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Andrea Schmelcher headshot.png

Andrea Schmelcher

FoVIN, Canada

I volunteered with VIN in 2009, after completing my university studies. One of my courses touched on microcredit and the profound impact that an extra dollar earned by a mother has on her children and her wider community. I finished my schooling ahead of schedule, and decided to volunteer somewhere I could put this in action, using the extra time and tuition I had saved.

The women’s empowerment program, and specifically the microcredit aspect of it, is unlike any other program aided by a nonprofit. Because VIN helps the women learn an income generative skill, save some of their profits, and pool these together, the women have actually become the lenders of capital, not just borrowers.

VIN was a perfect fit, found after much research and confirmed after corresponding with the founder, Bhupi. I found Bhupi’s warmth through emails escalated rather quickly from “regards” to “much love from Kathmandu” in a matter of a few exchanges, but this is telling of the typically warm Nepali spirit. After my volunteer term was complete, I trekked to Everest Base Camp, and encountered the same generous attitude all along the way. Before departing to return home, I promised my wonderful homestay family that I would be back. Indeed, I returned for a visit in 2012 while on an Annapurna Circuit trekking vacation.

I have remained in regular contact with VIN, Bhupi, and my homestay family. I am proud to be involved with an amazing nonprofit, and the wonderful partners around the world who continue to support their programs.


Janelle Rienstra Jones 


I am a teacher in Chicago and in 2008 after a decade of rewarding but routine work, I decided to seek out a change of scenery. Inspired by a friend who’d recently been an international volunteer, I found information on Volunteers Initiative Nepal and immediately knew that a trip to the other side of the world was going to be my next adventure. Through VIN I spent eight weeks living in a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu and teaching English to the monks there, and the experience changed my life. After returning to the “real world”, I wanted to stay connected to the place and the people, and encourage others to do the same. My time on the Board of FoVIN-USA has inspired, challenged, and changed me and I hope to inspire others to join me on this journey!

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FoVIN,  Canada

While waiting for my visa to arrive so I can start my Master program in Canada, I decided to look for an international volunteer opportunity. Since I planned to study Peace and Conflict Studies, I was specifically searching for peacebuilding projects, and Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) with its Raising Peace Campaign became a perfect fit. 


In late October 2019, I came to Nepal as a short-term volunteer. Under VIN’s women empowerment initiative, I worked on the Raising Peace Campaign with two local staff, two local volunteers who worked as translators, and another short-term volunteer and two long-term EU Aid volunteers from Italy. Together, we delivered workshops about gender equality and Sustainable Development Goals to over 100 students from two elementary and secondary schools in Tarakeshwor. We also created and facilitated three workshops on domestic abuse and women’s rights for 60 + women and girls at three communities in Tarakeshwor. We brought in a local lawyer who helped answer legal questions. 


From the two weeks volunteering in Nepal, I learned so much about the history, culture, human rights status, and development progress of Nepal. As much I was able to utilize my skills and knowledge to support various local individuals and communities, I was also inspired by and learned from personal stories of VIN staff, local community leaders, and students who are working hard to create positive social change within their communities. In addition, I have met and become good friends with many people from across the world who share the same passion in social justice and peacebuilding.

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