Interesting voluntary opportunities in India this summer

Voluntary, while you travel, is the perfect way to explore the world in a meaningful way. If you’ve resolved to travel and make a difference to the society in 2017, there’s no shortage of amazing volunteer and contribution programs awaiting you.

Following are a few great places and programs to volunteer in India this summer.

Little Local, New Delhi

Location: Ladakh
little local
image © littlelocal.in

A responsible travel enterprise, Little Local ties up with local partners to create impact and help with sustainable development of local communities via travel. This summer, the company is running a week-long project in Hinaskot, to document their oral folklore, culture and help restore abandoned villages for the community. It is looking for artists, photographers and researchers.
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Phuktal Monastery, Zanskar

Location: Lugnak valley
Phuktal Monastery
image © phuktalmonastery.com

Situated in the very remote Lungnak valley, students of the Phuktal Monastery School come from local farming communities and have little exposure to the outside world. In 2015, the Phuktal River flooded, washing away the entire school campus and all its resources. The monastery has since been rebuilding the institution and is open to help in any form—especially short-term residencies (to teach English) and assistance with the construction of the new school.
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Manav Sadhna, Ahmedabad

Location: Sabarmati
Manav Sadhna
image © manavsadhna.org

Dedicated to serving and uplifting marginalised communities, Manav Sadhna helps educate young children, gives them vocational training and runs health camps for them. Volunteers can pitch in with any of these activities.
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Aarohi, Nainital

Location: Nainital
Aarohi
image © aarohi.org

A grassroots-level organisation, Aarohi strives to empower ordinary mountain families by running educational and vocational programs that allow them to lead sustainable livelihoods, have access to medical facilities and develop sustainably. The organisation is currently looking for nurses, teachers, musicians and rural development professionals.
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Human Wave, West Bengal

Location: Kolkata
Human Wave
image © humanwaveindia.org

Human Wave works to develop mother and child health, promote local businesses and organise educational courses that help improve their overall standard of living. The NGO is accepting volunteers for a period of two weeks to three months to help with ongoing projects.
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Druk Padma Karpo School, Ladakh

Location: Shey
Druk Padma Karpo School
image © dwls.org

Popularly known as Rancho’s school from the film 3 Idiots, DPKS provides a holistic education to students by teaching them regular subjects from their curriculum as well as equipping them with soft skills to understand and interpret the world around them. The school receives no public funding and runs on well-wisher donations. Offer your time and expertise by teaching English, basic mathematics or even music.
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Sanganer – the Papermakers Hub near Jaipur

In 16th century, Raja Mansingh brought Kagzis, the papermakers to Sanganer, an ancient town that existed long before Jaipur.

A few hundred years later, in the 1930’s, when Kagzis were teetering on the verge of ruin, Gandhiji played savior to them by ordering a bulk consignment of handmade paper for his ashram. Allah Bux Kagzi, a papermaker from Sanganer even made history by demonstrating papermaking at the congress 1938 session in Haripura.

Sanganer

Just 14 km from Jaipur, Sanganer today is a busy Centre of paper manufacture. The main change that has come over the years is that the paper making has been evolved from   being a household industry to a more organized activity. There are half a dozen large factory now, all strongly export oriented. The major change that has come about is in the equipment used and the variety of paper produced.

Sanganer

The Kagzis use 3 types of material to produce paper: cotton rags, silk and banana trunk fiber. Cotton base paper makes up 90 % of their produce, but despite the humble raw material, the final product comes in myriad attractive finishes. There is metalized paper glazed to look like foil, and leatherette paper, deliberately creased to resemble leather.

While the price of these papers vary from Rs  4 to Rs 35 per sheet, products made out of it are much more steeply priced. And unfortunately, none of this premium of handmade papers and products made of these papers are reaching to the people who make these.

Sanganer

Visit Sanganer, see the process of paper making and meet the people behind. Talk with them and know more about their lives, their challenges, the process and the variety. Buy handmade papers directly from them, purchase the products made of these papers from the makers. Not only you will get much cheaper bargain compared to the market, more importantly, the fund will directly benefit the deserving people who are behind this craft.

Sanganer

Also while in Sanganer, don’t forget to visit the beautiful Shri Digamber Jain Atishya Kshetra Mandir, Sanghiji, which is decorated all over with carved figures.

Little Known Story of Chamba Rumal – Himachal’s Unique Handkerchief

For most of us, the humble cloth handkerchief is just another mousy piece of item for everyday use. At the max bearing a monogram or delicate design in a corner — these piece of cloth are usually plain, perfect for the banal acts of wiping hands and faces. But the Chamba Rumal (rumal means handkerchief) is no ordinary cloth, and certainly just too rare and precious to wipe your face with.

The word Chamba rumal implies a peculiar visual art form that represents unique and charming embroidery done on a hand spun cloth with untwisted silken thread, which is greatly inspired from pahari painting. The tradition of this kind of pictorial embroidery was known and practiced in Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur areas of Himachal and Basoli in Jammu that remained important centres of pahari painting.

Embroidering-on-a-Chamba-Rumal
It is believed that Raja Prithvi Singh started d-mukha tanka art form in 17the century and later Raja Bhuri Singh commercialised the production of Chamba Rumals in 20th century. Gradually the craft has vanished in other parts of Himachal but still remains in Chamba. The earliest records of the region dates back to 2nd century BC, making it one of the most ancient destinations in the state. The region is known for its history, architecture and landscapes but the local community is also known for its arts and crafts, in particular the miniature Pahari paintings.

One of the earliest example of the embroidery incidentally can be found in Punjab — Bebe Nanki, sister of the Sikh spiritual leader Guru Nanak, reportedly embroidered one in the 16th century and the item was preserved in the state’s Hoshiarpur shrine.
Another handkerchief made its way to Britain in 1883 when Raja Gopal Singh presented a Chamba Rumal to the British, embroidered with a scene from the Mahabharata, which was later added to the collection of London’s Victoria & Albert museum.

Rich History
In the 17th century, the Chamba Rumal embroidery was done by the queens and royal ladies of Chamba for wedding dowries, important gifts and ceremonial coverings.

The tradition gradually made its way out of palace walls and began to be practised by local craft clusters. The Rumals came to be an integral part of weddings, exchanged by the bride and groom’s families as a sign of goodwill.
In his book Chamba Himalaya: Amazing Land, Unique Culture, KR Bharti draws attention to the painstaking process of Chamba Rumal embroidery — using naturally dyed silk floss on mal-mal or khaddar — and the distinctive double-sided technique seen in the designs.

The picture on both sides of the fabric is almost the same…The drawing is done in outline with fine charcoal or brush. The embroidery is done in a variety of colours by a double satin stitch carried forward and backward alternately. Both sides of cloth are stitched simultaneously so that the space on both sides is filled up making the design on both sides look equally effective and similar in content. That is why this technique is called dorukha (two-faced).KR Bharti
Awesome value, even today
It takes two to three months to prepare an excellent Chamba Rumal that can cost anything between Rs, 40,000 to Rs. 50, 000. A small Chamba Rumal costs between Rs.4, 000 to Rs. 5,000 as it takes only a week to prepare it.

Chamba

Verge of extinction

Once a popular art form in various areas of Himachal and Jammu – it is today only alive in Chamba. In recent times, one of the greatest impetuses to the art came in 2007 when the Chamba Rumal was accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) patent by the Geographical Indications Registry. It helped to curb the sale of inauthentic items and also brought the art form back into the spotlight.

Chamba Rumal

Visit the Chamba district to witness this handicraft form, the craftsmen society and villages, which was once fashionable even to the Britishers.