Experience of Volunteering - Country USA Duration 2 weeks August,2016

I am working on this blog post in my last hours volunteering with KPYM. And what an experience it has been! Hello, my name is Miranda Prasad . I am 21 and from the United States. When I was younger, I decided that whenever I have the time and means to explore the world, I would do it in a way that is responsible and adventurous. With that in mind, this time I decided to travel India alone, and my goal was to see what life was like in India through different home stays and volunteering opportunities! I volunteered with KPYM in Shimla for 10 days in August 2016. I had an amazing 10 days here and I wish I could stay much longer!!!

I worked a lot in the Digital Marketing role and would spend my mornings trying to increase the awareness of this growing NGO. I’m happy to say we did see some improvements in my short time here. I posted our information on various related pages on Facebook and tried to keep a constant presence. This resulted in an increase of likes on KPYM Himachal’s FB page , 87% more page views, 77% more people reached, and 71% more post engagement. I also tried to post reviews wherever I could of my experience, to try to expand the number of volunteers interested in joining the KPYM team.

I had a fun time working on Digital Marketing for KPYM and helping to maximize the NGO’s online presence. There is still a lot of work to be done, so more volunteers in this role would be helpful. In the afternoons, I would walk or take the bus (a quick drive, and a fun experience!) to the Kamyana village in Shimla. There, I would help the wonderful and fun teacher, Sudha, aid the local children in their homework and the lessons they were learning in class. Sudha is a dedicated and hardworking young teacher and the students love her! She is so passionate about what she does and I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning from her and getting to know her.

In my 10 days, I was also able to see so much. Mehar took me around Shimla one day and I got to see the tourist places and the places only locals know about. It was so much fun! And tons and tons of walking. Shimla is so beautiful and it’s impossible to get bored learning and exploring the city. I also booked a tour with KPYM so I could explore outside of Shimla as well. I got to go to the highest point in Shimla, Hatu Peak, and spent the day trekking, in Kufri, drinking chai and going to a temple on top of a mountain to watch the sunset. A truly unforgettable day! These tours are so great too because a major portion of the cost goes towards the community volunteer projects from KPYM. It felt good that my time and money was helping an organization that I believe in.

In addition to all that, I was also fortunate enough to stay one night in the Chambal village where KPYM is starting an organic/sustainable farming initiative. I stayed with Gurvinder’s friend who showed me their farming land and gardens. It was incredible! The village was on the very top of a huge mountain and the views were breathtaking. I spent some time at the village government school as well. In my short 10 days, I have been able to experience and see so much more than I could have imagined. My only regret is not being able to stay longer. I definitely suggest volunteers stay for a minimum of 2.5-3 weeks so that they can explore the other villages that KPYM is present in, and make a strong impact with the children and women empowerment programs.

I want to thank all the members of the KPYM organization in Shimla- I was fortunate to meet them all and every single person was extremely nice and passionate about the cause. They made me feel welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them! I especially want to thank Sandeepan, Gurvinder and their family for letting me be a part of the family for the last 10 days! Staying with them has been so comfortable and fun!

Overall, I am excited to follow KPYM and see the progress they make and the lives they change! I am counting down the days that I can return to beautiful Shimla and the amazing people I have met. Thank you for letting me be a part of the action!

Hugh From New Zealand [ 11 to 29 Oct. 2015 ] kumarhala Project
I stayed in Kumharla for about three weeks, helping teach English to the local children. Kumharla is a tiny village sitting on top of a hill surrounded by pine forest. It takes about an hour or two of walking to get there because the location is so remote. All of the food prepared (with the exception of cream rolls) is local, so quite simple but very filling.

The English level of the children is still very low: they can only write a few select words and have a lot of trouble putting a sentence together, so when teaching them I just focussed on spelling and improving their pronunciation, especially how to pronounce sounds like 'th' and 'f'.

The highlight of the program was definitely when I was invited to a local marriage. We reached the marriage by riding on the roof of a jeep- very rough but great fun. The food was the best I had eaten in Himachal- plenty of sweets and snacks during the entire occasion.

Overall it was a great experience with plenty of opportunities to practise my Hindi speaking and socialise with the villagers. I think my teaching made some difference, but more volunteers are desperately needed in Kumharla if the children's English is to improve.

Hugh From New Zealand [ 2-10 October 2015 ] Galot Village Project
I spent about a week in Galot village, helping out in the local school with English speaking practice. It is a lovely place with every day being a sunny one.

The children were very cheerful and always in good spirits. They have learnt very good writing and spelling skills but I was able to help them with much needed conversation and pronunciation practice.
There was plenty of opportunity to learn and improve my Hindi in Galot too, all the locals are always ready to correct any mistakes you make- I really felt like I was making progress in Hindi.
The homestay also had a nice friendly atmosphere and after a week eating the food there I definitely felt a lot healthier.
I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone who is looking for a chance to immerse themselves in a Himachali village and learn more about the culture and language here.

Lizzie From UK [ 15th September 2015 ] Kumharla Village [ Pabbar Valley ]
"The two weeks I spent in Kumharla village were absolutely magical and I simply didn’t want to leave. I spent the afternoons teaching English in the Primary School, and in the evenings I gave more English classes to teenagers from the Secondary School. When I wasn’t teaching I helped out in the home where I was staying with a variety of tasks from making chapatti (I’m an absolute pro now) and cutting grass in the fields for the winter.

The favourite part of my day was definitely the evenings when I went to the village (pulled up the mountain by the energetic kids who had followed me home after class) and was greeted by the lovely community. We played games, drank some chai, and then started class. I don’t have any photos from my evening classes because I was always far too busy to find a spare moment. There were normally between 10 – 15 students, ranging from approximately 12 years old to 18 years old. They have ‘learnt’ grammar at school (by copying from textbooks) but have not been taught it, so I made good progress with them explaining verbs, conjugations and tenses. They were fun classes with lots of laughter. I feel like I definitely helped them, but I really need more volunteers to go and carry on my work. It is so important for them to learn English if they want to be able to find work when they leave the villages and go to a town or city.

At the Primary School the standard of English education is very basic, so I built on this by covering topics such as colours, animals, parts of the body, expressions of mood and basic grammar. I was surprised by how quickly the children made progress, but once again I really need more volunteers to go to the village to keep up my work. This way, when they go to Secondary School they will be able to understand the syllabus, instead of just copying from their textbooks without learning. The children were so enthusiastic, but also very well behaved and extremely respectful. They always brought me food and insisted on carrying my things!

What made my stay in Kumharla Village so special was being part of the community. When I told my friends I was alone in a mountain village where no one speaks good English they asked me, ‘But aren’t you lonely?’ And I could honestly say I didn’t feel lonely once. The people are so warm and open, and the language barrier was no issue in me joining in on the laughs of their daily lives. I particularly liked the evening classes because I was able to bond with the teenagers, some of whom were only a few years younger than me, so I felt like I was surrounded by friends. One day it was a national holiday so we spent the day together in the mountains cutting grass in the sunshine, singing songs, with an amazing picnic. It was glorious!

If you want to volunteer for a project where you get real exposure to rural village life, and can honestly feel the difference you are making to people’s lives and futures, I ask you to please go to Kumharla! It would mean so much to me as well as to the fantastic people who live there."

Lucy From UK [ 24 June 2015 ]
I spent an incredible 10 days volunteering in this rural village, staying with a beautiful and warm family whose took me in and introduced me to their exceptional mountain cuisine!. I helped teach English at the local school and worked with the women around the house and learning from their amazing skills with the land.I learnt from them as much as they learnt from us. I highly recommend this village empowerment project to anyone wanting a better understanding of village living.

Margot From United States [ June 2015 ]
I spent two weeks working with Kumharla Yuva Mandal in June 2015. I stayed with a host family in a remote village in Pabbar Valley. KYM is sending volunteers to multiple villages throughout this valley, although I was the first volunteer to visit this particular village. I have never met such caring and family oriented people. It was truly inspiring to see the compassion exercised between community members. This is an incredible opportunity to experience rural Indian village life. The villages in this valley are incredibly poor with little access to education. Because of this not many people spoke English. Communication is achieved through hand motions and the occasional English speaker. Luckily my host sister was proficient in English and was a huge help in communicating with family members. Because work in this village is very new the role of volunteers is unclear. I helped with tasks such as gardening, cleaning, cooking, and teaching English to local children. You need to be proactive about asking to help with tasks. I would highly recommend this opportunity for those looking for a cultural immersion experience.

Erez Reaven,19 april,2005,Israel - [ Email.erezreuven@walla.com ]
Dear friend,Not a words,gifts or any other thing can express my feeling for making pabbar valley trip to unforgettable experience.Thankyou for spending this times together and sharing all those things.I will not forget you all my life and i am sure we will meet again.Wish you all the best

Daria and Daria,Israel - [ Email.daria83@walla.com ]
Thankyou for the wonderful time in pabbar valley.For always caring about us.For the long trip to valley of flowers.We hope to see you again some day.keep smiling an enjoy life in the villages of pabbar.Take care and may god always be with you.

Alexander and bob 02-08-2004,Belgium
We would like to thank you for staying in your village retreat In Pabbar valley.It was wonderful experience we will never forget.We met some real nice people and had relaxed days.Thanks to all of you,we saw the real Indian way of life.We wish you all the best for your hospitality.

Fridgeir Einarsson (geiri) 7december,2004 Iceland
Pabbar valley was nice,the views were excellent and the air was clean.i had a very good time in pabbar valley and will remember it for a long time.see u later.

Jack and Alice
[ The colony,17a,chestoton lane,Cambridge,cb43aa,England ]

About Buran pass,4724m
Drove to pabbar valley retreat by jeep,very nice ride and very scenic.It was a lovely place to stay,I would recommend it (apart from the spiders!!).Next day we started walking,all of the porters were very effeciet,especially the poor guy who got shrug on the head by beas!

The food was great and the cook was very friendly,we enjoyed camping.it was interesting to see and visit local villages and temples,we were especially impressed by how well everyone carried very heavy bags along the path,we were going.The scenery along the walks was spectacular,lot of different environments to experience.Evern when we were ill,every one looked after us with local medicines and carrying our bags.The Buran pass was a challenge but very rewarding.Once we reached the top,Againwe were shunned at how well the porters carried up their heavy bags.They were a lot stronger than we could ever be.The last night was very beautiful,camping down in the valley and we found the bonfire entertainment was superb.This has been the fantastic trek,especially for the beginners and we would recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature.Well done every one from KYM.

Johane Mainz U.K.
My tour from chandigarh to Dharamshala,In and around Dharamshala then to Shimla and in and around Shimla was executed very well by KYM.Nittin is an excellent and very friendly guide who did his very best.The driver was outstanding on sometimes extremely road conditions.I have been very well satisfied and hope to come back.

Jorinde vander donk
[ Loenvan presilehaaf 26-1 6826ch Arnhem Holland ]

I would like to thank you(all KYM) for your hospitality,the beautiful places of pabbar valley,you people showed me and the wonderful activities I have experienced in pabbar valley.

Sarah and Mark - [ Chiavenna,Italy 12 feburary,2007 ]
Finally we have managed to develop and send you the photos from Ponta village with us and Anil!We had a lovely and peaceful time there and Anil was the perfect host.Thankyou for KYM help in organising it.Pabbar valley remains very dear in our hearts and we hope to return there soon.Thank you once again.Our thoughts are with you always.

Merlyn A.G.Roberts U.K. 27 April,2006
In enjoyed my of travelling with Ravi very much,one of the highlights included his home valley pabbar.it has the feeling that I had hoped to find in Himachal Pradesh,the people friendly and smiling and a deep lush green everywhere only brocken by the fresh clear water gushing out from Mural Danda at valleys end.The house was great but watch the ceilig by the time you read thi you may have a chance to stay at the new house

at Mural Danda.The others two greats for me were the temple at Giri Ganga a few kilometres walk from another fantastic house at Pouta, and the exceptional mountain views from the road to Rampur from Sungri breathtaking is all I can say but words really cannot do it justice.My only complaint is Ravi,s constantly ringing phone!

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