2023 Update: Nepal is open to international volunteers post COVID-19
Nepal is a top tourist destination known for its stunning mountain scenery, including Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. It is also a country with a rich culture and history dating back thousands of years. Visitors can explore ancient temples, palaces, and forts, while learning about the country’s unique culture and traditions. Nepal is also known for its friendly people, who are said to be some of the friendliest on Earth. The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is a busy city that is home to a diverse range of cultures and religions. It offers a unique blend of ancient and modern, with its winding streets and centuries-old temples set against modern buildings and shopping malls. The city is also a major center for politics, finance, and education.
Why volunteer in Nepal?
Like any other developing country, Nepal has its challenges, such as poverty, illiteracy, and lack of access to healthcare. According to the most recent Nepal survey data from 2019, Nepal’s Multidimensional Poverty Line was at 17.4%, which is a measurement of the percentage of households in a country lacking three indicators –”monetary poverty, education, and basic infrastructure services.” This means most Nepalese living in poverty were unable to meet basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. And even though this number has been improving from a decade ago, Nepal’s poverty line is vulnerable to many of its natural disasters and most recently Covid 19. Thus, volunteers are continuously needed in many areas such as community development, educational development, teaching, child welfare, and healthcare in the cities as well as in rural areas.
Is it safe to volunteer in Nepal?
“Is it safe to volunteer in Nepal” is a question that all volunteers will undoubtedly ask. Currently as of 2023, according to a travel advisory issued by the US, it is generally safe (level 2) to travel to Nepal, with caution to political protests that may lead to unrest. There is always a threat of natural disasters. It is also a country with low serious crime rates. According to Peace Corp surveys, volunteers felt generally very safe in their volunteer experiences. But, do note the general precautions with pick-pocketing and bag-snatching in busy and crowded places.
With regards to Covid, currently Covid rates are low, and there is no need for pre-departure Covid tests or a need to show vaccination proof to enter the country.
Vaccinations for Nepal
General vaccination recommendations include Hepatitis A (2 doses before travel) and typhoid fever as there are risks of enteric diseases. Also, traveler’s diarrhea is a concern so medications can be provided by your doctor for self-treatment. Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and malaria are region specific or seasonal so please consult your doctor for personalized medical advice.
Volunteering in Nepal can be a challenging but also a rewarding experience. You will be challenged to step outside of your comfort zone and wear many hats because of the lack of resources. But choosing to volunteer here will no doubt make a difference in the lives of people who are less fortunate, as well as making a difference in your life mixed in with adventures of a lifetime. Listed below are some organizations with highlighted programs to get you started.
IVHQ is an experienced and trusted organization with 16 years of experience that has a wide range of volunteer projects in Nepal. They have been voted by Go Overseas as having the most 5 star reviews by volunteers in the past 5 years. As a certified B Corporation, they have shown and upheld sustainability, inclusivity, and quality for their social and environmental programs. IVHQ has 11 projects in Nepal to choose from ranging from childcare, medical internships, elephant sanctuary, to farming. These programs are the most affordable that you can find. You can volunteer for as low as $275 for one week! Program fees include accommodations, which are hosted by local families with breakfast and dinner included, and 24/7 in country support. In addition, in every program, there will be 2 days of orientation in Kathmandu, to equip volunteers with the culture and expectations of the programs. Here are some highlighted programs for you to choose from!
There are a few childcare programs that IVHQ offers in Nepal. Notably, the childcare program in Kathmandu focuses on early childhood education. Previous childcare experience for this project is not needed because volunteers will be closely working with the staff. All you need is fluency in English. You will be helping the staff with caring for the children, planning games and lessons, playing with them, and helping with meal times. Light renovation work may be needed. There may be a language barrier with the children, but play does not have barriers as previous volunteers did not find it to be a challenge. You will have a comfortable stay with local families who are vested by IVHQ. This adds to the experience to learn more about the daily lives of people living there. For more detailed information, click here!
If you are looking for an active, outdoors program, then consider volunteering for the agriculture program with IVHQ in Nepal. Since 70 percent of the population work in agriculture, there is a lot that volunteers can help with. In this program, volunteers can make a difference by helping a Nepalese family with farming tasks. Some tasks include clearing land, farm maintenance, caring for the livestock and crops. With these tasks, you will learn traditional Nepalese farming techniques. If you have previous experience in this area, you can also help introduce new farming techniques or teach business skills to the farming community. This program truly helps improve the livelihoods of this population. Click here to learn more.
Another impactful and important program to consider with IVHQ is the Women’s Education project located in Kathmandu. Gender inequality has always been a major issue in Nepalese culture since it is a deeply-seeded patriarchal society, as women rely heavily on their father and husbands for livelihood. The inequality stems from lack of opportunities for education leading to lack of resources and employment opportunities. Majority of Nepalese girls only have access to education up to primary school because societal norms do not consider higher education for girls. Because of this, female-headed households are more likely to suffer poverty.
IVHQ recognizes this major issue and has a project that partners with local organizations to empower women through education in Kathmandu. In this program, volunteers help empower women from age 16-55 years old to gain primarily the English language in education centers. Knowing English will undoubtedly increase their job opportunities and improve their future livelihoods. Specifically, volunteers assist in practicing English speaking skills, teaching basic lessons, help workshops on women’s rights and health, as well as assisting in research. In return, you will gain teaching experiences, and learn about Nepali culture. For more information, check this page.
With 17 years of experience, GoEco has been providing trusted, impactful, and ethical volunteer projects for 17 years. They have an experienced staff to ensure volunteers have all the information required to make a conscious decision to volunteer with them, as well as making volunteer experiences worthwhile. This is why they encourage longer durations (minimum of 2 weeks) of volunteering to make a difference on both ends of the experience. In addition, they also provide a highly recommended fun cultural week (at an additional cost) before the project starts to introduce Nepalese culture and local customs and traditions to ensure the volunteers are prepared. Included in the program fees are pre-departure guidance and support. Currently, GoEco is offering a special travel grant where you can stay for the 3rd week free! Check out the qualifying programs here!
Have you ever been curious about what it’s like to live in a Buddhist monastery? This program allows volunteers to get a glimpse of life inside a monastery while teaching English and other subjects to monk students. This is also a great opportunity for those interested in Buddhist culture and religion, as Nepal is considered to be the birthplace of Buddhism. You will get to experience an immersive cultural exchange.
The projects take place in various monasteries located 1-3 hours from Kathmandu. You will help teach different subjects, with a focus on English language and math skills, to monk students of all ages. The monks are eager to learn about the international world and culture through you, as they spend most of their lives secluded in the monastery. On average, volunteers will spend about 4 hours teaching per day, Monday to Friday. The remaining time can be spent participating in other activities such as gardening, cooking, or exploring the local area through many adventures available. This project requires a minimum of 4 weeks to make the experience more significant.
The cost of the volunteer project includes accommodation and food. You will stay in a shared room inside the monastery, with the option to upgrade to a private room. You will experience local Nepalese food, three times a week during the week. On weekends, you are free to explore the stunning scenery of Nepal through sightseeing or trekking. For more information and cost, click here!
GoEco also understands that Nepalese women are disadvantaged with education and wants to help. For this project, volunteers will help teach women, who’ve never had formal education, in a local school with various subjects including English, confidence building, and basic computer skills. These new skills will improve their chances of employment as well as being self-reliant. You will teach 4-5 lessons in these subjects during the week based on your skill sets and background. This involvement will help you understand the discrimination these women face and the help they need. The cost of the project includes accommodation in a dormitory style shared room and three meals a day during the week. You have the opportunity to explore the city and fun excursions to other towns on the weekends. This project does require volunteers to be 18 years and above, intermediate English language, police clearance, and interest in helping women break barriers. Click here for more information and read about other volunteers’ experiences!
If you want a more hands-on volunteer experience, consider helping to rebuild Nepal’s damaged homes and buildings from the aftermath of earthquakes, notably the major one from 2015. As the country is prone to earthquakes, there is a high demand for help in building safer new constructions as well. Volunteers will help improve the local community as well as directly improving locals’ standard of living.
This year-round project from GoEco is also located in Kathmandu, against the backdrop of the beautiful mountainous peaks. Volunteers will spend their time helping in construction tasks such as mixing cement, painting, and removing damaged parts. They will be provided all the necessary safety gear and briefed on the work alongside the local team. The work will be from Monday to Friday, starting at 8am and ending the day around 4pm. As this is a labor intensive project, you should be physically fit and above 18 years old. Accommodation will be provided in a shared dormitory style with 3 meals. For more information, visit GoEco’s site!
Another organization that provides various volunteer projects in Nepal is Projects Abroad. They have been a long time volunteer provider since 1992. Their highly trained staff are locally trained or previous volunteers who are able to properly guide volunteers throughout each project with support 24/7. They pride themselves in providing safe and secure projects by thoroughly assessing each project. For instance, they have thoroughly assessed and chosen host families for safety, comfort, and friendliness. In addition, they also pride themselves in creating and planning sustainable, responsible volunteer projects. This means they frequently evaluate and monitor their volunteer projects to measure impacts, culminating into annual reports. Taking on a project with them will no doubt give volunteers a peace of mind but also once in a lifetime, impactful experiences. They have 16 projects in Nepal for teenagers to senior volunteers to choose from! Below are some highlighted programs.
Education is a key component in helping Nepal’s impoverished population. Projects Abroad’s Volunteer Teaching in Nepal program aims to improve literacy levels, improve English speaking skills, improve numeracy levels, as well as teaching techniques. Volunteers assist local teachers in preparing materials, planning and teaching engaging lessons to local children. They may also help with other subjects such as music, art, and sports while learning about the education system in Nepal. This project welcomes those who are planning for a teaching career and to get teaching experience. But volunteers do not need any teaching experience as long as there is a desire to help children and have an intermediate level of English. Volunteers will also be provided guidance and resources from supervisors as well as teaching workshops to improve teaching skills.
This project is year round but does require a minimum of 2 weeks. A typical day of work consists of 6 hours (with 4-5 classes) in various subjects in a primary school from Monday to Friday. On the weekend, there is time for hiking in the scenic mountains, exploring its natural beauty, or roaming the ancient temples. Volunteers are placed in two locations, either in Kathmandu or Chitwan, which is a smaller city known for higher education in Nepal. You will stay with local host families because it is the way to have an immersive cultural experience and will be provided three meals a day. For more information on this program, click here.
If you’ve always had an interest in healthcare, look into Projects Abroad’s wide range of healthcare related volunteer programs such as their nursing, dental, physiotherapy, and medical projects. These programs partner with local hospitals and clinics to improve access to healthcare especially for those that live in impoverished rural areas. For instance, volunteers will help support the free community outreach programs to promote public health and prevention, and basic health checks. For their Medical Internship program, you will get to observe experienced nurses and doctors in hospitals and clinics, assisting outreach programs, leading hygiene programs, and first aid training for parents and care center staff. There are various hospital departments that you can be involved in based on your interests.
All these programs will help you decide if a healthcare career is right for you as you gain some practical experience, as well as boosting your resume and applications. Or, if you are already a healthcare student, you will be able to see how other healthcare providers in a developing country care for a disadvantaged population. For these programs, you will either be placed in Kathmandu or Chitwan city based on needs and availability. You will stay with a host family, with three meals a day. For more detailed information on each program click here for medical, nursing, dental, and physiotherapy.
Volunteering Solutions is another trusted organization that provides numerous volunteer projects in Nepal. They have been planning volunteer trips since 2006 ensuring volunteer safety as well as sustainability in each program. They partner with NGOs, local schools, hospitals, orphanages, HIV/AIDS clinics, and many other social welfare organizations in each country. Their Nepal volunteer programs include teaching English, medical internships, women empowerment, childcare development, and duration specific programs.
If you love working with children, look into their childcare program. Volunteers in this program help autistic or special needs kids or beggar kids. These kids are the most disadvantaged group because they have been outcasted in the society. Since there are no special needs schools, parents of these kids have set up their own simple day school to give the kids a basic education. Volunteers will help in this school with looking after children, help with speech, and teach basic words. While their parents beg on the streets, these kids go to an underprivileged school. Volunteers will help teach basic English, numeracy, and spend time with them. This program takes place in Kathmandu. For the best experience and impact, we recommend at least 2 weeks of duration. For more information, check out his program.
However, if you do not have much time, there is a one week project with Volunteer Solutions you can look into combining volunteering and tours. This one week program gives volunteers an opportunity to beautify local schools and community centers to make them more kid friendly, while enjoying local tours in Kathmandu. Your work might involve painting murals and art in underprivileged schools. This quick program will give you a taste of Kathmandu while making a difference!
Wrapping it all up
Nepal is a beautiful country yet a budget friendly volunteer destination. As a developing country, it needs volunteers to help with infrastructures, education, social and economic welfare. Listed above are many different volunteer opportunities, and we hoped that this article has given you some insights and information to get you started.