Buddhist Ladakh: Adventure & Volunteering in the Indian Himalayas

Why Ladakh

Ladakh is a universe away from the crowded plains and congested cities of India. With fewer people per square mile than anywhere else in India, Ladakh is miles of open vistas dotted with tiny, ancient villages. Situated high atop the Himalayas, about 600 miles north of Delhi, Ladakh is a land of beautiful extremes. Youll visit some of the most historic and breathtaking monasteries in the land, situated in an area of untouched, natural beauty. From the wild roses and sand dunes of the Nubra Valley to the lunar landscapes of Lamayru and pristine Alpine lakes, Ladakh is a world of contrasts, each one sure to take your breath away.

Teaching and Training with SECMOL

In Phey, you'll be teaching and training with students at the Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, founded in 1998 by Sonam Wangchuck. Here, your invaluable English-language and computer training assistance to Ladakhi students will enable them to pass vital school exams. This will not only change their lives, but also the future of the Ladakhi people.

You won't need any teaching experience; your own life experience, profession and hobbies will be all that we require. Your volunteer work may include assisting with programs such as:

  • Basic English and conversation.
  • Basic computer and internet training
  • Youth Leadership training exercises (as a participant)
  • Basic Photography instruction
  • Educational games and quizzes

Highlights and Attractions

  • Start with the magnificent Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, a stunning 16th century palace.
  • Take a short jaw-dropping flight over the Himalayan Range
  • Visit monarchy at the Stok Palace, home of the Royal Family.
  • Walk in the clouds at 18340ft when we cross the highest drivable pass in the world, Khardung La Pass.
  • Enjoy a deluxe organic tented camp experience in the lush Nubra Valley
  • Ride camels in the Himlayan desert.
  • Visit centuries old monastries like Chemde and Thikse
  • And somehow still get plenty of time for yourself

These and many other experiences will prepare you for an unforgettable experience, changing the lives of students and the future of a people in the villages of Ladakh.

How your trip will change you

When you return from Ladakh, you will bring with you memories of inspiring vistas, incredible landscapes and a glimpse into a universe you never knew existed. You'll remember watching from the back of a camel as the sun set over the mountains, savoring ancient cuisines in places tourists will never eat and watching the entire Himalayan Mountain range unfold beneath you.

More importantly, you as an individual, made a difference in a young buddhist student's life. Your time spent volunteering will help Ladakhi students change both their future and that of their people. You'll do this with a travel company that utilizes sustainable resources and practices and locally-owned and operated lodging and dining, furthering our goals of preserving and empowering this beautiful culture.

Why Go Now

The Indian economy and its place in both the global community and the travel industry are undergoing incredibly rapid change. Just in the last few years, we have seen a huge increase in the amount of travel to this area. This influx of tourism threatens both the country's ecosystems and its ancient cultures and traditions. Although Ladakh is the least populated area in all of India, the Ladakhi people have already seen the effects of this change in Leh.
Tours like this one may simply not be possible tomorrow.

What will you be doing

During your five days at SECMOL, you will be helping Ladakhi students improve their English skills and learn basic computing that prepares for higher education in India. It's not necessary for you to have any teaching experience. The organization has found many effective ways to create meaningful programs.

Your volunteering program will include:

  • Basic English and conversation.
  • Basic computer and internet training
  • Youth Leadership training exercises
  • Basic photography and video

 

The program also utilizes several other valuable learning opportunities, including:

  • Drama programs and plays
  • Art, dance and music workshops
  • Helping students with the SECMOL newsletter
  • Educational and entertaining quizzes
  • Informal debates
  • Teaching and playing sports such as skating, soccer and volleyball Education on health, nature and other subjects

How your work will help

The Ladakhi culture will only survive if their people can adapt to and work within the mainstream Indian culture. They must remain culturally unique while becoming more economically competitive. Your projects will go a long way in providing them the critical first steps. Your volunteering and the stories you share with the students will also give them a real desire to succeed in higher education.

The Ladakhis are not the only ones who will be changed by your volunteering efforts. You will return home with a richer understanding of an ancient culture that few travelers experience when they visit, on a regular tour or independently. And youll be surprised by the level of your contribution!

Why We chose SECMOL

SECMOL was founded in 1988 by Sonam Wangchuck and several other university students as a response to the tremendous educational and economic gaps between the Ladakhi and mainstream India. They started with free tutoring and vocational training and quickly expanded to training teachers at the Government High School in Saspol.

As Wangchuck has stated, "We never wanted to set up a parallel educational system. We preferred to work within the existing structure and reform it from within." They have certainly achieved that goal. They have trained 1000 teachers, worked with 300 schools and raised the matriculation exam rate from 5% to as high as 48%.Since their beginning almost twenty-five years ago, SECMOL has been recognized by the Indian government as a valuable contributor to constructive educational reform. Visit SECMOLs website to learn more.

DAY 1 - New Delhi

Arriving in New Delhi in the early morning, you will clear customs and immigration.  Leaving the airport, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.

Highlight: Evening pre-trip briefing

DAY 2 - Delhi to Agra by car

We travel by road to Agra, home to India’s most famous icon - the majestic Taj Mahal. Here we include a visit to this amazing 17th century marble mausoleum. In the afternoon, we will visit Agra Fort, begun by Emperor Aqbar in 1565 as a military structure, and finished by his grandson, Shah Jehan, as a luxurious palace.

Highlight: Agra Fort, Taj Mahal

DAY 3 - Agra to Delhi

This morning, you can head to the Taj for sunrise and then return to the hotel for breakfast. We will then visit the Baby Taj. Then we will drive back to Delhi.

Highlight: Taj Mahal at Sunrise, Baby Taj

DAY 4 - Delhi to Leh

"Rising early, you will fly from Delhi to Leh, over the entire Himalayan range ‐ a champagne flight with snow capped peaks like foam on the top of a narrow glass. Since the altitude in Leh is at 11,500ft, you can expect to find yourself moving somewhat slowly. In the evening, we'll take a trip to the Shanti Stupa.

Highlight: Flight over Himalayas, Shanti Stupa

DAY 5 - Leh

In the morning, we will visit a few monasteries  near Leh.  The first, Thikse, is a 16th century monastery with spectacular views, the largest contingent of monks in Ladakh, and centuries old thangkas. From Thikse, we visit Shey, former palace of the kings of Ladakh, built about 550 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the first king of Ladakh.

Finally we visit Stok palace, still inhabited by the royal family.

Highlight: Monasteries & Palaces, Free afternoon

DAY 6 - Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La

We’ll meet for breakfast Heading out of Leh, you will drive north to the Nubra Valley, crossing the Khardung La Pass, which at  18,373 feet is the highest motorable pass in the world, running along the old Silk Route through the lush, green Nubra Valley. On arrival we will check into the Organic tented camp where we sleep in deluxe tents. In the evening, we can go on a short camel safari in the high desert!

Highlight: Khardung La pass, Organic Tented Camp, Camel safari/Evening hike/Free evening

DAY 7 - Nubra Valley

A day of many options - visit monasteries, do a camel safari, go for a hike or just relax in the tented camp garden

In the early evening, we will also learn about how organic farming is possible in this arid desert enviroment.

Highlight: Deskit Monastery, Sand dunes, Organic tented camp, Camel safari/Day hike/Free time

DAY 8 - Nubra Valley To Leh via Chemde Monastery

This morning you will wind your way back to Leh.  On the way, you will stop at Chemre monastery. Then we'll cross a lunar landscape surrounded by tall beautiful mountains that offers stunning landscape views on our way down to Leh. We'll have dinner at our hotel and get ready for volunteering the next day.

Highlight: Chemde monastery, Wari-La mountain pass, Shakti village

DAY 9 - 12 - Volunteering at SECMOL Ladakh

After breakfast today, we'll drive to Phey and meet SECMOL's coordinator Becky. She will introduce you to the student campus and give you a brief orientation and overview of the activities for the next few days. We will then meet the Ladakhi students and break the ice.

Over the next few days we will participate in a variety of activities that will benefit the Ladakhi school kids and the SECMOL organization. We may even go on a field trip with them to a nearby village to gain a better understanding of rural Ladakhi culture.

Highlight: Teaching & Training at SECMOL, Student Field trip to village

DAY 13 - Volunteering wrap up

Today we host our final session with Ladakh school students and have lunch with the faculty and office staff. The afternoon is free for wandering about, doing some shopping or relaxing.

Highlight: SECMOL team lunch, Free time for shopping, Optional river rafting

DAY 14 - Fly to Delhi

We rise early and take the truly spectacular flight back over the snow clad peaks to Delhi. On arrival we are transferred to our hotel. In the afternoon our tour leader takes us to the governmental state emporiums of Connaught Place for last-minute shopping. There's also an option to go for a Heritage walk in Old Delhi. Transfer to your flight in the evening or take a tour extension.

Highlight: Souvenir shopping/Optional heritage walk in Old Delhi/Free time

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