Australian Embassy
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal

International Volunteer Day 2019

Celebrating International Volunteer Day 2019

Thursday 5 December is International Volunteer Day – a day to celebrate the contributions Australians are making in 26 countries across the Indo-Pacific region, including Nepal, through the Australian Volunteers Program.

International Volunteer Day is celebrated on 5 December each year. It was established by the United Nations in 1985, and provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contributions skilled volunteers make to international development.

The theme for this year’s International Volunteer Day is Volunteer for an inclusive future, and participants in the Australian Volunteers Program are doing exactly this.

Nick Bernardini – Australian volunteer Environmental Engineer, Kushma Municipality, Parbat District

Nick, an environmental engineer creating a safe and sustainable waste management system in Kushma.

I’m working as an environmental engineer in the waste management team here in Kushma Municipality, Parbat District. My days are highly varied and are split between field work at the landfill site, working in the waste management office and working in the municipality office.

Recently Kushma Municipality has made significant gains in terms of waste management. Some of the major achievements include the construction of a sanitary landfill site and the separation of putrescible (organic waste that breaks down over time) and non-putrescible waste streams at the household level. Non-putrescible waste is processed within the landfill site and sorted into soft plastic, hard plastic, metals, fabrics and glass. At the moment about 80% of waste entering the landfill is recycled or repurposed for further use.

I mainly act as an advisor for my counterpart but am happy to help out wherever I can. Recently I have been working with the municipality to find a cost effective way of dealing with hazardous household and medical waste. We are currently constructing a containment cell for sharps waste from medical institutions and have plans to install an incinerator within the landfill site.

A major problem in Kushma Municipality is education with regards to waste. It is typical to see waste dumped on the streets and many people have no concept of recycling. To address this an education program has been set up for year 9 students to teach them the value of waste and proper waste management techniques.

In the future I hope to increase waste collection to all wards within the municipality, construct a pilot biogas plant for putrescible waste and complete a comprehensive waste audit within the municipality to estimate waste entering the Kushma Municipal landfill now and into the future.

Anna Balzer – Australian volunteer Tissue Culture Scientist, Pakhribas, Dhankuta District

Anna, helping sustain the cardamom and other orchard industries in the Eastern Hills.

As a tissue culture scientist at the Pakhribas Agricultural Research Station (Nepal Agricultural Research Council) I am working to support the current cardamom tissue culture program which rapidly produces clones at low cost for primary producers. Cardamom is a high value cash crop which has been affected by a number of diseases in recent years. As part of the program I am aiding technicians and scientists to improve the current workflow, establish propagation of other varieties, as well as implementing disease testing methods. The station is also diversifying into clonal techniques of other crops. I'm working with the current lab team to develop embryo and nodal explant protocols to rapidly produce avocado and kiwi seedlings. Ultimately the work will improve the knowledge and skills of the technicians, as well as provide lower cost sources of various orchard stock for local primary producers in the beautiful Eastern Hills.

Nepal is colourful and welcoming, with rolling hills and views of the Himalayas from the local Pakhribas Bazaar. I'm taking the opportunity to broaden both my scientific and cultural experiences.

Paul Bourne – Australian volunteer Environment Officer, Baglung Municipality

Paul being welcomed to the Baglung Municipality.

I came to Baglung two months ago to work with the local municipality as an Environment Officer. Baglung lies about 275 km to the west of Kathmandu, and is a bustling, vibrant and friendly rural town in the foothills of the Himalayas, and watched over by the magnificent Mt Dhaulagiri (8167m).

Soon after arriving in Baglung, I received a warm welcome from the municipality, and was presented with traditional kada (scarfs) and received a smearing of red tika on my forehead. Soon after, began the biggest festival of the year in Nepal, Dashain. This is the time for family to get together, and many Nepalis travel great distances to come home. Not long after Dashain, the second biggest festival of the year began. Tihar (also known as Diwali) lasts for five days, during which there is much singing and dancing, and honouring of crows, dogs, cows, the goddess Laxmi (bringer of wealth) and other things, and on the last day, sisters honour their brothers.

During Tihar, it was a pleasure to walk around the town and see the rangoli (colourful mandalas made from coloured flour), to watch the artists at work, to stop for a chat, to watch the extraordinarily skilful dance groups perform their routines and theatre, to observe the lights and to take in the spirit of the festival.

During these early settling-in days, there is much to read regarding laws, plans, policies, guidelines and so on regarding the environment. Europeans are a rare sight in Baglung, however there are two JICA volunteers here, with whom I enjoy spending time with. My work colleagues are kind and generous and offer assistance if I need it. 

It is early days yet, however Baglung is a wonderful place to look forward to living and working in.