Country USA - August,2016 -[ Experience of Volunteering]
I am working on this blog post in my last hours volunteering with KPYM. And what an experience it has been!
Hello, my name is Miranda Prasad . I am 21 and from the United States. When I was younger, I decided that whenever I have the time and means to explore the world, I would do it in a way that is responsible and adventurous. With that in mind, this time I decided to travel India alone, and my goal was to see what life was like in India through different home stays and volunteering opportunities! I volunteered with KPYM in Shimla for 10 days in August 2016. I had an amazing 10 days here and I wish I could stay much longer!!!
I worked a lot in the Digital Marketing role and would spend my mornings trying to increase the awareness of this growing NGO. I’m happy to say we did see some improvements in my short time here. I posted our information on various related pages on Facebook and tried to keep a constant presence. This resulted in an increase of likes on KPYM Himachal’s FB page , 87% more page views, 77% more people reached, and 71% more post engagement. I also tried to post reviews wherever I could of my experience, to try to expand the number of volunteers interested in joining the KPYM team.
I had a fun time working on Digital Marketing for KPYM and helping to maximize the NGO’s online presence. There is still a lot of work to be done, so more volunteers in this role would be helpful.
In the afternoons, I would walk or take the bus (a quick drive, and a fun experience!) to the Kamyana village in Shimla. There, I would help the wonderful and fun teacher, Sudha, aid the local children in their homework and the lessons they were learning in class. Sudha is a dedicated and hardworking young teacher and the students love her! She is so passionate about what she does and I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning from her and getting to know her.
In my 10 days, I was also able to see so much. Mehar took me around Shimla one day and I got to see the tourist places and the places only locals know about. It was so much fun! And tons and tons of walking. Shimla is so beautiful and it’s impossible to get bored learning and exploring the city. I also booked a tour with KPYM so I could explore outside of Shimla as well. I got to go to the highest point in Shimla, Hatu Peak, and spent the day trekking, in Kufri, drinking chai and going to a temple on top of a mountain to watch the sunset. A truly unforgettable day! These tours are so great too because a major portion of the cost goes towards the community volunteer projects from KPYM. It felt good that my time and money was helping an organization that I believe in.
In addition to all that, I was also fortunate enough to stay one night in the Chambal village where KPYM is starting an organic/sustainable farming initiative. I stayed with Gurvinder’s friend who showed me their farming land and gardens. It was incredible! The village was on the very top of a huge mountain and the views were breathtaking. I spent some time at the village government school as well.
In my short 10 days, I have been able to experience and see so much more than I could have imagined. My only regret is not being able to stay longer. I definitely suggest volunteers stay for a minimum of 2.5-3 weeks so that they can explore the other villages that KPYM is present in, and make a strong impact with the children and women empowerment programs.
I want to thank all the members of the KPYM organization in Shimla- I was fortunate to meet them all and every single person was extremely nice and passionate about the cause. They made me feel welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them! I especially want to thank Sandeepan, Gurvinder and their family for letting me be a part of the family for the last 10 days! Staying with them has been so comfortable and fun!
Overall, I am excited to follow KPYM and see the progress they make and the lives they change! I am counting down the days that I can return to beautiful Shimla and the amazing people I have met. Thank you for letting me be a part of the action!
Rachel Chambers, Bozeman, Montana USA - May 2016
[ 23 year old science graduate who worked in the community development program ]
I spontaneously decided to volunteer with KPYM after finding them on "helpex". Unknowing about where I would be going or what exactly I would be doing during my first visit to India, I trusted that everything would work out.
I was picked up in Delhi and treated like family the entire time. After I arrived in Shimla, I was placed to volunteer in the Kumbharla Village for two weeks.
My time in the village exceeded all of my expectations. Such joyful loving people welcomed me into their home. The children were eager and curious to learn anything new. I taught them basic English and Hindi with pictures and songs. Most of them had never seen a map so we studied countries and cultures. The daughter of the family I stayed with quickly became a friend and she took me on a hike to see gorgeous views and a temple at the top of a mountain.
Although no one in the village knew English or much Hindi I still felt like I could connect and communicate through expression and laughter throughout the day.
The villages are in need of better education and exposure to the outside world. The children want a better life for themselves and learning English and Hindi will help them find jobs and be able to continue on in higher education.
I cannot recommend this organization enough. Even though they are small and still trying to figure out new ways of fundraising and helping the villages, they are extremely dedicated and full of heart. I hope to be back to India and to help with KPYM in the future.
George Harding from UK [ Duration of volunteering 1month,April,2016 ] kumarhala Project
One reason I chose Himachal Pradesh, as the region I wanted to volunteer in was the trekking opportunities. Being the foothills of the Himalayas one can see the mountain range to the East at many viewpoints in Himachal- I’ve been lucky enough to see them a few times and the sheer size of the mountain range is unbelievable. Nothing I have seen in Europe compares to its magnitude, and I have only seen the Indian side of the Himalayas- I can only guess at the enormity of the say, the Nepalese Himalayan range. Last Saturday I was lucky enough to partake in a trek up to the Churdhar temple, the second highest temple in India at 3647 metres and the highest peak in the outer Himalayas. The trek itself was relatively easy, took us 7 hours and the gradient wasn’t very steep till the very top. The 7 hours really flew by with the help of Fleetwood Mac! This trek is also a pilgrimage for many Hindus and consequently I saw many families trekking up- it was seriously impressive to see young children and older woman complete it. We reached the summit in the evening and stayed the night in a hall with around fifty other guests, it did get very cold up the top and my Indian colleagues certainly weren’t happy about the temperature. For me the coldness was a return to normality and didn’t bother me in the slightest.
We got up at 6am and trekked straight to the very peak of the Churdhar Sanctuary. With the sun rising the surrounding valleys, mountains and outer Himalayas looked spectacular (see photos attached), and after taking dozens of pictures and a cup of chai we made our way down the mountain. The way down however was slightly trickier for myself for one reason. In the mountains the water you drink is fresh and straight from the mountain water source, it tastes great, but is not filtered in anyway and is very “hard” water. When I say hard I mean it is the type of water that when you wash with soap your skin feels very rough after. I found out on the way down of the trek that for someone who isn’t used to drinking this water it can be upsetting on the stomach, ‘Delhi Belly’ had finally struck and the irony was I wasn’t even in Delhi, it was the fresh mountain water that got me. I won’t go into much detail, but thank God for emodium. Anyway, I would certainly recommend the Churdhar trek to anyone, for a fairly easy and short trek the reward at the top is worth it.
On Sunday it was time for me to leave the Himachal mountains and head back to the hill station of Shimla. This past week in Shimla I have spent updating and improving KPYM’s social media and marketing strength. It is now Friday and I am happy to say that my work is making a difference, the company is receiving more traffic through sites that I personally have pushed. Facebook and HelpX being prime examples. Facebook especially is a great marketing tool for a company with no funding, simply by sharing, liking and posting on the relevant walls (e.g. Volunteer India) KPYM has received several emails this week concerning potential clients. I have also tried to stress the importance to my colleagues of maintaining a constant online presence- so if they do receive any emails, they reply within the hour and not the next day where they may lose potential clients. KPYM Himachal have asked me to be their UK representative and a permanent member of their team, proudly I accepted and will from now on be a social media consultant for the Shimla office as well as first point of contact for any UK potential volunteers.
Lizzie From UK [ 15th September 2015 ] Kumharla Village [ Pabbar Valley ]
"The two weeks I spent in Kumharla village were absolutely magical and I simply didn’t want to leave. I spent the afternoons teaching English in the Primary School, and in the evenings I gave more English classes to teenagers from the Secondary School. When I wasn’t teaching I helped out in the home where I was staying with a variety of tasks from making chapatti (I’m an absolute pro now) and cutting grass in the fields for the winter.
The favourite part of my day was definitely the evenings when I went to the village (pulled up the mountain by the energetic kids who had followed me home after class) and was greeted by the lovely community. We played games, drank some chai, and then started class. I don’t have any photos from my evening classes because I was always far too busy to find a spare moment. There were normally between 10 – 15 students, ranging from approximately 12 years old to 18 years old. They have ‘learnt’ grammar at school (by copying from textbooks) but have not been taught it, so I made good progress with them explaining verbs, conjugations and tenses. They were fun classes with lots of laughter. I feel like I definitely helped them, but I really need more volunteers to go and carry on my work. It is so important for them to learn English if they want to be able to find work when they leave the villages and go to a town or city.
At the Primary School the standard of English education is very basic, so I built on this by covering topics such as colours, animals, parts of the body, expressions of mood and basic grammar. I was surprised by how quickly the children made progress, but once again I really need more volunteers to go to the village to keep up my work. This way, when they go to Secondary School they will be able to understand the syllabus, instead of just copying from their textbooks without learning. The children were so enthusiastic, but also very well behaved and extremely respectful. They always brought me food and insisted on carrying my things!
What made my stay in Kumharla Village so special was being part of the community. When I told my friends I was alone in a mountain village where no one speaks good English they asked me, ‘But aren’t you lonely?’ And I could honestly say I didn’t feel lonely once. The people are so warm and open, and the language barrier was no issue in me joining in on the laughs of their daily lives. I particularly liked the evening classes because I was able to bond with the teenagers, some of whom were only a few years younger than me, so I felt like I was surrounded by friends. One day it was a national holiday so we spent the day together in the mountains cutting grass in the sunshine, singing songs, with an amazing picnic. It was glorious!
If you want to volunteer for a project where you get real exposure to rural village life, and can honestly feel the difference you are making to people’s lives and futures, I ask you to please go to Kumharla! It would mean so much to me as well as to the fantastic people who live there."
Lucy From UK [ 24 June 2015 ]
I spent an incredible 10 days volunteering in this rural village, staying with a beautiful and warm family whose took me in and introduced me to their exceptional mountain cuisine!. I helped teach English at the local school and worked with the women around the house and learning from their amazing skills with the land.I learnt from them as much as they learnt from us. I highly recommend this village empowerment project to anyone wanting a better understanding of village living.
Margot From United States [ June 2015 ]
I spent two weeks working with Kumharla Yuva Mandal in June 2015. I stayed with a host family in a remote village in Pabbar Valley. KYM is sending volunteers to multiple villages throughout this valley, although I was the first volunteer to visit this particular village. I have never met such caring and family oriented people. It was truly inspiring to see the compassion exercised between community members. This is an incredible opportunity to experience rural Indian village life. The villages in this valley are incredibly poor with little access to education. Because of this not many people spoke English. Communication is achieved through hand motions and the occasional English speaker. Luckily my host sister was proficient in English and was a huge help in communicating with family members. Because work in this village is very new the role of volunteers is unclear. I helped with tasks such as gardening, cleaning, cooking, and teaching English to local children. You need to be proactive about asking to help with tasks. I would highly recommend this opportunity for those looking for a cultural immersion experience.
CHILD EDUCATION,DHUMI VILLAGE,SHIMLA
Experience of our volunteers Ashleigh and Jason from UK [ 22 Feb-29 Feb,2016 ]
We have been in Shimla for one week helping to get set up in Dumi for volunteers. It has been a very nice experience overall.
On the first day Mehar collected us from the bus and then we went to his house for some breakfast. At around 12pm we went to the school in Dumi to meet with the teachers and children. The teachers were very welcoming offering us chai. They have little or no English from what we have gathered. It didn’t take the children long to warm to us, before long we were all laughing and playing. There were six children on the first day ages between 2 and 5 and one boy was 13. Mehar spoke with the teachers and after we left he told us that they liked us and that he would have to meet with the president of the village and speak to the Government in Shimla before a decision would be made.
On the second day there were more children at the school. These children were from the next village over and all had very good English. Jason did some work with the older children asking them to write about themselves, and I made join the dot letters for the small children to trace, they have no English. We gave out the pencils, two jigsaws and some chocolates later on. They were all very grateful. We sang some song and each of them had a turn strumming the guitar, they were all fascinated by it.
When school was over we were invited to a wedding in the village. Everyone was so nice and made us feel right at home. We danced lots, then took a break for some chai. Jason sang some songs in English and a local boy sang some in Hindi. We met the bride and groom and wished them well. It was a great experience.
On the third day we arrived early in the morning but we were asked to wait until Mehar had a meeting before we went into the school. Two children came while we were in the bus stop waiting. We had an impromptu class there and gave them some word searches to complete. They enjoyed it and learned the names of animals that they had never heard before. When we were invited into the classroom we learned some songs in English, abc, old McDonald to name a few then we played games in which you recite the months of the year and days of the week.
On the fourth day we did some worksheets with the older children and tracing with the little ones. After we did some yoga and went over the songs we had learned the day before. The children are very keen to learn.
On the fifth day we had some problems with the public transport. Mehar was to have a meeting in the morning so he told us not to leave Shimla until 11am. We left at 11, but the bus didn’t arrive until 12pm and then didn’t leave the bus station until 12.40pm. The school finishes at 1pm so we were going to miss school at this stage, but we continued to the school anyway. The bus broke down 3km from the school so we had to walk. By the time we got to the school all the children had left. The vice president of the village came to meet us and invited us to their community office. Another woman from the village and the teacher joined us. They were asking about our qualifications and why we wanted to teach, what we wanted to teach and why we wanted to teach in a rural area. After speaking at length with them, they decided that they were happy to let the project get started and offered us the use of their community hall. They said that because some children go to school far away that we would have to start at 4pm. So we agreed to do the classes from 4-6pm and then get the bus back to Shimla at 6.30pm. Mehar arrived after our meeting and had a meeting with them to confirm everything. We had to walk back to Kamiana to Mehar’s house because the bus had broken down. We took a shortcut through the mountains, it was beautiful.
We met Mehar’s neighbour who is running classes after school on her roof. We had a similar meeting to the one in the school and they are also happy for volunteers to come and teach the kids.
On the sixth day we left the apartment at 1pm with the intention of arriving at 2pm. There was lots of confusion with the buses. We were on one and then the driver decided that he wouldn’t go to Dumi until 3.30pm. So we got on another bus that was going as far as Kamiana and then walked through the mountains to Dumi. We arrived at the school at 3.30 pm and got the keys. There were six enthusiastic kids there who helped up clean up the hall and get the place ready for class. We decided that as it was the first day and that we would be meeting new kids that we would just play games. There were about 13 kids there in the end. They are very happy at the thought of meeting other volunteers from other countries. They are very keen to learn.
I think that once this project gets up and running it will be very successful. Everyone in the village is very welcoming. It would be great if there was a teacher there to help the volunteers as some children had little or no English so there is a language barrier. There would also need to be a timetable for all of the buses as public transport was the biggest obstacle that we faced.
Hugh From New Zealand [ 11 to 29 Oct. 2015 ] kumarhala Project
I stayed in Kumharla for about three weeks, helping teach English to the local children. Kumharla is a tiny village sitting on top of a hill surrounded by pine forest. It takes about an hour or two of walking to get there because the location is so remote. All of the food prepared (with the exception of cream rolls) is local, so quite simple but very filling.
The English level of the children is still very low: they can only write a few select words and have a lot of trouble putting a sentence together, so when teaching them I just focussed on spelling and improving their pronunciation, especially how to pronounce sounds like 'th' and 'f'.
The highlight of the program was definitely when I was invited to a local marriage. We reached the marriage by riding on the roof of a jeep- very rough but great fun. The food was the best I had eaten in Himachal- plenty of sweets and snacks during the entire occasion.
Overall it was a great experience with plenty of opportunities to practise my Hindi speaking and socialise with the villagers. I think my teaching made some difference, but more volunteers are desperately needed in Kumharla if the children's English is to improve.