I spent five months in India, two of them in Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet high in the Himalayas. I went there as a volunteer teacher. The experiences I had in Ladakh, and the knowledge and wisdom of life I gained there, gave me a new understanding of who I am and who I can be--it was a kind of renewal that I really needed. Let me talk a bit about the experience.
I contacted the organization Volunteer Ladakh (VL) in February/March 2014; a few weeks later, after Skype interviews and submitting the application, I was approved to teach for two months at the Likir Monastery in Ladakh. I must say that the application process should not be taken lightly: VL is looking for qualified and committed applicants who demonstrate cultural sensitivity and a willingness to both teach and learn from the community. I arrived at Ladakh and was greeted by one of the program directors, a man named Lobzang, who coordinated my transfer to the Likir Monastery. At Likir, I was provided with a room of my own and three meals daily, which I would eat with the young monks (who were also my students). In terms of the work I did, it was teaching basic, conversational English for two hours a day, Monday through Saturday. The young monks were a joy to teach. (I can also say that in my experience of Ladakh, ALL the young monks are a joy to be with...they are respectful, cooperative, kind, loving children who want to give and receive love and friendship).
When I wasn't teaching, I had a lot of free time. The landscape of Ladakh entices you to take walks, treks, to climb hills, and admire the views of the nearby Himalaya mountains. Many times I would take long walks, bring a book with me, read, or simply sit and meditate. When I wasn't taking walks, I would spend time with the children. Being around those kids made me a happier, more peaceful person. There were also many opportunities to interact with the locals and take day trips to Leh, Ladakh's largest city, which is only an hour and a half drive.
I could go on and on about what it was like to be there, but let me finish by saying this: if you're looking to volunteer in a meaningful way (that is, a way in which both YOU and THE COMMUNITY benefit from your assistance, and in which you make connections that you'll never forget), Volunteer Ladakh may be the program for you. We will uncover new parts of yourself that you never knew existed. You will make awesome connections with locals, and feel like you've passed a lifetime with them, when in reality it was only a few short months. You will return home transformed from the experience (and honestly, you may feel like you've left home when you leave Ladakh). But you need to be serious about the commitment. You need to examine your motivations and really ask yourself, "Can I benefit this community?"
I wish you the best. Julley!