Honors Student Spends Summer Interning in Nepal and Fighting Exploitation
Lindsey Olive spent her summer trekking through villages nestled between breathtaking mountains while contributing to ethical business practices in a country plagued by exploitation from tourists. Through an internship with ethical company “Five14 Nepal,” Lindsey spent her summer in the villages of Nepal learning how to fight the exploitation locals face every day while contributing to businesses that promote ethical practices. She was able to learn through immersion; experiencing once in a lifetime opportunities such as paragliding while working towards a cause she feels passionate about.
Read about Lindsey's homestay trek, internship, and unforgettable experiences in Nepal in her own words.
My favorite moments in Nepal were spent in homestays nestled into a valley of the Himalayas. While trekking, we took water breaks and looked up to see snow-capped mountains while our guides played the ukulele and sang Nepali songs. We trekked across wooden bridges and ran from leeches and washed off in freezing cold mountain streams. At the villages, our time was often spent laughing over cups of hot ginger tea, fresh popcorn, and heaping piles of dal bhat. Every morning I woke up to breathtaking views of what I initially thought were mountains and would soon come to know them as only hills. Our homestay trek was not only a great window into life of rural communities in Nepal; but was also a form of sustainable development for villages prone to exploitation.
Five14 Nepal battling "voluntourism"
During my time in Nepal, I traveled, stayed, and interned with an ethical business called “Five14 Nepal.” Five14 is a group of businesses that operate with a purpose: to prevent all types of exploitation in the country. Areas of Nepal are often susceptible to various forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, child labor, and corruption because of the lack of income-generating opportunities. In order to combat this, Five14 operates to bring tourism development opportunities to vulnerable populations.
The topic of development strategies has been brought up several times in my Honors Hunger Studies and Global Studies classes. Last fall, one of our problem-based learning cases in Hunger Studies focused on the dangers of “voluntourism.” Often, tourists with good intentions travel to different countries looking for ways to give back to their host communities. Due to the influx of travelers going on voluntourism trips, a multi-billion-dollar industry has been created to make travelers feel good about the positive change that they are supporting; when in reality, people are taking advantage of the tourism opportunities and creating another form of exploitation. An example of this is called “orphan tourism,” in which (often unqualified) tourists visit orphanages and play with the children for a day. If the orphanage is real and functioning, activities like this only serve to harm the children, emphasizing attachment disorders in consequence of the consistent arrival and departure of people who care for them. What this also does is influence the orphanage to become more like a business—in which those in charge keep the environment in bad condition in order to gain more donations from the tourists. In our Hunger Studies discussions, we talked about how important it was that tourists have specialized skills that are truly needed in the countries they are visiting if they are looking to volunteer.
Wrapping up an unparalleled experience
The week I spent traveling through picturesque Himalayan valleys, the day I paraglided over the beautiful city of Pokhara, the afternoon I explored the jungles of Chitwan, and other once in a lifetime memories, all supported the end of exploitation in Nepal through my investment into an ethical business. My homestay trek brought income to the family that fed and housed me, supported the building of schools, and helped introduce new ideas and perspectives to the local people.
This summer was integral in understanding that both prevention and cure development strategies can be successful—if done thoughtfully. It is no secret that most foreigners come to Nepal to experience their amazing adventure opportunities and famous hospitality. Travelers have to understand that by simply investing their money into the economy and responsible businesses, they create opportunities that truly benefit their host communities instead of ignorantly supporting exploitation and ineffective forms of development.
Story and images provided by Lindsey Olive.
Last modified: September 14, 2018