Take On Nepal provide volunteers and visitors with a rich and meaningful cultural experience in Nepal. In doing so, Take On Nepal is committed to:
We owe our origins to the work Som Tamang and his life partner 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 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. From that, Take On Nepal was started and 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 creating Take on Nepal was the best way to achieve that. Proper wages could then be paid to the Nepalese workers who accommodate and provide for the volunteers, and 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 partner Susan and their three 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 disadvantaged children and helping local women elevate themselves through new work opportunities. Som founded Take on Nepal, 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.
Som and his partner Susan bring an extensive knowledge of Nepal and its people to their business, while at the same time having an understanding of what western volunteers unfamiliar with rural Nepal might face. They regularly visit Batase Village with their three young children: Tara, seven, Tashi, five, and Ciaran, four, and have no hesitation recommending it to young families and groups of teenagers. 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.
Though born and raised in Nepal and Ireland, Som and his family are now Australian citizens. In 2012, Som was nominated for a Pride of Australia award for his achievements with Friends of Himalayan Children in Cairns. “Australia is our home now, but I never forget where I came from. Take on Nepal is a way of bringing the two together. By taking groups of Australian volunteers to Batase Village, I feel I’m helping both cultures. The village benefits from the employment it brings. The villagers benefit from exposure to more open, women friendly cultures. The volunteers benefit from experiencing life in less advantageous cultures.” – Som
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.
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.
There are no hotels in Batase Village, no five star resorts or modern backpacker hostels, no cable TV and very little internet access. Here you will live like a local and experience the real Nepal.
There is a reason that village families share their homes with their goats and chickens, and it’s not a love of animals. The Bengal Tiger roams the mountains around the village, and while they haven’t taken a bite out of a villager or a volunteer in recent memory, they have been known to take a wayward goat or chicken. You’re unlikely to see one during your stay, but you never know.
The Red Panda is another mainstay of the local wildlife, popular with eager foreigners sporting large cameras, and largely ignored by the villagers who call the Lower Himalayas home. The countryside surrounding Batase Village is rich with plant and animal life that you won’t have seen outside a Richard Attenborough documentary, and we encourage all visitors to experience it to the full.
© Take on Nepal 2021