Experience of International Volunteer: Wendy McElvain
I was expecting more structure with the volunteer project, which has taken a little getting used to. That being said, it has been a great and fulfilling challenge to know you have freedom to work as you see fit to best help out! It has taken us about a week to figure out a plan. We have met with both groups of women who make bags, and their biggest dilemma is who to sell their bags to, and our biggest problem is the quality of the bags need to be improved in order for us to find places that will sell them. The ladies also do not have funds to purchase more material.
Sunil (my Nepali local volunteer) and I decided we would reach out to a few banking institutions who have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Department, and see if we could set up a partnership with them where they could offer sewing classes, donate materials, and then come in and teach them simple banking practices for the ladies to maintain their small business.
In addition, we will reach out to some Nepal fabric companies that may be able to donate fabric. I will also contact businesses for donations in the US, however due to the cost of shipping fabric, we wanted to start here in Nepal.
If we can’t make a connection with a CSR Department, we will reach out to VIN, who will be able to set us up with getting sewing classes taught in Kavresthali , but there will be a small fee for the classes that both groups will need to contribute to.
What’s been a learning curve for me is the language barrier, broken English, and sometime things get lost in translation. But that is all part of the volunteer experience. I feel VIN does a great job in providing needed help and training for their local villages with the resources of international volunteers, and I applaud the heart and soul of each staff member that I have met for their desire to improve the conditions for the projects and the Nepali people. Communication from volunteer to volunteer could use some organizing. VIN is aware of the communication challenges, and is doing their best to accommodate the volunteers.
I have really enjoyed living with a host family so far. I must say, however after the first week, I have had enough rice to last a lifetime, and I’m craving fruits and vegetables. I have 6 weeks left, so I may have to use a little imagination when I look at rice!
My favorite part of my volunteer experience has been meeting other volunteers and hearing about their lives and experiences. This is my first volunteering experience internationally. I have two girls in college, and most of the volunteers I’m working with could be my daughters. But what I’m finding is they are the mother and I am the daughter! It feels so good to be a kid again! In Kavresthali there is one cafe, which I call the Bootie Bar, only because when they told me the name of the place (Bamboo Bar), due to thick accents I heard Bootie Bar….and it stuck! Anyway at the Bootie Bar, many volunteers meet for lunch, and sometime we meet after work. It’s a great social outlet for all of us and I love getting to know everybody.