Being A Team Leader | VSO

Being A Team Leader | VSO

with No Comments

Experience of being a Team Leader with VSO in Ghana

Context:

For 8 months I volunteered in Ghana with VSO as a Team Leader. I was posted in the Eastern region in Asamankese under the livelihoods project; working alongside a local NGO called FLOWER. The main aim of the project was to give the local communities access and training to alternate livelihoods that they could support themselves with.

Most of the community members were unemployed, high school dropouts or illiterate so the skills training by volunteers and FLOWER provided had to be simple, practical and realistic for them to put into practice. The livelihoods project had been running since September 2015 and I was on cycles 3&4. Cycle 1&2 taught skills like tie-dye, sandal decorating, liquid soap and beaded handiwork as well as some bookkeeping and marketing skills. Cycle 3&4 continued with beaded work, soap production and introduced new skills like hair pomade, animal rearing and fruit juice making. They also continued with developing branding and marketing skills.

All of these sessions and skills training combined aim was to make sure the communities have different options and are well equipped to manage their own businesses in the future.

Whilst Livelihoods was the main focus for the program the volunteers also run local reading clubs with the schools, help with infrastructure development – repairing boreholes, renovating clinics and cementing school floors, undertake personal projects and if you are pro-active you can also take on personal projects if you can fit it around your schedule.

A few of the success stories are featured on the VSO website, which you can read here

My experience of being a Team Leader:

“I’ll start by saying my overall experience and time in Ghana was incredible and I was able to gain so much from it. From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role. It really is amazing to see a group of individuals from different backgrounds come together and help a community as well as develop themselves.

I felt like there were times where I was being held back a little from being more decisive as a leader; as the essence of the program is that it is ‘volunteer led’. This meant that I could not play a key role in the individual teams decisions and this was a big challenge for me as I had always been at the forefront of the work from the volunteering experiences I have had; I had to learn to be more in the background and let the volunteers ‘learn’.

It was a different approach of leadership to what I had first thought but I was able to learn a new style. To some extent you are allowed to be a part of the work by supporting, guiding and facilitating (I have never heard this word as many times as I did throughout my VSO experience – being a facilitator is a major part of the program) but you have to remember not to take over the volunteer’s work and just be prepared if someone needs anything.

From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role

A lot of my experience was made up by making sure the team was healthy and able to work – whilst not getting sick myself – or if you do then putting it to the side. As much as everyones health is important, as the leader you have to prioritise the team, no matter what anyone said I felt pressure to remain at 100% for the team – even if the pressure was just from myself.

However, as far as an experience, it really was one of the best I have had. You get to completely immerse yourself in a different culture, live with a host family, taste the local foods, learn the language and interact with real people as well as manage different people, emotions and workloads. You also get to make great bonds and relationships with your volunteers and community members which helps you manage the ‘high demand’ days.

Teaching the kids useful stuff like animal sounds 👌#ttot #travels #travelblog #positivevibes #ghana #africa #volunteer #VSO #VSOICS

A photo posted by Jack ✈️🌎👌 (@travelling_jackg) on

Be prepared for anything. You’ll plan your days with your counterpart in the evenings and the next morning receive texts from sick volunteers, annoyed teammates and hear from just about every community member before lunch. You could be on your way to visit a head teacher of a school and then have to completely do a u-turn because there is a volunteer who thinks they have malaria 20 mins away and needs to go to the hospital asap. I could be invited to a meeting with a chief and before I even get there have to be in a different community because a host home needs to discuss an issue. It really is a juggling act but I loved the variety and challenge that came with it.

So I’d finish by saying prepare yourself for an incredibly dynamic role and to be tested – which I guess if your signing up to do this – you are going in with the forethought of ‘challenging yourself’….or at least you should be.

Prepare to be a leader, volunteer, friend, family member, supporter, networker, confidant, councillor, hospital chaperone and local celebrity – every role comes with its pros and cons.

Be ready for sick volunteers, tears, persuading people to stay, arguments, cultural differences and volunteers adjusting to everything (adjusting to everything yourself).

BUT

also expect welcoming friendly people, big highs, great people, diversity, talented volunteers, amazing culture, interesting foods, beautiful scenery and at the end of it all being so proud of your team (a little bit of yourself) for making it through, but more importantly making an impact on the community, each other and you.”

What VSO say:

How it works

Depending on the placement, you will spend four months living in one of the following countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

ICS is funded by the UK Government, meaning all costs are covered including flights, visas, accommodation, food etc, and you will receive an allowance during your time on placement.

As with all ICS volunteer placements we will ask you to do some fundraising before you go overseas.

All volunteers have a target of at least £800, but you don’t have to start any fundraising until you are definitely accepted onto the programme and we will offer you 1:1 fundraising support.

No one is excluded from ICS for financial reasons.

You will receive training prior to going overseas, as well once you arrive in country, and once you return to the UK.

Requirements

Team Leaders must be aged between 23 and 35.

You need to have experience – either voluntary or professional – in leading and motivating young people, along with organisational and communications skills.

You need to be able to support young people both individually and as a team, and gain the respect and trust of others through leading by example.

You will also need experience in some of these areas:

  • Co-ordinating a project or initiative
  • Coping with change
  • Empowering and motivating team members
  • Managing a variety of projects in a varied environment
  • Understanding of volunteering
  • Living/working/volunteering in a cross-cultural environment
  • Committed to VSO for a minimum of four months

If you want to do something worthwhile whilst also developing yourself then apply to be a team leader today!

You can read more about my Life in Asamankese as a Leader here

Also check out what Ghana meant to me after being there for so long…

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create, Be Nice!

A Very Merry Ghanaian Christmas #BloggerBoxAppeal

A Very Merry Ghanaian Christmas #BloggerBoxAppeal

with No Comments

BloggerBoxAppeal

I’ve teamed up with my good friend Lauren, otherwise known as Blonde Vision in the blogging world, to spread some festive cheer this Christmas. I am currently based as a Team Leader in Ghana – more specifically the community of Afranse. Our plan is to give out gift boxes to the children of the local school filled with gifts like toiletries, stationary and books in the form of the BloggerBoxAppeal !

14509151_10153960611859205_1541525253_n
Photo Credit: Thomas Dodd Cycle 3 Asamankese VSO volunteer

Lauren is a lifestyle and events blogger with a passion for charity work; I have dedicated a lot of my time to volunteering projects and inspiring wanderlust via my own travel blog. Together we have pulled our resources together to create the #BloggerBoxAppeal that aims to provide Christmas present boxes to the kids, which will contain gifts that bloggers from all over the UK donate. We have created a crowdfunding page to try and help fund the postage costs involved in sending the boxes over; whilst any left-over funds will go towards buying more stocking fillers to give to the kids this Christmas!

Lauren’s expertise in events has led to the creation of a #BloggerBoxAppeal event where bloggers can come along to donate and package the presents up ready to send. She is an avid vlogger and will be filming the whole thing, once the boxes reach me in Ghana I’ll be filming the reactions this end.

There’s no better way to help spread a little festive spirit this year than helping those who are less privileged than ourselves. There’s numerous ways you can get involved from attending the event, donating, sharing or supporting the #BloggerBoxAppeal

If you’d like to donate then head over here

If you’d like to keep up to date with the #BloggerBoxAppeal event Go follow LDNMeetup

If you want to read more about my time in Ghana so far then check out my latest post about the past cycle, my experience as a Team Leader and Ghanaian life-style.

Thank you once again for all the incredible support and generous donations we have received so far! I know the kids will love it!

14483895_10153960612089205_1898773478_n
Photo Credit: @jaycornejo Jaidee Cornejo Cycle 3 Asamankese volunteer

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create. Be Nice!

Nepal Highlights | GoPro Hero 3+

with No Comments

Nepal GoPro

My return to one of my favourite countries with some of my favourite people; the beautiful, Nepal!

I’d never used a GoPro before so I appreciate I need to work on some of my shooting skills but I’m pretty pleased with my first try! I edited it in the Gopro Studio and iMovie. Overall I was really impressed with how the GoPro  captures the footage and the quality.

I used a Gopro pole and housing case which were great but came with some downsides. The housing compromised the sound quality which is Ok if you just want to capture footage. If you’re looking to use it to capture sounds I’d recommend buying an external sound recorder. The pole was great in capturing different perspectives. i would of liked to make the camera more steady though so if you have any recommendations of what to use then drop me a comment below!

I’m currently posting more images from my trip, follow the adventure on my social links!

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create. Be Nice!

Travel Update – What Plane Are You On Now?

Travel Update – What Plane Are You On Now?

with No Comments

Hello & Namaste!

A quick travel update to let you know what I’m doing, where I am and what’s next! I have just finished the first part of my travelling plans for 2016 with Nepal and India. Can’t believe I can add these to my travel history!

NEPAL

I re-visited my Nepali family & village which was an incredible trip being able to head back again to see them all. Most importantly it was good to see how relief efforts are going and to deliver the sponsored fundraising money! The homes are looking good and should be finished within a few months so they will be able to move out of the tarpaulin tents and back into their home.

For everyones continued support and donations – a BIG warm thank you from me & the children of Bhakatpaur Orphan Home. This is what we can achieve when we work together! I had such a great time with them all in Nepal and there will be more detailed blog posts coming up as well a few new projects I’m working on, so stay tuned!

INDIA

India is hard to sum up in one word. Unreal. Crazy. Beautiful. Chaotic. Awesome. It was everything I wanted from a trip to India and more. I met so many amazing people, experienced such diverse places and got a real taste of the culture. Although my time was short I managed to cram in so much and again I will be writing up some more detailed posts on my trip, along with reviews and some pretty epic photos! For now enjoy some of these…

GHANA

As you may know I am volunteering with VSO at the end of May in Ghana. I’m back in the UK for a few days to sort some things out for visas & work permits. However I am flying to Portugal for a week to soak up some sunshine & do some exploring! I’ll then come back for a Team Leader training weekend where I’ll find more out about my projects & meet some of my team hopefully!

You can still donate to my fundraising page and anything is very much appreciated – you’ll also be able to see the projects your money is going towards too!

https://www.justgiving.com/Jack-Gunns1

That’ll bring me to the beginning of May – where I have 3 weeks before I depart for my VSO program. I currently have some travel plans being arranged for that time and I’ll update as soon as I get confirmation, which is very exciting!

I also wanted to take a moment to just consider everything. I feel super grateful that I am able to have these experiences – I have created a lot of them for myself with dedication, handwork & persistence. But it just shows how you can completely change your lifestyle if you truly want to. This time last year I was in an office not enjoying it all, I took the steps to change that.

“If you want something badly enough. You’ll make it a priority.”

Stop dreaming and start doing.

Keep up to date by following my social channels,

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create. Be Nice!

I’m Volunteering with VSO

I’m Volunteering with VSO

with No Comments

VSO ICS

I have been wanting to share this news for a while but I was waiting on confirmation of my placement whereabouts! And I am very happy to announce I will be volunteering as a team leader overseas in Ghana collaborating and helping with local livelihoods projects, gender equality education and human rights! The program is 8 months long split into 2 cycles of 4 months and I’ll be starting the first in May 2016. I’m super excited to get involved with these projects and learn about ways to help the local communities in this area.

Before I went through the application process with VSO, I went straight to google to find any links or helpful reviews and when I was told I got Ghana I immediately did the same – but I didn’t manage to find much in depth info about either…so I’m going to document my journey with VSO and try to give a well rounded insight into what to expect from being a team leader in this program; whilst also sharing my adventures in Ghana!

To give you an idea of what I have done so far:

  1. Initial Application process via online form
  2. Acceptance on the scheme
  3. Assessment day at the Kingston office which involved some team solving problem tasks and a 1-1 interview. I found the day really casual and well organised. Try not to be too nervous for it, it’s not intense. You just need to show that you are capable of looking at a problem and finding a solution collectively. Our first task was to build the tallest giraffe we could out of newspaper and sticky tape!
  4. Acceptance!
  5. DBS & Medical Clearance – arrange these as soon as you can and get the forms sent back to VSO; so as to move your application forward as quickly as possible. All the costs of these things are covered by VSO.
  6. Clearance accepted and details of your placement confirmed!
  7. Start fundraising! As soon as you get your placement you can start the process of fundraising, all VSO volunteers are required to fundraise an amount (£800 usually) to begin the program. Get baking, selling, running and shouting about your placement & cause!

Here’s a snippet of my fundraising page bio which explains a bit more about what VSO ICS is and what my placement will involve when I get to Ghana:

https://www.justgiving.com/Jack-Gunns1

VSO GHANA

“In May 2016 I will volunteer for VSO ICS on a development programme in Asamankese, GHANA.

This is part of International Citizen Service (ICS), which brings young people together to fight poverty and make a difference where it is needed most. I’ll be working alongside volunteers, on projects within the community.

Through this project, VSO seeks to increase cocoa production, provide alternative markets for cocoa and other products and add value through income generating activities by increasing business and marketing knowledge skills among the target group.

VSO ICS teams will help improve livelihood conditions by supporting FLOWER (local NGO partner) to increase their support of community groups, and inspire an interest in agriculture amongst in and out of school youth.

In addition, VSO ICS volunteers will organise seminars for the local people for them to gain skills in bookkeeping and adopt innovative marketing practices to reach new communities not currently working with Cocoa Life.

ICS works with communities that have specifically requested their help. It also aims to inspire young people in the UK and overseas to become active citizens who are passionate about long term community development.

I need to raise £800.00 for VSO who are one of the respected development charities that deliver ICS. This will allow them to continue to bring about positive change in the developing communities where they work. You can check out their amazing work here http://www.vsointernational.org

I’m doing multiple fundraising activities and challenges and you can keep track of how I get on here on my Justgiving page or www.jackgunns.com. Any contribution from you will make a real difference to the lives of people in developing countries, so please dig deep!

Thanks for your support!”

My next update will be when I go for a Team Leader training weekend in April which you are required to do before you begin placement as it provides you with the leadership training and details of your role when overseas.

Hopefully you found this useful and keep an eye out for the next step in my VSO ICS adventure!

Keep up to date by following my social media channels as I post regular updates on there!

Travel. Create. Be Nice!

How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

with 2 Comments

Hello and welcome to 2016! I love the new year as its a chance to make a fresh start and plan loads of new stuff! There is a lot coming up this year in this blog so stay tuned for more adventures and travel stories. For now here’s my Top Tips on ‘How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip!’ Why not do something great this year and give something back, Enjoy!

Volunteering is one of the best ways you can get the opportunity to interact with locals and help make a positive impact on your travels. Once you’ve got your destination and project it’s time to get prepared for your life changing trip! If you haven’t chosen yet then read my review of my experience with IVHQ for some inspiration! I’ll give my advice on how best to prepare for it and what to expect to gain from embarking on a volunteering project.

Pre-Departure

  1. Before you go research. Research everything you can find through blog posts, articles, videos and reviews of the place your staying at and what it has to offer along with all the possible problem areas to look out for.
  2. Get your visas sorted! It’s something that is often overlooked in the planning process but it is a vital part to be able to enter the country: find out where you need one for, for how long, the price, how long it takes to get approved approx. before you go, wether you’ll need to renew it if your staying longer than the ‘normal’ amount of time ( for example visas for Australia are free to apply for online as a tourist for up to a month, after that you’ll need to renew it or get a different visa category) 
  3. Check what/if you need vaccinations for the place your staying at, a great resource is fitfortravel also make an appointment to see your local travel nurse to make sure your covered.
  4. Collect all contact numbers for in country support and out of country support. i.e. support officer, government, host-family, immigration office, airport, taxis, family. 
  5. Get your travel insurance sorted. I would definitely recommend getting some cover especially if your heading to more rural, high risk areas. Also if your planning on taking valuables such as cameras/laptops then get them covered just in case! 
  6. Try and find out if the host-family/project your involved need any resources that you could take out with you to help. 
  7. Look into setting up a fundraising page for your trip – also look at doing some sponsored races, events or collections to help raise some money for your chosen project. I use www.gofundme.com 
  8. Make at least 4 copies of all your documents (passport, money cards, project info, visas, vaccinations, contacts, travel insurance) Give a copy to someone at home, keep one copy in your bag, give another copy to a program coordinator if you have one. This is a great way to make sure you always have someone with a back up of all your important info if anything happens. Its also a good idea to create a new folder in your email account and store all this digitally as well so you can access it via a computer if needs be or you need to email a document. 
  9. Change a small amount ( enough for a couple of nights stay in a hotel/food) into the destinations currency just in case your unable to get your money travel card up and running straight away – tip. check this works before you even leave for the airport in an atm in your own country so you can check everything in order. 
  10. Give your parents/guradian a list of all possible numbers/ emails they may need whilst your away or in case of emergency 
  11. Check social media for any links to your chosen project and see if there is anyway you can make contact with any other volunteers before you go. It’ll help you introduce yourself before you have even left and probably calm your nerves or get you more excited about your chosen project! Social media is such a powerful tool these days which you can take full advantage of before you trip! 
  12. Find out the basic phrases and vocabulary in the local language ( hello, goodbye, please, thank you) before you go to give yourself a head start in greeting and interacting with locals – tip learning the numbers 1-10 is also quite useful!! 

Now all the important stuff is planned and sorted, you can focus on packing!

13. Pack what clothes you want to take. Now unpack it and take half of them out, you won’t need that much! If you get stuck whilst your out there, you can usually pick up a few new t-shirts cheap or just hand wash them!

14. Include practical items such as a hand torch, head torch, batteries, swiss army knife (multitool), plastic bags, padlocks, universal plug adapter.tip take a throw away camera, no need for charging and great fun as a surprise to wait and see what the snaps look like when you come back!

15. Pack some medication i.e. paracetamol, ibuprofen, dehydration tablets, water-purifying tablets, insect repellent.

Once you bag is packed your ready to take to the airport!

Fast-forward the nervous, excited and sleepless flight to your volunteering project.

It’s overwhelming, especially if this is your first experience abroad or in a developing country. Just remember your here for a short amount of time and you will be heading home so make the most of the time you have. Take in as much as possible from the sights, smells, people, lifestyle, language and culture. Be open and accepting that you’re in a different country with different values/views to your own. They may not be what you are used but be respectful and embrace it.

Be Open

Be Respectful

Throw Yourself Into It!

Enjoy your experience of a lifetime and thanks to your well planned pre-departure you know everything is in place, so your able to just enjoy it and help out! Make sure you write down and take loads of photographs to remember your trip by!

Lastly my biggest tip for getting the most out of your volunteering experience or any experience is to just open yourself to it fully. Embrace every opportunity to learn and discover something your not used to, everything that challenges you helps you to grow.

Happy travels!

If you’d like to see what A Day in the Life of a Volunteer is like or Teaching in Kenya then check out my experiences!

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create, Be Nice!

 

A Day in the Life of a Nepal Volunteer

A Day in the Life of a Nepal Volunteer

with No Comments

If you’ve not considered visiting the stunning country of Nepal then I’d strongly recommend looking into it. I’d never even thought about visiting here until I came across a volunteering program that was running in Nepal. I’ll be honest and say one of the biggest things that did it was the fact it was so affordable, I had recently graduated from uni and was a skint student with not a lot to my name but a strong desire to head off travelling. I really liked the idea of volunteering and doing a home stay as I had done some teaching abroad but never a home stay. It was a terrifying thought when I was booking it all but I thought why not?

Fast forward to the end of July. Now picture this, I had just travelled around the east coast of Australia for a month and had landed in Nepal after 32 hours of travelling via Dubai, Delhi and finally arriving in Kathmandu. I was extremely sleep deprived and in for the biggest culture shock I hadn’t prepared myself for. I went with it and I had the most incredible experience. I got placed in the most beautiful little village in Sipadol in Bhakatpur and the next two months couldn’t have been better.

For any of you thinking wow I’d love to do some volunteering but I don’t know if I’d be any help or Nepal seems a bit too ‘out of my comfort zone‘” I would say to you that Nepal surprised me and completely changed my view on travelling and outlook on life. You can do a lot of good and really create true lasting friendships with the people you meet. I still speak to all my volunteer friends and everyone at the orphanage and I”m heading back very soon! The media makes things look way scarier than they actually are, of course always be sensible and do your research but Nepal connected me with the most friendliest people I’ve ever encountered!

Anyway, I could waffle on about how great it all was forever but for anyone wanting an insight into what exactly a ‘typical‘ (I use this in the loosest sense as you never know if you’ll be invited to some strangers house for tea, end up doing a dance in festival time with loads of Nepali villagers, watch a cow give birth or smoke Shisha in a local shoe shop – all of these events actually happened, no day is dull while your volunteering) day was like whilst volunteering then here you go! 

Volunteering Timetable

5:00am It’s time to wake up, open those eyes wide and Jump out of bed with a spring in your step… Well it was more like peeling the eyelids back and dragging yourself down the rocky path to the orphanage but after a few days you get over it and then you can’t get down there quick enough!

A room with a view #nepal #travelling #view #instadaily

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

5:30am Meditation. It’s time to channel those inner energies and create good karma. The kids used to all be up and ready sitting crossed legged whilst chanting by the time I used to get there. They also sing there national anthem everyday which was pretty cute to watch.   6:00am It’s never too early to do some chores and have a quick clean up of the bedrooms before school.

“Feed the birds” #nepal #ivhq2014 #birds #instagood A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

6:00am – 7:00am This is free time to spend with the kids to play games, have a chat, do the girls hair and if your musically gifted (I’m not) then some of the volunteers teach guitar lessons. I started going with Ashis one of the older boys to take the milk down to sell. It’s pretty cool to see and they have a way of measuring how good the milk is in exchange for rupees.

Sushil & Ashis, 2 of the best guys you’ll meet 👌 #nepal #bros #smiles

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Jammin’ time with Rohan! #drums #nepal #ivhq2014 #travels #thebiggestsmile A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

7:00am is breakfast time, cue chaos, absolute chaos. The kids all rush in to grab their plates and the volunteers man the rice and dhal creating a conveyer belt of food for each child. Throughout breakfast you’ll just hear the munching of rice with the occasional ‘more rice uncle’ ‘more curry’ ‘paniiiii’ (water)

7:30 – 8:00am It’s time to get ready for school. Everyone takes their positions outside the house as each child bursts through the front doors for shoes to be put on, lunchboxes to pack and hands to hold (everyone wants to hold your hand on the way to school) you’ll end up with two arms full of swinging kids as you manoeuvre down the slippery ‘path’ with each one handing you flowers. Don’t forget to get blessed with a tika on the way, one of the kids will get it done for you! It’s probably one of my favourite parts of the day! So many laughs! As you wave goodbye to all the kids shouting from the smiley bus you instantly cannot wait for them to be running back down the path to come home.

#blessed #tb #peace #tika 🙏✌️

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

#morningwalks #schoolrun #countingthedays #nepal ✌️ A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

9:00am Now it’s time to fill your belly a with a delicious breakfast cooked by aama. Rice, dhal and sometimes an occasional potato will be your main diet for your stay. There were times I never wanted to see rice again but overall I loved aamas cooking and whenever she made rotis I could have jumped for joy and sung from the treetops.

9:30am – 10:00am Freetime is something you’ll welcome after the hectic morning you’ve just had, have a rest but not for too long…

10:00am -12:00am Get back over to the house and help out your didis (older sisters/ the house mothers) there’s goats to graze, cows to clean out, house to clean, grass to cut, grass to carry and clothes to wash. Some of the best moments were getting to know and bond with the didis whilst helping out. It’s the best way to learn some of the language and get a real feel for a Nepali way of life. The mothers were outstanding and taught me a lot about being strong, kind and hardworking. You also get to make a fool out of yourself and have a laugh at your grass cutting technique or cow milking motions.

Hajur baii #nepal #ivhq2014 #aseko #instavillagemission #laugh

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

working the field, planting them crops #nepal #travels #instavillagemission #farming #colourspopping A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Pdidi grass cutting #nepal #travels #farmlife #instavillagemission #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

12:00am Fried rice time! This doesn’t sound that exciting but when you’ve had a limited food diet and worked up an appetite in the fields this is the best thing. Fried rice, chilli, garlic and egg lovingly cooked by the house mothers.   1:00pm – 3:00pm is Freetime and can be spent helping out, reading a book or heading into the old town to do some shopping. I used to love heading down to the fruit sellers and bringing back delicious mangos and bananas for the kids and volunteers!

down at the fruit stalls #nepal #travelling #instavillagemission #vscocam A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kids love mangos just a little bit #nepal #ivhq2014 #smile #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

3:00pm The kids are back! Sometimes if you’ve gone down into town you can time it to catch the bus back up with the kids which always goes down well as you see the big grins walking towards you from the school gates and everyone wants to sit next to you on the bus!

it’s been a long day at school #sleepy #busride #puttinginthehours #nepal A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

4:00pm Time to go down to the stream and wash the school clothes/ mess about in the water soaking the volunteer (me) and getting soap everywhere! Even the dullest activities are made fun by the kids, they have such a zest for life and never seem to be down, it’s really inspiring.

the only time i loved doing the washing 👌#happy #nepal #travels #tb A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Surfsoaping #surfer #nepal #ivhq #instavillagemission

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

5:00pm Time to help with homework – this translates to – trying to get everyone to stop throwing there books around and sit quietly, when I say everyone I pretty much mean the boys haha the girls were pretty good at getting on with it. You pretty much hold the fort until the actual teacher comes and then you can let him do what he’s good at and get the children studying.

6:00pm Time to milk the cows and have a quick milk tea with the didis and take the rest of the milk back to the house for aama. Now it’s time for dinner and more rice and dhal bhat with a charades game with aama to explain what happened in the day (aama spoke little English but we still connected through lots of actions and facial expressions which she seemed to find hilarious)

7:00pm – 8:00pm is chill time with your other volunteers and time to pick out that perfect Instagram picture you can post and hashtag your heart away for friends and family back home!

9:00pm Bed. Sleep. You’ll be meditating in a few hours time and doing it all over again!

So there you have it, a typical day in the life of a volunteer in Nepal based on my experience. No day is the same and weekends are even more intense as the kids don’t have school on a Saturday! I used to love Saturdays and chilling with the kids, grazing the goats and going to watch the boys play football!

Go volunteer! I’m sure/I know you’ll have the BEST time!

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos (there are so many more!) from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

Flickr | 500px

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create, Be Nice!

Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

with No Comments

“Namaste Jack Uncle” is what I would hear all the time on a daily basis. The kids here are among the happiest kids I’ve met and so content with so little. I was expecting it to be at least a week before they opened up to me and talked. Not at all, within the first few hours I had kids hanging from me like monkeys. I’ve gotten to know alot of them and kept finding myself anxiously waiting all day for the kids to come back from school so we could play and do chores!

the school run #nepal #ivhq2014 #chito

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

get to wake up to this everyday #nepal #travels #nature

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

so much red #shrine #nepal #temple #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I sought out a tatooist while I was there. I now have arms full of snakes, cats, a house and some mountains. Little rahul is quite the artist. We took the kids to the temple and had a picnic one of the days which was more of a mission than it may sound at first. I went into town with our host sister Saroza to stock up on momos (kind of nepali dumplings if you will – a favourite amongst the children and myself!), we then took a taxi up the mountain which sounds impressive but then if you throw in the fact that Nepal has no real ‘roads’ so the path up the mountain was a little rocky – an even more impressive feat for the taxi driver. As well as this we took huge speaker amps up so we could have music to dance too and marched 21 kids up a to the top of a mountain. It was well worth it and I think I was way more excited than the children! Over the duration of my stay we had various volunteers from different countries come stay and the orphanage was as busy as ever. I went to the old city of Bhaktapur and got the chance to see the Gai Jatra festival. Everyone dresses up and its a pretty great atmosphere. It was a hive of dancing and stick clapping. The old city is quite amazing with lots of old temples and architecture. It’s pretty impressive. Overtime I went down to the old city I felt a sense of ancient history and awe at the buildings around me.

Bhakatapur festival #temple #nepal #rammedro #partytime

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I also witnessed the birth of a baby calf on the farm. Just as we were leaving to go back one evening one of the mothers came shouting saying the gai (cow) was having a baby. We stayed and watched and it was incredible to see so close. We now have baby wally to add to the family. Just a typical day in the life of a volunteer.

Rohan and ‘wally’; the new addition to the fam #nepal #ivhq2014 #neckhug #baby #cow

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Time is flying! I have really settled into the nepali way of life and home now. The more comfortable im getting in my placement the more the days seem to be passing by quicker. I recently went to chitwan on safari where I met with the other volunteers from orientation, which was a great chance to catch up and see how everyones placements were going. The resort was really nice and we got to shower on top of an elephant! Then went on a canoe down the flooded river and an elephant safari. The weather held out for us and we only had one delay from a landslide on the way so pretty successful. More to come on my chitin safari adventure experience in another blog post!

Pdidi grass cutting #nepal #travels #farmlife #instavillagemission #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We threw a birthday party for all the kids as it was two of their birthdays. Myself and the other volunteers bought mangos, rice pudding, a cake and new school bags for all 20 kids which was great! We danced alot and at one point got taken to a random party in the village as they were celebrating a festival as well. I had no idea what we were doing at a villagers house to begin with. Then music came on and everyone started dancing,  it was me and two other volunteers who were the only foreign people and the rest were nepali villagers. No one really spoke good english but everyone was so excited to have us there. They laughed at my questionable dance moves which I don’t blame them for because they were terrible! They offered us some delicious foods and then we went back to carry on partying with the kids and other volunteers. It was so fun and random to party with the locals and a truly unique moment. Life in the village was pretty sweet and loved being with the kids.

Jdidi Roti machine #nepal #ivhq2014 #food #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The Nepali fam #nepal #homefromhome #ivhq2014 #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kids love mangos just a little bit #nepal #ivhq2014 #smile #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

pre-roti rolling with pdidi #nepal #food #culture #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

One man and his goats #IVHQ #nepal #goatherder #instagood

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I also had the cool opportunity of experiencing the womens festival a day where women dress up, dance and fast for the whole day to pray for a good husband. In support of the females in the house I also fasted. It was a long day. The girls all looked grown up in thier best outfits and saris and we went to the temple to dance/me take photos. At one point jamona and bdidi pulled me in to dance. I felt like I was gonna be eaten alive by the women ‘praying for good husbands’ at the sight of a giant white man.

the girls getting ready for the womens #festival with #henna #nepal #ivhq2014

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

today was all about the ladies #womens #festival #nepal #culture #dancing #demsaris

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We got the paints out one of days which was great to see kids getting creative. The younger boys ishan, rahul and ashok decided to put paint all over their hands and then ran through the home to the bathroom. They dropped dollops of paint everywhere and tried to wash in the bathroom, which just resulted in blue stains and streaks. It was funny to watch until ashok filled a bucket of water to throw at the paint and got half of it over me. We all laughed as we cleaned up the blue mess. The whole time ishan telling me not to tell anyone.

no tell saroza, no riya, no rupak #nepal #ivhq #oops #blue #instavillagemission

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

we unleashed arts & crafts today #nepal #ivhq2014 #instavillagemission #topstudent #moneyshot

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Nepal is pretty awesome. Made even sweeter by my little bro rahul who pinky promised me with both hands everyday. Then kissed them both and says “friends forever uncle, yes”.

before the painting got out of control #nepal #ivhq #painting #art

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

There were so many incredible moments during my stay with the Thapa family from aama (the grandmother/mother) cooking us delicious rice dishes every morning and evening but not being able to speak any english; which was interesting when she would keep piling more rice on our plates even if we were full up. I impressed everyone by learning the days of the week and numbers in nepali along with a few other nepali words and phrases which got me bonus points with the house mothers and aama. Going with Ashis one of the older boys every morning to sell the milk. Helping them all with their homework everyday and walking them to the bus stop for school; sometimes we’d get on the ‘smiley bus’ with them if were headed into town. Getting to know the house mothers, who on the most part don’t get as much attention as everyone else, so it was really great getting to know Jamuna, Maiya and Parabati; even if we had to act out most of our conversations due to language barriers – this made it all the more worthwhile!

Hajur baii #nepal #ivhq2014 #aseko #instavillagemission #laugh

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Bumpy bus ride – nepali style #bus #nepal #travelling #asia #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The end of my trip was bitter sweet. I was super glad to get home and eat some home cooking but this was outweighed and overshadowed by the fact that I was leaving my new family behind. Half of me was now entwined with this small nepali village. I never expected to fall in love with an entire village and the kids. The kids I had been with everyday for 2 whole months, who I walked to the bus stop and stayed up with to help with their homework. The kids I had bonded with, I had to say goodbye too. I’d never felt such a heavy pull on my heart as I did the day I had to leave and get in the taxi to the airport. I was leaving behind new friends, a home and a new family.

As soon as I landed back in England I was happy but sad that it had come to an end. I lasted four months being back before I booked another flight back there. I’m heading back to my nepali family and I couldn’t be happier!

this view though #nepal #travelling #instavillagemission #incredible #colourspopping #mountains

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

big and small #nepal #ivhq #bestbuds #instavillagemission #hands

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Travel. Create, Be Nice!

 

Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

with 1 Comment

flying into kathmandu valley #mountains #nepal #travels

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kathmandu valley, Birds eye views are the best #nepal #landscape #instadaily A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I finally arrived in the Tribuhuvan airport in Kathmandu Nepal, after a gruelling 32 hours travel from Sydney. The flight into Nepal was great getting to see glimpses of the incredible mountain range and gliding through the clouds to the airport.

Stepping outside the airport was a flurry of shouting, smells and blinding light. It’s very overwhelming at first especially if your travelling solo, I had no idea where to go or what I was doing. But once I found my airport pickup – who was holding a makeshift sign with my name questionably spelled on it – we made our way to Kathmandu guest peace house. They definitely call it a ‘culture shock’ for a reason; it couldn’t be more different to England but I was looking forward to embracing it and learning alot from this experience. Nepals road system is questionable but I held on and took in the busy sights all around. Im not going to lie you have to be prepared for it, I was so overwhelmed and slightly terrified as I got into a small white van with two foreigners who spoke little english. I spent most of the journey planning my escape route! Luckily I had gone through an organisation IVHQ so I had some comfort but it was still pretty scary.

After settling into my new guest house and having my first taste of breakfast – which was very sweet ‘bread’ and black coffee. Needless to say Nepal doesn’t have access to many of the foods I’d usually be having but even this was a luxury as I knew my host family wouldn’t be serving this once I was on placement. So for now I made the most of it and looked forward to my few days of orientation.

had the blackest coffee for breakfast. #coffee #buzz #breakfast

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

My 3 day orientation was so much fun and a great way to start the experience. We had one of the smallest groups in a while at 15 people including 2 canadians, 2 french, 2 italians, 2 aussies, 1 Netherlands, 2 chinese, 2 portugese, 1 hawaiin and me representing the brits. Everyone was so cool and we bonded really well as a group so much that most of us have booked to do the chitwan safari in 2 weeks time which will be great to catch up! The orientation consisted of visiting the beautiful monkey temple Swayumbhunath. The temple is, as the name suggests, populated by monkeys who have no fear about going right up to you and are incredibly curious; also fairly intimidating when you start to get surrounded by them. We made our way up steps towards the main stupa taken in the awesome views of the Kathmandu valley surrounded by vast mountain ranges. Thousands and thousands of colourful prayer flags covered the entirety of the temple grounds. We got to take a look into an art gallery to find out about how some of the masters paint works such as the mandela and buddhas eyes. It was really interesting to find out about the different levels of mastery in the artwork and how the masters use gold within parts of their paintings. As we carried on our journey we made it to the top of the stupa; when visiting a stupa, you must walk around it clockwise. You can also spin the prayer wheels that line the base of it to create good karma or energy as you go round.

Just incredible views! #nepal #mountains #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

so many cool statues on the climb up #buddha #peace #temple #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Anything You Like?

Swayambhunath #monkey #temple #peace #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Monkey TempleMonkey See

Prayer WheelsThe orientation provided another trip to the Buddhist haven of the Boudhanath Stupa where we got to witness yet another marvel of building and detailed craft of Nepal. This particular stupa had 108 small images of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha around it.

Boudhanath #temple #nepal #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Stupa GuardsDragonpot

We also got to see the famous Durbar Square and do a bit of shopping in Thamel. If you’ve been to Kathmandu you’ll know its a dusty combination of old meets new with buildings on top of buildings stacked up and crammed in. But it is a hive of life and interest, as there is always something happening and you can walk into a shop and find pockets of peacefulness to sip your coffee that you wouldn’t have expected find compared to the high speed noises high streets just outside. It a bizarre yet wonderful mix of bustle and calm. There are tonnes of shops, souvenirs and cafes to explore that you’ll have a hard time not picking up  at least something! A lot of the shops in Thamel sell western snacks – like oreos – which after placement will be a welcome relief, make sure you stock up on a few packs to take with you! You can also find ATMs scattered around most with armed guards around them. I’d take out as much as you need but be sensible, don’t carry too much on you – most of the placements around Nepal will also have places you can draw some out. Also be clever about it as some of the machines charge a fee to draw out. Once I got to my placement I pretty much drew out most of my money as I knew after meeting my  host family that I could keep it safe in their home and it was easier as I was based there for the duration as well as it being a quiet village. I only took out small amounts whilst I was in Kathmandu.

Buddha | Peace

notes with elephants and rhinos on! Now thats my kind of money #nepali #currency #traveller #elephant A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

One last thing about Thamel – if you want a great place to have a drink or two in the evening or day – head to Phat Kath and grab yourself an Everest beer! We loved it and its a great starting point to onto some of the other bars along the hight street. Don’t get lost in the maze of guest houses and shops that start to meld into one giant jingo game after a few days of living there!

had drinks at the coolest little treehouse style bar #drinks #phatkath #nepal #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Our orientation had to come to an end after a great few days learning about the culture, meeting new friends and exploring the many temples of Kathmandu. It was sad to leave them all to go to placements but exciting to see were you will be based for the next few months!

I then got placed in Bhaktapur not too far from kathmandu but much more rural which was a welcome change. The volunteers, host Family and staff there were all friendly and welcoming. The kids were awesome. Too cute. I started getting called ‘Jack Uncle’ by them all. The next few months were going to be on some of the best I had ever experienced!

So I’m about a week into ‘living’ in Nepal now. I love it. The initial shock and anxiety has been replaced with excitement and awe at this beautiful country. Filled with breathtaking scenery, a wealth of culture and so many friendly faces!

Stay tuned for my next instalment to my adventures in Nepal!

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

Flickr | 500px | Instagram

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

with No Comments

I chose, after a lot of research and endless googling, to volunteer in Nepal through the company IVHQ to do childcare work within an orphanage placement. I’ll talk about my experience with the company as well as give a run down of what I went through pre-trip and whilst on placement. All views and experiences are my own.

 

What they say…

“International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable, safe and responsible volunteer abroad programs in 30 different countries around the world. Each year, IVHQ places thousands of volunteers on our volunteer abroad programs and offers a wide range of volunteer travel opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Victoria Falls, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Bali, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, India – Delhi, India – Dharamsala, Vietnam – Hanoi, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ha Long Bay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – Bogota, Colombia – Cartagena, Morocco, Peru – Cusco, Peru – Lima, Laos, Romania, Italy and Fiji.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world’s leading volunteer travel company, offering a variety of projects for volunteer travelers, including Teaching, Childcare, Community Development, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation.

Whether you are traveling abroad, taking a gap year, wanting to experience a volunteer vacation, or simply wishing to provide assistance in a developing country through volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ has the program for you.

With volunteer program fees starting from USD$180, you will not find a more affordable, high quality and trustworthy international volunteer travel company.”

 

What I say…

“IVHQ was definitely one of the more affordable companies for volunteer work I came across, especially what you got for the money and the variety of destinations you have to choose from. You really can get a lot out of the experience without the massive price tag of what other companies are offering, because after all your a choosing to volunteer so don’t want to have to pay an arm and leg to do so! There are other ways to volunteer cheaper – by going directly to in-country organisations, organising parts of the trip yourself i.e. accommodation, familiarising yourself without guides however for a first time experience in a country like Nepal I was more than happy to pay the small amount extra to get all of this included in the fee price.

IVHQ right from the start provided email correspondence to answer any queries I had, organised airport pickup, accommodation, placements and have an extremely friendly team to welcome you and check up n you throughout your placement. They also provide a weeks orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal before sending you to your host-family placements; as well as some language lessons which come in handy!

I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling. I can safely say that the team in Nepal made me feel safe, welcome and at ease before I started my placement. With this in mind I would recommend going for more than 2 weeks to really make the most of your time volunteering in Nepal. Once you take the week off for the orientation (which is essential at the start I think) you should try to have at least 2 weeks+ in your actual placement. I saw people come and go within a week or two which leaves no time to really ‘make a difference‘ or get to know the people your working with. It frustrated me that a few were just using it as a cheap way to travel – this isn’t fair on the children you are working with. If your choosing to volunteer then invest your time with the kids.

“I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling”

The support from the team lasted throughout my 2 month placement with regular visits to make sure I was alright and to help with any trips I wanted to plan whilst there – they even arranged tickets and weekend trips to Chitwan National Park which I wouldn’t have known were to go for. The IVHQ team also checked in with me online via email and answered other queries I had.

I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family and the most incredible children at Bhaktapur Self-Sustaining Orphanage. I decided to stay in the same place for the duration of my stay to really get to know them. All I can say is I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village. Everyone from the host family, children, house mothers, villagers and locals  are like my home from home now. I’m entwined with an entire nepali village on the side of a mountain and am heading back to visit everyone in March ( keep up to date by following @travelling_jackg or my social links).

“I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village”

So, all in all IVHQ was a great company to volunteer through. They gave me the confidence and ease to volunteer without all the headache. I had support, help if I needed it, introduction to culture and a base of friends right from the off. Like I said you can do it cheaper but compared to the other companies out there this is one of the cheapest for what you get! You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. From doing this experience I can now say I’d be happy to just go to Nepal and organise it myself without an organisation but thats only because I had such a positive introduction thanks to IVHQ.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I paid volunteering through IVHQ and other additional costs:

IVHQ Program Fee – £620

Flight – £400 return (LHR – KTH) – I booked through STA travel however in hindsight use sky scanner for a better variety of deals.

Visa – £70 – Apply via the Nepal embassy – send your passport off and get it back with recored delivery. You can also get a visa on entry to Nepal I just wanted everything done before I got there.

Travel insurance – £30 via post office

Criminal background check – £50 via .gov

Vaccinations – varies depending own what you need, I had already had quite a few for a trip to Kenya previously so only needed a typhoid one which was free. I also took malaria tablets which you only need for a small part of Nepal in places like Chitwan however I never ended up taking them as it was only a two day stay. I just wanted to be prepared incase I was placed here for the whole of my stay.

Check what you need here.

Average weekly expense – £0 – £10 (Nepal isn’t very expensive at all, especially as food is including in the accommodation – although don’t expect anything fancy. Expect rice, a lot of rice)

Chitwan 2 day safari – £80 (I’ll write a more detailed post on this as well as trekking expenses)

More blog posts to come about my experiences and time in Nepal, make sure you keep up to date by following my social links!

You can expect:

  • Nepali culinary delights
  • How to bond with an entire nepali village
  • My experience with a bad stomach ache and a mountain
  • 3 new didis, no english and lots of acting out

Stay tuned!

1 2