allowed to go to the park on their own, but as with any normal families, they are expected to be back at certain times. For a small child who has never had to listen to any one before, this can be a hard transition. They are mostly likely to run away in the first few days, but if we can make it to a month, then we know that they will be fine. We are still trying to find out more about Dinesh's background as very little is known about him at the moment, but this needs to been done very carefully and delicately. All the children are being so kind to him and everyone is working hard on making him feel at home but I am concerned that he will run away. He is also a little handsy and has been trying to grope many of the female volunteers and staff! Something that we definitely need to discourage him in doing.

On Wednesday, myself, Phil and all the volunteers got invited to go to Asha early in the morning for a 'jungle assembly'. When I invited the volunteers they were obviously full of questions which I simply could not answer as I had no idea what a 'jungle assembly' was! But we decided to keep an open mind and head up there (mainly we wanted to satisfy our curiosity!). Once we got there (and it was actually so lovely walking there in the morning rather than the mid day heat for once!) all became clear. It was the Asha Foundation's 9th birthday and they wanted us to be there to celebrate with them! All the founders and board members were there, Phil gave a great speech, the children did a song for us all, then we had a feast of chicken and beaten rice. Asha is one of my favourite placements and the children there are so incredible it was lovely to be part of there celebration.

Next week will be our second week of holidays so we will be spending more time helping with the Street Kids and the Bahini girls will be back soon so we will start going there as well.

If you would like to join the PoD Nepal team and volunteer at one of our incredible placements the please contact Gemma on

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Volunteer Experience September 2013

So we've just completed our second ever Volunteer Experience here in Nepal. The Experience is an intensive two week programme where we (myself included) volunteer at a variety of our placements in a group. The emphasis of this is to improve conversational English, but also, fun! We try and make things a bit more exciting that our usual programmes by taking them out on excursions to places they may have never been, getting arty and doing things in a group. Once again, the Experience was a great success.
The monestary we visited on the sightseeing day

We started off the week with a day of sightseeing. In just one day we managed to go for a swim at Begna Tal (the 'other' lake), see Devi's falls, 2 bat caves and a monastery.
Looking around the museum

The first day at school we took Class 1, 2 and 3 of Annapurna Primary School to the International Mountain Museum. I am always so impressed with how well behaved the children are and how much attention they pay to all the displays. Although, if you ask the kids, probably the most exciting part of the day was getting to ride on the bus there and back (many of these children won't even have been in a car before, so travelling on their own bus is very exciting!). We then spent two more days at Annapurna School doing lots of painting, singing and generally having a lovely time.

We also took one class of Shree Krishna School to the Gurkha Museum. Unfortunately I missed this day due to illness, but all the volunteers, teachers and children told me how much fun they had. After the trip to the Museum, they then went on a walking tour, over the Balam Bridge (one of the longest suspension bridges in Nepal), through the fields to one of the biggest hospitals in Pokhara and then back to Lakeside. The other day with Shree Krishna we spent in the school with some sports on the field.

We also had a couple of days at Ward 6 which is a day care center for under 4's. Although it is much harder to get a structured activity going here, we still had a lot of fun playing with bubbles, balloons and doing colouring. This is one of our poorest placements and they do not have many toys to keep the children stimulated, so anything we bring in is always a welcome change and gets their motivation up.

All the kids climbing the moutain!
On Friday afternoons, we normally spend the afternoon at Asha, with is one of our orphanage placements. As a treat for them, we decided it would be a nice idea to get them out of the center for once, and we took them to the lake where we hired out some pedalos. We then paddle to the temple in the middle of the lake to explore and chilled on the lake for the afternoon. It was so nice to see the children out and relaxing, as normally when we are at their home, they are always working, collecting grass for the cows, washing their clothes or working in the farm. We finished the afternoon off with a plate of momo's each before it was time to go home.

And of course, not forgetting the Street Kids! We spent every afternoon at the Street Kids Center, playing football, painting, making origami, and helping with their homework. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to take the children out of the center, but they have had lots of trip to the park so are doing ok!

I would like to thank the volunteers who worked so hard on this Volunteer Experience and who helped make it such a success. Already I am looking forward to the next one!

If you would like to join us, our next Volunteer Experience in Nepal is on the 4th April 2014. Please email Gemma on for more information.