Posted: Aug 16, 2014 | From Our Director
I get emails all the time from people who are confused about volunteer placement companies and how we differ from them. Let's try to sort that out. Volunteer placement companies are, for the most part, sales agencies. They sell opportunities to travel to Nepal and volunteer with NGO's, or nonprofit organizations, who are doing work in Nepal. Seldom do they have much connection to the work on the ground other than sending you, the would-be volunteer, to Nepal to work with some local organization there. Typically they have no staff of their own in Nepal or they have a foreign "manager" who works for them but does not work for the NGO you may be volunteering with. More often, they just have the email address of an NGO and the name of a contact person. They contact the local NGO and tell them that you would like to volunteer in Nepal with them and the dates. The local NGO confirms they can host you for those dates and you are then "booked" to go and volunteer. Sometimes the local NGO that the placement company is working with has some housing and support for you, sometimes they do not. In many cases, the placement company has never actually met the NGO they are working with, or perhaps a placement company staff member visited that NGO and based on that visit, determined it's a good place for you to go and volunteer.
In Nepal, there are tens-of-thousands of NGO's working in every possible sector; human rights, environment, children, health and so forth. Vetting these organizations to determine who is really doing good work and who isn't can be very difficult from a far away office of a placement company. Recently, one placement company that we know had to cancel all programs in Nepal when a news story broke of a scandal involving that NGO. The foreign-based company never saw it coming because they aren't actually on the ground in Nepal.
The Mountain Volunteer is not a placement company. We are a full-time, working NGO on the ground in Nepal with our own Nepali staff and our own housing. We have several projects we are doing in Nepal and we allow volunteers to come and work alongside our Nepali staff on these projects. Take Her Farm, for example. It's a large farm that is a home for women escaping or avoiding abuse. We own that farm, our staff manages that farm and the women who live there are working directly with us. We invite volunteers to come to our farm and help us in our work. We have worked in Nepal for over a decade and our founders, Scott and Sunita live in Nepal most of the year. Sunita was born and raised in Nepal and is a citizen of Nepal.
So, in a nutshell, that's the difference. We live there, we work there, we are Nepali and the projects where we host volunteers are either our own projects our projects we've financially invested in via our US nonprofit, The Mountain Fund, for years. If you click HERE, you can see the projects that The Mountain Fund supports and you'll note that these are the exact same places we offer volunteering.
Executive Director Scott MacLennan is awarded the
Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal.