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Gap360 Announce New ‘Indian Culture and Community Volunteering’ Programmes

by Blanche Delany

29th June 2012

Gap360 are offering a fantastic new volunteering programme based in India. The programme, running for either 4 or 8 weeks, gives volunteers the opportunity to bring enthusiasm and positivity to under-staffed and under-resourced projects based in Dharamsala. Volunteers will gain a valuable life experience, proffering new cultural perspectives and knowledge of authentic Indian life, all while making a worthwhile difference within the community.

The project is based in and around the city of Dharamsala, located in the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh in close proximity to the Himalayas. Famous as the home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, the city is a key centre of both Buddhism and Tibetan culture in India.

Himachal Area

There are two variations on the programme available. These are ‘Community Volunteers in India,’ and ‘Culture and Community Volunteers’ The latter option offers an extension on the basic community volunteers project, providing an unforgettable week experiencing authentic Indian culture, taking part in a plethora of exciting activities and sightseeing.

The cultural week boasts an impressive range of activities and experiences that make the time spent in India all the more memorable. Volunteers will spend their first 5 days in Delhi, during which time they stay with a host family for 3 nights, visit the markets, watch a sound and light show at the Red Fort, have guided visits of the Indian Gate and Lotus Temple, watch a Bollywood movie and take part in an authentic cooking workshop. From here, they will head to Agra for 2 days of sightseeing and an optional visit to the infamous Taj Mahal. From here, volunteers return to Delhi and travel to Dharamsala by train, where they will have an orientation and welcome meal, followed by 2 days of sightseeing, with visits to the house of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan market and the Norbulingka monastery.

All volunteers fly into Indira Ghandi International airport in Delhi, and those not doing the cultural experience will travel by train to Dharamsala after spending 1 night in Delhi. Here, they will have an orientation and welcome meal, which involves basic Hindi lessons and a session focusing on cross-cultural communication. This worthwhile trip allows volunteers to work in 1 of 5 areas throughout the community; teaching in a primary school, helping at an orphanage, childcare, working with children at a mental health school, and women empowerment activities. Work on the projects takes place Monday to Friday, for approximately 6 hours per day.

All volunteers live together in a sociable house, surrounded with beautiful scenery. 3 local meals will be provided daily, and all transport between the house and projects is included.

Primary school childrenTeaching in primary schools will require volunteers to motivate and guide both students and teachers, utilising creative and interactive teaching methods to make schooling both fun and educational for the children. Volunteers will be teaching English, Maths, and social skills, as well as assisting in other lessons when necessary, and improving awareness within the community of the importance of education for young people.

The orphanages where the programme takes place exist as Non-Government Organisations, and therefore help and support from volunteers is invaluable. Volunteers need to offer the love, care and support which the children are lacking. The role also includes an educational aspect in terms of assisting with basic English teaching and computer skills, as well as fundamental life skills such as health care.

Himachal Volunteer WorkThe child day care centres in Dharamsala provide support and care for pregnant women, young mothers and children, offering basic medical services as well as a secure environment for young children. Volunteers will be providing much needed enthusiasm to the children through creative hands-on activities and basic education. Furthermore, they will help to raise community awareness about health, hygiene, gender equality and the importance of education.

Working with children at a mental health school involves helping children and young adults up to the age of 20, providing basic education and valuable life skills, as well as taking part in regular community visits to encourage families of mentally challenged children to utilise the services provided at the school. Volunteers can organise field trips and activities, helping to build social confidence and better integrate the children into the community.

The final volunteering opportunity is working in the area of female empowerment. The majority of communities in India are patriarchal, and women often suffer with significantly lower levels of education than men, so volunteers will teach English, computer skills and basic arithmetic, as well as raising awareness and boosting morale of girls and women in the community.

Himachal Volunteer Work

While each community project will require varying skills and approaches to be best carried out, all volunteers need a positive attitude, enthusiasm and willingness to get involved. Time spent on this trip will provide an unforgettable life experience, increasing cultural perspective and improving knowledge of authentic Indian life. Furthermore, volunteers are working on hugely worthwhile and rewarding projects, making a significant difference to the communities in and around Dharamsala.

From → Asia, Blanche Delany

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