I had the opportunity to participate with FSL India in the volunteer project "The Himalayan Beauty" in Dharamkot in which an international team with members from Canada, France, India, Italy, Mexico, and Spain helped with environmental, construction and educational tasks.
Let me share with you my experience as well as the application process, and how to participate in other volunteer projects around the world.
1. The Project
The school and the team
Mostly every day we went to the Government Primary School Dharamkot Edu. Block Dshala. Our team leader was Dinesh from India and we were nine participants: Cuillen from Canada, Elise, Gabriele and Joanne from France, Federica and Marco from Italy, Antonio and Jorge from Spain and me from Mexico. We also participated in an environmental activity with the NGO "Waste Warriors", in which our team leader was Sanam from India.
The project was a fulfilling experience because we worked in renovation activities but we also enjoyed spending time with the children at the school, working in the nature, having cultural visits to several temples and museums, and going to a trekking activity during the last week.
a. Construction activities
We replaced the floor of a classroom and helped to paint and fix other areas of the school.
b. Educational activities
Almost every day we spent some time playing with the children and speaking in English with them. These cuties were adorable and they always wanted to learn the new games that we taught them.
c. Environmental activities
We participated with Waste Warriors cleaning the Bhagsu Waterfall. This place was extremely beautiful and the hot weather mixed with the energy of moving around made us swim at the end of the waterfall.
d. Cultural visits
There were several cultural visits each day that allowed us to learn about Indian and Tibetan Culture. We went to the Dalai Lama museum, talked with monks, went to the Tibetan Children's Village, had Tibetan cooking lessons, visited a Tibetan Temple and a Tibetan Museum and went to watch carpet making.
e. Trekking activity
The last week we had an amazing trekking activity, we spent a night in a Temple and two nights at the top of Triund (which is a camping site with an amazing view).
On the evenings after we had finished work, we were able to choose to do whatever we wanted, but most often we:
a. Drank a typical "Masala Chai" tea in a coffe shop in Dharamkot
b. Went shopping to McLeod Gang or Dharamshala
Also, we had two free weekends and as a team we chose to visit The Golden Temple in Amritsar and Manali (these extra activities were self-funded).
a. The Golden Temple
This was truly one of my best experiences in India and in my life. Founded in 1577 by the 4th Sikh guru, it has the world's largest kitchen serving up to 300,000 people every day for free, receives thousands of people to sleep and accepts people from any religion, color, age or gender.
You can read about my whole experience in this post: The Golden Temple: a magical place in India
It is a popular touristic destination and serves as the gateway to Lahaul & Spiti district as well as Leh.
2. Additional information
The project took place in Dharamkot (a small town in Dharamshala near McLeod Ganj, where the Dalai Lama's home is located). This is a very touristic kind of hippie-hipster place where you can meet backpackers from all over the world. In order to get there you can access www.makemytrip.com and book all your tickets but basically these are your options:
- Airplane: you can take a airplane from New Delhi to Dharamshala and then a taxi to Dharamkot. When you access www.makemytrip.com fill in "From DEL To DHM." The ticket will cost around 3,000 to 4,000 INR (44 to 59 USD) and the taxi to Dharamkot will cost around 400 INR (6 USD).
- Train: you can take a train from New Delhi to to Pathankot or Chakki train stations and then a taxi to Dharamkot.
- Night bus: you can take a bus from Delhi to Dharamshala and then a taxi to Dharamkot. This is your cheapest option because the bus will cost around 1,000 to 1,400 INR (15 to 20 USD) and the taxi around 400 INR (6 USD). But you have to know that this is a 12-hour trip and in my opinion it was very uncomfortable and I wasn't able to sleep at all.
3 weeks (the last week we went on a trekking activity).
The team was staying in a guest house which was very simple but comfortable and clean. You will have to share your room but this also promotes the interaction with the team. In my case my roomies were an Italian and French girls who were very nice and we had a lot of fun fun together. Overall the place was good, the only inconvenience is that there was no wifi in the house so we had to go to coffee shops nearby to get it.
Food was provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was very delicious (although repetitive) and we were able to taste typical Indian food as well as some international plates prepared by the team members. Beware that India is a vegetarian country but if you really want meat there are a lot of touristic restaurants nearby where you can find meat and chicken dishes and fast food as hamburgers or pizza.
3. Application Process
Start your application
To start the process enter www.fsl-india.org, there you will be able to visualize "The Himalayan Beauty" as well as other work camps which vary in duration, cost and start date. You will also find the application process and the contact details of the organization.
18,000 INR (approx. 265 USD).
Don't miss the opportunity to come!
4. How to participate in other paid & unpaid volunteer camps
There are volunteer projects in many countries all around the world. Some ask for a participation fee but others are paid, which means that you'll only have to pay for your airplane ticket to get there and you'll be provided with free accommodation and food.
You can read the post How to find paid volunteer projects abroad to know in which websites you will find the databases containing all these projects and also you can read about other experiences I had in the posts:
- How to participate in a volunteer project in the United States, which was a paid project
- How to participate as a volunteer in the European Youth Olympic Festival which was partially paid.
On the other hand if you are also interested in studying abroad you can read the post How to find scholarships to study abroad.