Volunteering for SECMOL
(This page was last updated in September, 2015).
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 tp 2 weeks to get a reply from us. Phones are even less reliable. If you email us, please be patient for a reply and do not spam us with facebook and text messages.
The minimum time for volunteering at SECMOL is three weeks. If it is for a required internship, or if you want a 'certificate,' the minimum is 5 weeks.
Volunteers pay for their room and board.
As we currently have enough volunteers, we won't need any more volunteers through October 2015. In 2016, due to visiting student groups, we will not need any short-term general volunteers from July through mid-August, 2016.
For most of the rest of the year, no special skills are needed from volunteers, and since it is not tourist season we often get fewer volunteers than we want. In January we would also like ice-skating volunteers 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 their room and board to our bank account before we consider them confirmed. So please email us, discuss all your questions, and then when both you and we agree that you should come, confirm by transferring the 3 weeks' room and board.
Volunteering calendar for 2015
Sept - Dec 2015: General volunteers welcome.
6th to 16th December: break for Ladakhi Buddhist New Year. Most of the students will be away, so please don't count this time as part of your 3 week minimum.
Jan 2016: If you can teach basic or advanced ice skating, figure skating or hockey, please come for January! The ice lasts approx 25 Dec. to 10 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 2016: General volunteers welcome.
May - June 2016: As many volunteer enquiries are expected, we will strictly ask for prepayment of room and board as confirmation, and later will not accept unskilled general volunteers for this time.
July to mid-August 2016: Visiting group from June to August mean we can't accommodate any additional volunteers. Those with special skills to offer or staying for several months 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.
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 share about Ladakh, 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, Hindi 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. Skating is a relatively new phenomenon in Ladakh and has caught on like wildfire. 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.
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 October-November 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. Generally, Indian volunteers understand the exam system, whereas foreign volunteers get frustrated and outraged when they learn about the Indian exam system.
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 2015 and February and April 2016. 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, and we have clean drinking water for you. 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 (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 at SECMOL (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 place, but we ask you to try to take an attitude of helping out rather than complaining.
More information about the campus itself is here.
5 min video by a visitor in 2014: good overview of SECMOL life
3 min slideshow video of their experience by a volunteer couple, 2015
Blog by Indian-American student on gap-year, 2012
Blog by Maori volunteer from New Zealand, 2012
Blog by English couple about the annual SECMOL "Apricot Jam Picnic"
Blog by domestic (Indian) volunteer, 2011
Australian volunteers, 2012
5 min footage of laughing and singing at tea break shot by father of a volunteer.