Volunteering in India

Prayan – Travelling Workshop in Ladakh.

After the success of the first travelling workshop in Uttarakhand in  the year 2011, the ICICI Fellows Programme team was eager to replicate the same experience for the 3rd batch of ICICI Fellows Designate (IFDs)

PRAYAN – the travelling workshop means commencement or progress towards.  And so we did on May 6, 2013 to Ladakh with the objective to understand the unique  developmental challenges of mountain communities in relation to health, education, natural resources and sustainable livelihoods. The intention was also to aid local NGOs in exploring possible solutions to some challenges by providing fresh insights to the issues.

The journey from Khadala in Maharashtra to Leh, Ladakh took us from brain frying temperatures to brain freezing temperatures over night.

In Ladakh the IFDs got an opportunity to visit and understand work of  7 organizations-

Student’s Educational Cultural Movement of Ladakh  (SECMOL)                                        People’s Action Group for Inclusion and rights (PAGIR)                                                              Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG)                                                                       Leh Nutrition Project (LNP)                                                                                                           Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC)                                                                              Ladakh Environment and Health Organization (LEHO)                                                            Himalayan Homestay Ladakh –  Snow Leopard Conservancy- India Trust.

IFDs spend the first 3 days in SECMOL campus living in hostel with other Ladakhi students, closely interacting with them and trying to understanding their aspirations. IFDs also volunteered in the campus tasks like cooking, milking cows, cleaning rooms, maintenance of solar panels and systems, watering plants, collecting fire wood etc. These volunteering tasks not only helped IFDs to understand ladakhi culture closely but also helped in building a stronger bond with the students.

Besides SECMOL, visit to other organizations like PAGIR, LEHO, LNP, LEDeG and LWTC, helped IFDs with firsthand understanding of the challenges of Ladakhi community. Extremely harsh temperatures, lack of water, villages which are way to remote in location and difficult to access, migration to cities, declining trend of agriculture among young Ladakhi’s,  villages inhabited  only by the elderly, constant presence of Indian army were some of the realities which the IFDs came  face to face with during their visits.

Intervention by organizations ranged from water conservation, building artificial glaciers, green house development, rural home stay and other livelihood interventions like handicraft and food processing, solar energy, empowerment of women & people with disability, to providing health services to remote villages.

One of the many highlights of the workshop was the time spend with Mr. Chewang Norphel, the ‘Ice Man’ of Ladakh, also called the ‘Glacier Man’ of India. Mr. Norphel spent the entire day with the IFDs explaining about his innovation the ‘Artificial Glaciers’. His humility and integrity was the biggest take away for us all.

IFDs in the highest classroom of the world with Mr. Chewang Norphel, the ‘Glacier Man’ of  India.
IFDs in the highest classroom of the world with Mr. Chewang Norphel, the ‘Glacier Man’ of India.

Visit to Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company. IFDs outside the office with Ms. Thinlas Chorol owner of this first female travel company in Ladakh. Besides challenging the gender norms by establishing herself in a male dominated profession of trekking guides, Thinlas also works towards building awareness on gender violence among villagers. 

IFDs with Ms. Thinlas Chorol, Founder Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company, Leh.
IFDs with Ms. Thinlas Chorol, Founder Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company, Leh.

 Each visit to the organizations brought with it an insight into Ladakhi life and challenges of living in harsh -35 degrees Celsius temperature for most parts of the year. At the same time each interaction with the village community introduced IFDs to the undefeated spirit of Ladakhi people.  IFDs returned to their respective projects rejuvenated and with newer insights on development and on human behaviour.



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