Finding a place to volunteer in Nepal has become more and more difficult over the years. There’s tons of information online, but it’s hard to know which places are legitimate. Then, when you find one, it usually comes with a giant fee. Somehow, volunteering has become a business model where the only person benefiting is the company who organizes your trip. I’ve been on the lookout for places that are different, and I was lucky enough to learn about Shanti Leprahilfe.
Volunteer in Nepal at Shanti Leprahilfe Community
Shanti Leprailfe is a German organization that has been running for 27 years. They started a leprosy community after seeing how poorly disabled people were treated in Nepal. Often, people with disabilities are shunned from their communities. The people of Nepal believe largely in karma. Being born with a mental handicap, disability, etc. can mean that you did something wrong in a past life, therefore, the gods have cursed you in this one.
Heiko Grosspietsch, who runs the organization, was kind enough to give me a tour. Shanti Leprahilfe has a goal of creating a community for outcasts by providing them with occupational training, medical care, housing, and food. But that’s not all, to sum up this organization in a few sentences would be impossible.
At Shanti Leprahilfe, everyone has a purpose. Children go to school (about 130 students attend). They currently offer grades 1-7 and are expanding to build classrooms for grade 8. Adults have a myriad of jobs throughout the community. Some make handmade goods like jewelry, woven scarves, paper products, and wallets which are given out at events or to donors. Tailors make clothing for the patients and school uniforms for the children. Carpenters make furniture for the buildings and toys for the kids.
If you imagine a leper community, you might picture a sad place. Shanti Leprahilfe is anything but depressing. The first thing you notice when you walk in is how bright and beautiful the buildings are. The patients wanted to make the place feel like home so they vowed to turn it into a palace. Those who live there have spent hours painting almost every white surface with bright beautiful colors using the Maitili painting method. Maitili is a cultural form of painting used in the flatlands of western Nepal.
The community is a great example of sustainability. They take recycled newspapers, tear them up, combine them with sawdust, and compress them to make biofuel. This allows them to fuel the kitchen fire without too much wood. They serve over 700 meals a day and use fruits and vegetables grown on their organic farm which is cared for by the patients. They even offer filtered water for the entire community as well as a station outside for the neighborhood. They use a nano membrane water filter which uses no chemicals.
Currently, around 160 people live on the premise, many of which require medical care due to disabilities. The community has its own hospital and pharmacy. Patients are required to pay a 10 rupee registration fee (less than $0.10 USD) and everything after that is free of cost. The hospital has an ER, laboratory, physical therapist, dentist, and a general doctor. Above the offices there are wards where the patients reside. These rooms are for those in wheelchairs or people with mental disabilities.
One of the things I love about this organization is how open-minded they are about their volunteer program. You need to apply in advance, but there is no strict structure here. It’s up to you to decide where you can help out the most. Whether you’re a doctor or someone who just loves to play with kids, there’s a spot for you. Shanti Leprahilfe covers everything from farming, medical care, education, sustainable living, and more. There’s something for everyone, and it’s up to you to choose how to contribute.
Unlike other programs to volunteer in Nepal, this one offers flexibility. They prefer people who can volunteer for a few weeks so that they can get to know the patients, but there is no minimum stay. Those who choose to stay 2 weeks are offered volunteer housing. In order to stay in the housing, you must make a 50 Euro donation per week. This covers the cost of housing and dinner. You can eat lunch at Shanti with the patients. Volunteers are responsible for buying their own breakfast. Volunteers under the age of 18 must have permission from their guardians.
To volunteer in Nepal click here.
If you can’t make it to Nepal, you can also donate. This organization runs off of the kindness of others. I can tell you from seeing Shanti Leprahilfe in person that every penny is being well spent. The people here have a community, a place in society, and most importantly a home.
If you would like to donate please click here. You can make a one-time donation, sponsor a child’s education, or pay to plant a tree.
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.