We love questions

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in good and bad practice, volunteer stories  |  
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Here is an exchange between a young ( early 20’s) potential volunteer and Kate ( she matches volunteers to communities for those that dont know!)

Jai’s questions are in Black and Kates answers are in Blue – these are the sorts of questions everyone should be asking of ALL sending organisations.

So – here we go – answers follow each of your questions below – but if anything is unclear or you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

How long has this volunteer position been available and how long has People and Places been an organization?
people and places was founded in 2005, with our first volunteer being placed in April 2006. (you can read a short story of how and why we started people and places here: http://www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/About.aspx?category=4

We began working directly with the community of Sermathang in spring 2009, when my colleague Sallie visited the community. But we started working with our local partner in this project, Nima Lama, in 2006 – first on a project in Kathmandu, and later developing volunteer opportunities in his home village.

There’s a lot of preparation involved – for us and for the project – long before we put the project up on our website and start matching volunteers!

Can I chat with volunteers that have done this project before?
Most definitely!, and with our local partner too. We always introduce previous and future volunteers for the same project – it’s good for the volunteers and also good for the continuity of the project.
With Sermathang, because it is a relatively ‘new’ project foryour volunteers, our first volunteer, Julie – whose report I sent to you – is the only previous volunteer at the moment. Julie had previously worked as a volunteer in a different people and places project in Nepal, so was relatively familiar with the Nepali culture and education system and comfortable in knowing that she would be working alone as a first volunteer.

The community project was also happy for her to be there – all of the projects that we work with have the final decision as to whether or not they will accept a proposed volunteer. And as you know, the Sermathang community has already accepted your placement.

What work will I be doing mainly? For how many hours a day? For how many days a week?
This is the next stage in my discussions with Nima – your placement outlines. Volunteers are expected to work a five-day week (although sometimes individuals choose to work six days – especially in Nepal, where Saturday is the only day of the week when the schools are closed.

Your work schedule and hours will be discussed along with your role – and when we have the project’s proposals, these form the basis of your ‘placement outline’. Most placements involve about 6 hours in the working day – but the specific hours and detail is of course influenced by the role of the volunteer.

For example: if a volunteer’s role is to work with school age children in an after school programme – e.g. life skills, sports, IT – their hours may be c.4-8pm with days of during the week, working during the weekend …

So, as I said, that will be my next focus for you, Jai – talking with Nima about how you and the project can gain the greatest mutual benefit. Then you and I will discuss their proposals.

Do I need to speak another language to really enjoy this project? Is there a translator nearby if I need one?

You won’t need to speak Nepali, or indeed the local language/dialect of Yolmo. You will of course be provided with a language sheet with some useful words and phrases well before you travel.

Many of the children, especially the young teenagers, have a fairly good understanding of English, and their spoken English is also good (although accented of course depending on how and from whom they learned it) you will find that the young people are more than happy to help with translations between volunteers and the older people in the village.

And when I put you in touch with Julie, the question of language is certainly one of the many that you will probably want to discuss with her.

All volunteers are also provided with a local SIM card and/or mobile phone so that you can communicate with Nima when you need to, and many local people also use mobile phones.

What are the accommodations like? Will I have to share? Do I need to bring a sleeping bag?

The home where you will stay is actually more like a small local guesthouse – the Mountain View Lodge – a profile is attached. You will have your own room in the Lodge. There is a solar shower – so the number of hot showers will of course be dependent upon the amount of sunlight … as Julie mentions in her report.

Also in Julie’s report, you’ll see that the weather during November and December was quite cold – and she may well have wished that she’d taken a sleeping bag. In the summer, the nights may be chilly, but shouldn’t be as cold. If you have adequate luggage allowance to let you include a sleeping bag, you may want to take one, but you can also ask your hosts for an additional blanket should you need one.

What’s included in the project fee? Meals? Lodging? Will I need to pay anything else in country?

Please take a look at the website again, Jai, where you’ll find information about costs, inclusions, etc – there are two project pages for Sermathang, with different emphases – but both show the costs (just read and scroll down the page – you’ll see Project Costs

http://www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/ProjectView.aspx?id=211

http://www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/ProjectView.aspx?id=262

And if anything is not clear and you need additional detail, please don’t hesitate to ask.

The only additional costs would be for any additional trips and excursions that you may want to do – e.g. your Everest Base Camp trip, for which we sent you an itinerary and costs in August. (13 days, $1300 USD, meals & transport etc included – full email August 22 is below)

What are some necessities that you could suggest I make sure I bring with?
This is something else which will be influenced by your placement outlines, Jai – although it is extremely unlikely that you will be asked to bring much if anything with you for the project. The full placement costs include a ring-fenced amount for the project and to support your role – and that will be spent in country to help support the local economy.

For other suggestions and advice, you will again find that discussions with previous volunteers and with our local partner will be useful to you.

I am a little confused of the area of Nepal where I will be volunteering.  I am aware of the location of Kathmandu.  If you could clarify where the actual school is and the access I may have to Kathmandu (if any) that would be great.  I should have researched the areas of available volunteer in Nepal in more detail but I am very open.
Sermathang is in Sindhupalchok Province, about 85km. to the north-east of Kathmandu valley and situated in the Jugal Himalayan Range.

The full itinerary will begin with at least one night in Kathmandu (depending on your flights and time of arrival) – you can choose to spend additional time in the city of course, and Nima will organise accommodation etc and will quote for additional costs.

Great questions Jai – you are just the kind of volunteer we want!

So please all potential volunteers – ask the questions – responsible and reutable organisations will be happy and more to the point able!  to answer them –

Not sure what questions to ask? – take a look at those we recommend here

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