All Hands Volunteering Experience Nepal
I have finished my month volunteering with All Hands Volunteers in Nepal. This was my first full month of volunteering, though I have to say, it was more like having a full time job. I worked from 7:00AM to 4:30PM, Monday through Saturday, with just one day off per week. It has been one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences to date. One of the main reasons I decided to volunteer was for a fully immersive experience. I wanted to make sure I’m headed down the right path in my life by helping others. I knew I needed to commit myself fully in order to know for certain.
Working everyday for the greater good was incredibly rewarding. This was particularly true as we built schools for disadvantaged rural communities in this developing nation. It’s something I look forward to doing again. I also learned a lot about myself. I’ve been spending a lot of my time traveling around the world this past year. Most travelers, as I’ve come to observe, are hung up on the sightseeing aspect of tourism. While this is all fine and good, I think that there is a different way to learn about a foreign culture. Interacting with local communities by volunteering your time and energy has been a near incomparable experience to that of regular traveling. By entering communities and positively impacting their lives, they open themselves up to you. All of a sudden you’re in these families’ lives, and they’re happy to have you.
This was especially true in Nepal. The people are so warm and welcoming. There’s widespread poverty in some regions of the country. Yet, so many people are willing to invite you into their home, and offer whatever they have to YOU, their honored guest. It was a privilege to be received in such a hospitable and sincere way. This approach to traveling allowed me to realize that the best way to understand a country is to know real people, not just visit a monument. In this way, Nepal was able to teach me that life is all about people. It’s about welcoming friends old and new, and spending time together. Everything else just follows. I think I missed an opportunity like this when I was in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, but I didn’t get the chance to interact with local people the same way I did in Nepal. I used to lean on the excuse that the language barrier held me back. Now I know better. So much of humanity’s language is already known among us. Think about the joy that comes with toasting to a celebratory occasion, spending an afternoon with the family, or working side by side with a new friend to accomplish a tangible goal. Nobody learns or understands these things in a classroom. We simply share the human experience, and our unspoken language is rich.
I also realized that volunteering isn’t just defined to spending time with an NGO. In All Hands, I realized how many of my colleagues were, paradoxically, casually hyper-aware of their surroundings. After a hard day of physical labor, I was completely wiped. While I sat and thought about my day, I’d notice the little courtesies of everyday life materialize around me. Without even asking, someone would take away my empty plate, offer me some water I clearly needed, or ask me to come sit with them by the fire. I use to never think that there was much of anything to simple common courtesies. Now I realize that volunteering means opening yourself up, and volunteering yourself to others in nearly every moment. At a certain point, these sorts of habits develop, and it all just becomes second nature. I’m hoping I can change my behavior to suit these altruistic qualities. No action, however small, is nothing. I think I’m on the right track after all. This is how I want to live the rest of my life.