What is the altitude in Katmandu?
4,600 ft (1,400 meters).
What is the altitude in Pokhura?
1,700 ft (518 meters).
Is English readily spoken in Nepal?
For the most part guides, shopkeepers, and hotel staff do speak English.
How long is the flight from Washington, D.C. to Nepal?
Courtesy of the Embassy of Nepal the flight time is about 17 hours and 30 minutes.
How many miles is it from Nepal to Washington D.C., United States?
Courtesy of the Embassy of Nepal, it is about 7,627 miles (12,274 kilometers).
Is Vegetarian food readily available in Nepal?
Yes, the Buddhist culture of Nepal makes vegetarian options readily available.
How will my volunteer efforts be focused?
Our service hours are given primarily to Dadagaun Village School. In 2011, my inaugural Trek of Your Life (TOYL) group members interviewed Nepalese villagers in their homes in Dadagaun Village, located in the foothills around Kathmandu, to determine what assistance they needed from us. One young mother told us, “I will do whatever is necessary for my baby to go to school.” When asked, “What would you like for yourself?,” she seemed confused. With some gentle prodding, she revealed that she had left her own beloved school at age twelve, as she was expected to stay home to care for parents and work on the farm. “If I could have adult education, I would do whatever I needed to do to learn. I’d like to learn to be a tailor.” My heart went out to her. Within a few weeks the founder of the project sent a sewing machine with a traveler from Australia for the woman to use.
The second year we visited the school, Barry, an IT security specialist, cleaned and configured four donated laptops and set up the school’s first computer room. Afterwards, his joy spilled over as one of the teachers handed him a certificate of appreciation and placed a marigold garland around his neck and red powder in the middle of his forehead. Since then, Barry has configured four more donated laptops that my group members have lugged to Nepal in their suitcases. The computer room has expanded, and three years later Barry continues to Skype with Ajay (the computer teacher) to problem solve technical issues.
The third year I took two groups. One group trekked to Basa Village and the other to Dadagaun Village, where we interviewed children living in their orphanage. Prior to our visit, no birth records for these children existed; they were invisible to all but their caretakers. We completed a basic form with date of birth, brief social history, health assessment and a photo. Now, they are counted and they know they count. Most of the children had been abandoned and lost until the orphanage manager, getting a tip from a villager, came to get them. Often someone from their village might take a wandering child to the orphanage and its welcoming “father" and “mother”. Some were abandoned because their mothers remarried after the child’s father died and the woman’s new husband didn’t want more children to feed. Others were orphaned because their parents died from diarrhea, TB, or simply falling off a high ridge carrying a heavy load on their backs. These continue to be common tragedies in Nepal. Now that each child is accounted for, more philanthropic groups have become involved in fundraising for these orphans and their educational expenses.
Prior to my fourth trip, I raised money on a crowdfunding site to establish a music program in the school. Our hope was to encourage the children to value their culture by learning Nepalese music on handmade traditional Nepalese instruments. My Nepalese friends helped me buy 14 bansuris (flutes), ten sarangis (a type of string instrument), and four drums for the children and hire a music teacher. On the last night of that year's trip, we held a fundraising concert in Kathmandu for the school. Somehow, we were able to snag Nepal's teen heartthrob band, Sakchyam. About twenty children attended and it was wonderful to see their response to successful young Nepalese musicians who shared their unique musical heritage. An unexpected bonus was that enough funds were raised to pay school fees for 32 orphans, $52 per child for one year. It was an exhilarating way to end our trip. After a night of music and dancing, I sat with a few others in the back of a pick-up truck, riding back to our hotel through narrow ancient streets underneath fluttering prayer flags and a starry, night sky.
Group members who were deeply touched by their experience, volunteered to sell bracelets made by children whose mothers were traffic victims. They held a fundraiser for New Hope Foundation when they returned to the States and were able to donate about $8,000!
When I visited Dadagaun School in 2015, Dhorje, the principal, said, “The music program has changed the minds of the students. They ask when their music class will be. They are so sad if they miss a class and they practice in their free time. The parents also think their children are creating new things. I would like it to continue.” Because of continuing support, we were able to fund the program again.