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Give Back in Nepal—Lodging & Volunteer Opportunities for Traveling Climbers

Posted on: December 19th, 2011 by Abbey Smith

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What began as a friendly favor to help fund a small medical clinic in rural Nepal has changed the lives of thousands residing in impoverished mountain villages all over the world. When Scott MacLennan realized $1 per person per year can staff a basic clinic in Nepal’s Rasuwa District, he founded the non-profit Mountain Fund in 2005 to support community-based initiatives that create sustainable healthcare, education and economic opportunities in low-income areas.

“Our approach is to discover those things that can be done today, with little funding and by local protagonists dedicated to their own communities,” says MacLennan. 

Each year his organization provides over 100 volunteers from 23 different countries housing, meals, staff support and access to communities where they can help save lives. Having managed non-profits for over 20 years, MacLennan has implemented an innovative system where volunteer donations, Medical Treks and partnerships with other non-profits maintains a reliable income stream to support community hospitals, schools, orphanages, day care centers and English language programs in Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, and El Salvador.

This year, the American Alpine Club partnered with Mountain Fund to provide safe, clean and comfortable lodging in Kathmandu for AAC Members—The Kathmandu Clubhouse. For $15 per day, Members receive airport pickup, wireless internet, breakfast and dinner. The two Clubhouses are centrally located and have a many bedrooms, a spacious living room, dining room, outside patio and plenty of exterior space for stretching and sorting gear. 

While in Nepal, give back to the community by volunteering for Mountain Fund:

Koseli School provides 75 kids who live in the slums on the banks of the Bagmati River with good education, nutritious food and clean clothing for about $1.50 per student per day.

Orchid Garden Day Care Center gives 170 kids from the poorest families a safe and nurturing place to play while their family works. “Before Orchid Garden many kids would be left at home with a slightly older sibling (an 8-year-old watching a 3-year-old for example) or in extreme cases, tied with a rope to the kitchen table and locked in a tiny, filthy flat for the day,” says MacLennan. “We give them good food every day and have nursery through first grade school there as well. It’s a really fun and lively place that the kids just love.”

• Helping Hands Community Hospital serves the poorest people in Kathmandu. With the support of several volunteers, Mountain Fund donates around $1,000 each month. “That’s big money in a country where the average wage is about $400 per person per year!” says MacLennan.

• Teach conversational English to using Rosetta Stone online (first time ever in Nepal) to men and women of all ages, Tibetan refuges and minorities.  MacLennan says, “The young people in the classes love it as they are already tech savvy and the older students like it as well since they are getting to know how to use a computer at the same time they are learning English. There are few options to learn to speak English well in Nepal. There are a ton of English schools taught by non-native speakers who turn out students who know some grammar, but can’t put a sentence together and speak with such an accent they can’t be understood. Good English is the key to jobs in a country so dependent on tourism. Again we are using our Western volunteers as coaches and mentors.”

• Three to four times per year, Mountain Fund coordinates Medical Treks to help the communities in need and to generate income to support the cost of the health clinics they operate. “It only costs $1.00 per person per year to staff a basic clinic,” says MacLennan. “That’s what got me hooked on the clinic work in the first place. Super low cost, super high impact.” 

• Over the past 10 years, Mountain Fund has started four clinics, one full hospital and supported the local schools in Rasuwa. Earlier this year, they started helping a school and opened a medical camp in the Chepang village near the Chitwan National Park. “The Chepang are a really marginalized group of people, denied even citizenship in Nepal they live as part-time farmers and part-time hunter gatherers.” PHOTO: At the medical camp in the Chepang village, Mountain Fund Board President Dr. Ari Stern saw 917 patients over three days.

• Lend a hand at the Ward 9 children’s center in Pokhara. For the past two years, Mountain Fund has provided hot lunch for kids who live in shanty homes on the government owned land.

—Thanks to Abbey Smith for getting in touch with Scott.

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