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Volunteering ~ FAQ's

At Manisha UK ...

We want you to be fully aware and informed about all aspects of your volunteer programme. Below are the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's). 

Having trouble finding your question? There's lots of information here, so you might find it useful to use the search facility above.

Should you have a question about something not covered here, please drop us an e-mail via the Contact Us page and we will get back to you with an answer and, if appropriate, post it here to help others.


Expectations

Q. What is the accommodation like in Kathmandu?

Kathmandu is a bustling city, your guest house or hotel accommodation will vary from good back-packer style to 4 or 5 star international hotel, dependent on what you decide your budget is for the nights spent in the city. Manisha UK can recommend suitable accommodation or, if preferred, you can book via the internet at any of the available accommodation.

Q. What is the accommodation like in rural villages?

The rural areas of Nepal are very poor, your food and accommodation in the villages will be provided by your host family. You should anticipate that accommodation and toilet facilities will be very basic and that food will not vary a great deal and will most likely be Dahl Bhat (rice with lentil curry) which may or may not be accompanied by a little meat (perhaps chicken) and/or vegetables.

Q. How do I build trekking or other activities into my itinerary?

The trek, of whatever duration or difficulty you wish, is optional as are any additional eco-tourism options. If you opt for a trek (highly recommended if you are physically able) then arrangements can be made either in advance or locally upon arrival. During the trek, any overnight accommodation will be in so-called tea-houses and will be relatively basic. In addition to purchasing your permit to enter national parks and any payments to travel companies and guides, you will require spending money for meals and other refreshments.

Q. Am I expected to sponsor a child?

No, while the intention of most volunteers is to "do good" it may also be helpful to consider "doing no harm". The people and, in particular, the children you meet will undoubtedly tug at your heart-strings and you may instinctively feel a desire to help an individual child. On the face of it this is a good thing but may lead to that child feeling singled out and could potentially do harm to the relationship that child has with it's peers. Manisha UK's recommendation is that any financial assistance is offered to the community, not an individual. Such assistance is best channelled through Manisha UK who will be more than happy to respect your wishes for it to be targeted on a specific school or facility.

Q. How can I make the most of my time in Nepal?

You will have worked hard to afford your volunteer experience, take your time to discuss your plans with previous volunteers. Manisha UK will help you plan what you specifically want to get out of your time in Nepal. Your itinerary can be tailored in many ways to match the interests and budget of the volunteer and the current needs of the schools.

Q. What does Manisha UK expect of me during and after my volunteering programme?

During your visit we expect all volunteers to adapt as much as possible to the Nepali way of life. This may mean rising early to travel, eating later than expected, experiencing different cuisine and basic living quarters. Volunteers should be flexible to changes in the programme should the programme organisers deem changes to be necessary.

On volunteering days you should expect to be up early for washing and breakfast and to work from 10 am - 1 pm and 2 - 4pm as a rough guide. However, it is very common for your generosity to be reciprocated by the community by way of music and dancing through the evening, followed by a late supper! 

It is strongly advised that you come prepared to teach with resources and lesson plans. The children’s level of English varies widely from school to school and so resources and lesson ideas must cater for this. The class teacher is often present to help you translate, yet this should not be relied upon.

After your visit we are certain you will have many happy memories that you would like to share. We do ask that you write up your experience so that we can post this on the website for future volunteers to read and to share your thoughts and ideas. 

An optional extra that has worked well in the past has been to arrange a follow up fund-raiser which gives the opportunity for you to share your experiences with everybody. Other options might be: talks, slide shows, Nepali evening, school or any other creative ideas to encourage cultural exchange. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your ideas and help bring them to fruition.

Q. What level of support should I expect from Manisha UK prior to, during and after my volunteering.

The trustees and volunteers of Manisha UK are here to support you in your volunteer programme. We have all seen first hand what life is like in Nepal and have experience of teaching and working with the local community. Therefore, any questions you have before your visit we are happy to answer. We can advise you on anything from what clothes to take, teaching resources that have been beneficial in the past to gifts for host families.

During your visit you will be assigned to at least one member of Manisha UK's team in Nepal. They will travel with you, take you to guest houses, take you on sightseeing trips and accompany you to the schools. 

After your trip we are certain that it will have been a life changing experience and we would welcome your involvement with Manisha UK in the future!

Q. I haven’t been on an adventure holiday before, what should I expect?

Without wishing to seem rude, if you are looking for an adventure holiday then you are probably not looking in the right place. Volunteering is first and foremost about helping people less fortunate than ourselves. Yes, there will be adventure and yes, additional trekking and sight-seeing aspects can be built into your placement itinerary but please do seriously consider whether volunteering is right for you before applying. 

Q. Can you give me a rough idea of the cost?

A minimum of £250 placement donation, which you will need to fund raise and pay to Manisha UK before final acceptance of your application.

The cost of your travel from home to Kathmandu and back, varies by airline and date, expect about £600 to £700.

The cost of your passport, VISA, insurance and medication.

The cost of your agreed itinerary, which includes accommodation, food, drink and volunteer placement activities, depends greatly on the duration and content of your agreed placement. Plan on £15 to £20 per day plus extra for trekking and sight seeing activities not included in your volunteer placement activities.


Sponsorship and Donations

Q. Can I fund my placement through sponsorship? 

No, we do not wish any sponsorship or donation from members of the public to be used for funding the volunteer’s placement in any way. We see a lot of organisations do this and lose a lot of credibility and public support as a result. The usual reaction is “why should I sponsor you to do something that you want to do and that you will enjoy? I want my money to go to those who are in most need of it.” We encourage volunteers who are motivated to fund their own trips, not who ask to be sponsored to make the trip.

Q. Do you require volunteers to make a donation or raise money for the charity? 

Yes, it is a condition of full acceptance of a volunteer’s application that they raise a minimum of £250 and donate that to the charity at least 3 months before their planned departure date. This donation may be a straight forward personal donation or it may be the proceeds of fund raising activities, sponsored events or donations from friends and family of the volunteer.


Fund Raising

Q. Do you have a preferred method of raising the donation? 

No, we don't have any preferences on this but you can find ideas at Fundraising. We have experience in organising fund raising events and would be happy to advise you on organisation. We may also be able to come along to an event to lend a hand or give a presentation about the charity.

Q. Is the £250 placement donation a fixed amount?

No, the £250 is a suggested minimum, we would be very happy if you were able to raise more. In our experience, a single, well organised fund raising event can raise £1,000 or more!

Q. When do I have to raise the placement donation by?

We usually require this to be raised 3 months ahead of your planned departure date.

Q. How do I pay the deposit, placement donation and itinerary cost?

Please follow the donation instructions in the Support Us section of our web site.


Previous Volunteers

Q. Do you have a regular rota of volunteers? 

Yes, Manisha UK was established in mid 2010 and we have a small pool of repeat volunteers, as well as a larger pool of one-time volunteers. 

Q. Do you have any feedback from previous volunteers?

Yes, please see Volunteer Feedback

Q. Can I get e-mail addresses of previous volunteers?

Providing previous volunteers have indicated that they are happy to receive emails from potential volunteers, we are happy to provide these following initial interview.


Your Placement & Itinerary

Q. What is a placement? 

A placement is what we call the whole experience from when you land in Kathmandu through to when you depart (assuming you are not doing something outside of your agreed itinerary before or after your placement) 

Q. What is an Itinerary? 

An itinerary is a detailed description of what activities you will be undertaking where on which day of your placement.

Q. Is there a minimum or maximum placement duration?

No. this is very much down to how much time volunteers can afford. Realistically, many may only manage 2 weeks, not all of which will be in the schools, which is fine. Clearly, the time it takes to get to Nepal makes 2 weeks a realistic minimum and the maximum is only determined by Nepal’s visa restrictions for visitors without a work permit. The longer the better but any contribution that volunteers can make will undoubtedly make a difference to the children and will be a two-way learning experience.

Q. Are there any expectations on volunteers after the placement? 

No. However, we would hope a volunteers enthusiasm would be such that when they return home they may decide to further develop their involvement by, for example, volunteering again, helping other volunteers prepare, fund-raising, encouraging their own schools (if a teacher) to become involved with schools in Nepal. Again, this is not mandatory and left very much with the volunteer to decide what is suitable for them.

Q. Will I be alone on my placement? 

No, as the volunteer programme has only been in place for a few months and is still developing, numbers are beginning to build. We’ve had several successful volunteer visits to date and do aim to at least pair up volunteers if possible, to ensure they can give mutual support whilst at a school, unless their Nepalese is very good of course! If all else fails, you will always have your Manisha UK support team with you.

Q. When can I go to Nepal? 

The monsoon season begins in May and ends in August, normally. However, it is not unusual for the monsoons to begin early and end late! Unfortunately, we have no control over mother nature! So, placements are normally organised from mid August to Mid April. 

Q. I'm really interested in working at a school. Can I? 

Yes, most of our volunteers spend at least some of their time working in one, two or even three schools. Learning English is the single most important study for these youngsters. Regardless of your qualifications and experience, your ability to speak English will be of considerable use to the schools. 

Q. How does my itinerary get organised? 

Once you have submitted your application we will meet with you for detailed discussions about your itinerary and objectives. 

Q. How do I get in contact with Manisha UK in Nepal?

Contact is usually by e-mail but on the rare occasions that you require to call Nepal we suggest you use one of the many cheap call options available on the internet. The best option will vary dependent upon whether you are calling from a land line or from which mobile provider you call. Call costs will be around the 10p to 20p per minutes using these internet offers. 

Q. Where in Nepal will I be working in? 

The majority of our supported schools are in Palpa district in West Nepal. It is therefore most likely that you will be based in Tansen town and visiting schools within a few hours' drive from there. 

Q. Do I need to be able to speak Nepalese? 

Volunteers teach in schools in remote areas of Nepal and accommodation is within the local village community. English is not widely spoken in these areas and volunteers tend to be placed in at least pairs, so you will not feel isolated! However, English is spoken by some teachers and your Manisha UK representatives will be on hand most of the time to help translate. If all else fails, basic sign language is fairly universal (eventually!). 

Q. Do you have anything to help me learn a little Nepali before I go?

Yes, please see Nepali Language

Q. How do I organise trekking as part of my itinerary? 

If you would like to include some trekking or any other activities during your placement, then make that known to the Manisha UK team when you start discussing your detailed itinerary, we can put you in touch with tour organisers local to Tansen town. 


What Do I Have To Do?

Q. Do I have to pay for my travel costs from home to Kathmandu? 

Yes, it is a requirement that you book and pay for your own travel to and from Kathmandu. The full details of your flight and the arrival / departure details are required in order to finalise the planning of your itinerary. 

Q. Do I have to pay for my travel costs in Nepal?

Yes, although when travelling with other volunteers we will usually suggest that you club together

Q. Do I have to arrange my own medical and travel insurance? 

Yes, it is a requirement of acceptance of your application that you arrange your own medical and travel insurance. 

A copy of your insurance certificate is required by Manisha UK before you fly to Kathmandu.

It is absolutely essential that your insurer covers volunteer activity, you should specifically confirm this before purchasing insurance.

Q. Do I have to pay for my own food? 

Yes, whilst on your placement your food is provided, at least two meals a day, payment will either be to the home stay when staying in Tansen or will be made to the community leaders when staying in villages. You will be fully briefed on this and the reasons for it as part of your placement briefing. Should you require supplementary food or drink to that provided then you would need to buy and pay for that yourself. 

Q. Do I have to cook my own food? 

No, all meals provided within the itinerary will either be supplied by your accommodation or by your host family when in the rural community. 


Be Prepared

Q. Are there any medical precautions I should take? 

Yes, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are fully prepared, fit and able to travel and complete the agreed itinerary. 

Manisha UK recommends that you take advice from your local doctor / nurse to acquaint yourself with the latest medical advice and web sites such as Lonely Planet  for general advice and guidance. 

If undertaking trekking or sightseeing tours as part of your itinerary, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are capable of completing the agreed itinerary.

Q. Should I arrange insurance 

Yes, it is your responsibility to arrange travel and medical insurance cover for the period of your placement; you are responsible for ensuring that the amount and type of cover is sufficient and appropriate for the nature and location of your placement.

Please note that normal holiday insurance is not adequate to cover you during a volunteer programme. Also, if you are considering trekking above 2000 metres normal holiday insurance will not cover you. 

We recommend you consult an insurance broker or reputable travel company to arrange insurance that specifically covers charity / volunteer work. Additionally, your insurance should at least cover the cost of cancellation of the placement by you; the cost of assistance including repatriation in the event of an accident or illness; legal liability and expenses; lost baggage; cancelled flights; medical expenses; kidnapping; liability arising due to personal injury to you or a third party; cancellation of your placement for any other reason including any reason beyond our control.

If you are having difficulty finding appropriate insurance, please contact us for advice.

Q. Where can I get travel advice from?

Obvious places like Lonely Planet are a good starting point for any trip overseas. 

Also, take a look at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for up to date travel advice to Nepal at: Foreign & Commonwealth Office . Whilst it can paint a fairly bleak picture at times, things generally aren’t quite as dramatic as they may appear. However, we are keen that you commit on the basis of having had excellent travel & safety advice, which is updated on a regular and timely basis, particularly in view of the changing political situation. 

The FCO also offers guidance on insurance etc.

Q. Do I have to be a teacher to volunteer? 

Whilst qualified teachers are preferred, it’s as much about passion for the project as it is about teaching experience. Volunteering is very much a two way learning experience and whilst education is vital for the children, we are very respectful of the Nepalese culture and believe we have as much to learn from them, as they have from us.

Q. I have never been to Asia before, should I prepare myself?

Yes, if you have never been to Asia before you should at least surf the web or read some books on Nepali customs and culture. Asia is very different from the West and without preparation you will probably run into problems; problems that can easily be avoided by spending a little time in advance of your placement to understand local customs and practice. A crib sheet of commonly use Nepalese language words and phrases is also a good idea. 

Q. How can I minimise the chances of becoming sick from drinking water in Nepal?

Although Nepali people all drink water straight from the spring, this is not recommended. Bottled water is available in towns and cities but may be restricted on placement. However, every location has electricity and thus you can boil water in an electric kettle. If for some reason there is a power failure, your host family will boil water for you on the wood fire stove. 

Q. I have difficulties with spicy food, what is the culinary situation like?

Nepal is in Asia and that means that chilli is a favourite ingredient here. However, the family you will stay with will cook without chilli if you request it. Some families with younger children may already use only moderate quantities of spices in their food. 

Q. What visas do I need and when do I need to get them? 

Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return to the UK. If it is not, you must obtain a new one before the event. Please send a copy of the photo pages of your passport as soon as possible and keep us updated with any new details. 

All visitors to Nepal require a visa. A 3-month visa can be obtained on entry to Nepal, or purchased in advance on-line. If you placement or total stay in Nepal exceeds 3 months, you will be required to extend your VISA 2 months at a time.

We recommend that you check with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office or Nepali Embassy web site for up to date requirements.

Q. How much money should I take with me? 

Depending on the length of your trip, we recommend taking between £150 and £200 to cover any drinks, tips and souvenir spending. US Dollars or Pounds Sterling in small denominations are the best way to get your money exchanged into the local currency. 

We also advise bringing a Visa or MasterCard credit card for any emergencies.

If you are travelling on after your trek it is advisable to bring your money in Traveller's Cheques. 

Q. I would like to bring things that the children might like or need. Can you give some examples?

Many people want to bring notebooks, pens or balloons. However, these are readily available in Nepal, often more cheaply than at home. It is better to bring educational toys or a book (in English!) or games to be played in the classroom or in the playground. 

Q. Can I use my mobile phone on the placement? 

Doubtful, it depends on your location but there is little mobile coverage outside of Kathmandu and some main towns. Sometimes, when up high, your phone may spring into life!

To maximise your chances of being able to use your mobile phone, we recommend purchasing a local pre-pay SIM card when you arrive in Kathmandu and letting your contacts at home know your temporary number before you leave Kathmandu.

Q. What vaccinations do I need? 

You should ask your doctor/ nurse / travel clinic about this for up-to-date information. As a minimum, we recommend Typhoid, Hepatitis A and that your Tetanus and polio vaccinations are up to date. Check early, as you may need to go on a course of vaccinations. 

Q. Do I need malaria tablets? 

You should ask your doctor/ nurse / travel clinic about this for up-to-date information once you have finalised your itinerary and especially if your route takes you through the southern low-lying regions. 

Q. What are some essential personal things to bring to Nepal?

Tea tree oil or an antihistamine cream can come in handy to treat insect bites. If you have a sleeping bag, bring it. Although most rooms have blankets, you will probably prefer your own bag which is nice to have if you go on a weekend trip. A good flash-light is hard to find in Nepal, most seem to fail after a week or so. If you plan to do some trekking, hiking boots or shoes are a must. Footwear in size 9 or up is generally difficult to find at the market. In Kathmandu and towns like Pokhara, you will be able to buy almost anything you need, including a wide range of trekking gear, maps, gifts etc. all at very reasonable prices.

Q. Will I have access to a toilet and a bathroom?

Most households in rural Nepal have toilets but they are without exception of the squat type. They may take a little effort to get used to. Nepali people do not use toilet paper, but you can buy it in any supermarket in town and bring it with you. Bathrooms are a rarity; you will most likely have to bathe at the village tap together with the other people. Men can wear shorts and enter the tap area to bathe; women have to wear a loose dress that will cover the part of their body from the shoulders to the knees. Just juggle a piece of soap underneath the dress and there you go! You will find that many local women go to bathe in the early morning hours when it is still quiet and they can have some privacy. Occasional, one can find a “hot shower” in the villages – this is usually a wooden cubicle and someone comes and pours water over you that has been heated on the fire. 


Costs & Fund Raising

Q. Why should I pay to volunteer?

A good question; many volunteers are disappointed about this as they expect free food and accommodation in return for their services. However, the communities we work in are so poor that the families cannot possibly feed an extra mouth or give up a room. 

Q. Where does my money go to?

None of the trustees of Manisha UK receive payment for their work with the charity, which is entirely on a voluntary basis. Manisha UK tries hard to keep it's running costs to an absolute minimum. Therefore, virtually all of the money goes to the rural communities, either to pay for your transport, accommodation, food and activities or it goes into general funds to be used in the way most appropriate at that time. 

Q. Can I afford it? 

Maybe the question should be: Can you afford not to have this potentially life changing experience?! 

Additionally, the optional trekking activities are included in your itinerary at very advantageous rates compared to arranging a separate trekking holiday yourself. 

Q. How do I go about raising the money? 

Fund-raising can be fun and easy; the best advice is to start early and plan ahead. When you sign up, we will send you a comprehensive fund-raising pack full of tips on how to raise the money, including advice from past fundraisers. 

The fund-raising target may seem a little daunting at first, but with a little planning and imagination you can raise more than you expect and there will be lots of help and advice available along the way. 

Q. Should I set up a fund-raising page on the internet? 

Manisha UK has a Virgin Money Giving (VMG) account on which you can register. Please see our Donations page. This is really easy to do and, once you have a page, send the link to all your contacts to publicise your fundraising activity. You can use VMG to collect entrance fees, sponsorship or donations dependent on the nature of your fundraising event. You'll be amazed how generous people are and the money is collected for you! People can donate to VMG from all around the world and anything donated is converted to British Pounds and comes directly to Manisha UK. A full record of all monies given to your event will be displayed on your VMG page. If your donors are UK tax payers we can claim Gift Aid on any their donations to increase their donation by 25%.


About Manisha UK

Q. Does Manisha UK have an office in Nepal? 

We have a small office location in which we store resources for use at schools. Our representatives work from their own homes and our volunteers work from their home-stay rooms when in Tansen town. We  have PO Boxes set up to receive parcels for our twinned schools, see the Send A Parcel section of the web site.

Q. Does Manisha UK have an office in the UK?

No, Manisha UK is run entirely by volunteers using their own resources and working from their own homes. This keeps administration cost to less than 1% of funds raised and ensures the maximum benefit for the children in Nepal.

Q. Do you have a preferred airline? 

No, we don't have a preferred airline. Most people take three things into account when booking: availability of flights from local airport to Kathmandu; cost of the flights and the amount of baggage that is allowed to be carried. The latter tends to grow in importance the nearer to your placement you get. It is amazing how many things get donated by friends and family! 

We suggest using several of the airline booking websites to get a good cross section of quotes for flights that suit your requirements. 

Air India quite often turn out to be best value for money from Heathrow and also tend to have the highest checked-in and carry-on luggage allowance. However there are a multitude of choices, particularly on the UK to India leg (there are no direct flights from UK to Nepal). 

Q. Do You have a preferred travel company? 

No, we don't have a preferred travel company for travel to and from UK. Some people tend to book direct, others like to use travel companies as they usually provide a better customer experience should issues arise along the way. For travel within Nepal, we use a recognised travel company to organise transportation and trekking activities.

Q. Do you have a preferred insurance company? 

No, we don't have a preferred insurance company. There are a number of companies around, it partly depends on your age, activities such as trekking you’d like to do as part of your itinerary, activities you intend to do on your placement and the fact that this is charity work, which most policies do not cover you for. Most insurance brokers will be able to advise your of policies that will fit your specific need. If you are having trouble get insured let us know and we will offer some options. Remember, normal insurance policies do not cover volunteer work or trekking above 2000 metres.

Q. Where can I find out more?

Please see About Manisha UK


About Nepal

Q. Are there many dangerous animals in Nepal?

You may share your room with some spiders and mice. The spiders are absolutely harmless; the mice are only bothersome from a hygiene point of view and are usually only attracted by food inadvertently dropped on the floor.

Scorpions and snakes are very rare especially inside buildings. 

In some very remote regions, leopards roam the hillsides looking for goats, chickens or the occasional stray dog, but they rarely attack humans. 

Mosquitoes can be bothersome from April to November, see above guidance on malaria.

Yaks, mules and donkeys carrying loads on narrow paths should be given a wide berth, they have been known to push people off the side of mountains! 

Q. Are there many threats from terrorism in Nepal? 

There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. In recent years there have continued to be incidents of bomb attacks (small improvised explosive devices), shootings and violent clashes across Nepal, including in Kathmandu. These incidents have resulted in the death and injury of Nepalese civilians. Tourists have only very occasionally been injured. These actions are carried out by a variety of political and criminal groups, especially in the Terai. You should exercise caution in public places and take local advice. 

Q. Are there any safety issues I should be aware of? 

We suggest you look at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for up to date travel advice to Nepal at: Foreign & Commonwealth Office Whilst it can paint a fairly bleak picture at times, things generally aren't quite as dramatic as they may appear. We always suggest you get the best travel & safety advice available, on a timely basis. The FCO also offers guidance on insurance etc. 

Q. Where can I find out more about Nepal?

Please see About Nepal


Can't Find It? 

Q. My question is not here, what can I do?

Please send an e-mail to info@manisha-uk.org and we will answer it as soon as we can!