Project Profiles - India
The task of identifying schools in genuine need of assistance is undertaken by trusted contacts, known to Jim Coleman over three decades. Only schools serving poor communities are selected for assistance. Some will be state schools which do not have the funds needed to provide more than the most basic facilities, while others will be private schools providing an English medium education.
All the HELP assignments in India involve teaching in primary and secondary schools. If you would like to volunteer in India, then click on a region that interests you on the right, and scroll down until you find a project that suits you.
The regions in India HELP currently sends volunteers to are listed here:
Click here for opportunities in Nepal.
The School Year
Because the school years in India and Nepal differ, it is possible to teach at HELP sponsored schools all through the calendar year:-
Typically, in the Indian Himalayas, the school year runs from late February to mid-December, and is split into two semesters. The first normally runs from the beginning of March to the end of July, with a two week summer break in the last half of June. The second runs from the beginning of August to the end of the year.
However, there are variations to this general pattern. In Uttarakhand, for example, the school year starts in mid April after the final exams in the month of March. Summer holidays run from around mid- May to the second week of July, and winter vacations are held between mid- December to the second week of January.
On the other hand, in the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys in Nepal the school year runs from June to April.
In both Nepal and India, during the two main annual Hindu festivals of Dussehra and Diwali the school programme is interrupted by around two weeks of holidays. Dussehra is a moveable feast, taking place some time between the end of September and early October and Diwali, the festival of lights, follows 21 days later. Therefore, at this time of year, preference is given to volunteers who can commit themselves to three months. The weather is usually wonderful in these autumn months, so the holidays provide a great opportunity to trek or travel, or to wander around and observe the many religious activities taking place.
Surrounded by Nepal on the west and Bhutan on the east, Tibet on the north, and India's state of West Bengal on the south, Sikkim's tiny area of about 2,800 square miles is not easy to see on South Asia maps. Altitudes range from 800 feet above sea level up to the summit of Kanchenjunga (28,169 feet), the third highest mountain in the world. Gangtok is the capital, and it has many of the things you will need to stock up on. You are likely to want to visit it from time if you are working in the more remote schools.
The indigenous tribal people of Sikkim are called Lepcha, and Lepcha kings used to rule Sikkim when it was an independent kingdom. However, the Lepchas are now outnumbered by Tibetans and Nepalis, and it was discontent from this immigrant population that led to the Indian government to incorporate Sikkim as India's 22nd state in 1975.
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St Paul's Primary School
The school was opened in 1985, with the intention of providing an English medium education for poor children. The school also provides the children with vocational training. St Paul's was the first school to approach HELP for assistance.
The school, which was established in 1985, is located in a small village in South Sikkim, close to the Nepalese border at an altitude of 1500 metres. The village is home to approximately 5000 people, of various ethnic groups, most of whom rely on farming for survival although recently, tourism has become important.
Pupils and their volunteer teacher
There are around 150 pupils from nursery level to Class 8, and a permanent complement of 10 teachers. The school has now moved into the ground floor of a smart new building that has been financed by money provided by HELP and its volunteers. At present there are 10 classrooms. A second floor remains to be built.(For more information about the St. Paul on-going fund-raising project, please see the current projects section.)
You will be accommodated with the head teacher's family. Our first volunteer, started up a school newspaper and created a library using books he had sent out from Australia. See what he has written about his experiences in the blue column to the right of this.
The school year runs from the beginning of March until mid-December. Exams are held in mid-April, mid-June, mid-September and mid-November (one week in each case), and a 10-15 day summer holiday is taken after the June exams. The last assignment of the year should start no later than the third week of September.
Have a look, in the blue column to the left of this text, at what one of the pupils has written about his school in the St Paul School Digest!
If you are interested in volunteering at St Paul's, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth School
This small school, located in a beautiful valley in west Sikkim, was opened in 2004. There are presently three teachers serving the needs of 43 pupils from nursery grade to Grade 5). Teaching takes place in three classrooms. The daily timetable runs from 08:30 to 14:00.
There is a boarding hostel for 15 pupils, the headmaster and his wife, a local teacher and a maid. Everything is extremely clean, neat organised and well thought out. The HELP volunteer will be accommodated in a room in a seperate little house. The bedroom is light, airy, clean, with two windows, but it is small. There is an outside toilet, and there are plans to put in a shower.
The school year starts from the second week of February and ends in the first week of December. The best times for volunteer assignments are between February and May and again in September to November. The last assignment of the year should begin in early September.
The volunteer will need to be quite special because the school is very isolated. Warning: Tall volunteers would be challenged by the low roofs and a small bed!
If you are interested in volunteering at Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth school, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.Top of page
Denjong Pema Chöling Academy (DPCA)
Denjong Pema Chöling Academy (DPCA) is an educational institution, registered under the Muyal Liang Trust (an NGO established in 1980) that provides free education (from kindergarten up to Class 10) and boarding to around 250 destitute and underprivileged children from the tribal rural areas of Sikkim, India. There are widows who voluntarily help in the running of the school and orphans who treat the school as their home. In addition, they provide vocational training to students on small income generating projects (bakery, tea plantation, carpet weaving initiative, yak and dri farming) and shelter and work for 12 destitute women.
The school, a three-storied structure, is situated in Pemayangse, West Sikkim. Classes take place in a school building that has been built near the Nyingma monastery of Pemayangtse, a 17th century Buddhist monastery in the Himalayan foothills, with magnificent views of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. Volunteers are provided with simple lodging and all meals including breakfast. Bedding is provided, but most volunteers bring their own sleeping bag with them. It can get very cold at night.
They are looking for volunteers who can help them improve the standards of education for their children and help them run their income generating projects. In addition to teachers, DPCA is seeking a nurse or doctor, a baker, and an office assistant/programme manager.
NB Because of concerns we currently have about the management of this school, we have temporarily suspended our recruitment of volunteers. We will keep this under review, and re-instate recruitment if the situation changes for the better.
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West Bengal (India)
Politics in West Bengal
The formation of the Gorkha Mukti Morcha (GMM) party in 2009 revived a long standing demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. A similar movement in the 1980's led to the setting up of the Gorkha Hill Council, with limited autonomy for the region. On 18th July 2011, an agreement with the West Bengal government has secured a greater degree of autonomy, although a separate state has not been achieved and many regard the present arrangement as only a temporary measure.At the core of the Darjeeling agreement is the formation of a new autonomous elected Hill Council Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), which is armed with more powers compared to its predecessor. The GTA will have full control over Tourism, Agriculture and Public Health. It will also have full control over the school and college teachers' commissions which deal with appointments. This development is not welcomed by people in the plains bordering the hills, who do not want to be part of an autonomous region run from Darjeeling.(Updated: 18th July 2011)
For up-to-date information about the security situation, you should consult the travel advisory services of your government. This is the British government's advice. You may also like to see the US State Department's travel advice.
Kalimpong (4,100 feet) and Darjeeling (7,000 feet) are situated on a sliver of the Indian state of West Bengal that reaches up to the Sikkimese border from the Gangetic plain. This mountainous piece of India is now called the 'Gorkha hill area' because it is Nepali speaking, and has some powers of self-government. The famous little Himalayan steam trains run from the plains all the way up to Darjeeling via a series of loops (see video clips: 1 2 3 4).
There are no special visa restrictions in West Bengal so you can stay there as long as your Indian visa allows. If you have been teaching in Sikkim, you can always move to one of the schools in this area to continue your assignment after your first two months.
Kalimpong was a British hill station, built on lands that once belonged to the kings of Bhutan. It is spectacularly situated on the saddle of a 'hill' and is dominated by a Victorian church that looks as if it has been transported from an English village. However, there is nothing English about the town, which has all the colour and chaos of a small Indian town.
Darjeeling was also built as a hill-station by the British in the 19th century, and it became the summer capital of Bengal. Some impressive colonial architecture, and institutions like the zoo, remain intact and in use, and the town remains famous for its tea, which is grown on the flanks of the hills around the town. The town, which is draped over a high ridge, and down its northern side, has expanded greatly since colonial days, and is where the local government of the 'Gorkha hill area' is based. The name, Darjeeling, is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Durjay Ling', which means 'Siva of invincible prowess who rules the Himalayas'.
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Bright Life Academy
The Bright Life Academy (est. 1995) is situated in a pleasant, shady, spot in a small village half an hour's walk from the centre of Kalimpong. It has 220 children in 10 classes from nursery level up to Class V. Maximum class size is about 30. Accommodation will be with a host family.
The first semester runs from the beginning of March until mid July, and the second session runs from the beginning of August until mid-December. There is a break of two weeks between the two semesters. Placements in the second semester should start not later than early September.(N.B. Volunteers are expected to stay for a full semester. Shorter assignments are not accepted.)
If you are interested in volunteering at the Bright Life Academy, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Algarah Primary School
This school of 12 teachers and 400 children has been in existence for more than 100 years. Based in the small bazaar town of Algarah, 15 kilometres from Kalimpong, at an altitude of 5840ft. Algarah is home to approximately 3000 people. However, unemployment is high, with many working as casual labourers in part time work.
Volunteers will be accommodated with a host family either in Algarah itself, or Kalimpong.
Teaching at Algarah, like at all government primary schools in the Darjeeling district is taught primarily in Nepali, and so the need for English teaching is particularly great. When children move to secondary school, the teaching medium changes to English, so those who come from government schools, rather than private English schools, are at a disadvantage. Volunteers will quickly pick up the rudiments of Nepali in this environment; the children's English is basic.
The school year runs from mid-February until the second week of December, with a one week summer holiday in mid-July. Exams take place in the last week of June and the last week of November. The last assignment of the year should start no later than the second week of September.
If you are interested in volunteering at Algarah Primary School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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JN Memorial Public English School
The JN Memorial Public English School is, in spite of its name, a small private school in a village (a 'busti' in Nepali) with wonderful views over the paddy fields. The village has little more than a shop selling vegetables and tobacco, but Kalimpong is just 5 kilometres away. To get there entails a 20 minute walk to the road and then five minutes in a jeep.
The school has about 50 pupils and four teachers, one of whom is a part-timer. At present there are four classrooms shared by six classes, ranging from lower kindergarten (3 years old)to Class 5 (8 years old). The classrooms are partitioned, but there is plenty of noise!
The school year runs from 12 February until mid-December, with a one-week summer holiday in the second half of July.The last assignment of the year should begin no later than the beginning of September.
You are likely to be accommodated in the principal English teacher's home, which is a large, comfortable brick and wood house, with a separate room for the volunteer. Meals (vegetarian) are provided in the kitchen, and there is a clean squat toilet outside.
This assignment is suited to self-reliant volunteers who relish the idea of being the only westerner in the community. The home-stay family are easy-going, friendly, perhaps to the point of being over-protective. But when you need space for relaxation, you will be given it. In all, this is a wonderful assignment for the right person.
If you are interested in volunteering at JN Memorial Public English School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Gyan Jyoti Primary School
This small, private primary school was established in 1996.It is situated on the road to Kalimpong, which is about 20 minutes drive away.
The school owns small, recently renovated and extended premises. Single volunteer accommodation will be made available at the Principal's nearby residence, which is situated a short walk up the hill from the school, and which has fine views to the hills across the valley.
There are currently 57 students and the school currently takes children up to the Year 5. The biggest class has 10 students. There are not enough classrooms for these numbers (just eight), so some classes have to share a classroom.
If you are interested in volunteering at Gyan Jyoti Primary School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Mount Star Academy
The Academy is situated at a vital junction of roads leading to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkim, and Siliguri, in a ramshackle village on the banks of the fast-flowing river Teesta. Although there is little to do in Teesta, apart from white-water rafting (this can be arranged in the village), the village is a good place for getting to many of the towns in this area of the Himalayas.
The river Teesta has cut deep into the surrounding hills, which means that the village is at a lower altitude than most of the other schools listed here, and the climate is, consequently, considerably warmer than up on the hill tops.
The Academy was established in 1992 by local Christians. It has 340 students from nursery class up to Class 8 (i.e. ages from 3 to 15), and 16 teachers. Teaching takes place in 15 classrooms located in three separate buildings. There is also a boarding hostel which caters for the needs of 16 children.
The volunteer will be accommodated either in the hostel, or with a family.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Mount Star Academy, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Lying in the northern part of India amidst the magnificent Himalayas and dense forests, Uttarakhand (until recently known as Uttaranchal) was formed on 9th Nov 2000 as India’s 27th state. The state borders Himachal Pradesh in the north-west and Uttar Pradesh in the South, and has international borders with western Nepal and China.
The city of Dehradun, has been declared as the interim capital of the new state. Dehradun is situated at the Himalayan foothills in the fertile Doon Valley, which is well known for its pleasant climate and natural beauty.
The population of the state is around 7 million. The State, which covers 55,845 sq km, is mostly hilly (approx 88 percent) and the remaining 12 percent falls in the plains. It is very rich in natural resources with many glaciers, rivers, forests, and well-known mountain peaks including Nanda Devi, Kedarnath, Trishul, Bandarpunch and Mt Kamet.
The school is situated in a remote village in the Tehri Garwhal district of Uttarakhand state, at a height of 6000 feet. New Delhi, India’s capital, is about 350 km. away to the south.
The SASA Academy, which was established in March 2000, is run by the Serve And Share Association, a registered charitable institution in India, which runs various development projects such as school, child sponsorship, adult literacy and community development & child development training programmes. The Academy has six classes running from kindergarten to class lV, with a total of 102 students as at July 2004.
The school runs 6 days in a week, from 8am to 1pm in the summer and from 9am to 1.30 pm in the winter. In addition, the children also come for tuition , food and sports in the evening between 4 and 6 pm
The region is really remote. With poor roads, no electricity, cold weather in winter, and with low salaries compared to the cities, it is hard to retain quality local teachers. SASA currently has six teachers (3 female and 3 male), but there is always a need for good English and Science teachers to supplement their work. SASA can accommodate two volunteers through out the year.
The school year normally begins in mid April, after final exams in March. There is a five week summer holiday running from roughly the last week in May until the end of June, and the winter break lasts from mid-December until the second week of January. Therefore the times when you can fit your two-month assignment in fall between the second week of January and the end of March, and the beginning of July until the end of November. The last placement of the year should start by mid-September.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Sasa Academy, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Ladakh is the largest region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated on the highest plateau in India (much of it being over 3,000 m) which straddles the Himalayan and Karakorum mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley. The capital is Leh.
It was once an independent Buddhist kingdom, and is sometimes called "Little Tibet" on account of its cultural and geographical similarities with Tibet proper. Unlike the rest of Jammu and Kashmir, which is mainly Islamic, Ladakh remains predominantly Buddhist. This is evidenced by the large number of active Buddhist monasteries in the region.
Because it is bitterly cold in the winter, the best times for volunteers are between May and early October.
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Lamdon Model Senior Secondary School
This is a large, well-appointed school with 38 classrooms, a computer room and well-stocked library, situated in Leh. There are 50 full-time local teachers teaching 1200 students aged 4-18. The Lamdon Society school network caters primarily for the poorest children, with children from middle-class families subsidising scholarships for the poorer children.
Accommodation will be in a hostel in the school grounds, and is suitable for a female volunteer, or a couple. A single man would need to be accommodated in a guest house (there would be an extra monthly charge for this, over and above the standard HELP payment for board and accommodation.)
The school year begins at the beginning of March and ends mid-December, There is a two-week summer holiday from the last week of July to the first week of August. The last assignment of the year should begin no later than early September
If you are interested in volunteering at the Lamdon Model Senior Secondary School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Lamdon Model School Tikse
This small school, belonging to the Lamdon Society network, is situated in an isolated valley about 30 minutes from Leh by car. It is overlooked by a Buddhist monastery which is perched on a nearby hill. It caters for around 70 children (aged 3-14) whose families cannot afford to send them to better-appointed schools. The school has ten small classrooms, and a staff of seven local teachers.
Accommodation will be either with a host family or in a guest house. This assignment is probably best for a couple. The school is isolated, there is no Internet connection (but there is a telephone booth), and the opportunity to converse in English with local colleagues, or with your host family, will be limited.
The school year begins at the beginning of March and ends mid-December. There is a 12 day summer holiday from the end of July to mid August. The last assignment of the year should start in early September
If you are interested in volunteering at the Lamdon Model School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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Spituk Monastery School
This little school is a 15 minute drive from Leh. It consists of a large hall under a Buddhist monastery, caters for around 27 young monks aged 4-15 . Two new classrooms are being built.
The pupils come from poor farming and labouring families from all over the region, and receive a free education. The secular curriculum, which is taught by two local teachers, takes place between 9.30 am and 4pm, with a one-hour lunch break. (Their religious instruction is given early in the morning and again after 4pm).
Accommodation, which will be basic, will be with a host family. There is no hot water in the village, so you will wash the traditional way, probably just once or twice a week using a bucket of water that has been heated on the kitchen stove!
The school year runs from the beginning of March to mid-December. There is a summer break of 15 days in July. The last assignment of the year should start no later than the beginning of September.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Spituk Monastery School, first read our volunteer webpage, and then please click on the button below and complete and send the application form.
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