Batase is a village of contradictions. Many of the locals have little experience with cars, most have never seen an aeroplane, but all are familiar with the workings of mobile phones. It's a village of mud houses with no chimneys, where families share their homes with goats and chickens. At the same time, those families have children working in modern cities in the Middle East or starting families in Australia.
As with much of rural Nepal, it's a male dominated environment, with women often relegated to the role of child rearing when not working in the fields harvesting crops or taking care of livestock.
Every visit by a westerner expands the horizons of the young people of the village. Exposure to young volunteers in particular often opens their eyes to possibilities they hadn't even considered—one of the reasons Take On Nepal is so eager to take school and college groups to the village.
We owe our origins to the work Som Tamang and his wife Susan have been doing with the Friends of Himalayan Children charity in Cairns. Part of their work with the charity involved taking volunteers and charity members out to the village to see how their money was being spent and to experience life in the village in order to better understand the needs of the orphans and village children.
But the work of the charity could only go so far. Due to funding, only so many visitors could be accommodated, and many who wished to visit did not have the core skills that made funding their trip worthwhile.
Take On Nepal aims to do two things: provide a true village experience to all visitors, and provide much needed work on the ground for locals. It was felt that a commercial business was the best way to achieve that. Proper wages could then be paid to the Nepalese workers who accommodated and provided for the volunteers, and a proper infrastructure could be put in place to make their stay more pleasant.
Som Tamang was born in Batase Village. He spent most of his childhood there before moving to Kathmandu at age 12. He now lives in Cairns, Australia with his Irish wife Susan, and their two young children. He founded Friends of Himalayan Children, an Australian charity whose aim is to empower Nepalese women and children through education, in 2008.
The charity carries out a lot of work in the Batase area of Nepal, building new classrooms for the school, housing orphans and helping local women elevate themselves through new work opportunities.
He founded Batase Village Volunteers in 2013, using his extensive local knowledge and contacts to provide an authentic village experience to western visitors after hearing about the less than satisfactory experiences many were having with larger volunteer organisations.
My feeling was that many of these large, almost multi-national volunteer businesses, were ill suited to provide a true experience in rural Nepal. I grew up there. I know the people, the way of life, and the country. I felt that my vision of Nepal was more in tune with reality than that of any large organisation that runs volunteer programs in many different countries all over the world. Som
Som and his wife bring an extensive knowledge of Nepal and its people to their business, while at the same time have an understanding of what western volunteers unfamiliar with rural Nepal might face. They regularly visit Batase Village with their two young children: Tara, four, and Tashi, one and a half, and have no hesitation recommending it to young families and groups of teenagers.
The new business is based in Cairns, Australia. Thanks to Som's connections in Nepal and Batase, the infrastructure is already in place to receive and cater for the volunteer groups that are expected.
Som will personally lead all the 2014 groups to Batase.
We've employed a number of locals in Kathmandu and Batase. We've built a hostel in the village to house the volunteers, and we have a range of activities lined up for them to participate in. Som