Sunday, August 31, 2014

A blog from Debbie

Blog post written by Debbie Farrington who volunteered with PoD Nepal for 3 weeks over the summer. She worked at Shree Krishna Secondary School and Asha Foundation. Here's what she had to say about her time with PoD...

Hi, Sarah asked me to write a blog from the point of view of a volunteer. I was only in Nepal for 3 weeks but it was an amazing experience. My placement school was Shree Krishna which is a city school of about 430 pupils from 3-18! My day started with maths for class 5, (about 16 kids aged around 8-11) very keen and addicted to stickers! Despite the language barrier they were keen to do any sum I showed them and I got them doing group work and working in teams of 4 to help each other as well. They were confused at first, as are used to just working from the textbook, but their competitive spirit converted them when the winners got more stickers!
Working with a number of different classes and a number of different teachers allowed me to see a lot of the school and I was amazed how they got by with so little. I’m so used to powerpoint and worksheets, videos and calculators, that it was a massive change to stand in a room with only a whiteboard. Teaching English was harder than maths, because the textbooks they used had quite a few mistakes, and they often repeated everything without really understanding what they were saying. The students and teachers were happy to try other things but the language barrier to explain things did prove tricky, especially with the young students. All the teachers were very friendly and keen to improve their own English by chatting and really made me feel part of the staff.
Outside of the placement I had lots of time to chill and explore in Pokhara in the evenings, weekends and random national holiday days! I went swimming, boating, kayaking and paddle boarding on the lake by hiring them from local shops. One Friday afternoon I went paragliding, which was awesome, and I got to see how big the city was and glimpse the surrounding mountains. I also went on a sightseeing tour in a taxi with another volunteer and visited Devi Falls, bat caves, a local museum and the peace pagoda overlooking the lake.

As there was a 4 day public holiday while I was there 6 of us decided to go for a 4 day trek around the Annapurna mountains area. Despite the weather (full on monsoons and clouds) the trek was excellent. We had a great tour guide who kept our spirits up (we needed it with 3800 steps up in one day!) and it felt like a real achievement to complete quite a challenging trek. 

I went on this volunteer holiday by myself but I was never lonely! As everyone was there for the same reasons we all got on well and gelled as an ever changing group, as volunteers came and left. We went out for evening meals together and always had stuff to talk about from our placements and activities from the day. Sarah and Chrissy (and Buttons) made us feel very welcome and reassured knowing that there was someone who knew the area who could help if there were any problems.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's time for me to say goodbye...

At a leaving ceremony at a rural village 
So it's time for me to say goodbye (at least for now!). I've been working with PoD Nepal for the past two years, and have had many volunteers come and go. I've worked with some incredible schools, orphanages, refuges and development centers in the local area supporting over 500 children in the area. Next week I am heading to the UK for the first time in over a year to see my family and friends, before returning to Kathmandu to work for my rafting and trekking businesses for the season. I will then go the to States over Christmas to visit my mum and sister and then after that....who knows!! Any suggestions?!

All the boys from the Street Kids Center

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone I have met whilst working for PoD, the local staff at our placements, the beautiful children and the volunteers. I've made some true friends in many of you and I'm always impressed by the work you all do, often in difficult situations and with limited resources. I have never met children who are so hardy, but also so happy and loving. Many of the children we work with come from incredibly difficult backgrounds of poverty, violence and sexual abuse, but when you spend time with them and really get to know them, you see their strength and that they really are no different to any other children in any other country in the world (believe me, all they want to do is play with your iPhone and play football...sound familiar!?). The children define their own personalities, not the problems they have faced and I am so proud of all of them and privileged to have met them and they will start in my heart forever.

With Bindu celebrating Teej Festival 
I couldn't go through this post without saying the biggest thank you to Bindu, Janice and Julia (who own the guest house where we host the volunteers). You have welcomed me as part of your family and I couldn't imagine a nicer family to work with. We've supported each other when things haven't gone to plan (mostly in my first month here!!) and laughed together most days, I'll miss having you guys as part of my daily life, but you won't get rid of me that easy.

It's been a lot of hard work, and a lot of fun. I hope Sarah enjoys the job as much as I have and that volunteers continue to come out to Nepal to help develop these worthwhile projects. Since being here I've seen huge improvements, not only in the children's English, but also the standards of the schools and things do seem to be moving in the right direction. For example since I got here Asha are now nearly totally self sustainable, Annapurna Primary School are working hard from teacher training we provided, the Street Kids have nearly perfect English and SOS Bahini have just recently moved into their new eco village and are steadily growing their organisation. These are obviously just some small examples when I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Me and my stepfather at Everest Base Camp 2014
The PoD Charity has done some incredible work since I have been here. Thanks to the generous donors we have now committed to our placements for the next two years to provide for them which is a great achievement. I'm planning another trek next year, similar to my trip up to Everest Base Camp (which raised over £1000 for the charity) this year to continue to help the charity. My sister (who is only 9) raised $100 for the charity last year by selling loom bands at her Christmas church service, this year she has already told me she wants to double her money which is fantastic, the more we can raise the more things we can do.

Thank you PoD, you have given me a great home for the past two years. I am very sad to leave, but also looking forward to the next adventure whatever that may be and you never know, I might be back next year!

Little Sagar from the Street Kids Center, just one of the
 few kids who stole my heart!
As I will no longer be managing the facebook page, if past volunteers would like to contact me, you can email Sarah who will pass the information on. You can see some photos here of my highlights of working for PoD. 

If you would like to volunteer in Nepal with PoD, which I can highly recommend then please contact Gemma on

Dhanybhat and Namaste! (Thank you & Goodbye)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Herefored Expedition Group (HEG) in Nepal 2014.

On the 3rd August, 29 people from HEG arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal to start their 3 week expedition with PoD. HEG is a charity that takes young people all over the world with the aim of providing 'an enjoyable, challenging and rewarding experience' and I think they can be proud of what they achieved in Nepal 2014.

On arrival, I got them all settled into the hotel and then took them for a welcome meal in Kathmandu. I think it's safe to say Kathmandu was a little overwhelming for some of the group and they were all very eager to get to Pokhara, which is much calmer and a lot more chilled out. The following morning we flew to Pokhara. We got settled into Bindu's which is where our volunteers stay and then Prem, our Nepali teacher arrived to give them a two hour basic language and cultural lesson. I was very impressed that many of them managed to pick up some useful simple phrases very quickly which would help them on placement and in the village where the level of English is much lower than in Pokhara.

We then spent the next ten days in Pokhara volunteering at different placements around the city. All in all, we painted 3 schools, which now look fantastic and have provided wonderful learning environments for the children that attend there and has made the teachers very proud. We also took many of the schools and classes on educational trips to places of interest in Pokhara. For example Annapurna Primary School went to the World Peace Pagoda, Shree Prabhat went to the Gurkha Museum and then the bat caves, the Street Kids got to have a picnic in the park, both the Street Kids and Shree Krishna went to Begnas Tal (the 'other lake') and the Street Kids were also lucky enough to have another outing to Sarankot. The group also got involved in farming at Asha Foundation, a local orphanage where PoD supports them by paying their rent of the farmland, and ran a fun informal teaching day at Annapurna Primary School.

During the placement aspect of the trip I was so impressed how hard the group worked, they got stuck in straight away, got the job done and then had a lot of fun with the children. It was lovely to see them all engaging with each other.  And the feedback from the placements has all been very positive.

At the same time that groups were working in Pokhara, we took 10 at a time up to a local village, called Kalabam, for a cultural village stay so they could experience rural Nepal. They stayed with local families in groups of 2-3 for 2 nights 3 days. During this time they learnt a lot about Nepali culture, specifically Gurung and Brahmin cultures, which are the two castes that predominantly live in this village. They got involved in the local school and helped out for a day there, they helped in the farms of their local families, including help to get the sheep in and out for grazing, milking the cows and collecting and harvesting the corn. I think for most, this was the highlight of the trip. Every night they would meet at the 'Chiefs' house (the chairman of the community) where everyone would gather for singing and dancing which the whole group got involved in. On the final day of placement, we took all 29 of the group back up to the village for a closing ceremony and so that every one could say goodbye one last time. I think this was in some was the hardest part of the expedition as it was different from what any one had ever done before, but at the same time the most rewarding.

All too soon, the placement aspect of the trip came to an end, and we were off trekking. We agreed on a fairly short trek, 4 days, and the best trek on offer was Poon Hill in the Annapurna Region which took the group to the height of 3200m (which is higher than both Snowdon and Ben Nevis!). This was tough! I don't think any one in the group found it easy and it was made all that much harder by the constant rain. We had been very lucky during the placements that we had sun most days, especially since it was monsoon, but as soon as we started trekking the heavens opened and didn't stop until we returned to Pokhara. Credit to the group though, this didn't dampen their spirits and the vast majority of them successfully made it to Poon Hill, landslides and leaches weren't going to get in their way! I think every one was grateful of a hot shower as soon as they got back to Pokhara.

The following day, I had planned a rest day for them so that they could recover from the trek, but everyone still had so much energy I organised a sightseeing tour for half the group (we visited the Peace Pagoda, Devi's Fall and the Caves opposite) and Maila (my partner) took the other half for a beginners kayaking lesson on the lake. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and some of the kayakers even managed to learn to roll.

We then went rafting on the Trisuli river, which is usually quite a tame river, but at this time of year it's like being in a washing machine for 4 hours. I think I can say, without a doubt, this was the groups best day. I didn't actually join them in the raft but rather followed them in the bus taking photos when I could. All I could hear as I travelled down were giggles, screams of joy and some random chants! ('Oggie oggie oggie!!)  When they finished they were full of stories about the raft flipping, swimming and how much fun they had. We then had a quick bus ride to our camp, but first we had to walk across a 100m suspension bridge over the river. We stayed in a fixed camp, so we had tents that had real beds in the them! The food prepared by the guides was fantastic and that evening we all had a bit of a party. A mixture of Nepali and English Pop songs blared from the speakers and every one was up dancing and having a great time. All too soon, it was bedtime and we camped next to the river.

The following day we were off to Chitwan National Park. One of PoD's policies is not supporting elephant tourism because of the abuse many of the elephants experience during captivity. Many of the group found it quite upsetting to see these magnificent creatures chained up. However we did enjoy the walking safari and the log canoe ride. During our safari we saw a Rhino, deer, a monitor lizard, two different types of crocodile (one very rare Gharial Croc) and my personal favourite, the wild chickens!

And then we were done with the activities. The next stop was Kathmandu, after a (thankfully) non eventual 8 hour buses journey we made it back to where we began our expedition. I had organised a leaving meal at one of our favourite pizza restaurants in town for everyone to have a celebration.

Today is their last day, and we have organised for them to visit Bhaktapur, which is the ancient city in Kathmandu so they can see Newari culture and visit some temples. Then tomorrow they are off having successfully completed their three week expedition.

I think everyone is exhausted, the group have worked very hard but it has been great fun, and many of us have made great friends along the way. Thanks HEG! I hope to see you again.

You can see more pictures of this trip here. 

If you are part of a school, college, university, group or club and are interested in joining PoD on an expedition, please contact Mike on

Monday, August 18, 2014

An August update...

Just a quick update from what has been happening here in Pokhara…

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to HEG (Hereford Expedition Group), which was very sad to see them go. They are off to go White Water Rafting, Chitwan National Park and to explore Kathmandu. Everyone from PoD Nepal will miss them and wishes them a happy and safe rest of travels.

The monsoon has hit us hard this week! After two weeks of blazing sunshine, the first day of rain was very welcome. Everything cooled down and we had a nice break from the heat. Three days later the rain was not so enjoyable! The rain has stopped now and fingers crossed it stays this way for the rest of HEG’s adventures.

Otherwise, as ever, the volunteers have been working hard! They have been teaching all sorts of lessons from English, to Maths, to Science, to Sports as well as running creative sessions. They have also been working hard at our childcare placements entertaining the children and having lots of fun with them. The input they have and the skills and knowledge they are able to transfer to the placements and the staff that work at them is invaluable.  Sophia, our film and photography volunteer, has been hard at work documenting all the placements; the pictures she has taken are beautiful! I will post some on here as soon as possible.

Outside of the placements, they have been taking it easy and relaxing after their trek the previous weekend! They have been exploring Lakeside and enjoying the local sights on offer including paddle boarding on the lake! 

Some of our volunteers did decide to explore a little further afield however and visited Chitwan National Park over the weekend. They had a great time and were so excited about the foot safari they got to go on!  They came back with great stories of the canoe ride they took down the river and the beautiful sunsets and sunrises they saw.

We sadly had to say goodbye to two great volunteers this week, Debbie and Nicola. They both worked so hard and gave so much to their placements, we will miss them a lot! This is photo of a goodbye ceremony for Debbie.

We have a new volunteer, Martin, who has begun his placement at Ward 6 and the Street Kids. He had an eventful journey to get here from Tibet due to monsoon flooding in other parts of Nepal, but now he is here he was been relaxing and enjoying what life in Pokhara is all about; beautiful scenery, delicious food and a chance to make a difference. 

Yesterday, Martin had his Nepali language lesson. We are very lucky out here in Pokhara to have such a wonderful Nepali teacher, Prem. He makes learning fun and easy and all the volunteers love his charismatic teaching style. Thank you Prem!

If you would like to join the team here in Nepal please email Gemma on

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New people, painting and trekking...

My first few weeks have gone by in a blur. I cannot believe how quickly time is going, it will be Christmas before we know it!

Since my last blog post, we have been incredibly busy. Not only have we had 6 new normal volunteers arrive but we have also had a group of 29 young people from England called HEG (Hereford Expedition Group) here with us! We are truly exhausted but it has been a great few weeks. Chrissy will do a more detailed blog post about what HEG have been up to soon.
My new volunteers have all settled into their placements brilliantly and have adapted to the ever-changing last minute nature of Nepali life very well.

Last week, the volunteers and the young people from HEG painted three of our schools. They painted the outside of Annapurna Primary School, so that it now looks bright and welcoming. At PrabhatPrimary School, two inside classrooms were given a nice coat of paint so that they are now clean and fresh. Finally, at Shree Krishna Nursery, our talented volunteers painted incredible artworks on the walls giving the once dull classroom an exciting and stimulating feel. The volunteers really enjoyed this; it is slightly different to their usual volunteering role and so they found this opportunity to improve the schools and make them a better environment for learning something very worthwhile.

Sadly last week, we had to say goodbye to Sylvia. Sylvia had been volunteering at Shree Krishna, running English speaking lessons with the younger children. They got a lot out of this opportunity to work with her and will miss her.

As well as being hard at work at their usual placements, the volunteers and myself visited Asha Foundation on Friday afternoon and the volunteers ran an Arts and Crafts session with the children and young people there. It went very successfully and the children had a great time making wonderful  creations!

Sunday, yesterday and today have been festival days here in Nepal. We have been celebrating and enjoying the dancing in the streets! Our volunteers decided to make the most of their unexpected long weekend, and have been on treks to Poon Hill and Australia Camp. They returned with stories of leeches, beautiful views and the most hospitable people they have ever met.

I’ve just returned from a closing ceremony at a local village where the HEG group were staying. I took Sophia with me, who is currently here on a film and photography placement to document the event. It was great to go into the more rural areas surrounding Nepal and see a taste of village life.

If you would like to join the team here in Nepal please email Gemma on