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 2015 and 2016 available.
Individuals, groups and students all welcome.
Cost for food, lodging in shared volunteer house, cultural activities, airport pickup, programme materials and training; from £590.
In 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.
Volunteers work for around four 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 project(s) you have selected in your application, your own skills and interests, as well as the needs of the community & the projects which are currently running at the time. This structure allows volunteers to contribute their specific skills to the programme, enjoying the diversity of working on multiple projects and getting to know a number of individuals and Indian families within the community, whilst ensuring our programmes can effectively meet the needs of the community, which are continually changing. Please note however that this structure means not all of the projects below are guaranteed to be available to participate in, but rest assured you will still be making a valuable contribution to the local community. All of the volunteer projects in India are listed below.
Teaching Volunteer projects
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can volunteer in India for 2 up to 12 week durations, year round, starting on a Sunday. The dates below are provided as a guideline, but you can join the project on any Sunday throughout the year. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions about dates.
22nd November to 5th December
6th December to 19th December
20th December to 2nd January 2016
3rd January to 16th January 2016
17th January to 30th January 2016
31st January to 13th February 2016
14th February to 27th February 2016
28th February to 12th March 2016
13th March to 26th March 2016
27th March to 9th April 2016
10th April to 23rd April 2016
24th April to 7th May 2016
8th May to 21st May 2016
22nd May to 4th June 2016
5th June to 18th June 2016
19th June to 2nd July 2016
3rd July to 16th July 2016
17th July to 30th July 2016
31st July to 13th August 2016
14th August to 27th August 2016
28th August to 10th September 2016
11th September to 24th September 2016
25th September to 8th October 2016
The costs for the project are as follows: 2 weeks is £590, 3 weeks is £690, 4 weeks is £790, 5 weeks is £885, 6 weeks is £980, 7 weeks is £1075, 8 weeks is £1170, 9 weeks is £1265, 10 weeks is £1360, 11 weeks is £1455 and 12 weeks is £1550.
Accommodation & Food:
Volunteers stay at a shared Volunteer House with the project staff, in Sidhwari village, situated close to Dharamsala town. 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 should be aged 18 years upwards and speak English. All nationalities are welcome. Volunteers wanting to participate in the healthcare projects should have some previous experience or study in that field, but for other projects volunteers do not need any specific skills or qualifications, though any skills you do have will of course be useful for the projects. Volunteers should also be self motivated, calm and independent, and willing to help out with a range of different projects when required. If you are not flexible, patient, or adaptable, you will probably not enjoy life in rural India.
The quickest and simplest route is to fly to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Please aim to arrive between 12am midnight and 2pm Sunday afternoon on your project start date. 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. Airport pickup is possible outside of these hours but incurs a 50 USD charge (shared if coming as a group).
Volunteers will need to apply for a visa online in advance of their arrival to India, and WorkingAbroad can offer volunteers advice on obtaining a visa.
India is a country of beauty and diversity, with rich culture and traditions. By joining this project you will have to chance to experience the sights and tastes of India, whilst carrying out community development work.
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 Aanganwadi), 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:
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.
With 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.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
To volunteer in India and secure a placement on our Dharamsala Community volunteering project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, the final amount needs to be paid two months 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.