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Volunteer Abroad in India with International Volunteer HQ

Volunteer in India - Dharamsala

Volunteer in India - Dharamsala with International Volunteer HQ, the world's most affordable and trusted volunteer organization. Volunteers are based in Naddi, a small communmity close to popular hilltop Tibetan communities and the Buddhist monasteries of McLeod Ganj. You can choose from 3 volunteer project options, including Childcare and Education, Construction and Outdoor Work and Women's Education.
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Watch IVHQ volunteers abroad in Dharamsala

At a glance…

  • Available year-round
  • 3 meaningful project options
  • Projects based in popular hilltop Tibetan communities
  • Accommodation in local homestays
  • Between 10 and 20 volunteers start in Dharamsala each month
  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
  • Program fees from $420 for 2 weeks
  • Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in India to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
  • Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in India will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
  • Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
  • Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
  • Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
  • New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
  • Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore India with your new-found friends.

The IVHQ India - Dharamsala volunteer program has volunteer placements located in Naddi, a small community close to popular hilltop Tibetan communities and the Buddhist monasteries of McLeod Ganj. Volunteers traveling to the program are asked to fly into Kangra Airport in Gaggal, Dharamsala (DHM) on the Sunday prior to their program start date.

Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 24 weeks.

Childcare and Education

As a volunteer on the Childcare and Education Project, you will have the unique opportunity to work with children, between the ages of 1-14 years old, in early childcare centers, migrant camps, and education centers throughout the beautiful mountainous Naddi and Dharamsala region.

Volunteers will support large government-run schools, as well as smaller schools that are serve local villages located on the picturesque hillsides of the greater Naddi region. The childcare centers provide a place for poor families to leave their children for the day, enabling parents and other family members to work.

Volunteers will also have the option of teaching basic school lessons in a makeshift classroom in the migrant camps, introducing the children to activities that otherwise they would never have the chance to do. Families in the migrant camps are living in extreme poverty and an education is not viewed as important as making money which causes migrant children to progress slowly through school and drop out at high rates.

The Childcare and Education project is best suited for volunteers who are passionate about working with children, teaching a range of subjects to students of different age groups and backgrounds.

Your tasks will include assisting local volunteers and other caregivers by organizing daily activities and games, and providing one-on-one attention and basic English language education to the children. Volunteers can also assist with preparing and serving meals, giving lessons on personal hygiene, and ensuring children attend classes. You are not required to have previous experience in childcare or teaching but you will need to be enthusiastic and creative to get the most out of your volunteer project. Volunteers can work together with local teachers to design lessons using existing resources, as well as their own expertise if they have prior teaching experience.

No prior teaching experience is necessary, however we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, such as a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL Course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.

Construction and Outdoor Work

Volunteers on the Construction and Outdoor Work project contribute towards community-led initiatives to help improve the landscape and infrastructure within small rural and poor urban communities.

The Construction and Outdoor Work project works at a grass-roots level to build an understanding of sustainable agriculture practices and the benefits they can provide for both people and the environment. The project aims to create models of best practice and to embed them throughout rural communities.

This project is well suited to volunteers who have an interest in basic construction, eco-agriculture and working outdoors. Volunteers must enjoy physical labor and not be afraid to get stuck in and get their hands dirty. A background in construction, farming or agriculture is not necessary and volunteers need to be prepared to follow the lead of project coordinators while also using their initiative to develop new methods for creating and maintaining the communities farm plots.

The project supports construction and outdoor activities by using unwanted resources or reutilizing reusable materials to reduce costs and provide solutions. Previous volunteers on this project have completed a variety of jobs, including:

  • Demonstrative organic vegetable garden/eco-farm to promote eco-agriculture practices to grow clean organic vegetables for local families for their consumption.
  • Vertical Kitchen Gardening to educate families on how to develop vertical gardens in their households. Vertical gardens are a way to boost growing space, reduce insect and disease problems, and beautify decks and patios.
  • Herbal and fruit tree nursery, growing saplings and trees to be planted in nearby social and community areas to support food, fodder, and foliage for the community.
  • Building and designing greenhouses, community centers and small-scale eco-buildings made out of bamboo, waste wood, and second-hand materials.
  • Repairing the roads and pathways using recycled construction waste.
  • Extending water-pipe systems and creating a sanitation and waste management system to protect and promote environmental health.

Some work is scheduled and is expected to be carried out on a regular basis, while other jobs will be assigned to volunteers as they arise. It is important to note that this project may be impacted by monsoon season, so we request that volunteers are flexible with the scope of tasks available and willing to respond to any emergencies that might arise due to the nature of the weather.

Women’s Education

As a volunteer on the Women’s Education project in Dharamsala, you will work closely with women and girls from small communities to develop their independence, build their confidence, foster entrepreneurship skills, and grow their leadership capacity.

Women in India face a wide range of social inequalities and this is particularly prevalent in small and rural communities. Building gender equality for is a key development focus for India as a nation and developing leadership capacity and self-management in women and young girls is an important component of this equality.

This project is well suited to volunteers who have a passion for supporting girls and women through education. Working alongside community stakeholders and local interns, your tasks will include supporting locally-led self-help groups, promoting health and hygiene, improving public speaking and spoken English and building computer literacy.

This project also has a significant focus on micro-enterprise, where volunteers support local women to design and develop innovative and sustainable enterprises centered around upcycling waste products and natural fibers into handicrafts or creating organic beauty products such as soaps from natural products grown locally. These small businesses provide an income to the women and help to foster the development of vocational skills that can lead to broader employment opportunities.

You are not required to have previous experience to join this project however, teaching or business experience is beneficial and will ensure you can make an impact in upskilling the girls and women you work with.

The program orientation begins on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month and volunteers need to arrive in Dharamsala on the Sunday before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Gaggal Airport (DHM) which is the closest airport to the volunteer accommodation. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Naddi. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are traveling in India prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up at the bus stop in Dharamsala, or a prearranged destination in Dharamsala on the day before your program orientation.

Orientation is provided by our Dharamsala team at the local team office. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Dharamsala – Introduction to India, Indian Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in India, Introduction to your Project and Placement. In the afternoon, you will receive a tour of the village where you can purchase a SIM card and withdraw cash. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.

First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.

Weekdays: A typical volunteer day would be as follows:

8.00 AM Breakfast at the homestay.

9.00 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that the volunteer is working at.

12.00 PM – 1.00 PM Lunch break either at the placement or accommodation.

1.00 PM – 4.00 PM Work usually ends between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. The volunteer at this point is free to relax and use the afternoon as they wish.

7.00 PM – 9.00 PM Dinner at the homestay.

Please note, this schedule may vary depending on the particular project the volunteer is participating on. Volunteers who come during the monsoon season, July to mid-September, need to be flexible as the rain may impact the program and volunteer tasks will be subject to change depending on the weather.

Volunteers are accommodated in a series of home-stays run by local host families. Staying with a family gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Indian way of life, meet local people, eat local food, speak the local language and engage in local customs and traditions. Living is comfortable and you will have access to electricity, WiFi and running hot water.

All bedding is provided, however during the winter months (November to mid-March) volunteers should bring a sleeping bag. Home-stays are safe and secure and volunteers can expect to share a room with up to three other volunteers.

Three meals are provided per day. Indian food is tasty and diverse, and volunteers can expect to experience a myriad of flavors and meals during their home-stay experience. Breakfast will consist of bread, eggs, porridge and paratha. Lunch and dinner meals are typically vegetarian and includes vegetables, lentils or beans, rice and chapatti. Sometimes chicken and mutton curry are served. There is filtered drinking water available at the homestays. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can discuss this with you. However, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home. The local team will do their best to suit your dietary requirements, but as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible. If you wish to supplement some of your meals with home comforts, there are basic kitchen facilities available to use.

During the weekends, volunteers have free time to relax or take the opportunity to explore Dharamsala or other areas in India, such as Amritsar, McLeod Ganj, or Andretta. Volunteers can arrange travel once in Dharamsala, however if you are planning an extended trip within 4 weeks of your arrival, it is a good idea to look at train tickets in advance and consult a travel agent from your home-town to discuss travel options.

See our India - Dharamsala Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in India!

Capital New Delhi
Population 1.237 billion
Languages Hindi and English
Currency Indian Rupee (INR)
Time zone UTC+05:30

Weather and climate: During November to mid-March you can expect temperatures to drop to 0°C (32°F). Snow and sleet is common during the winter so bring lots of warm clothing and thermals! There is no heating at the accommodation but lots of blankets and hot showers are available. From March to mid-July, weather transitions from spring to summer and temperatures range from 18-32°C (65-90°F). Light layers might still be required for the evenings. From July to mid-September is the monsoon season, up to 2000 mm (79 inches) of rain can fall, making Dharamsala one of the wettest places in India, but also one of the most pleasant. The temperatures will be around 28-32°C (80-90°F) so be prepared for high humidity levels and lots of rain! Clothes will not dry outside so please bring extra clothing and expect your clothes to get dirty. Washing and drying facilities are available. Volunteers who come during this period should be flexible as the rain may impact the program and volunteer tasks will be subject to change depending on the weather. The monsoon ends in late September and is followed by Autumn. Autumn lasts till late November, with average temperatures of around 15°C (58°F).

Volunteers must be over 18 years of age at the beginning of the program unless volunteering with a guardian who is 18 or older. Volunteers must speak English. Volunteers must provide a recent criminal background check. Volunteers must have adequate travel insurance.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

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