Get involved in Grassroots Teaching and Community Volunteer Projects in Dharamsala

Print this page
 

Apply Now Ask us a Question

Volunteer in India and get involved in Teaching Projects, IT Teaching, Childcare Projects, After school programmes/Summer camps, Renovation of local institutions, Community Health and Women's Empowerment Programmes.

You can join for 2 weeks up to 12 weeks all year round and we have places all throughout 2014 & 2015 available.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Cost for food, lodging in shared volunteer house, cultural activities, airport pickup, programme materials and training; from £545.

A schoolgirl in Dharamsala Volunteer with a child Indian Padi Fields Volunteer teaching in a local School Volunteers visiting the Taj Mahal Volunteers can visit the Golden Temple at Amritsar View of Dharamsala town Volunteer at a Day care centre The Womens empowerment project furthers education in Dharamsala Volunteer helping to prepare food with the locals Day care centre in Dharamsala Volunteer teaching children in Dharamsala Locals working on their computer skills Children at the daycare centre sitting down for breakfast Volunteer with a child at the Daycare centre After school camp which volunteers can work with Health education project Volunteer teaching IT in Dharamsala

The Project

School children and volunteer in DharamsalaVolunteer in India and work on a range of community service projects in Dharamsala, including

  • Teaching Projects - Teaching English to women and children
  • IT Teaching - Teaching basic IT skills
  • Childcare Projects - Caring for infants and children, including street children
  • After school programmes/Summer camps - Assisting local teachers and staff with after school programmes and summer camps
  • Renovation of local institutions - Assisting with the renovation of local institutions and creating clean, bright learning spaces
  • Community Health - Making community health visits/community health awareness training
  • Women's Empowerment - Working towards improving women's rights in society (including job skills training)

For more detailed descriptions of each volunteer project, please click here

Volunteers visit the Taj MahalIn addition to volunteering, you will also have plenty of time to explore the local area, with many sights to visit, and free or low cost activities to take part in, for example; Indian cooking lessons, Henna painting, Hindi language lessons, country walks, visiting tea gardens, temples, and more.

There are also several other organised activities and travel tours which volunteers can join at an extra cost, including; a 2 day tour of the Taj Mahal, a 2 day guided Himalayan Trekking Tour, a 2 day Adventure Tour in Manali, and a 2 day tour of Punjab state, visiting The Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Wagah border ceremony and the Jallianwala Bagh gardens.

 

About the Volunteer Projects in Dharamsala

Volunteers work for around five to six hours per day, five days per week Monday to Friday.  Each day is broken into two or three blocks of two hours – usually working on two or three different projects depending on the projects you have selected in your application, and your own skills and interests. This structure allows volunteers to contribute their specific skills to the programme, whilst enjoying the diversity of working on multiple projects and getting to know a number of individuals and Indian families within the community. All of our volunteer projects in India are listed below.

Teaching Volunteer projects

Teaching in Dharamsala

Teaching volunteers play an important role in raising awareness about the need for regular schooling, and offer much needed support to local teachers. Working in local schools gives volunteers a chance to meet regularly with local children and their families, and for those volunteers with a professional interest in education, volunteer teaching provides a chance to hone you skills in a very different environment. The most commonly requested subject is teaching English as a foreign language, however volunteers are also welcome to teach math, science, geography or other subjects covered by the curriculum. Volunteers are encouraged to create their own lesson plans, and teaching materials are available for this purpose. You may also bring your own teaching materials such as reading and picture books and flash cards. For volunteering to teach English as a foreign language it is not necessary for volunteers to have past experience or an in-depth knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Simply interacting with fluent English speakers is invaluable on its own for local women and children.

IT Teaching

IT Teaching volunteer in Dharamsala

In rural India, computers are fast replacing paper systems and traditional methods for information storage and communication. Learning IT skills is becoming increasingly important to enable students' to obtain further education and employment opportunities. Volunteers can teach computer skills to a range of students from primary age through to adults. Work with students who have little or no knowledge of computers, teaching basic skills such as keyboard and mouse, managing different windows or word processing. Or, work with students with previous knowledge and teach intermediate skills such as internet use, email, spreadsheets, presentations, printing documents and so on. Regardless of how you use your IT skills, IT teaching volunteers will benefit the Dharamsala community and help to improve their opportunities.

Childcare Volunteering Projects

Children doing schoolwork in Dharamsala

Childcare volunteers work alongside the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) scheme, which is a government initiative addressing early childhood development, health and malnutrition in India. The services provided by the scheme are made available through local child care centres (anganwari) and offer nutritional food and health education to both mother and child as well as informal preschool education. Although these centres provide a valuable service in the community, they suffer from a lack of funding and poor management, affecting their ability to meet specified objectives, especially in the area of preschool education. This is where childcare volunteer assistance can make such a difference and along with local staff you will be responsible for providing a safe, hygienic environment for children to play and learn, play games and develop arts activities designed to enhance motor skills and encourage creativity. Childcare volunteers will also teach children their ABC's and nursery rhymes creating a positive learning environment.

Street child in DharamsalaVolunteer With Street Children

India is home to the world’s largest population of street children: estimated at around 11 million, according to conservative estimates by UNICEF. Relying on basic survival strategies and with no opportunities for play or school, these are a particularly vulnerable group at risk of exploitation and extreme poverty. This project emphasises education and basic care to help integrate street children into mainstream society, with the understanding that the key to their development and academic achievement is improved health and a secure environment. Volunteers work at various shelter homes and contact points providing care, affection, meals, basic literacy, and a safe environment for the children to learn and develop, away from the reality of life on the streets.

After School Programmes and Summer Camps

Work on after-school groups and summer camps (for ages 4-16) - a great way to work with the children of Dharamsala in a less formal setting. Assist with children's growth and development, allowing them to learn and express themselves in relaxed environments. Whether it's teaching English, life skills, art, drama or sports, you will be very hands on and get to know the local community.

School classroom in DharamsalaRenovation of local institutions

Tap into your creative side and assist in creating bright and cheerful learning spaces in village day care centres and schools. These institutions provide valuable services to the local community but have to run on minimal resources. There is often little money left to maintain the buildings themselves and monsoon rains make regular maintenance and renovation work an ever more pressing need. Construction volunteers will conduct renovations such as painting, design, clearing debris and basic DIY to ensure these institutions are available to the local community.

Community healthcare in DharamsalaCommunity Health Visits and Healthcare Volunteering Projects

Become a healthcare volunteer and work with women and children, delivering health awareness education on basic first aid, sanitation and nutrition - at different stages of development including pregnancy. Make community health visits, and with the assistance of local child care centres, ensure that children are up to date with vaccinations. Deliver health awareness training through small independent projects and give short talks to partner institutions. Empower rural communities and help them acquire the knowledge required to make important health decisions. Healthcare volunteers should ideally have some relevant experience for this project.

Women's Empowerment Volunteering

View of the HimalayasWith the introduction of the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women in 2001 the Indian Government has said ‘Our vision in the new century of a nation where women are equal partners with men’ but in reality Indian women struggle to gain empowerment throughout society. Education is the most influential tool to raise the status of women and this project aims to run a variety of educational, IT, job skills training and confidence building activities to benefit women and adolescent girls in the local community. English teaching and computer classes impart much needed skills to women, increase their self-worth and offer a platform for social interaction, ultimately increasing their social status and employability prospects. One good technique for building rapport and empowering the local women is to ask them to teach you basic Hindi at the same time as you are teaching them. You’ll come back with fond memories of an unforgettable experience.

Return to Top

Dates & Costs

You can volunteer for 2 up to 12 week durations on the following dates, year round, starting on a Sunday. We are however flexible with dates and can accommodate as well. Please email volunteer@workingabroad.com if you have specific questions about dates.

Volunteer teaching children in Dharamsala16th November to 30th November
30th November to 14th December
14th December to 28th December 
28 December 2014 to 11 January 2015

4 January 2015 to 18 January 2015
18 January 2015 to 1 February 2015
1 February 2015 to 15 February 2015
15 February 2015 to 1 March 2015
1 March 2015 to 15 March 2015
15 March 2015 to 29 April 2015

The Golden Temple at Amritsar

29 March 2015 to 12 April 2015
12 April 2015 to 26 April 2015
26 April 2015 to 10 May 2015

10 May 2015 to 24 May 2015
24 May 2015 to 7 May 2015
7 June 2015 to 21 June 2015
21 June 2015 to 5 July 2015
 

Volunteer at a daycare centre in Dharamsala

CostsSchool children playing
The costs for the project are as follows: 2 weeks is £545, 3 weeks is £645, 4 weeks is £745, 5 weeks is £840, 6 weeks is £935, 7 weeks is £1030, 8 weeks is £1125, 9 weeks is £1220, 10 weeks is £1315, 11 weeks is £1410 and 12 weeks is £1505.

The above costs include; pick up at Delhi airport, one night stay at a hotel in Delhi and transfer to Dharamsala (via bus or train, accompanied by a staff member), briefing and Hindi Lesson on arrival at the house, on site transportation (to and from work areas by private car), all meals at the volunteer house (breakfast, lunch & dinner- cooked by a staff chef, plus purified water), all accommodation, materials required for volunteer work e.g. teaching supplies, two morning or evening yoga classes per week, local sightseeing (visiting Kangra - India’s oldest fort, Masroor Stone Temple, Norbulinga Buddhist Monastery and Kangra Tea Gardens. Your fee also includes a donation to the community for educational supplies, basic food supplies, school renovation supplies and to help sponsor local children to get an education.

What is not included is your flights and travel to and from India, visa costs, personal expenses, and your own health and travel insurance. There is also the option to add on various travel tours in India, at an additional cost. Please email us if you have any questions about these.

Food, Lodging, Travel

View of the volunteer house in DharamsalaGarden of the volunteer houseAccommodation & Food:
Volunteers stay at a shared Volunteer House with the project  staff. Accommodation is clean and comfortable with western style toilets, hot running water and access to the internet. We have separate male and female bedrooms and bathrooms – you will most likely be sharing with 2 or 3 other volunteers. 3 meals a day will be provided by a staff chef. From the volunteer house you can see views of the Himalayan peaks, enjoy outside space on the verandas, or take country walks through the Himalayan countryside.

Like most Indian families we do not have a washing machine – during your stay you will soon become accustomed to washing your clothes by hand and drying in the sun and you will experience power cuts, which are common throughout the area. During free time volunteers can relax in the large recreational area of the house - listen to music, watch films, and make lesson plans together.

Volunteers taking a walk in DharamsalaVolunteer Requirements:
Volunteers should be aged 18 years upwards and speak English. All nationalities are welcome. Volunteers joining the health education project should ideally have some previous experience, but for other projects volunteers do not need any specific skills or qualifications. Any skills you do have will of course be useful for the projects.


Volunteers with children in a daycare centreFlights/Travel
The quickest and simplest route is to fly to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. You will then be collected at the airport by project staff and taken to a local hotel, before transferring to the volunteer house in Dharamsala. Volunteers will need to apply for a visa online in advance of their arrival to India. The cost is around £45, and WorkingAbroad can offer volunteers advice on obtaining a visa.

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the programme:



Background

India is a country of beauty and diversity, with rich culture and old traditions. By joining this project you will have to chance to experience the sights and tastes of India, all whilst carrying out community development work.
View of Dharamsala town where volunteers will workThe Dalai Lama in Dharamsala
Dharamsala is a small town nestled in the Himalayan Mountains. Currently in exile from his homeland Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls Dharamsala home and the peaceful region has a beauty which is unparalleled in India. Dharamsala is in the far north of India and is in stark contrast to many of India's bustling cities.

This programme aims to offer developmental assistance to the Dharamsala community, by forming partnerships with and providing volunteer support to local institutions including schools, orphanages, childcare centres (known as Aanganwari), women's learning centres, health centres and more.

Our village of Sidhwari is close to Dharamsala town and McLeod Ganj town. Both areas are buzzing with international and Indian tourists - great for shopping, taking yoga classes and eating out.

Many of the villages we work with are farming communities - hazy and sun drenched, complete with dusty roads, narrow lanes and surrounded by rice and wheat fields maintained by traditional farming methods.

You can read more about India at:

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india or http://wikitravel.org/en/india

Volunteer Testimonials

Smiling Child at Dharasmala

A month in India; an experience that would be so unknown to me and yet one that I can honestly say was the best thing I have ever done.

On the 12th July I had a journey planned that I could hardly believe was beginning. I left the familiar surroundings of places and people, and traded it all in for a month in Rural Northern India doing a job I had little experience in, with people I had never met and a culture so intensely different it often stopped me dead in my tracks.

After having waved goodbye to a tearful mother, and reasonably emotional father and brother, I was a mixed bag of emotions; excitement (primarily), nerves (understandably) and self doubt (what was I thinking booking this trip). All these thoughts running through my head lead to a long, sleepless overnight flight, arriving at 11am (Indian time) on 13th July. The wonderful charity that I was volunteering with had sent someone to collect me from Delhi airport. Vineet had to be one of the most giving people I have ever met, he managed to explain and help me with every problem I had with his superb English knowledge. Along with Varun, the devoted project manager, and Ravi, the fun, lovable chef/taxi driver, I class them all as close friends with whom I keep in contact with since returning.

Due to the project being in the more beautiful, community area further north in Dharamsala, an overnight bus was in order. It was fantastic to see the road side markets lit up for the evening hustle of people as we drove past, I was so glad when we had the chance to stop on a break to have a walk around. The contrast that I could see to my life back home was too huge, it felt dreamlike. There were wealthy families tucking into traditional Indian feasts, treating themselves to gifts, whilst crouching not even 10 feet away were street children, all alone, so painfully thin and with no other option than to beg for money. I felt sick at the sight of this but knew i would be seeing a lot more even worst situations.

Project work began immediately, not 24 hours after arriving in the country there was a class sitting in front of me waiting for someone to give them new knowledge. It only dawned on me, after talking to these lovely children for half the lesson, that I was now that person on the other side of the ‘classroom’ than what I was used to. I had to teach them, I had to plan lessons and, ultimately, improve their English language. The pressure was overwhelming, but with all their big brown eyes staring up at me and faces so eager to learn, I realised I had to put my all into this project.

Volunteer Claudia with Dharasmalan WomenWith two classes that I saw everyday, I got into my routine fairly quickly. In the morning, I walked 10 minutes up the side of a mountain to reach a Tibetan family’s home. The classroom was one of their bedrooms, the age range of the class was 5 to 17 and, so naturally, the English levels varied dramatically. In the afternoon, we drove to the nearby slums and taught in the outside space. As I had expected, I was indeed overwhelmed with the cramped living conditions and health and safety (or more like lack of), but these children were so happy and without fail greeted us with beaming smiles and a ‘hello ma’am, how are you?’ every time upon our arrival. The lesson planning came naturally after a few days, soon enough I was cutting up flashcards, photocopying work sheets and making up interactive games to help with learning. This continued for the weeks and I could see their general English conversation improving, I felt so proud of them and myself.

With my free weekends I was liberated to do whatever I chose, and with such beautiful local mountains I felt like a hiking trip was necessary, booked very kindly for us by the volunteer company. I was a perfect weekend, the weather, the people, the views, everything was stunning. Five hours up the side of a mountain with regular stops at small tuck shops serving chai tea, then hit by an obvious monsoon storm, but surprisingly arrived on the top at a campsite in glorious sunshine where I spent the most magical evening and morning laying in the sun and watching a sunset and sunrise over the Himalayas. Another trip was up in Amritsar, a five hour drive along bumpy roads through northern Indian villages. Here I again saw in sunset and sunrise the phenomenal Golden temple, so peacefully even with the masses of pilgrims there to pray. The temple also provides and free meal for anyone passing though, hundreds of volunteers were preparing enormous pans of curry and rice; I even got to make a Chapati there (being quite skilled in the art at this point, thanks to Ravi). Whilst up in Amritsar there was a Indian-Pakistan border ceremony taking place, which was an experience due to the severely intense heat and Indian soldiers dressed in full uniform towering above us.

Indian shopping towns and markets really do live up their name, colours and intricate patterns displayed on every stall, streets of bustling bazaars with products sold for next to nothing. In Mcleodganj we found a hideaway of Jim’s 1m x 2m shop packed to the brim of hand embroidered scarves, materials, hand painted ornaments and boxes. I naturally came home laden with bags having spent a frugal amount. Varun took the time on one day to drives us around the local area visiting temples, tea gardens and tombs, there was such a lot of serenity as hardly anyone was at these sights. In the Dalai Lama temple I sat watching the monks of all ages practising Buddhism, it was such a strange understanding that these young boys were devoted to this life from such a young age and yet they seemed so content.

When not in lessons or out exploring, I spent my time lesson planning, learning to cook (Indian style) or taking part in our regular yoga lessons. All of which I improved in, to some level. My volunteer friends soon became like people I had known all my life. Helen, my roommate, and I sat in the evenings drawing hennas on each others hands, legs, feet and back, we all would also sit around playing cards and getting to know one another. They told me of the places that they had all been to, I was so inspired and was beginning to get the itch to travel.

Dharasmala schoolchildren make Mexican masks

In my last week of the project I planned a few art lessons, one themed with the Mexican festival ‘day of the dead’, in which we all made skull masks and had our own festival outside, another painting bunting to hang around the guest house. After distributing many presents of pencil cases crammed with goodies, and seeing their priceless faces opening them, I had to say goodbye. I felt such a strange sort of attachment to these children, and even though they see hundreds of volunteers come and go, somehow it felt genuine when I received hugs and had them say ‘thank you very much ma’am, I will miss you’. I cried the whole way back from placement that day, I was going back to so much back home while these people live here day to day barely getting by, relying on the charity.

Heartbroken leaving Dharamsala but soon had moved on to Delhi again on a bus, and then caught the sleeper train to Agra. Delhi train station is an experience, packed with people, children running along the tracks collecting plastic rubbish to sell, people running to jump on to the already overflowing trains. Agra, to me, seemed quieter and richer than Delhi. The Taj Mahal, I can’t really express in words how speechless and utterly astounded I felt walking in. The stories behind this wonder of the world explain every carefully carved stone and perfectly symmetrical walkway. I came away feeling so lucky to have seen and learnt about it.

Children and volunteers in Dharasmala

So after four weeks I was now, alone back in Delhi with no guide after leaving the rest of the group. Daunting but also liberating. Over the next three days I visited 3 markets, bought a lot of presents, saw Humayun’s tomb and the Lodi gardens. It is such a magical city, especially in the evening lights and cooler temperatures. I became accustomed to bartering with stall owners and hailing rickshaws, such a thrill riding along in them caught up in the crazy Indian drivers. I wish I had seen more of it but I lost a day to the tremendous heat and an illness I had picked up, keeping me locked in my hotel room.

On the last day I did feel so very upset to be leaving, however felt like I had already said my painful goodbye to my true Indian home and friends back in Dharamsala. I feel lost without that place even after weeks of returning back to England. I would give anything to be back in teaching and knowing that I am touching some lives. Recalling everything that happen to me in writing this has only confirmed what I already knew; India was the most outstandingly magical adventure I have ever had, I would return in a heartbeat and, now that I have the travelling bug, where next?

ex-Volunteer Claudia McKeown from the UK


Childcare volunteer Julie, from France

"I had many wonderful and unforgettable moments during my stay in Dharamsala. The atmosphere at the camp was very good, everyone was very friendly and got along with each other. I will always remember the trek, the cricket, the visits to the wonderful temples and the parties at the camp especially the unforgettable Times'up!

During the week I was going to a day care centre to look after young children and the afternoon to teach English to girls. I loved each day I spent with the children, time was always flying, and the lessons were always too short. I was always looking forward to go back to the lessons the following day. The day I had to say goodbye to them was very hard."

ex-Volunteer Julie Michard from France

Teaching volunteer Max, from Austria"From the first day until the last trip to Taj Mahal, my experience was perfect. Not knowing what it was going to be like, I could not have expected it to be that good. The staff welcomed me with open hands and hearts. Being surrounded by fascinating people, I felt at home from the first moment. Every day was a new and exciting experience, meeting new and interesting people and seeing rural india. The project managed to find the perfect balance between teaching and helping the Indian community as well as showing you the real and incredible India. I really have to say thank you to all the other volunteers and especially the staff which made my trip so special. I can honestly recommend the project for anyone who wants to volunteer in India."

ex-Volunteer Max Poettinger from Austria

Teaching volunteer Kristyn, from the USA"My three weeks Volunteering in India were more than anything I could have imagined. From the bustling streets of Delhi to the more tranquil setting of Dharamsala, the Indian landscape is breath-taking, and the people welcoming.

The students I taught were eager to learn and very respectful to me as a teacher. Their enthusiasm and energy made each class exciting. The language barrier was easier to overcome than I expected with the help of older students and a basic vocabulary of Hindi words, provided by the staff. The resources at the camp were very helpful in lesson planning, and discussing lesson plans with the other volunteers was always beneficial.

The staff are outstanding! They are extremely hospitable, making each volunteer feel right at home and comfortable. Their passion for their work is contagious and inspirational. They will do everything in their power to help you have a positive experience. By the time I left, I thought of all of the staff members as friends.

The project model is an ideal way to travel. Not only was I immersed in the Indian culture, I had the incredible opportunity to make my small mark on people in another part of the world, one not often seen by tourists. I returned from India a changed person. I am more aware of global issues, have a greater appreciation for my extremely blessed life, and face each day with a more positive attitude. I miss the sights, sounds, and smells of India, but I will never forget the smiles of the people I met, and more importantly, their incredibly large hearts. This project will challenge you, inspire you, and change you. I will never forget my great  experience volunteering in India."

ex-Volunteer Kristyn Brisnehan from the USA

How to Join

Manali Adventure TourTo volunteer in India and secure a placement on our Dharamsala Community volunteering project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your deposit of £150.  If for some reason, your application is declined, we will reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, the final amount needs to be paid one month before departure. Once you are confirmed on the project, you will receive pre-departure information with all details on your project, when to arrive, contact details, suggested items to bring, programme information and lots more.

 

Apply Now

Related Projects

Rural Community Volunteer Project, Nepal

Volunteer in Nepal. Volunteers are needed to participate in several community projects in Nepal, including childcare, teaching, healthcare and environmental projects.

Volunteer to Teach in Cambodia

An opportunity to immerse yourself in Cambodian life whilst volunteering and teaching conversational English to students in Phnom Penh.

Maldives Island Volunteer Project

Volunteer in the Maldives to join various projects within the beautiful tropical island of Naifaru, the capital of the Lhaviyani Atoll.