Volunteering for SECMOL
(This section was last updated in June 2014).
SECMOL welcomes volunteers, their work and the inter-cultural exchange and understanding they bring.
If you are interested in volunteering for SECMOL, contact the volunteer coordinator, at this email address. Email is unreliable in Ladakh so it can take 1-2 weeks to get a reply from us. Phones are unreliable but sometimes work. If you email us, please be patient for a reply and do not spam us with facebook and text messages.
Volunteers should stay for a minimum of three weeks at SECMOL.
Due to visiting groups, we will not need any more general volunteers from May through mid-August, 2014.
The biggest need is in December and February for our youth camps, and in March and April for now Foundation year students. At these times, no special skills are needed, and since it is not tourist season we often get fewer volunteers than we want. We would also like ice-skating volunteers in January who can teach ice-skating, figure skating, or hockey.
Domestic (Indian) volunteer numbers have been increasing in the past few years, which is wonderful, but their high rate of cancellation and no-shows has been causing problems for us. For this reason, we have to ask domestic volunteers to send the minimum 3 weeks room and board to our bank account before we can consider them confirmed.
Rough volunteering calendar for 2014
May to mid-August: Big visiting groups mean we can't accommodate any additional volunteers. Volunteers who have special skills to offer or who are staying for several months overlapping this time will be able to find something useful to do, but please do not ask about volunteering for less than three months and overlapping this time. We won't be able to keep introducing new short term volunteers.
Sept - Dec 2014: General volunteers welcome again, especially in Dec. for youth camps.
Jan 2015: If you can teach basic or advanced ice skating, figure skating or hockey, please come for January! The season is approx 25 Dec. to 5 Feb. If you don't skate, don't come only for Jan., because all other activities get disrupted during skating season and you won't have much to do except feel cold.
Feb - April 2015: General friendly volunteers welcome again, especially in Feb. for youth camps and in March and April for the new Foundation Year students.
For conversation classes with Ladakhi students, you don’t need perfect English or teaching experience. The students are eager to learn about the world, and we appreciate the variety of experiences and viewpoints that volunteers bring.
Over the years, some volunteers have also taught photography and used the resulting pictures in conversation class, helped the students put on plays or make videos (in English or Ladakhi), taught us new games or exercises, done an art, music or dance workshop, helped the students in charge of the weekly Campus Times newsletter, helped individual students with the subjects they are preparing for state exams, helped in the kitchen, library, garden, construction, etc.
Ice skating, hockey or figure skating coach (Dec and Jan only)
Can you skate or play hockey? Come and experience the “off season” in Ladakh, and participate in Ladakh’s annual ice frenzy. Ladakh is in fact not as cold as much of Canada and northern USA: dependable skating weather here is only from late December to early February. Skating is a relatively new phenomenon in Ladakh and has caught on like wildfire.
Consider coming in early December to get to know the students and start training them for skating and hockey. Our girls form a hockey team for local tournaments, and volunteer coaches have been great. We would also love to have someone teach figure skating.
We do not ask inexperienced untrained volunteers to teach formal classes. Thirty-five students who are dropouts or have failed the Class 10 exam in their villages stay at SECMOL Campus for “Foundation Year” starting each March. One of their main goals is to improve their English, because higher education in India is in English, and most jobs require some English. We also teach basic and practical maths, science and social studies. SECMOL staff teach the regular classes, but volunteers who are skilled teachers sometimes introduce exciting new ways of teaching and learning. An experienced or trained teacher could either teach directly or help our staff improve our teaching materials and methods.
A domestic (Indian) volunteer who can coach small groups for 10th class exams in April-May or September-October would be an asset. The subjects most needed are maths, Urdu, Hindi, and science. At the beginning of Foundation Year the student’s English level will be too low for such classes, so you would have to know Hindi or Urdu to do this in April-May.
SECMOL Youth Camps, every year after the 10th class exams finish, are the most fun and useful way for general volunteers to get involved. No special skills or experience are needed. These will probably be in December 2014 and February 2015. The exact dates will be decided much closer to the time so please check with us by email, and we pin the dates on our FaceBook page.
Ladakhis who have just finished 10th class (age 16-18) attend the camps. The purpose is to expose youth to social and environmental ideas at this critical juncture of their lives, to build up their confidence, and to try to fill in some education that their schools miss, especially environmental and Ladakh-specific knowledge. Since SECMOL's first camps in 1992, the chance to learn English through conversation with volunteers has been a major draw for Ladakhi youth.
In order to satisfy so many youth, it is great to have enough volunteers for English conversation "class", doing daily work with the campers, teaching us new games, exercise, yoga, activities, etc. Our English teacher teaches the academic class and organises the conversation topics or games. You don't need perfect English for conversation, just a friendly attitude and an interest in Ladakh and in sharing your time and views with these young Ladakhis.
Volunteers stay at our campus 18 km from Leh town. The meals are vegetarian. Our buildings are all solar powered and solar heated, so you are welcome at any time of year. In fact, winter is a fine time to come to Ladakh, since the tourists are gone. The weather in winter is cold at night, but most days are sunny and warm, and our buildings keep reasonable temperatures indoors throughout.
Volunteers pay Rs 500 per day for room and board, which is vegetarian food.
We provide bedding and blankets, but if you come in winter you might like to have your own sleeping bag, if you happen to own one. If coming in winter, bring warm clothes: outdoor temperatures go below -20C (-5F) at night. Indoor temperatures at SECMOL are usually above +15C (60F) even in winter but other houses and business in Ladakh are often much colder. At SECMOL, the indoor temperature during cloudy spells in winter may go as low as +10C (50F) at night for a few nights.
The facilities (electricity, water, class timing, purchasing food and supplies, etc) are run and maintained by the students, with some advice from teacher/managers. Things may not be as perfectly organised as in your home country, but we ask you to try to take an attitude of helping out rather than complaining.
More information about the campus itself and its facilities is here.
2013 saw a huge increase in domestic volunteer emails. Over the year, 40 domestic volunteers came, 12 cancelled, and 21 said they were coming but then simply didn't show up. Also, after many domestic volunteers saying they would come in May 2014, we told a lot of new enquiries not to come — but then several of them cancelled.
For these reasons we will now ask domestic volunteers to send a non-refundable deposit before we consider them confirmed. When we have enough volunteers confirmed for one period of time, we will refuse any further ones. We are aware that transferring money internationally often carries unreasonable fees (and we haven't had as much problem with foreign volunteers failing to tell us when they cancel), so we can only beg foreign volunteers to please tell us if you have to cancel.
Blog by Indian-American student on gap-year, 2012
Blog by Maori volunteer from New Zealand, 2012
American student raising money to volunteer with skating and ice hockey, 2014
Blog by domestic (Indian) volunteer, 2011
Scottish volunteer, winter 2011
American student, 2012
Australian volunteers, 2012
5 min footage of laughing and singing at tea break shot by Kashmiri father of a British volunteer.