I was standing in the shower rinsing the 10th lot of shampoo out of my hair. I could still smell it and my hair was still greasy – with kerosene that is. Yes I was washing kerosene out of my hair and it wasn’t the first time. Living in a volunteer house with 12 other international volunteers, some of whom volunteered in houses of all girls, it was no surprise I got head lice. Even with the head lice, daily cold showers and struggling with irregular toilet visits from too much dhal bhat (lentils and rice), I was happy and enjoying life in the Kathmandu orphanage.
At age 26 years old and after four years of regular world travel – ticking off boxes, consuming, shopping, eating and drinking, I felt it was time to give back and help others in my travels. With a growing fascination for Nepal and a love of the cuisine, I decided this would be the exotic country I would dedicate a month to volunteer in. The question was what type of volunteering did I want to do? There was so much to choose from ranging from helping women become independent to assisting street kids. I realised my communication with children could be improved and felt it was important to have relationships with children. So I started searching for an orphanage to volunteer at in Nepal. After researching various sites and forums I found a recommendation from a former volunteer at The Umbrella Foundation in Kathmandu. Happy with the price of under $300 per month for accommodation in a volunteer house and local meals with the kids, I emailed them a few months in advance and off I went.
Situated in the Buddhist community of Swoyambhu in Kathmandu, I spent a month living, laughing and becoming close to the other volunteers I lived in the house with and with the energy fueled 50 boys aged 6 – 12 years old that I was looking after. The Umbrella Foundation hosted 8 orphanage houses split between boys and girls aged 6 – 12 years and 13 – 18. When the kids were not at school or during school holidays we played basketball, football and connect 4, watched movies and TV like Power Rangers. I ate breakfast and dinner with them and taught them how to brush their teeth properly and wash their hands with soap. It was inevitable I would fall in love with them.
I got so much out of my volunteer experience. I learnt how to communicate and play with kids even with a language barrier. I learnt how materialism and accumulating stuff is not what is important in life. Simple things like love, cooperation and respect are what’s important.
These kids were so happy and had so much love from each other, their house parents and volunteers. They lived a comfortable life growing up with many friends and playmates, sleeping in comfy bunk beds and attending a good school their parents could not otherwise afford to send them too. Thanks to charity organizations like The Umbrella Foundation these kids have a brighter future.