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  • Writer's pictureJamie Smith

VIN is for all ages? Even 50+...

Although the majority of the volunteers are university students, at age 51 I felt right at home with VIN and had a wonderful experience. It helped that I had visited Nepal twice before and was well travelled in developing countries; however, anyone could participate as there are a range of programs from living with host families, to working for the VIN offices in Kathmandu. Of course, there is the benefit of being surrounded by young and energetic, and motivated younger people who are volunteering for all the right reasons - they energized me!

My personal experience was teaching English at a Buddhist Monastery. As someone who works full time I had limited time contribute and spent only one month in the program. This is definitely a minimum time to adjust to the new surroundings, culture and to get to know your students. Having an interest in Buddhism meant that I could learn through almost osmosis much about Tibetan Buddhism which was supplemented by discussions with monks and other knowledgeable teachers who were fluent in English, and also by attending morning prayers (pooja/puja) and other ceremonies. Somewhat self-servingly, I also asked the senior class ages 14-19 years old to practice explaining Buddhist concepts to me in class which they much appreciated. So you can see that there is flexibility in the programs to be creative.

I also believe that having a little more life experience than some of my fellow volunteers meant I brought something different to the program - patience, understanding of cultures through travel and work, having had kids - which meant I was able to be flexible and understanding of the way things work in Nepal which of course is quite different!

Finally, as an older participant I am using this experience to explore way to contribute as I am moving towards retirement in 5-10 years. This program was an ideal re-start for me as I did some NGO work in the1990’s, and now that my children are fully grown I was able to find the time and resources to volunteer.

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