By Dronacharya Dave:
Nestled amid the lush green and exquisite Himalayas, Dharamsala is a valley city in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, India. The spectacular natural beauty and the pious aroma that fills the air is a soothing and tranquil experience to have. Students in their gap year choose to volunteer abroad, and India is one of the most popular destinations for them. Since it is mainly around the summers that travellers arrive to volunteer in India, the Himalayas is the most apt location to visit.
I came across the concept of volunteer travelling during my early days of nomadic life, when I was travelling in the beautiful city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. And, since then, this has been ‘my way’ of travelling across different destinations. There are a number of volunteer placement organisations that provide special summer volunteering in India at Palampur, which is at a short distance of 30-40 kilometres from Dharamsala; making it a perfect location to spend summers travelling abroad. Last summer, I chose to take up this stint in my own country, India, and chose Dharamsala for the same. What I experienced and learnt while volunteering in Dharamsala was an unmatched experience. And, thus, I decided to share my experience in the hope that it might motivate others as well.
That Dharamsala is home to His Holiness The Dalai Lama is just one of the factors that attracts the global community of travellers to this region. Here is a list of a few irresistible reasons to visit Dharamsala this summer to volunteer in India.
Dharamsala is home to his holiness The Dalai Lama, which is a strong enough indication of the piousness spread in the atmosphere. Apart from that, there are a number of Buddhist pagodas and temples spread across the region. In the Palampur area, I was accommodated along with seven other volunteers who had arrived from different countries, which showcases homogeneity in terms of spiritual environment.
Palampur and Dharamsala both lie in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, which offers a number of breathtaking adventure activities. During the three weeks’ summer volunteering trip in India, I got the opportunity to explore the destination and take part in a number of activities in and around Palampur. One such activity was the Himalayan trek to the scintillating Triund Hill. There’s this another trek option which takes you to the hilltop of Bir-Billing that is world famous for it’s international paragliding events. Yes! You guessed it. It was a breathtaking experience to fly over the beautiful valley of Palampur. Why walk, when you can fly your way down!
While it’s a summer travel expedition, at the end of it all, it is a volunteer trip you take. Which means there will be work for you to do for the community. During my summer volunteer programme, I worked at the childcare centres in Palampur. The first lap of the volunteer work, however, began in Delhi where I worked under the ‘Street Children’ programme. Both these programmes revolve around the welfare and development of underprivileged children who come from highly compromised backgrounds. Volunteers can also involve themselves in construction work at these centres to refurbish parts that need repair and give them a new and fresh look.
The Indian sub-continent is known for its diverse culture and traditions. The kind of culture and lifestyle that I found in Palampur-Dharamsala was a lot different from what I saw in Delhi, or any other part of the country for that matter. Every region in India has its own set of language, dress, lifestyle, food, and more. So, while volunteering in Palampur, it was a totally different experience for me to witness a culture I had never even heard of. Now, isn’t that what we call globe-trotting?
The summer volunteering in India programme was a complete three-week extravaganza which kicked off from the capital city of New Delhi and then took me to some of the best locations in North India. While most of my journey covered exploring areas in and around Dharamsala and Palampur, the first lap, however, started from New Delhi including visits to:
1) Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
2) The Taj Mahal, Agra
3) Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
In Jaipur, we took a pit stop at an elephant village where we spent time with the friendly giant while doing some volunteer work as well, such as making food for the elephant, taking them for bath, etc.
Overwhelmed with the number of fun activities? Well, guess what? There are a number of other reasons as well which can’t be explained or mentioned but can only be felt and seen. Summers here and there couldn’t be a better time to plan your summer trip. Keep travelling…responsibly!