Testimonials from happy visitors and volunteers
Read the personal stories of visitors and volunteers from all across the world.
The thing that hit me the most when staying in Hangdewa is that it is so peaceful that it seems as if time has stopped. Being amongst untouched nature: jungle and forest – and farms with paddy fields – descend down the mountain, with goats bleating and buffaloes lowing and the river far down in the valley and the snow-capped mountains up so high, made me feel like I was at the edge of the world: the furthest I could be from English civilisation.
My diet was, by choice, the most healthy one possible: with the freshest of vegetables, home grown rice and local meat made into delicious curries with homemade flat breads ….or a breakfast of eggs from the chickens beside me and honey from next door. So a trip to the Taplejung Bazaar meant I could buy treats of chocolate and naughty drinks….which really was very welcome!
I instantly felt like I had a circle of friends for life as soon as I arrived in Nepal … so by the time I arrived in Hangdewa everyone felt like my family! It may seem that our worlds are far apart and yet, when we were hiking up a mountain together, it was amazing the common ground we could find and how much laughter there was. The villagers and children treated me as a celebrity (even a goddess!) – so if you have ever wondered what that is like, all you need to do is step foot in the school where all the children will want selfies with you and, if you are lucky, will dance traditional dances for you.
To sum up , there is a huge welcoming warmth and generosity of friendship that came my way as well as being in a very special place. A trip I will always remember.
United Kingdom, Visitor
Our trip to Nepal and the village of Hangdewa, with Q Learning, really was an experience like no other. If you want an ‘off the beaten track’ adventure then this is it! When we were in Hangdewa, we were blown away by the hospitality and friendliness of the local people. They were curious, accommodating and incredibly welcoming and happy to see us. Not only that, but the scenery was simply breathtaking. Far removed from the busyness of our usual lives, the stunning scenery, rugged mountains and simplicity of life was a real tonic and a chance to feel connected with what’s important in life. The trekking on offer was fantastic and provided opportunities to really experience the mountains and local countryside and get a glimpse of rural life in this magical place.
Staying in the village was truly a lifetime experience: waking up to panoramic views of some of the most untouched, beautiful and wild nature I’ve ever seen. The teachers and families of the village were incredibly warm and friendly, and I felt at home, especially with the incredible wood-stove-cooked food made to suit me as a Vegan – I still dream of it!
I worked with the children on painting murals of their village and local wildlife, as well as many fun and creative activities (like making woven bracelets, flower painting and paper aeroplane competitions) which for me as a fashion designer was engaging … and a great way of learning their customs and way of life.
An experience I will never forget.
United Kingdom, Volunteer
I cannot begin to explain what an amazing time I had during my three-month stay in Hangdewa, Nepal. I am convinced that volunteering at the local school was the best thing that could have happened to me before going to university.
The people in Hangdewa welcomed my friend and I like family and were more than happy to show us their village and culture. They went out of their way to make us feel at home and were always happy to help whenever we needed something. On our free weekends they would often take us on wonderful trips to the nearby mountains. Most of the families in the village invited us into their homes to have lunch together or sometimes just to talk over some tea and biscuits. Despite the language barrier, those conversations were always extremely interesting, and I will never forget their generosity and hospitality towards us.
The children at the Q-Learning school were all very bright, curious and most of all eager to learn and it was a pleasure to work with them. The village itself is absolutely beautiful and every day we were waking up to an amazing view of the mountains, the fields and the river down the valley.
I have learned more than I could have imagined in those three months, not only about a foreign country and culture, but also about myself. I feel extremely lucky to have been offered the chance to volunteer at the Q-Learning school and I cannot wait to return to Hangdewa someday and to be reunited with all those lovely people who made my stay in Nepal an experience I will never forget.
When I was in Hangdewa I was overwhelmed by the welcome and the friendliness of the children who proudly invited me into their school for a day of lessons with them. I have great memories of playing football on the side of the mountain and enjoying the dancing and singing by the villagers on our final evening. An amazing experience that will stay with me for life. (Owen Cove who visited with his family when he was 10 years old).
· Real darkness
· Waking up and breathing in pure air
· The generosity of local people who have so little eg sacrificing the goat,
· The ingenuity of people who have little or no formal education – the reservoir and the way they live off the land eg using a twig as a toothbrush
· The huge smiles of delight on the children when we gave them a pencil and note book. The noise only of children laughing ( no crying the whole time we were there)
· Their enthusiasm for school and how far some of them would travel to school (the children we met from Suketar higher up the mountain)
· The gratitude of villagers
Karen and Thomas Cove
United Kingdom, Visitors
I had the opportunity to stay in Hangdewa for about five months and, whilst doing some volunteering in the school, did some truly awesome treks. It’s an incredibly special place with beautiful views and so peaceful; there is a wide variety of trails and paths for all. We started with half day walks and ended with going all the way to Kangchenjunga Base Camp. This was so much more than just volunteering (and learning to speak Nepali): these months were truly life-time experiences
United Kingdom, Volunteer
My Family Adventure Holiday
Where do you take two teenage boys on holiday? That was our dilemma. We know there won’t be many opportunities for family holidays as the boys get older, so we make the most of each year we have together, and want to make sure our plans are greeted with enthusiasm, and not grudging reluctance.
This year we all enthusiastically agreed on Nepal – which would be part holiday and part volunteering at a school in the remote Himalayas. We chose it for the following reasons:
Because it was a suitably ‘cool’ destination that they were keen to visit.
Because we hope the experience of volunteering might inform their future career decisions.
Because we wanted to give them a wider perspective on life. To help them realise how lucky they are, and how other people live much poorer lives in material terms, though rich in other ways, in a very different culture.
Because we want to give that same wider perspective on life to the children in the school.
We took Owen’s girlfriend Georgie with us, and this added an extra layer of responsibility: her parents needed reassurance about the safety of the trip. This was easy to provide, as we knew we would be in the care of Moti, a trusted local travel agent, from arrival to departure from Kathmandu. Moti knows everyone, and is a very experienced guide who can take you to the right shop to buy a cashmere shawl or to a Hindu temple on a mountain top. He is based in Kathmandu, but he comes from Hangdewa, the village where the school is, and was instrumental in its founding.
On the day we arrived, we walked through the streets of Kathmandu, and Moti showed us where the locals do their shopping, as well as the places where the tourists go. He also made sure we had time to rest after our long journey, and we stayed in a really comfortable hotel where you could order any kind of food – local or Western.
Depending on the time of year you travel, you can either fly most of the way to Hangdewa, or spend 8 hours in a Jeep on unsurfaced mountain roads. Flying is obviously the easier option, but then you miss the experience of seeing Nepal close to. The tea-growing district of ilam, the cows wandering around the streets, the little shops outside houses in the middle of nowhere – who goes there, we wondered. The farming of cardamom, corn, bananas and rice. Most of all you would miss the stunning scenery, as for the full 8 hours you are climbing or descending the most amazing mountains; you cross bridges over rivers and then go up the other side sometimes into the clouds and the cold before descending again into the valley and the heat, always twisting on roads where every bend must be at least 270 degrees!
Whether you fly or travel by Jeep, you will visit Taplejung, which is a bustling market town, over an hour’s walk from Hangdewa, and if we ran out of bottled water or toilet rolls, someone from the village would be despatched there to do the shopping. Taplejung is also a base for trekking – to the Annapurna range, to Kanchenchunga, the third highest mountain in the world, or to Pathibhara Devi Temple, a three hour climb of 3,794 m, which we trekked one day with Moti. Owen joined him in a Hindu worship at the temple, and it was very pleasing to learn about the level of integration of different religions, with Hindu and Buddhist temples frequently being next to each other in Nepal.
In the village we were treated always as honoured guests, even though we made it clear we had come to work as volunteers. We stayed in a lovely new villa, recently built for visitors, and enjoyed the local food, which majored on rice and vegetables and chicken or pork (meat is not eaten daily by locals, but is saved for special occasions, or for visitors), along with omelettes, fresh milk, which we had to pasteurise, and the wonderful local ilam tea.
We had many memorable evenings eating in the houses of either the teachers or parents in the village. Over one meal we had a very interesting debate about the changing view of marriage. A law has just been passed to make it illegal for a girl to marry before she is 20; in the past a girl could be married at 13. Traditionally marriages have been arranged, but now, particularly in the cities, love marriages are happening, and it was interesting to hear the different views on this from the different generations – the small room was crowded with about ten people!
What makes this part of the world so special is that it is totally unspoiled, and an evening meal in a village house is just that – no special show for tourists – this is authentic Nepal, and this genuine experience of a different culture is getting rarer, so we were delighted to find it. Every house in the village, poor though they may be, has a stunning view of the Himalayas that people in the West would pay a fortune for. It’s difficult to convey the breath-taking beauty of the scenery all around you, everywhere you look.
On our trip we had an equal balance of volunteering and seeing Nepal. In the school Owen and Thomas taught sport, and Georgie taught art. I helped with both, as well as supporting the school leadership team in school administration and interviewing 20 of the ambassador pupils (those who are sponsored) about how being an ambassador has changed their lives.
The children are so keen to learn, and by the end of the week, so proud of what they had achieved. The school leadership team and teachers are amazing; taking the challenge to keep raising the bar beyond typical Nepalese standards and working with the local community to ensure this investment in the future has impact beyond the school gates.
I was bursting with pride for what Owen, Thomas and Georgie achieved. I watched them grow in confidence and develop as people – I struggle to put into words how wonderful that felt. Pride to see them working together to organise, enthuse, energise, encourage, teach and play with all children between 4-15 years. Pride also in the way they worked together, but also seeing them cope with difficult, stressful and pressurised times and yes, behind closed doors there were frustrations and disagreements, but only because they were so determined to give the best experience to all 160 children – and had to coordinate their different ideas. But what an experience it proved to be, as they stuck with it and eventually agreed a joint plan with great outcomes. My overriding sense was “They’re going to be ok (in life)!”