Why join us in the India Himalayas…
You are looking for a unique program & stand-out experiences
Immerse yourself in the culture of the Lepcha people in rural India
We have our own India representative – we never rely on a third party
25 years experience of running gap year programs
Travel independently in India with 24/7 support
Want to know more about a Gap Year in India?
Gap Year India: Program Summary
Accommodation: AV houses, alongside other volunteers.
Dates: You can go for as long as you like, whenever you like! Or join a scheduled group departure. Project starts and ends in Siliguri.
Highlights: Live like a local; Traditional Lepcha medicine; Archery; Learn to cook Lepcha style; Mindfulness; Learn to play the Lepcha flute
Explore further: Trekking, Temples, Beaches, Wildlife
About the program
Briefing & Orientation
You will need to fly into Bagdogra, where you will be met by the AV representative for your Gap Year India project. You will head straight to your Orientation Course. This is a chance to settle in, unwind after the hectic few days leading up to your departure and long journey, as well as an opportunity to get to know the other AV volunteers. The orientation course is important for making sure you’re fully prepared when you arrive in the village. The course will be led by the AV India representative, giving you a chance to get to know them too and will cover the following:
- Nepali language (the standard language in these parts)
- Indian and Nepali history, customs and culture
- Safety, health and security
- Advice on communicating with your students and how to structure your English sessions
- During the course you will visit Kalimpong to buy traditional local clothing
The orientation course for the Gap Year India program takes place at 3,000ft not far from Kalimpong. After the course we will take you by jeep to your village home. Here the AV representative will leave you to settle in, but remember they’re never more than a phone call away if needed!
The Lepcha people are a small indigenous tribe who live in the remote foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, numbering between just 30,000 and 50,000. It’s a community and part of India that very few visitors get to spend time in, making it all the more special for those that do.
They are a highly cultured tribe who lead a traditionally simple way of life. By participating in their lives, helping out with household chores and farm work, learning a little of their language and joining in village activities, you’ll become one of our small community of volunteers who have the chance to experience this extremely welcoming community from the inside.
Whilst the communities make great efforts to preserve their traditional identity and culture, as the ‘lingua franca’ of India, English is considered an essential part of education for the Lepcha children. This is where you come in! Through the help of AV volunteers Lepcha children are now achieving top marks in English at school and have gained hugely in confidence.
During the week you will have the chance to help at both the village night school and at a local primary or secondary government school, depending on where you have been placed. The schools can be up to a 45 minute walk away from your house and will be attended by children from your village, but also other villages nearby. You will be helping children with English reading, writing and speaking in classes ranging from as few as 10 up to 50. In the secondary school the largest class size is approximately 75. You can decide whether you want to run your own sessions or work with your volunteer partner. You may even decide you would prefer to run smaller sessions or on a one to one basis so you can really help those who are struggling.
In the mornings before classes start you may spend an hour helping with English at the night school in your village, which are usually within a five or ten minute walk of your house. You will go over the work that the children have learnt at school and give extra help, as well as offering English conversation to the adults in the village. After school you will return to the night school where you will learn traditional Lepcha language, dance and music with the children and village teacher. This is also an opportunity to get creative as AV volunteers have the chance to enjoy English stories, songs or plays with the children to perform at the annual ‘Lepcha English Language Day’ during your Gap Year India.
All of the schools’ facilities and classrooms are very basic, with some benches (desks are rare), a blackboard and intermittent electricity. In the night schools there is often a stage for performances but no electricity so lessons are done by candlelight.
Sport is not a strong aspect of life here, since most land is required to grow food, but it is always surprising how a cricket pitch can be created out of very little, or a football kicked about on a harvested field. This will be a very popular activity with the children but be wary of hitting sixes or you will have to retrieve the ball from a long way down the very steep hillside! The main sport is archery, you will be taught not only how to use a bow and arrow but also have the chance to make your own. The Lepcha Archery competition is an annual event which all the AV volunteers are invited to participate in and it gets very competitive!
You will get to know your neighbours and their children really well. You can also help them with cooking, ploughing, milking cows and goats. You eat what they grow so this is real green living where the gentler pace of the sun and seasons dictates life. The children in your village will love playing games whilst the adults will enjoy spending time chatting and practising their English, usually whilst drinking lots of tea.
In the afternoons you may wish to meet up with other AVs in the neighbouring villages, meet their families and explore the local area. At weekends the Lepchas may request that you stay for help with extra lessons or village festivals which are important to attend. You might take the children to the river for a picnic and a game of cricket; or organise an AV party that includes Lepchas your own age. You will also have the chance to travel to Kalimpong or Darjeeling.
An important part of the Gap Year India experience is living in local accommodation. You will be at the heart of the village. This is the best way of getting to know the people, being involved in the community and gaining an understanding of living there – you are not a bystander watching from afar. Your Lepcha family will prepare your meals and assist you. There is a long and honourable tradition of hospitality among the Lepchas who have always welcomed strangers with open arms. Prepare to drink lots of tea or ‘chi’, a fermented millet beer drunk from a bamboo mug through a bamboo ‘straw’!
There may or may not be electricity, or running water but you will have a ‘loo’ and private washing area. If you are on a group program, you will live with another volunteer, and other AV volunteers will be in villages nearby.
As well has having the opportunity to travel at weekends, as your project comes to an end AV offers you the chance to stay on for an additional 4 weeks of independent travel time to ensure a good balance of volunteer work and travel in your Gap Year India.
India is a vast country with lots of exciting and beautiful places to visit beyond the Darjeeling district, which you won’t have a chance to see on your weekends alone.
From our experience travelling is often when problems occur, from lost passports to getting ill – that’s why we offer this extra travel time to ensure that you experience as much as possible but with the continued 24/7 support from us whilst you do so.
Dates & Costs
Travel whenever you like, for as long as you like.
Create your own customized trip, or join a scheduled group departure – the choice is yours. See our Group Program Dates & Costs for full details or contact us if you’re looking for something customized.
Next group departures:
9th February 2023
What can you do in India?
Learn new skills
Why not try your hand at archery, traditional Lepcha cooking, farming, the Lepcha flute, meditation and much more!
Visit famous landmarks
India has a rich and varied history so find time to see the sights including the Taj Mahal.
Get involved in the local events including the colourful Holi festival – prepare to get messy!
Explore your surroundings
The scenery is stunning in the hills of India and adventure waits round every corner
The friendly Lepcha outlook means that it’s impossible not to leave your heart in ‘Lepchaland’. It was clear to me how much the Lepchas cherish the AV volunteers and their involvement in the community…I absolutely loved my time with the Lepchas, and am already planning my return visit!Beatrice, India Gap Year Program
I think this program is challenging but so unbelievably rewarding. It is not your average gap year experience because you become completely involved in a life in India.
“Namaste! I hope you’re ready to experience something very special with the Lepcha people. You’ll become part of the family and I can’t wait to see what skills you can bring to the communities in the hills.”Tendup
At Africa & Asia Venture (AV) we believe in a different type of gap year travel.
Where there’s adventure and excitement but also where you find your second home.
Where you don’t just look at the scenery, you become part of the community.
It’s more than travel.
It’s a different way to see the world.
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