An opportunity to volunteer to teach English as a foreign language and Computer skills to Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, Northern India, the centre of the Tibetan exile government and the residence of H.H. Dalai Lama.
You can join for 3 to 6 month periods, all year round.
English TEFL & computer teachers all welcome.
Cost for food (3 meals a day), lodging in school and project support is £135 for any duration.
Tibetans who grow up in the rural areas of Tibet, often have no possibility to attend school. They either live too far away from schools or fees for the Chinese state schools are so high that Tibetan families cannot afford it. To avoid the fate of not getting an education, every year more than 4000 young Tibetans (aged 18 to 30) cross the Himalayas to reach India on foot. They risk their lives crossing these mountains, often more than 9000 feet high.
This programme has been set up to offer a chance of further education to young Tibetan adults. The main goal is to educate Tibetan refugees in India, in order to improve their work prospects once they are back in Tibet. Because the Tibetan Exile Government in Dharamsala had already established educational support by setting up the Tibetan Transit School (TTS) in which newly arrived refugees are educated for five years, this programme seeks to complement this educational establishment. A school in India was therefore started, in which carefully selected TTS-students are educated further for two years in English, Computer Skills and Chinese. These three subjects were identified as key elements for professional success once the students are back in Tibet. Every two years the school carefully chooses about 20 new students via an elaborate selection procedure. The students then live and study in the school and are fully sponsored.
80% of the 60 students, who have completed their studies at the school, have returned to their native country and all of them have found employment there. Three of them are self employed, some are English teachers, some are tourist guides, some are translators in NGOs in Tibet and some are doing Further Education in China.
Volunteer English teachers needed
This programme is open to volunteers who want to teach English abroad and who preferably have a recognised TEFL qualification and some TEFL teaching experience, as they will be responsible for preparing and delivering lessons each day. There will usually be two to four volunteers at a time. Tibetan adults from 18 to 25 yrs old will be taught in small groups for the preparation of KET (Key English Test), PET (Preliminary English Test), FCE (First Certificate in English) and CAE (Certificate in Advanced English).
Requirements for volunteer English teachers
Volunteer Computer teacher needed
There is one place available for an IT/ computer teaching volunteer - minimum requirement one month, but a longer commitment is preferred. Those with computer skillls and experience and who can teach Microsoft Office, Adobe CS Applications, web development tools and networking/hardware tools are preferred.
In return, volunteers will receive an unforgettable and special experience by living amongst the students at the school, in a "big family" environment. The students are highly motivated to learn, so you will feel how important your contribution is.
All dates for 2017 now full, please watch this space for updates
Places are limited and are usually booked well in advance. Most volunteers join for 3 months and longer, but up to 6 months is preferred.
You will receive free accommodation and food at the school every day whilst you volunteer, and a small amount of pocket money every month. There is a one-off application fee of £135 for volunteers who apply and are accepted on the programme. You can either be collected from the airport by us when you arrive in Delhi, spend a night in a pre booked hotel & then take a bus to Dharamsala (total cost around 35 US Dollars), or you can travel directly to the school yourself if you prefer.
What is not covered are your flights to India, tourist visa and your own personal expenditure. In addition, it is mandatory for you to take out a medical/accident insurance coverage, which is also at your own cost.
Food and lodging:
The school provides all meals (shared together with the staff and students) and basic accommodation (private room) for volunteers, and the school itself is set in a picturesque area by a river and a small forest.
It is an ideal location for anyone who would like to live amongst a small Tibetan community, teach in rural India or simply give something back. If you have any questions in particular about the lodging facilities at the school or any specific dietary requirements please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is an interactive map showing the location of the school:
The school is located near the popular tourist town of McLeod Ganj, where the residence in exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is situated. If interested, the students can arrange for you to attend some of the H.H. Dalai Lama's teachings during your time there.
Julie Eaglen, from England, volunteered on the programme from September to November
My overnight bus from Delhi arrived in Dharamsala quite late, according to the timetable, and by the time my motorbike lift from one of the school's staff got me to Upper Sukker it was already breakfast time. I was immediately struck by how quickly and politely the students made a place for me at the table, and made me welcome, asking about my journey and where I was from.
I have spent a lot of time trying to teach young people who are not particularly motivated to learn, or who have very real problems with learning the English language, not all of their own making, it has to be said. But from the very beginning, I was struck by just how motivated and dedicated to their studies the young people who are lucky enough to have gained a place at the school are. That's not to say that they lead a monkish existence; they certainly know how to enjoy themselves, at the slightest opportunity starting an ad hoc basketball practice session or letting fly on the disco dance floor up at McLeod Ganj at the weekend.
My fellow volunteer teachers have also turned out to be a delight to work with, all from quite different backgrounds, but sharing a dedication to helping the students get the most possible out of their short time at the school.
One of our roles, outside formal lesson time, is to encourage the continued use of the English language throughout the day, and this, I soon found, leads to some fascinating conversations - and at times some quite hilarious ones.
I'm sure my two months here will fly by, and it seems a shame that it's not possible for me to have committed myself to staying for longer: it would be good to see the development of the students' skills over a longer timeframe. But that's just not possible, so I must make the most of the short time that I am here.
This school, with its mission to help improve the lives and prospects of young people from Tibet, is a small but excellent organisation, and I wish it and its students, past, present and future, every success.
Dana Colgan, from the USA, joined the Tibetan Teaching programme in November
As one might expect, minutes before I taught my first English class the school, looking out onto ten,young, eager Tibetan adults, I was feeling a bit nervous. I whispered this to a student who was sitting next to me as we waited for class to begin. He reached for my hand and said, "Please don't be nervous. You are our family now. " Since this first day, my husband and I have been enfolded in the connectedness, welcoming, and belonging which emanates from the family of students, teachers, cook, and manager within the Education School of Tibet. The students' genuine smiles, contagious laughter, the sweet singing of stirring Tibetan melodies coming from the kitchen while the cookprepares breakfast, young people walking on the roof early in the morning reading their latest novel, to friendly but exciting volleyball, basketball, and table tennis matches, and monthly dance parties, transform thisschool into a family and home. These young people exuded love, friendship, tolerance, perseverance, and a powerful resilience, and warmly invite you in to their embrace. Choephel, the school manager, is a dedicated, delightful, and an energetic supervisor. He is deeply committed to the well-being of everyone at the school and provides a wonderful and wise example for the students.
I have listened intentlyas these courageous, intelligent, and spirited students openly share theirremarkable stories through poetry, essays, and chats over afternoon tea or lunch; stories depicting painful and difficult decisions to leave their country, family, and friends,and the harrowing journeys they endured to escape. The students all left Tibet for a multitude of reasons, but there is a single common denominator that unites them: their passion, motivation and drive to access and consume education. Students are up before the sun and study for two hours before the 8 o'clock breakfast bell. In class, they are motivated, fully engaged learners, taking each opportunity to not only enrich their language skills, but to learn from each opportunity offered. The Dalai Lama often talks about “not wasting time.” These students embody this practice. They are delightful students who do not miss an opportunity to thank you and show their great appreciation that you have taken time out of your life to assist them.
Our small contribution of sharing and teaching our native language will provide them an greater opportunity to create a life of independence and self-sufficiency, and hopefully assist them in preserving and sharing their brilliant stories, rich culture, and historical traditions with the rest of the world. In turn, we are the true beneficiaries a glimpse into a culture so rich, stories so extraordinary, and an attitudes so inspiring. As a teacher at this school, I am humbled each day and I am the most gracious student.
Don Schwartz, from the USA, joined the programme from November to December, and gives his feedback
My wife and I arrived at the school, which sits in a peaceful village framed by imposing mountain peaks, early in the morning after a twelve hour overnight bus journey. Immediately, we were warmly greeted by staff and students who quickly became our colleagues, friends, and teachers.
In a teaching career spanning more than twenty five years, rarely have I had the opportunity to work with students who embody the thirst for and love of learning that the students at this school demonstrate each day. They listen intently, process and absorblessons, study rigorously, and routinely ask questions to enhance their understanding. Each morning they rise before the sun to begin their studies, and it is long after the sun has tucked itself in for the night that they put aside their books and do the same.
Through their passionate writing and in conversation, these inspirational students have shared the tales of the journeys that have brought them together in this school. They have sacrificed and endured much for the opportunity to enhance their English skills, and their stories touch the heart. They have demonstrated through their lives that obstacles are surmountable with the right dose of attitude, perseverance, dedication, and support.
In the few weeks that I have been a part of this school, I am certain that I have learned more from the students than they have learned from me. I am deeply grateful to them.
Janet Richardson, from England, joined the programme in September
I arrived at the school on September 20th. Choephel made me very welcome, and after I had settled into my room, he filled me in on how the school works. The first thing that struck me when I met the students was their friendliness and how quickly I felt a part of this small community, which is really like a large family.
I was eased into the timetable gently and now have a good balance between time in the classroom, time for preparation and marking and leisure time. It is obvious from the start that Choephel is dedicated to the well-being of everyone at the school and that the students are dedicated to learning English. Regular meetings for the students and the staff ensure that every one has an opportunity to contribute their ideas to all aspects of daily life at the school.
There is a lot to be learnt from the atmosphere at the school. Through joint co-operation meals are cooked the school is cleaned, lessons are taught and English is learned, all done with a willingness that we rarely witness. On top of all that it is a beautiful and tranquil place to live.
Kenneth Townsend, from England, joined the programme in November
I had been teaching in England for 32 years; in various contexts, but mainly Sixth Form Colleges. I love teaching and Philosophy and Religion has been especially enjoyable because it is such an obvious extension of what I'm about as a person. Why come to India then? And why this school? I realised in January 2011 that the buzz was going from teaching and that I was becoming fed up with students expecting the teacher to do everything-Advanced Level Teaching had become like a factory farm and watching the chickens lay my eggs was not much fun! I had always subscribed to Lao Tzu's view that ‘the teacher and the taught together create the teaching' and had promised myself that should the partnership ever break down it would be time to get out.
When I read about the school, whilst scanning the Internet for possible alternatives to what I was doing, I was enthused, stimulated and overwhelmed by the accounts from Volunteers on the school website. Years of cultivated skepticism chipped in with: 'This must be too good to be true!'. Nevertheless,the thought of continuing to teach and in another country and in a Tibetan milieu-for I have long had a deep commitment to Tibetan Buddhism-ticked all the boxes. Months of planning my exit from my post as Head of Philosophy and Religion in a large Sixth Form College and organizing the departure from England then ensued. Two weeks into my adventure and I continue to pinch myself from time to time to confirm that I'm here, in the most wonderful of family communities and teaching with the kind of enjoyment and delight that confirms Lao Tzu's dictum: when teaching and learning is a partnership, joy flows!
The Tibetan students are committed and devoted to learning-it is true about finding them up at all hours reading for the sheer joy of reading, doing exercises from their books because they want to improve their language skills; and I emphasise, because they want to do it not because it is imposed! But above all, I'm meeting and getting to know young people who care about life and care about values-their spirituality is all pervading. The humour in the classroom, around the dinner table, on the Volleyball Court, is the product of a spring flowing out of the heart of Tibetan culture. I'm so looking forward to bathing in that spring for the rest of my stay here.
Carole Gittens, from Australia, volunteered on the Tibetan Teaching programme for two months in Autumn 2011
After catnapping on the overnight bus from Delhi, I woke as the sun was beginning to rise to a magnificent view of a fast flowing river, mountains and green, green valleys. It was my first visit to the Indian State of Hamachal Pradesh. As the bus coasted along, I wondered what my time as a volunteer in Dharamshala would bring.
An hour or so later, I was at the gates of the school and warmly welcomed by the School Manager, Choephel. Tibetan flags fluttering in the breeze had an immediate impact and I knew I was going to enjoy this unique experience. After an orientation tour of the school, I met the other volunteers Arnrid and Karmo who were here like I was, to teach English to 23 Tibetan students.
I chose to be in the middle of three adjoining, small outer rooms. A chair, bed and desk but best of all is the beautiful view of the Himachal mountains and overlooking the neighbours' gardens. After a few inexpensive purchases including a useful bucket and a floor mat, a couple of extra nails to hang my clothes and my room felt like home.
Meals are prepared on a roster system by the students and special occasions call for the Tibetan momo with everyone involved making and rolling the dough, preparing the vegetables, mincing meat, filling the momo cases and then cooking them in huge steamers. My own skill at filling improved with each momo after a very poor initial attempt. It is quite a feast and very enjoyable to watch the students have so much pleasure preparing the food as a team and the fun eating momo together.
With nine females and fourteen males, aged from 18 years to mid 30's, the students have their own journey to tell with many having crossed the mountains in winter from Tibet to arrive at the Tibetan Reception Centre in Nepal. A common reason for having left Tibet is to seek and gain an education to increase their prospects of obtaining a worthy job and future in their country. It is extremely humbling to listen to their individual life story before this school and how they each value the opportunity to learn.
During a recent conversation class, the students were given topics to discuss. An individual response when asked if the student had any suggestions about changing one thing at the school, was to increase the number of students so more young Tibetans could have the same opportunity to attend the school. Over 100 Tibetan students sat for the entrance exam and although all were proficient at their own respective level of English, due to number restraints, only 23 could be accepted.
The students reside at the school for two years and sit for Cambridge English Tests. From what I have seen and heard, each student is enthusiastic in both the class room and when studying on their own. Classes include computer studies with Karma who brings his vast knowledge and sense of fun to the school. English only is spoken during the week but students may use Tibetan on the weekends or outside the front gates. The occasional struggle to find the 'right word' brings a lot of laughter and fun to everyone. Just after dawn, I wake to the sound of birds chattering and students reading aloud to improve their English language skills.
Although the distance from Australia is great, with technology I am in constant contact with family and friends and feel very blessed to have this opportunity to volunteer at this school. To meet and listen to people who have struggled but have such a positive, endearing nature is an experience to be cherished. It is inspirational to meet healthy, positive, fine young adults who will shape the future of our world and help make a better life for us all.
It would be impossible to tell you about what an amazing place this is in this small paragraph. I could tell you about the wonderful location and the beautiful surroundings (although the pictures will do a better job than I could) and I could also tell you about what a wonderful cause you would be working for but instead I want to talk briefly about the people you will meet. I’ve volunteered a lot, in many different situations and consequently have met many incredible people. But not one of those people has evoked in me the feelings that these students did. It took me an hour or so before I identified them as the bravest, kindest and most admiral people I could ever hope to meet. They filled every one of my days with pure joy and whilst I was there I felt like I became a part of a family. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this school to anyone and I think it’s the most worthwhile volunteering experiences you could find.
Philipa Morris, August 2010
Give an education to gain an education.’ Gaining an education was neither the purpose of this venture nor was it within the reaches of my imagination how literal this sentence would prove to be. I had decided to spend a year volunteering. It was a vaguely researched decision of the heart over the head that steered me towards India and the Tibetan community. My heart chose well. I threw caution to the wind and came to India without a plan, without direction, without expectations. Diving head-first is a risky business but it achieves depth.
And so it was with hope, excitement and a dash of fear that I began to wander. I stumbled across this programme and after a brief introduction and tour, my heart had finished wandering. I moved into the volunteer rooms as soon as the manager agreed to take me on as a teacher. I agreed to stay for one month. After one week I asked if it would be possible to stay until Christmas. After two, I asked if I could possibly return after Christmas for another six months. I had wandered into a fairy ring with no return.
My first impression of the students was the level of hospitality and respect shown to the manager, volunteers and their fellow students alike. They are relentless in this. They predicted and still predict my every need and as a sole traveller I am never left in want. The atmosphere in the school is one of warmth, compassion and understanding. They care for each other as we care for siblings. No one is forgotten or left behind. It is difficult to express how I feel about being welcomed into this family. I feel humbled and privileged.
The students have taught me humility, compassion and honesty. I have taught them English! The teacher became the student. They have shown me how I want to live my life, the importance of our relationships with others, the importance of openness with ourselves and with others. They have shown me the meaning of contentment. I will forever be grateful to each of them for our chats, debates, for spontaneous hugs, for pulling me up the mountain, for their humour and enthusiasm and for their joyful singing.
And now my time here is coming to an end, yet I feel that my life has just begun. My life as I want to now live it. The line between teacher and friend has been breached and I have made twenty-four of them, be they teachers or friends. While still I love to wander, the school had taught me how to rest, enjoy, appreciate. I will wander on but this place will remain a fresh print on my heart.
By Eibhlin Nic Diarmada
My time spend teaching has been a really amazing experience. I was a bit nervous at the beginning because I had never taught before but I found that once I got into I gained confidence and really enjoyed the lessons. The students are lovely and all have great stories to tell. I think the really special thing about the school is that the students and teachers live so closely together. It is like a big extended family.
I feel like I have learned as much from the students as they have from me. One of my favourite parts of teaching was the hour set aside each day for conversation class. Here you could facilitate a discussion or play a game. The students’ perspectives were always very interesting and when a good discussion got going it was hugely enjoyable.
With a grown up family and a good life I was eager to try new things and "give something back". I've always been interested in the world refugee situation and so I wasnt looking too long when a friend gave me information on this school for young adult Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, Northern India.
I arrived in Delhi where I was well looked after in the Tibetan quarters of the city. Next day I got the night bus to Dharamsala, a much more pleasent experience than I had anticipated and as we left the citys and towns behind and started to make our way up winding roads I began to feel really excited. At the end of the 12 hour bus journey I was met by Lugyal the school manager on his motorbike and taken to the school in Upper Sukkar. With prayer flags flapping in the breeze and 23 students and 4 other teachers having breakfast it felt quite surreal. I was given my own cup and a room at the bottom of the garden which has the most spectacular views of the Himachal mountains that change every day. Introductions were made and I wondered how on earth I would remember all the strange names.
I rested up for a couple of days then started teaching. I was genuinely surprised and impressed with the level of English the students have, also their enthusiasm, sense of humour and dedication to learn. One student later told me how when he minded his sheep on the grasslands of Tibet he used to dream of being a student and would break a stick and draw in the soil pretending he was a student in a school writing with a pen. More than once I thought how much we in the west take free education for granted.
The students, aged between 20 and 32 years old, are of an age that can so easily be forgotten or over-looked which is one reason why this is such an important project. Its more than a school, its their home away from home and they certainly do feel part of a family there. It wasnt long before I felt the same.
Most mornings we, the teachers woke to the sound of students reading aloud from their English novels, Sambo singing in the high throat style particular to his region in Tibet and the smell of freshly baked Tingmo (steamed bread). Breakfast oftens includes a challenge and no-one is exempt, not even the manager who on one occasion had us in stitches at his ballet performance. So much laughing was done at the breakfast table (we ate all meals outside) before 8am classes and this ensured a good start to the day. The atmosphere in the school is something that should be experienced and it was a pleasure and a privilege being there I can honestly say it did my heart good. I've learned so much about Tibet and its true the world has forgotten about Tibet, if indeed most of us ever knew or fully understood the extent of suffering, cruelty and domination and that one nation can inflict on another. Tibetans coming to India risk their lives treking across the Himalayas, a journey of 2000 miles on foot in order to escape the misery of Chinese oppression, for an education not possible for most of them in Tibet and most importantly to see at least once in their lifetime His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, himself an exile in India since 1959. On my second week I saw H.H. the Dalai Lama three times and later in June attended three days of his teachings at the Tibetan Childrens Village in McleodGanj.
Everyone works so hard and diligently but other activities included an unforgettable weekend camping trip, a tour of the Norbulinka Institute and a great day at the Funky town swimming pool. On Saturdays, classes take turns to perform a short drama presentation which is always so entertaining and its great to see the confidence these performances instil in the quieter students, in fact the school syllabus is totally geared to not only prepare the students for the Cambride English Language Exams but to gain computer qualifications while keeping a strong hold on their Tibetan culture.
Classes are over for the day at 1.30 and teachers are free to nap, go off walking or jump on the "lucky bus" into town. Weekends are free to go to Mcleodganj, stay in hotels and shop, wander around sightseeing and take advantage of all the different restaurants in the area, you always bump into someone you know. Everyone comes back to the school on Sunday evening and classes are prepared for the next day. It has to be said so much thought, hard work and dedication truly makes this school a role model that schools in the West could learn and benefit from.
I have had one of the most important experiences of my life and I have gained so much from the big family that is there. I continue to promote the school by running 2 film clubs in 2 towns showing Tibetan films/documentaries and fundraise in whatever way i can. I plan to go back in December. I cannot stress how incredible it is to live with Tibetans and experience first hand a race of people who regardless of what they have suffered are always smiling and made me feel so welcome and I believe I probably learned more from them than they did from me. All the school asks of anyone wanting to come and teach is that English is their first language (though thats negotiable) that they are at least 25 years old, happy to live a simple existance and most importantly have a good heart.
Tashi Delek and Free Tibet.
The following article was written by Anne Fryer.
A few weeks into our trip to India, my partner and I had planned to do some voluntary teaching in Mcleod Ganj, home of the Tibetan government in exile, and thought that we would easily find opportunities there when we arrived. However, to our surprise and disappointment, all the schools there informed us that they already had teachers and didn't need us. We spent a few weeks doing drop- in conversation classes, which were fun, but we felt we wanted something that we could get our teeth into. Although we were enjoying the many opportunities that Mcleod Ganj provides for rest and relaxation, we both had a nagging feeling that there was something missing.
Then, to our good fortune, we stumbled upon this school a few miles from Dharamasala, with 23 Tibetan students and a manager, all living and working together, rather like a big family. We visited the school, and were immediately struck by the harmonious atmosphere and warmth and friendliness of everyone there. So, we eagerly accepted the invitation to go and live and teach there for a month or so.
My experience lived up to and surpassed my hopes and expectations. One of the things that really struck me was the mutual respect that the students show towards each other, supporting each other like brothers and sisters. Having been an English teacher for many years, working in many different countries, and teaching students from all over the world, I can say that the students at this school are among the most motivated, hard- working, polite, and respectful students I have ever taught. Every morning my class would greet me cheerfully with big smiles. They were so sweet and funny- some days they made me laugh my head off. And other times, like when I read their stories of their escape from Tibet, they made me cry.
Aside from the classes, I'll keep fond memories of chats with the students, listening to the often- touching readings at breakfast time, a lovely BBQ evening, the school basketball championship, the most raucous game of “Pictionary” I have ever experienced, and eating the most delicious momos (dumplings) of anywhere in Dharamasala, until I was ready to burst.
I am very grateful to the students and managers at the school for making my time there so special. On the wall in our room at the school were some words from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on “The True Meaning of Life”. In it, he states that “we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.” I think we found the “missing piece” at this school, and I hope that I may have contributed in a small way to the happiness of the students there, as they surely contributed to mine.