Saturday, October 19, 2013


Volunteer Ladakh

Volunteer Ladakh provides an opportunity for responsible volunteers to live and work in a high altitude mountain desert, contributing to local sustainable development and education.    

What is Responsible Volunteering?

Responsible volunteering means to know yourself objectively, to understand your motivation, and, not least, your own preconceptions, some of which are likely to alter during your stay.  

The Helumbra Project in Nepal (2012) states:

"Responsible volunteering requires us to deeply examine ourselves and our motivation so that we do not arrogantly assume a superior knowledge or an ability to “help, fix, or solve” the complex reality that people across the world face. It means taking a more realistic approach to our contributions and considering the full impact of our actions before we even begin to serve. It means listening and not challenging local beliefs and culture. It requires you to affirm the value of people’s differences, culture, and traditions and participate in them regardless of your beliefs. It means realizing the tremendous influence you have as a symbol of the westOverall, responsible and ethical volunteering is a process that asks you to humbly consider yourself a part of the issue rather than just the solution.”


Well-meaning volunteer organizations sometimes fail to consider the potential negative impacts of volunteering on their host culture.  Volunteer Ladakh evaluates all its projects to ensure cultural sensitivity, and to avoid an ethnocentric approach. 

“Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one’s own culture as superior and to apply one’s own cultural values in judging the behavior and beliefs of people raised in other cultures.”

Source is Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology by Conrad Phillip Kottak   31 & 264-265, Mcgraw-Hill: New York, 8th edition.

Bringing open minds and listening hearts, rather than fixed notions, Ladakh volunteers become active local community members.  Only then can they begin to understand what makes Ladakhi culture unique, and, with time, find themselves in a position to offer genuine help.   

Our Expectations:

It is not uncommon to feel alone or bored when living in a foreign community, with no distractions such as television, Internet, restaurants and bars, so we are only seeking emotionally strong volunteers prepared to immerse themselves in Ladakh.   

Specific Requirements

Please note the minimum time commitments below are absolute minimums. For those who would like to contribute but cannot spare more time, there are many other ways you can participate  (see Collaborate).  To gain full personal value from the program, and to be able to contribute fully in your field, the longer your stay, the better.

       - A background in education, experience and/or certification
    - Experience teaching English and/or certified in TESOL, TEFL, TESL, CELTA, etc.
-       (for residential schools), experience teaching drama, art, sports,   environmental education, alternative energy projects, gardening, etc.
-       A minimum two-month commitment

- Experience with environmental and/or alternative energy projects or education
- A minimum two-week commitment
General Requirements
-       All volunteers must be at least 21 years old
-       Proficiency in English, written and spoken
-       Flexibility
-       Ability to drink butter tea, and smile.

Some Things to Expect
-       To be offered butter tea, constantly. 
-       Squat compost “eco-toilets”  
-       Bucket showers, generally cold water 

Living Arrangements

Typical Ladakhi Kitchen
Most volunteers will live with a host family, although if teaching English in a monastery, you may be living with the monks and their acolytes (“monklets” as my friend calls them).   Living with your host family is likely to be the highlight of your experience in Ladakh.  Ladakhi families are wonderful, generous, happy, and loving people who will treat you with great respect and honor.  They will laugh at you, with you, and embrace you in their home as both an honored guest and a family member.  The more deeply you become involved with the family (taking the cows out to graze in the morning, learning how to make bread on the hot stones, etc.) the more you will understand Ladakhi people and their culture.  

Application Fee (payable on acceptance): $150

Program Fees

Two Weeks                Month                     Stay Longer
$ 280                        $450                    $100/week           

Included in Program Fee:
-       Leh Domestic Airport pickup and drop-off 
-       Full Board (all meals) and lodging with host family
-       You will be met by our Volunteer Ladakh representative, transported to you village, and personally introduced to your family and coworker(s)
-       Ladakh Volunteer Handbook (by email)

(Please note that this fee does not include airfares, visa fees or insurance.)

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