More and more travelers are interested to add meaning to their holiday. For one this means volunteering on a farm, helping a local community or teach English to children. This all to experience local life and be able to contribute. One year ago I got in contact with Shamser, a very ambitious man who lives with his wife and 9-year-old son in Gaunsahar, Nepal. Gaunsahar is a small picturesque village located between Kathmandu and Pokhara 1450 meters above sea level. Shamser started a wonderful initiative that offers travelers a way to experience Nepali life and at the same time they can contribute to creating a better future for the village. I was very impressed by his idea and ambition to help his village and especially its children. I spoke with him about how his initiative started and what was driving him.
The start of his idea to help his local village
Shamser told me that he was brought up in Gaunsahar as a son of a farming family. Schooled in the local public school, his mornings and evenings were spent assisting his family with chores around the farm, leaving little time for him to study. “Not much has changed in Gaunsahar in 30 years”, Shamser said. He graduated from the local high school and wanted to follow higher education. Unfortunately, with his father lacking the funds to invest in his education he decided to move to Kathmandu to take a job as a kitchen porter so that he would be able to pay for his university degree. He apparently impressed the owner so much with his English that he was promoted to waiter before finally moving to concierge. This full time job didn’t leave him much time for studying, but he graduated in English Literature after 3 years. He continued to save money until a time when he was able to move to the West to start what he thought would be a new life. Shamser reveals, “Spending a year and a half in Antwerp working and saving money, I realized, I was missing the close-knit community of my village. I also noticed that I wanted to make a difference to the future of my community; something I couldn’t do from Belgium. The majority of the men working in my village have to go outside of the country to make a living for their family, which means that they are away for months. My dream was to create more jobs to enable the families to stay together and provide the children with better education.”
Community support and a unique local experience
With ideas for social improvement circling around his head, he moved back home. He became a teacher in the local school and made principle shortly after. Shamser said, “At that moment I still hadn’t started anything around my initial idea: improving the poverty of my village. At one point I decided to start inviting volunteers with the idea that they could experience the real Nepali life in return for providing help to the people of my village. I provided them a homestay and they were supporting the children of the village who were behind in their studies.” Nowadays people from all over the world volunteer and help the children with home tuition, teach subjects at my school, help building chimneys, assist villagers with electrical issues, agricultural work or other such projects. Shamser, “It is wonderful to see that more and more children of the village learn to speak English. I also started a more ambitious project: with the help of volunteers I’m going to build a new free independent school. It will be a school free to the children who need it most. A school that won’t discriminate between castes and will offer the poorest children of the village the chance of quality education they couldn’t otherwise afford. I also wish to create more homestays in the village to provide the families of the village with a new way of income. On the long term, I hope to build a small hospital in the village as well as funding an emergency vehicle so that people in need have higher chances of surviving.”
Gaunsahar, a beautiful village in the Nepalese mountains
“I warmly invite people who would like to travel to Nepal to join us for a few days (or longer if they wish). Gaunsahar is not just an ordinary village it is a beautiful place to experience and enjoy Nepali nature. From the village we have stunning views of the Himalayas including the Annapurna range, Manaslu, Peak 29 and Fishtail. Several wonderful hikes in the are available and the ruined royal palace and fort is my favorite secret spot as it is now in the midst of the jungle. It is a great hike up 500 meters from my homestay.”
Personally I think activities like Shamser’s can give that extra dimension to your holiday: spending time in a beautiful place, getting to know more about local life than the more common activities and creating value for the local people by helping them. Are you interested to spend some time with Shamser and the people in his village? Great! Please visit his website pages: volunteer as a teacher, volunteer to build a local school, or have a Farmstay in Lamjung.