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Review for The Global Mountain Fund Inc, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Rating: 2 stars  

I posted this same review on another site. I rate the experience hear as below expectations not because the experience was bad, but because the expectations for the programs gained from the descriptions on the Mountain Volunteer website set the bar far above what the administration, staff, and program seemed capable of actually providing. For instance, (1) despite what the staff tells you, the Kathmandu house is not in a nice part of town, it is in a safe but loud part of town. The ring road is nearby and the supermarket is just beyond the back fence. The house across the street has a dog that barks the whole day long. Needless to say, the time spent at the house is mostly without peace. What appeared to me and my fellow travelers to be the nice parts of town were seen from the cab when going near the zoo, and from the airplane window on departure over the southwest part of the city. (2) The Mountain Volunteer website description for the premed program at Helping Hands Hospital did not accurately portray my experience or observations. Doctors there work mostly from their OPD offices, and only one I shadowed did rounds on wards. A lot of a premed student's time is spent finding what doctors are in that day, and then hoping that the doctor will let him or her sit in, then hoping that the doctor will take the time to explain what is going on, and then deciding what to do when the doctor gets up and leaves unannounced and without instruction. It is a lesson unto itself, and I enjoyed it. However, it is not the delight that is described in the website description, and a timid or unexperienced student would not enjoy it much at all I suspect.

About my time and mission in Nepal: I was an undergraduate who went to Nepal to complete a global health ethics directed study. I signed up through Mountain Volunteer for two weeks of the Premed Experience, and an undetermined amount of time of the Global Health Internship. My total time in Nepal was 43 days; December 13, 2014 - January 25, 2015. I spent 10 days going to Helping Hands Hospital, and just 2 days at Her Farm. The rest of my time was spent either in Kathmandu at the house or around the city, in Chitwan, or in Pokhara.

The reason for the short stay at Her Farm is that I went the day before Christmas. The Global Health Internship "rural clinic" nearby was closed on the holiday, and closed the day after. Even had it been open, it was reported by other "volunteers" to be staffed only by CNA level workers, and saw just 4 patients/day. Instead of waiting for the clinic to open to see 4 patients/day with a CNA, or tolerating other "volunteers" and Her Farm staff staying up late drinking and having a dance party, the dogs barking all night, and a group of "volunteers" smoking marijuana many times per day, I returned to Kathmandu.

I put "volunteer" in parenthesis because I did not witness any "volunteering" in my six weeks. Mountain Volunteer "volunteers" ought to have been called donating be-ers. The Mountain Volunteer administrator talks about "being" in Nepal, and I agree that "being" is important. However, I can "be" in Nepal without Mountain Volunteer in the middle.

In fact, the best and most memorable activities of my six weeks in Nepal were all arranged without help from the Mountain Volunteer staff. The memorable activities were: USAID briefing at the US Embassy arranged by me; visit to the Nepal Leprosy Mission arranged by other students through Helping Hands Hospital administrator; visit to a government primary health clinic in Kathmandu arranged by other students through Helping Hands Hospital administrator; hiking in Shivapuri National Park; and many wonderful meals in Thamel despite the awful portrayal of Thamel given to me by the Mountain Volunteer administrator, and to other "volunteers" in the first-day orientation briefing (you will see what I mean if buy a Mountain Volunteer program and the orientation stays the same).

The Kathmandu house staff is fun, and friendly. I miss them, and if you go and spend much time around them with a respect for them as your equal, you will likely miss them when you leave too.

My recommendation: if you go to Nepal, "be" there, and stay with Mountain Volunteer for one or two weeks to get settled, and to know your way around. Then get a 1000NPR (10USD)/night hotel that offers a hot shower and travel services (many do). Arrange memorable activities yourself, or through your hotel. Remain flexible, and DO NOT think that things will go according to planned, or according to a schedule, or according to what you think SHOULD to be the case.

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Role:  Volunteer