We have to go back to 1995 – this was the year when I made an extended trip to several Asian countries, and it was the year I first visited Nepal. It was in a time before the royal massacre where several members of the royal family were killed, before the Maoist insurgency that would last about 10 years and leave the country wounded and alienated.
My very first encounter with Nepal and its people is still vivid in my mind. I had taken a bus from India and at the very border between India and Nepal, the difference was noticeable; the air seemed cooler and more refreshing – what a relief to escape the heat of India; the people seemed calmer, less harassing and there was this air of peace and tranquility. It felt very different than India. I felt as if I had come home.
I spent 6 weeks in Nepal in total. Half of them were spent doing the Annapurna Circuit trek, and the rest on visiting a variety places in and around the Kathmandu valley. I inhaled the country – I felt grateful that I was able to experience this beautiful land with people who were just as beautiful. But from where I stood I could also see that life was tough in Nepal – nothing came for free. A wish of returning to try and “help” or do something that would improve their quality of life had started to take form inside me.
My next visit was a couple of years later – also for trekking – but I promised myself that I really would come back and “do good”…
Twelve years would pass before this would happen. In 2010, my husband and I went to Nepal for our honeymoon – to do the Mt. Everest Base Camp trek. It was a chance for me to show him my second home – a place he had heard so much about.
After 3 weeks it was time for him to go back to Europe, and I would stay as a volunteer for 7 weeks with Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) where I would be teaching English and math to pre-school children in a village called Tinpiple about 40 minutes by bus outside Kathmandu.
It was an amazing experience, a life-changing experience, an unforgettable and inspiring experience, but also a challenging and educational experience. In December 2010 Paypal on which VIN relies for volunteers’ payments and donations stopped their services for certain countries - among these was Nepal. We were all devastated and I decided that I had to do something to enable VIN to continue with their projects in rural Nepal. And so Friends of VIN, Netherlands, was formed.