While Aardvark Israel does everything to ensure that you have a fantastic time on your gap year, as an organization we also work towards helping others who are less fortunate and encourage participants in our programs to become as involved as possible in this mission. Recently we launched the Nepal Cultural Exchange which allows you to visit Nepal, learn first-hand about the struggles faced by the Nepalese and carry out work to help the struggling population. The exchange is run together with Tevel B’Tzedek, an Israeli organization that strives to provide adequate food, water, housing, healthcare and education to poor people. If you choose to take part in the program then you will go on a two week trip to Nepal to help them in their work. The program allows you to learn about the effects of globalization, the struggles other cultures face and the true hardships for the 2 billion people across the world that live below the poverty line. Hopefully during your time in Nepal you will also be able to make a real difference to the lives of the families you stay with and hopefully become inspired to continue the work when your time with Aardvark has come to an end. The Nepal Cultural Exchange is in stark contrast to many other elements of the Aardvark program. Rather than being primarily designed for your enjoyment and full of fun activities, it focuses on real problems of poverty and how privileged many of us in the West really are. Of course, the trip will not be without any enjoyment, it is always fun to travel to new countries, experience new cultures and try something completely different. Before travelling to Nepal you will learn about the upcoming trip through a series of seminars which address issues such as poverty, social justice and human rights. The program is also very much linked to the Jewish idea of Tikkun Olam, helping to make the world a better place. There are a number of organizations in Israel dedicated to this idea and you will be able to learn about their work and how you can help. The actual trip begins with an orientation seminar in Kathmandu where you will stay in a house owned by Tevel B’Tzedek and learn about the Nepalese language and culture as well as gain an insight into what life is like in the Nepalese villages. The next part of the trip sees you stay with a Nepalese family in their home in a rural village. You will work with them with their day to day tasks such as farming, building, teaching, cooking and so on. The houses you stay in are normally made of mud bricks with earthen floors, the beds you sleep on will be made of a small frame with a thin mattress and there is no electricity or running water. After this tiresome period you will then be able to relax in a comfortable tourist lodge in the city of lakes, Pokhara, and explore the beautiful scenery. The trip then ends with an extended hike in the Himalayas full of beautiful views. As mentioned, this is not the easiest of the Aardvark programs and it will involve some genuine discomfort. However, we believe it is essential to be aware of the struggles of day to day life for many around the world and it is equally important for everyone to do what they can in order to try and ease them.