Jon Gebbia (jrgebbia (at) aol (dot) com)
For my first time volunteering, I went to Nepal and had the pleasure of working with SADP-Nepal and all of the people associated with the organization. I chose to go to Nepal because of its diverse terrain and culture, and now feel like I couldn’t have picked a better destination. Their lack of education coupled with an unstable government makes Nepal a slowly developing country that is “arms wide open” for volunteers. The hardest part of the trip for me was trying to give back half as much knowledge and know how that I was receiving. One travel quote that I have always lived by is “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is the change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living” (Miriam Beard). That quote does a great job of explaining the type of experience anyone can have by volunteering internationally; an experience that goes way beyond short lived excitement, but self fulfillment and personal growth that will be with you the rest of your life.
In preparation for this trip, I tried to acquire as much information as possible about the people and the area; when in reality an open mind and a friendly attitude was everything I needed. When you surround yourself with such a wonderful group of people, the need for a travel partner and even home comforts becomes unnecessary. You become comfortable with the simple things in life like the sunset over the Annapurna Mountain Range, homegrown meals, simplicity and peacefulness; and since the best things in life aren’t things at all, the ability to slow down, relax, and appreciate life for what it is becomes a gift that many people will never understand.
If you are considering any sort of volunteering or even international travel, the value gained through helping other people will pay you back tenfold. Make sure you lace up your hiking boots, clear your schedule, and hold on, because the experience will rock your world! I thank both village volunteers and SADP Nepal for this life changing trip that will never be forgotten.
Hillary & Bob (hilaryshemanski(at)hotmail (dot) com)
I had the pleasure of working with SADP Nepal and Ramesh for a month. The trip had a timeline, but the memories and lessons will last forever. My boyfriend, Bob, and I spent two weeks on the Baniya Eco Farm, where we were introduced to such a beautiful way of life. We were invited into cultural circles that very few tourists are allowed to see and feel. By our fifth day with the family we were bound by the Festival of Lights and made the brother of Mrs. Baniya, and I the sister of Mr. Ramesh. It was the most wonderful day of my life, and a moment that I will cherish forever.
The program itself was a fantastic experience. Ramesh and Mr. Baniya are working in Saldanda to improve the entire lifestyle of the area, as well as improving the organic farming methods. Ramesh was a wonderful host and made sure that we had the opportunity to learn all about the Nepali way of life, not just on the farm, but throughout the region and the country. Every day he had a plan to show us something wonderful. We visited temples, the medical outpost, the village school, neighbors, family members, farms, and cities. I didn’t realize how insanely lucky we were to be with the villagers until later when we were visiting the mountain museum in Pokhara, where tourists were getting their only glimpse of “real” Nepali natives via mannequins dressed as a native would be in certain regions. These Mannequins only reminded us of the new friends that we had left behind.
During the festival of lights the villagers would come by and sing for us as a tradition that has gone on forever. The Garung women have such wonderful smiles and great wit. If ever you need to do something in your life, dancing with a Garung woman is one of them. Waking up to endless layers of mountains in the distance was energizing and recharged me like nothing has before. Every day we could count on getting the most delicious organic food before and after working in the garden. Coming home to a world of grocery stores and canned food was very difficult after such an organic experience.
The gracious host that he is, Mr. Baniya sent Govinda, his assistant, with us on our trek into the Himalayas so that we didn’t have to pay for a guide. We now consider him to be one of our best friends and frankly, we miss them both immensely.
We had the treat of also visiting the Begnes Farm near Pokhara for a brief visit. The owners of this farm struggle every day with the problems that everyone in the world should be aware of. It is a permiculture farm, based on coffee, but dedicated to hundreds of different plants. I learned more about farming and the struggles of farming from my one night here than I have ever before. It’s a very difficult life and one that more people should visit to understand. The hosts were still happy, caring and wonderful hosts. What a beautiful place to be.
If you are headed to Nepal to visit Ramesh, and the SADP program, you can consider yourself the luckiest person in the world at this moment.
Brian Whitmire (b_whitmire01 (at) hotmail (dot) com)
I had my own idea of what to expect before leaving for Nepal to volunteer with SADP. I quickly found that the experience that was pictured in my mind was not nearly as beautiful, rich or memorable as what I had come to encounter. I will always be filled with such positive memories from that trip and time in my life.
When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I was quickly reminded of the environment that I would be spending a good amount of time in. The high energy given off from the city was quickly dimmed by the gentle and patient character of Ramesh Nath Sharma. I was so grateful to be around him and to be given so much information at such a constant rate.
After spending a few days in Kathmandu, we headed to Damauli to Kyamin Village , where I was able to get at true sense of the Nepali culture. I stayed with the Baniya family who were so tremendously generous with there time, patience and in sharing their way of life. I spent some time plowing up the land around the Baniya eco farm and then Ramesh showed me how to create little plots to plant seeds. Because I was there for the Dashain festival, things were a bit more layed back and slower paced in general which made for an interesting experience.
After spending about 5 days with the Baniyas, we spent some time in both Pokhara and Chitiwan National Park. I loved the park since it is filled with Indian elephants in a much more natural environment that you would be able to find in most zoos or sanctuaries around the United States(my native country). Being able to hang around them was so rewarding and I was able to see how gentle they really are. Amazing creatures.
Finally, it was time to head back to Kathmandu. On most of the journey back, as well as on the trip as a whole, Ramesh was educating me on organic farming as well as all of the different facets of agriculture in general. I certainly left that experience with much more respect and curiosity about organic agriculture than I arrived. I will always remember my trip to Nepal, and my time spent with Ramesh/SADP. It has certainly left its mark on me for the rest of my life and I am forever grateful for those experiences and the people that I have met because of my involvement in SADP.
Marcela Reyes (marcela1210 (at) yahoo (at) com)
“One of my greatest experiences (in my whole life) was spending a time with the SADP family. They became my family too. I am a proud volunteer of your organization, looking forward to repeat it in the near future. Everybody should experience the authentic nepali way of living and be part of this awsome community and people. I cannot explain how much i miss the mountains, the kids, the farm, the food!!!! yes… the dal bhat tarkari that i used to complain about! ha ha. I hope that SADP continue growing and expanding like the seeds we had so much fun taking care of. Namaste to you all!”
Renetta Hofstede (Sita Kumal), Netherlands
The past month went by so quickly, I can hardly believe it. I’ve enjoyed every single day-walking up in the beautiful room, morning meditations under the big tree, learning how to cook Nepali food and chapattis, getting my hands dirty in the garden, falling in love with the delicious organic vegetables and the way the earth smells, bus rooftop travelling, visiting Mr. Baniya’s amazing farm, the breathtaking views on the walk to Mirlung, where I again encountered so many great people and inspiring projects, the English session at the school!
Thank you so, so much Govinda, Ajaya and Mr. Ramesh for making all of this possible. In my heart a seed has been planted, dreams of organic school gardens in Holland, of my own organic farm…one day! I hope to come back as soon as possible and with SADP all the best with their great initiatives! Flower power,
Rhianna More (Radha Darai), Canada
Staying at this farm has been such a wonderful experience. I can hardly believe how beautiful and peaceful it is and how lovely all of the Nepali people are. It’s the perfect place for someone feeling slightly worn out having been away from home for over 4 months. I’m so happy to have met so many amazing people and the work and heart behind it is so inspiring. SADP’s vision for Nepal is truly inspiring. I had the privilege to be here during the first training program for people infected with HIV. While I hardly participated in the training since it was all in Nepali. I really enjoyed helping to cook (as in just chop veggies and such…) for over 20 people and just being there to witness such a great program was amazing. Also I am really grateful for the opportunity to visit the Baniya Eco Farm and even though the walk to Mirlung was tiring in the summer heat the views and our warm welcome made it totally worth it. Thank you SO much Ramesh, Govinda and Ajay! You made my stay so comfortable and I will definitely be back!