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2013-10 ~ Alan & Elaine's FAQs

Thinking of volunteering with Manisha UK? Below are the considered views of two of our latest volunteers, Elaine and Alan Hewitt, answering what they consider the most likely FAQs that might spring to mind. 

By: Elaine Hewitt, primary school teacher and Alan Hewitt, secondary school deputy head, science and maths teacher.

On retirement, having spent seven weeks in Nepal as Manisha UK volunteers, we thought it may be useful to focus on some of the questions you may be asking yourself.

Q: Why volunteer?

A: We felt that we still had a lot to offer as teachers. We wanted to volunteer in a country where we felt we could make a difference in the development of education.

Q: Why Manisha UK?

A: We wanted to work with a small charity where 99% or more of the money raised went to supporting schools and children. Nepal was perfect for us as we also like trekking and wanted to fit the Annapurna Base Camp trek into our seven weeks in Nepal.

Q: Did you get much support?

A: Yes, both before we went and whilst we were in Nepal. We were fully aware of what to expect in terms of lifestyle and facilities, e.g. toilets, in Tansen and the villages where we were based. Whilst in the Tansen area the Nepali twinned school’s coordinator, Saran, was always around to help and support us, he is such a helpful and friendly man.

Q: How much will volunteering cost?

A: Return flights are generally between £500 and £600 depending on departure time and arrival time in Kathmandu. The cost of living in Nepal is very cheap. Staying in a home-stay as a base in Tansen, making our own breakfast, eating out at lunchtime and in the evenings cost approximately £15 per day. This can be reduced by more self catering and not drinking alcohol.

Q: What would be the best amount of time to spend volunteering?

A: It really depends how much time you have available. We would say you need to allow about 5 days to get from the UK, settle in a home-stay and adjust to life in and around Tansen. You need 2 or 3 days for the return from Tansen to the UK. We allowed for two nights in Kathmandu on the way out and one night there on the way back home. Allowing for two weeks in the schools, it could be done in three weeks. However, the longer the better as most of the expense is in the airfare. We added on time to do a couple of treks which were so much cheaper to arrange out in Nepal – we would be happy to recommend who we used as they were excellent).

Q: Is it true that transport and the roads are bad in Nepal?

A: Transport is varied from local Jeeps, local bus (where you see Nepali life as it is) and tourist buses (between the main cities). Transport costs are very low, e.g. £2.50 per person, for the local bus from Tansen to Pokhara. You can fly between major cities. Once off the main roads (there are not many of these) the roads are really tracks of varying quality and windiness – they are quite exciting and you do get used to them as you go to the village schools.

Q: Would I be alone out in Nepal?

A: From October until the end of March there will be at least one other volunteer in Tansen with you. The schools are closed for long periods of time during October for religious festivals. April to December is generally time when schools are closed for the main holiday period and the monsoon rains hit Nepal.

Q: Having been out in Nepal to volunteer, would you go back again?

A: Yes, we are going back out for a second visit, for five weeks this time (no trekking). The people are wonderful, friendly and appreciative that you are out there. It makes you reflect on what is important in life as you witness the culturally rich villages and their people.