Volunteer & Adventure Travel: Experience a Hidden India

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Video and Photos

Volunteers in India exploring on their gap year
Volunteers in India exploring on their gap year
Traditional Lepcha dress
Traditional Lepcha dress
Go on a camel safari on your gap year in India
Go on a camel safari on your gap year in India
Lepcha children singing
Lepcha children singing
Festival fun on a gap year in India
Festival fun on a gap year in India
Local students in India - cultural immersion
Local students in India - cultural immersion
Try the local sport while volunteering in India
Try the local sport while volunteering in India
Cultural immersion gap year program in India
Cultural immersion gap year program in India

About

Experience a part of India that is off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps. Live life as a local in the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas and immerse yourself in the culture of these amazing people. Use your skills and interests to enrich the lives of young people in a rural community and get more from your Gap Year than you ever imagined.

Our India program offers more than just being a tourist and seeing the sights, it's a unique opportunity to engage meaningfully with individuals and a community, to build relationships, make friends and live life as they do.

#seetheworlddifferently

All our programs are divided into three parts - orientation, cultural immersion placement and independent travel. With the independent travel element you can explore all that this amazing country has to offer. From the explosion of colour, sounds and smells that will awaken the senses in the cities to the peace, quiet and wildlife in the rural regions, India has so much to offer!

Highlights
  • Live in unique ethnic community called the Lepchas
  • Explore the beauty of the Himalayas
  • Become part of an ancient community
  • Be more than a traveller passing through

#seetheworlddifferently with Africa & Asia Venture (AV)

Don't take our word, hear what just one of our participants wrote: “Thank you for the best days of my life… thank you for everything, I’m sure you get these things every year but I honestly have had the most amazing experience of my life and I would never change that for anything. Thank you.” Louise Jones, Sydney, Australia

Questions & Answers

Reviews

98%
based on 9 reviews
  • Impact 9.9
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
  • Housing 8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 8
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 8 of 9
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Rupert
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable experience

I spent 3 months with a Lepcha family. To this day it is one of the most special experiences and times of my life - something I shall never forget.
I had the opportunity to live a lifestyle very different to mine at home in the UK, which I relished.
Living on one side of a terraced valley, I taught English to the children of the village. They, along with my host family, and other members of the village were incredibly kind and welcoming. I felt right at home there and often engaged in local events and activities.
I enjoyed the more simple way of life here, rising and sleeping with the rhythm of the sun, eating deliciousness food cooked on wood fires, and an hour’s walk to the closest market town.
The Lepchas are an amazing people, the lower hills of the Indian Himalayas are so beautiful, and the volunteering is extremely rewarding.
It was a great adventure, off the beaten path and I could not recommend more highly.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Not totally unfamiliar, but get used to eating chillies even for breakfast. I remember one instance very clearly, where the only thing to cool me down was water that had been freshly boiled and still hot!
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Zoe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

India with the Lepcha community

I had the most wonderful experience living and working with the Lepcha community in a remote village outside Kalingpong in the Himalayas. I would recommend it to anyone.

I made some of my best friends and had experiences I could never have had anywhere else. Being amerced into a community and living with a family is a very special way experience another culture. I loved the teaching and also getting involved in all elements of village life.

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Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Lepcha community

The time with the lepcha community was so special and memorable. It was so nice to get to know the children so well after spending a few months with them....we even put on a "cinderalla" style musical! They were so generous and welcoming even though we managed to embarrass ourselves attempting to make their versions of dumplings and dancing!! We were even given help and support with planning travelling around India after! Thank you so so much!!

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Marloes
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience

Even though it's been quite some time since I went on my adventure with AV (2008), the experience still has a big influence on me now. I really enjoyed every minute of it. We had the change to get to know a whole different world. We stayed in local families in small rural villages, who really became our family. We taught children English in a government school and in the Lepcha night school. And 'in exchange' they taught us precious Lepcha traditions and skills (dancing, language, archery, songs, cooking etc.). They also took us with them to special occasions (weddings and festivals).

In the time we got to travel, we saw how incredible and unforgettable the rest of India an Nepal are. We tasted all the delicious spices and flavors Inda has to offer, went to sacred places where we learned about the different cultures living in India and walked to great heights and views.

It was also a time and place where I really developed myself. The whole experience taught and gave me so much! What really helped me in being ready to go to college that next year!

And last but not least I made friends for live. Even though I don't live in England (like the rest of my group does) and I don't get to see them often, I know that whenever I will go to England, I will have friend there (and they will have me in The Netherlands).

The whole experience was live changing and I really recommend this project to everybody! Get to know the Lepchas and fall in love with the culture and people, like I did!

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Celia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The best opportunity out there

I'm not sure I can put into words the time I had in India with AV. It was just some of the best months of my life and looking back, I have the most wonderful memories that fill my heart with joy. I have met some of the most amazing people and now have a family that I will be going back to visit. I think of the children and my family there everyday and I think of the beautiful place that was my home and all the things I learned there. Being in India changed my life. It taught me so much, gave me so much and I am so lucky to have been able to experience it. The Lepcha project is unbelievably rewarding. We did more than teach; we learned tribal dances and songs wearing traditional dress, organised events for our children and lived in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I cannot recommend this project more. Part of my heart will stay there with my students and wonderful family and the only hard thing about this project was when the time came for me to leave.

What would you improve about this program?
My experience couldn't have been.
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Helen
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

AV India 2008

I was in India with AV for four months in 2008.

Though some time has lapsed since then, some things still stand out. In particular, I met two of my best friends there, who were in the same group as me (we shared a room).

The food is some of the best you will ever taste. We cooked all the time and I still make curries at home using lessons I learnt there ('the key to North Indian cooking is jheera-dhanya').

Teaching is hard, but it is fun playing with the kids in the playground and your work is appreciated by the teachers.

The landscape around Darjeeling is beautiful, and a slightly easier climate than on the plains. The tea plantations stretch for miles and are unlike anything I have ever seen before or since. The trek we did in Sikkim was unforgettable - lush and green at the bottom, getting sparser as we rose. When we climbed to Kangchenjunga base camp at the peak of our route, the sunlight broke through the clouds, to reveal peak after peak. It was one of the hardest, but best experiences of my life.

The AV support network is impressive - I'm sure as much so for parents as gap year students - and in particular Tendup Lama and Richard Venning had invaluable local knowledge. My friends and I attend the AV Carol Service on Farm Street every year, which always makes for a great evening and attracts quite a crowd.

In all, you may have moments in India when you think - your feet are tired, your room is damp, you want some cornflakes. But acclimatising to local life; the smells and sounds; the language and clothes - even the very strange loos - these are the experiences you will never forget.

What would you improve about this program?
I would say the carol service is an excellent idea and should continue.
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Charlotte
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thanks AV - an experience that changed my life in more ways than one!

Though quite some time has lapsed since my experience in 2001, I wanted to share my experience as it has sigificantly impacted on my life.

When I went to India, I has just turned 18 and though nervous, I was also excited. the support that AV offered was fantastic. Before I went somone interviewd me and took time to get to know me than the bigger gap campanies other firends went with did. We had a great induction on our way to the vilages. We were visited by Richard half way thorugh our placement and also at the end. We also had local support in the interim if needed.

The experience was challenging, exciting and rewarding. The sites, the smells, the people were all so vivid. The children at school were so keen to see us and full of questions. We went to weddings, Indian festivals, locals houses for dinnerand experienced aspects of Indian culture no holiday has ever given me. Ooooh and don't let me forget the delicous food. Cheap, yummy and being vegetrain is easy.

My confidence was greatly improced by the experience. I gained insights into another culture and was able to see things from different perspectives. This has stuck with me to this day and has only benefitted me in terms of my career. When I first left university , I moved to London. Without my AV experience, I do not think I would have had teh confidence in myself to do this. The experience helped with job interviews as I had an endless list of examples to use in the interview.

Three years later my brother went to Kenya with AV as we had been impressed by AV@s organisation, its ethos and how it really cares about people on the scheme, the schools and teh local community. My brother met his future wife in Kenya on the scheme. 3 nephews followed some years later - so thanks to AV, I am also an Auntie :)

P.S. I do not come from a rich family but had a part time job and also wrote to local companies for sponsorship in order to take part. It was worth every penny. Plus, once you get to India the cost of living is very low.

Go for it!

What would you improve about this program?
None I can think of.
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Lulu
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Day to Day Routine

Starting the day with the habitual pancakes, getting dressed and then walking through the market space to get to the school. We'd walk with the students along the dirt track, weaving in and out of the mountain scenery. We'd have lunch with the other staff, something was always prepared for us by the sister. After school we'd have time to relax and write in our journals whilst sipping freshly brewed chai tea, before going to night school. In the evening we'd have dinner and retire to our rooms reading our books or play uno with our host family kids. One of the most unique and beautiful experiences I've ever had, I felt so involved in the community and would go back in a heart beat!

What would you improve about this program?
More volunteers, more of a social aspect. My year (2012) was an exception with only 3 volunteers, usually there's at least 10.