Would you? Could you?

I’ve been thinking about how it might be possible for a small Nepalese school to support itself. One way might be to have a rota of volunteer teachers coming from better-off countries, staying with local families, paying a small rent for their accommodation. They would bring their skills and a small boost to the local economy, which would mean that parents would be more willing, and could better afford, to send their children to the school. OK, the details need sorting out, but would volunteers come?

Would YOU volunteer-teach in Nepal for a month if you had to pay all your expenses?

Teach in a very-low-resource school, small class size, Elementary/Primary ages, mixed, poor.

Live with a local family.

Your flights, your travel, food, accommodation, inoculations, insurance… paid by you.

No pay but no fees or expected donations.

Volunteer-teach one month and then … go exploring, or relax and appreciate the culture, or research, or dream …

Please tell me – would YOU?

What would it take?



  1. Ana Cristina Pratas

    Hi Clive,

    Having been in Nepal recently, I am not so sure I would stay with a local family; that would depend on the region and levels of hygiene! I was quite ill when in the far west and later, when returning to Katmandu, read how people were dying in that region. Cholera crossed my mind but only a few days ago I confirmed that yes, there had been a cholera outbreak. This makes me think twice about living conditions.

    On the other hand, yes, I would definitely go. It is not a simple decision when one has children to raise. For those who no longer are raising children and have sufficient means to afford not working for income, it is a precious gift to these children.

    I am currently teaching online (volunteer basis for research purposes) to students in Nepal; I would also gladly volunteer for specific periods of time to teach the Nepalese – they are among the most fascinating and lovely people I have met!

    • Clive @CliveSir

      Hi Ana, thanks for your comment and sorry for my delay in replying. Yes, health issues are a worry – hygiene, comfort and cleanliness would definitely have to be factors when selecting possible accommodation.

      There are many things that, it could be argued, would stop a person from volunteering in under-developed countries but I believe that a lot of these are mental barriers. “It would cost too much”, “I couldn’t find the time”. Well, actually, stop and think about it for a while. Perhaps one could afford it or find the time if priorities were examined and rearranged. Perhaps the preparedness of people to consider these things actually depends on their convictions. I don’t know. I had hoped for a greater response to this post to better inform me.

      I’m happy that your convictions are positive! I’m sure that helping constructively with education is the way to go.

      • Ana Cristina Pratas

        Hi Clive,

        I have been thinking about this issue,{ i.e. what would it take for educators to volunteer to 3rd world countries and other than what I mentioned above (i.e. no child rearing responsibilities, economic independency to take time off), }, better than NGOs, would be perhaps an informal network of colleagues/teachers who could help each other by offering teaching/living experience in certain countries and through word of mouth, inspire others to volunteer time and expertise.

        As much respect as I have for NGOs and such organisations, I often find that one gives up in face of so much bureaucracy and time delays.

        Obviously there should be some screening of these volunteers – under developed countries have enough problems and certainly do not need dubious characters from outside to cause them further grief!

        Lastly, I also think that there should be no romantic image associated with volunteering; dirt and disease are real; living with no electricity is not easy; isolation in far flung villages is not meant for everyone.

        On a brighter note, giving, sharing, respecting and learning the culture, are very fulfilling practices πŸ™‚

  2. Mary

    It is wonderful that you have the opportunity to do research, work you enjoy, and improve conditions for children in the world. You are an inspiraton. And yes.

    • clivesir

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting, Mary. I count myself very privileged to have worked in Asia and to have worked with so many wonderful people. I really hope I can do it again.
      You would volunteer to teach in Nepal? That’s great to hear! Thank you πŸ™‚

  3. Stefaan Vande Walle

    Hello, I’m working in a teacher training college in Cambodia for an international NGO as an educational advisor. One problem I see is that high rotation of teaching staff may present problems for pupils who need to connect (and say goodbye) so frequently with other people. Teachers are not only important for pupils in guiding them on their educational journeys, but are also often acting as persons of trust. High rotation too often results in psychological problems for the pupils at later age. I would suggest having people stay at least for a school year, and only accept people with sufficient pedagogical background.

    • Clive @CliveSir

      Hi Stefaan, yes, I understand that argument. And the effectiveness of the teaching itself is much reduced by the short duration because it takes time to know the students, systems and cultures, and takes time for the students to connect with you. On the other hand, committing to a year is a “big ask” and you throttle the likelihood of takers. Also, there may be well-defined tasks where it is perfectly possible for a short-term teacher to be effective and non-damaging if the emotional interaction is kept to a minimum. Teacher training, for example.

      Regarding pedagogical background, I would certainly not expect fresh-faced kids straight from college with few life skills and little life experience to be able to contribute positively pedagogically, although they might perform useful work in a support role (eg fund-raising back home). And, of course, a mandatory police check goes without saying.

      I’ve had a quick look at your blog, Stefaan, and can see you know what you’re talking about (!) Perhaps we can connect on Twitter? (I’m @CliveSir)

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting,

  4. Jason Graham

    Clive, Im so tempted to say yes. What a great opportunity to make a difference. At this point in my life with 2 kids of my own I would not. 10 years ago I wouldve been on the next plane. Love what your doing. Keep it going.

  5. claireslanguageblog

    I would love to do this. I have the experience, skills and time. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money and it’s not a case of ‘cut back on holidays and nights out’ – I really don’t have the money. If I could fund raise for flights and living costs, then I’d go for it, but obviously that’s far from ideal and not that ethical – the money raised for my flights could be better spent on resources and facilities for the schools in Nepal. If I’m ever in a position where I’m financially comfortable, I’ll definitely consider something like this.

    • Clive @CliveSir

      Hi Claire, I know what you mean about it being better to spend the airfare on the school and teachers. Another way of looking at a short stint is by comparing it with a holiday. Would it be better to go to Nepal as a tourist pure and simple or as a tourist who spends some time investing in education through teaching skills and giving something back – so called “voluntourism” – perhaps learning more about the people and spreading the word. It IS a tricky one. I mention some of my own internal debate here: https://clivesir.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/volunteering-questions/
      It’s great that you’d consider this when you’re more comfortably off. Let’s hope your ship comes in soon!
      Thanks for dropping by and for adding to the conversation πŸ™‚

  6. Teri

    The motivation behind your idea is good but I don’t think having volunteers stay for only one month to “teach” is the best approach for both the sustainability (a word that seems to be used for everything these days) of the organization and the education of the children. I have volunteered on a number of occassions in Nepal over the last 30 years and in my experience short time stints actually benefit the volunteer the most. The coordination of volunteer placements takes much time, energy and effort and if that job is added to the workload of a school director it will take away from the primary goal—children’s education.

    If it’s a model for SAV, I think it best to ask the question—what are the current and most paramount needs. Could it be financial resources to buy land and build a school since they are leasing and at the mercy of a landowner; cash to pay additional Nepali teachers; scholarships for poor children whose families are unable to pay school fees such as uniforms, books and supplies. it is erroneous to assume that additional income generated for village families will automatically go to school fees and provide an opportunity for a child (especially a girl child) to attend school. In many cases, that extra income would be spent on many other priorities for both survival and immediate short term expenses such as festivals, alcohol, debts, and doweries for young child brides.

    Maggie Doyne’s model at Kopila Valley of setting up a Fellowship Program of a minimum of a 5 month committment for volunteers is much more sustainable and I will bet a greater benefit for the primary goal of creating a good education for the children who attend Kopila Valley School. As you well know, educating children takes time, trust, openness,patience, energy and an understanding of the many cultural issues that arise when those of us from “better off countries” arrive on the scene to help.

    Your questions are valuable and I appreciate your openness to explore to benefit others, especially the children of our world.

    • clivesir

      Hi Teri,
      Many thanks for dropping by and commenting. As an “old hand” at volunteering abroad you will surely have many interesting tales to tell!

      I have seen the result of short-term volunteers working directly with children. It is rarely a happy outcome for the kids and it actually makes life harder for longer-term volunteers, amongst others. On the other hand, I remember one freshly-hatched teacher who was with us for less than a month and who worked training the local teachers – he was quite exceptional and they came away inspired! I think there is scope if care is taken. You are right about short-termers being quite a load, a load which a member of the teaching staff, head, director etc, should not have to bear. I agree with much of what you say, actually. At the moment my questions are just exploratory and are only part of the story. I am followed by about 1500 educators on Twitter – I tweeted my questions out to them primarily to see how many would trouble to visit and what their views would be.

      Of course, extra income generated by local families will not automatically be spent on school fees. There would have to be some sort of local scheme and agreement to make it work.

      As far as I understand, Maggie’s situation is somewhat exceptional. Her story and personality have a lot to do with the success of Koplia Valley. I believe that she is the key to its “sustainability”. She is the one who has brought in the money, not the volunteers as far as I can tell. Sure, her long-term volunteers, carefully chosen, will help impart quality education but do they bring money? I am certain that she has generated a lot of good will, is extremely capable, authentic and loving, and has probably got a lot of good people around her and a lot of supporters. That is no mean achievement!

      5 months, or 150 days in one year, is the maximum duration of a tourist visa from the US and UK. I know Maggie mentions the possibility of longer periods but I wonder how she achieves that. I wonder because I would want to work longer.

      Are you on Twitter Teri or do you have a blog? It would be good to keep in touch.


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