Volunteer in India - Dharamsala
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 3 meaningful project options
- Projects based in Bir, a predominately Tibetan community
- 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 $300 for 1 week
- Optional Language and Cultural orientation week in Delhi available
- 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 Bir, a predominately Tibetan community and home to a number of Buddhist monasteries.
Volunteer programs in Dharamsala begin on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks.
Volunteers on the Childcare Project work in childcare centers catering to the surrounding community of Tibetan refugees. These centers provide a place for very poor families to leave their children for the day, while the parents and other family members go to work. Volunteers on this project assist the local staff with organizing daily activities and games, and providing one-on-one attention to the children. Volunteers can also assist with preparing and serving meals, giving lessons on personal hygiene, and ensuring children attend the center.
The community of Bir is largely Tibetan and the Teaching English project provides volunteers with a unique opportunity to work closely with Tibetan monks and families and learn about their culture and religious beliefs, capturing a greater understanding of the soul of Bir. Volunteers work in local monasteries, teaching English to monks, aged 5 years and older. Volunteers work together to create their own lessons using existing resources, and are also encouraged to take conversation classes with the older monks in the evenings. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. However, we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like 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.
The program orientation begins on the first and third 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 Gaggal Airport (DHM) in Dharamsala. 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 the village of Bir, where the program is located. 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.
There are two options for orientation in India. The first option is a standard half-day orientation in Dharamasala that starts on your selected start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Dharamsala – Introduction to India, Indian Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in India, Introduction to your Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers.
The second option is a 1-week language and cultural orientation in Delhi, which takes place during the first week of your program. This orientation week begins on your selected start date (first and third Monday of the month) and your volunteer program will start the following week. If you wish to participate in the 1-week orientation, you must indicate this on your application form when you apply for the program. Your IVHQ Program Manager will then add this to your file after you register, as you need to book a place and pay for this prior to departing for India. Orientation week is very popular among IVHQ volunteers and we recommend all volunteers take advantage of this week, as it is a great way to help settle the culture shock you can face when arriving in India. The schedule for the week long language and cultural orientation in Delhi is as follows:
Day 1 (Monday): Volunteers are provided with an introduction to India and an introduction to the program staff and procedures. Topics discussed include History of India, Religion, Caste System, Marriage, Festivals, Dress/Clothing, Family Values, Safety Issues, Food, Transportation and Travel Opportunities. You will also be given your orientation week schedule and provided details about your volunteer project and accommodation, to follow after the orientation week. The afternoon will conclude with an introduction to the Hindi language. The morning session will be provided to those who choose the half-day orientation.
Day 2 (Tuesday): New Delhi Sightseeing (5 to 7 hours) – Lotus Baha’I Temple, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. All entrance fees are covered in your orientation week fee.
Day 3 (Wednesday): Hindi Language Lesson (approximately 3 hours), learning basic letters, greetings and useful vocabulary and expressions, which will help assist you at your volunteer placement. In the afternoon, volunteers are taken to see a new Bollywood Hindi film. Movie tickets are included in your orientation week fee.
Day 4 (Thursday): Old Delhi Sightseeing – India Gate, Red Fort, Jama Mosque and Raj Ghat (Gandhi Samadhi’s Cremation). All entrance fees are covered in your orientation week fee.
Day 5 (Friday): Hindi Language Lesson (approximately 3 hours), covering additional words and vocabulary to assist you with your volunteer work. In the evening, volunteers explore the local markets, visit Internet cafes, practice Hindi, or visit restaurants together.
Day 6 (Saturday): Hindi Language Lesson in the morning. In the afternoon, volunteers have free time to hand wash clothing and prepare for departure to your homestay.
Day 7 (Sunday): Taj Mahal Tour (optional add-on), which includes an air conditioned car or van from Delhi to Agra and back, state insurance, driver, parking and toll taxes, breakfast, lunch and guide. Entrance fees to the Taj Mahal are not included in your orientation week fee and must be paid separately. You can expect to pay 750 Rupees for the entry ticket at the gate when you arrive. For those not taking the Taj Mahal Tour, you will depart for your placement with the local staff who will introduce you to your placement and accommodation. Those taking the Taj Mahal tour will be introduced to their placement and accommodation on the following day.
The orientation week fee is US$220 (accommodation and three meals per day are covered during this time). The Taj Mahal Tour on the 7th day costs an extra US$100.
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 homestay.
2.00 PM – 4.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to the homestay, go sight seeing, or do some shopping.
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 in Bir are accommodated together in a home-stay run by a local host family. We give the local family money from your fee for support, food and board. It is exciting to stay with a family; that way you will learn the Indian way of life, meet local people, eat local food, speak the local language (predominantly Tibetan in Bir) and engage in local customs and traditions. Living is comfortable and you will have access to electricity, WiFi and running water. All bedding is provided, however during the winter months (November to February) volunteers should bring their sleeping bags. The home-stay is safe and secure and volunteers can expect to share a room with two to four other volunteers.
Three meals are provided per day. Indian and Tibetan food is tasty and diverse, volunteers can expect to experience a myriad of flavors and meals during their home stay experience. If you have any dietary requirements, please let us know ahead of time so that we can make arrangements for you. However, we need to stress the point that you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home, we will do our best to see that you are well taken care of, but as a volunteer there is also a need to be flexible.
“By volunteering and living with a host family I feel like I have truly experienced the local culture. The mountainous surrounding Bir made just walking around and looking at the scenery enjoyable. Food was always plentiful and delicious! The host family and local staff were very welcoming and there whenever I had questions. I preferred the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of Bir to the hectic, smoggy air of Delhi. Plus, being in Bir I got to experience both Indian and Tibetan culture and cuisine! Overall an incredible time and amazing experience.” - Ariel Kligerman (Childcare Volunteer in India - Dharamsala)
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!
|Languages||Hindi and English|
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
Weather and climate: India is subject to six different climates and can be loosely characterized by four seasons; winter, summer, monsoon, and a post-monsoon period. While not as hot as Delhi, Dharamsala is still very hot during the summer months (April to July) and temperatures can reach 35°C. From July to September, in the monsoon season, up to 2000 mm (79 inches) of rain can fall, making Dharamsala one of the wettest places in the state, but also one of the most pleasant. The monsoon ends in late September and is followed by autumn. Autumn lasts till late November, with average temperatures of around 14- 15°C. Winter starts in late November and goes on till late February. Snow and sleet is common during the winter so bring lots of warm clothing and thermals! Winter is followed by a short, pleasant spring until April when the temperatures start increase again for the summer.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Dharamsala.
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.