Experience Himalayan Nepal was born when Wayne went to Nepal on his volunteer abroad project and saw how the fees he paid hardly reached the local communities. He asked why and he decided to change that. Wayne Guttridge talks about how EHN started and what he dreams for it.
I first went to Nepal in 2006 as a volunteer. There were a lot of things that left me questioning like “why only 10% of the fee reaches the projects, why am I waiting for materials when I paid a lot of money to come here.” I found such a big difference on how things actually worked there. I am not saying every organization is like this but many, I have spoken with, saw placing volunteers in rural areas as a way of making money. I felt I could do better. Thus started the dream of building a non-profit organisation in Nepal working with, and for, the poorest communities.
In 2010, Raj (Sudarshan Rijal) and I started Experience Himalayan Nepal (EHN) with just a website. Since then EHN has been joined by many who share our ideals and we continue to grow each year both within and outside Nepal. Over the last two and a half years we have built an infrastructure inside Nepal to offer genuine volunteer placements, across Nepal, for paying volunteers. As all the fee is spent in Nepal, EHN has some of the lowest volunteer placement fees in Nepal.
4 years of living rural Nepal have shown me a life beyond the tourist areas and experience just how life is in rural areas. That gave me the insight of how an organization can work in Nepal and the chance to meet some of the nicest people anyone could meet. I firmly believe that without this background experience EHN would not have started and would not be doing as well as it is now. Looking at the successes of EHN, I am very happy that I spent the time getting to understand the Nepali culture and language because it is so different to my own.
Over the last few years I have met several people like myself who have started organizations only to be cheated by the people they are working with. But I won’t dwell on this because it’s a different story. Raj has always been there to help them with the legal side so there is a happy ending. But there is a lot of corruption in this field and we are constantly fighting it.
We have been lucky in partnering with an American organization to build our own medical centre in Gerkhu and establishing our own daycare centre. But we also support other local organisations like the Sauraha daycare centre and Prems children home in Pokhara because they are genuine people who are trying to help their fellow Nepali. What I would like to see happen with EHN is actually bringing orphanages together, working out a code of practice for each one then saying to volunteers if you volunteer with this orphanage you know the money is spent on the children. This would help build better homes for the children, cut down the vast corruption there is in this field and provide the children with a safe and happy future.
I firmly believe that with hard work and keeping true to the ideals we follow and a little luck my team and I can build one of the best organizations in Nepal balancing the needs of the volunteers with our work among the communities. Every day we learn something new about Nepal and adapt our work to suit, new projects we want to start and people to help is what we are about. And with such great people like Phil Palmer working with us we have the team to meet every challenge.
The next few years are very exciting for us because every year our organization grows, we have new projects and several possible funding streams from companies where the money will be spent on certain projects and fully documented for our partners. Our target this year is 80-100 volunteers who will help strengthen the foundation of our work and provide funding to build the infrastructure of EHN.
To be honest there is a lifetime’s work in EHN and I can’t think of a better way to spend the rest of my life. I am looking forward to the day when I return to Nepal for good and can work full-time with our organisation.
I have to admit I am not a writer and would rather be working with my hands building something than sit behind a desk. But I promise that, like building a home, EHN will build strong foundations and from these we will branch out to special projects that will support whole communities.