Volunteering in the Himalayas
By Georgia Wilson
Last updated: 24th January 2013
It all started… with an overnight train..
I had been dreading the over night train. Even though I’ve been on them in Thailand, I’d heard some horror stories about the Indian ones. And of course we’ve all seen Slumdog Millionaire where there are people hanging out the windows, clinging onto the side of the train….
It actually wasn’t so bad. I was escorted by one of the project representatives who collected my ticket and made everything really easy. And we not only had a seat, but an actual bed!
We got off the train 5am, and it was freezing! (Freezing for India. In England it’d probably be classed as mild.)I knew it would be cold, but for some reason I hadn’t really connected the knowledge of it being cold, with actually packing for cold weather. So standing there in my thin cotton trousers, cardigan and FLIP FLOPS, I chattered my way to the car that was picking us up and driving us 4 hours to the camp.
The car also didn’t have heating and the window needed to be open to keep the windows from fogging up. …Safe to say, I wasn’t my happiest!
All changed though when the sun started to rise, and I really saw where I was. I felt like I was in a postcard! The Himalayas with a light dusting of snow perfectly place as a backdrop everywhere you looked. Little colourful villages were dotted amongst the mountains. It was like nowhere I’d ever seen before, not just a mountain village, because there were also great big forests, water falls, crystal clear lakes, huge rolling hills. I was in absolute awe, couldn’t believe I was in the same country!
I got to the volunteer house about 11am, and shown to my room (still very cold) and was thrilled when I looked out the window to see my view ->
The projects were also really great. On my first day I went on a Projects Visit, where I got to see all options of where you can volunteer, and then choose which is the right one for you. The first visit was to one of the local government run schools where some of the volunteers were teaching English. The first thing I noticed were how well behaved the kids are! Compared to the other projects I visited (especially in Goa!). They all stood up and welcomed me into the classroom, and then got right back on with their work. It was also evident with the rest of the local community up in the mountain villages. People were very calm, peaceful, happy and very polite!
On the project visit I also went to a few different day care centres, a special needs school, an orphanage, English groups for women and girls, and after school clubs for kids.
One that stood out to me the most was the Girls English Class. It’s an afternoon project so the girls come straight from school, and the day I was there was the first day! It was in a slum area, where a lovely local woman had donated her home so we could host an English class to the young girls who would like to further their education. As it was the first day, there were about 25 girls who turned up ranging from 4 – 15, but there were also family and friends (and a goat) that came to see what was going on. The excitement from everyone was palpable and it took half the lesson before everyone had filed out and left us to get acquainted with the new students.
I went back a few days later to see how it was getting on, and there were still around 20 girls there, a great turn out for optional education!
The Palampur market town was just a short drive from the volunteer camp, where there are shops to buy warm clothes and souvenirs, restaurants, ATM’s and all conveniences that you might need.
Out of all the places I visited in India, this was by far my favourite!