Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Nepal

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In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.

Overview of Diversity in Nepal

What Might A Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Joining the Peace Corps is a personal decision and age should not be a deterrent from service so long as you believe you can maintain your health. It is generally found that the majority of volunteers who join are under the age of 30 and senior volunteers often find themselves as the singular or amongst very few other volunteers of similar age. Senior volunteers may need to think creatively to find outlets for social support as younger volunteers may not be able to relate to topics of diet, medical concerns, or stages in your career. Younger volunteers may also look up to you and turn to you for advice. While some seniors find this enjoyable, others may choose not to want to fill this role. Peace Corps Nepal training staff is aware of the differences in language learning processes and do their best to provide support for all levels of learning. Senior volunteers should feel comfortable to express their own needs for language learning instruction, and have the opportunity to capitalize on their past career, work or volunteer experiences to counter difficulties with language acquisition. Older volunteers may find staff support leans towards younger volunteers due to their larger group size, however this should not stop you from expressing your own needs and concerns.

Within the Nepalese context, levels of deference increases with age. Older volunteers often receive a higher level of respect from community members of all ages. Senior volunteers may find it easier than younger volunteers to approach, be heard or request assistance from community counterparts and local officials. Within the host-family, senior volunteers are often not expected to help with household chores such as cutting grass, gathering wood, or harvesting crops. If you do wish to participate, you may need to imply more assertively and combat unwanted attention. Senior volunteers may also find they are paired with a host-family in which the head of the household is younger than themselves. When addressing Nepalese people, senior volunteers should be cognizant of their use of familial labels. For example, a younger volunteer may address his/her host-mother as aama for mom, whereas an older volunteer may need to address the host-mother as bahini for younger sister. For some this may feel too casual or inappropriate, therefore senior volunteers have chosen to address host-family members as they found most appropriate. Nepalese community members may find it curious and express surprise if you are older and unmarried. Villagers might probe and ask questions about why that is so. On language, senior volunteers have found locals compare their language abilities to the standards of neighboring younger volunteers. Preparing translations in advance, using props, and carrying around language learning guides are some strategies to ease the comparison.