iSpiice stands for Integrated Social Programs In Indian Child Education. iSpiice provides international volunteers with the opportunity to genuinely improve the lives of women and children in the rural villages of Dharamsala.
Varun Verma founded iSpiice in 2008 when he returned to the villages where he was raised to find little forward development in more than a decade. Disheartened by India’s progress in rural areas and inspired by his years of working in the slums of Mumbai, Delhi and Goa he developed specific Community Programs to assist the villages in North India.
The iSpiice Volunteer House and Programs are located in Dharamsala, Himachel Pradesh. We’re far from the hecticness of Delhi and the crazy side to India. The Hindu culture lives by the deeply ingrained philosophy that “guest is God,” and our volunteers will really notice this when working in the villages of Dharamsala.
The area is famous for its lush green vegetation, sheltered by the magnificent snow capped Dhauladhar range in the Himalayas. We’re close to Dharamsala town and McLeod Ganj town, however the house and our work is situated in Sidhwari village.
iSpiice volunteers come from all corners of the world and from all walks of life. Participants share similar motives for volunteering such as a passion for helping others and the desire to meet like minded people while travelling.
Participants are welcomed from the age of 18 and there is no upper age limit. Children under the age of 18 are only accepted if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Volunteers join iSpiice individually, as a couple, with a friend, in a group and we also take large groups of university students who come every year from USA and France.
Volunteers typically work from Monday to Friday for a total of six hours per day, on three different Programs. Two hours in the morning at one Program, two hours after lunch at another Program and two hours in the afternoon at the final Program – taking beaks in between for lunch, chai and lesson preparation at the iSpiice Volunteer House.
iSpiice Volunteer Programs focus on education, care and empowerment. These are carried out in various partner centres such as Schools, Child Care Centres, Slum Housing, Work Groups and so on. While the requirements of each community group will differ there are some common activities that we offer for our volunteers and of course the communities we support.
Volunteers are given the opportunity to select their please three preferred Programs and we will do our best to secure these Programs. In some cases, we may already have Programs running that we need to maintain and therefore you may not be able to work on all the Programs you selected. You will soon understand it depends on the most important community needs at the time of your stay.
There are no specific educational requirements for our Programs (except those working in Health Care) and anyone with a heart to help is welcome. Proficiency in English is required and volunteers should be patient, compassionate, committed and willing to learn.
Programs require people who are outgoing and friendly with a good sense of fun and who will be able to fully immerse themselves into daily life in the various work areas and the community. It is important that you are able to work off your own initiative when required. An enthusiastic and positive attitude for all volunteers is a must.
No you do not require a background in teaching, but you do require passion and patience. We have plenty of course work guides and other teaching materials for you to prepare your lessons once you arrive.
English need not be your mother tongue but you must have an advanced level of English to participate in the program. If English is not your first language the Placement also presents a great opportunity for you to improve your own English language skills.
2 weeks is the minimum amount of time you can volunteer with iSpiice and 12 weeks is the maximum. Our volunteers that come for 4 weeks or more enjoy having more time to immerse themselves into the Indian culture – getting to know our village, their work and the local people very well.
If you are flying to Dharamsala you can arrive any day of the week, we’re flexible. We have however found it’s easier for our volunteers and community if you arrive on the weekend and start work on a Monday.
For all volunteers being collected in Delhi, they must arrive on the designated Sunday start dates. Here they will be met at the airport and travel by overnight bus or train to Dharamsala, with an iSpiice staff member.
This will depend on volunteer numbers and volunteer preferences but most often you will carry on volunteer activities alongside a partner or in small groups. If you apply along with a friend/partner we can place you together in the same Volunteer Programs.
Absolutely! Sometimes volunteers decide when they get here and end up doing as many tours as they can fit in (Taj Mahal, Golden Temple, Trekking and Manali).
Weekends and evenings are at your disposal to explore the local area and pursue personal hobbies. There are many activities to enjoy in the area such as yoga, meditation, temple visits and shopping. The original program offers four Add On Tours at the weekend as an additional extra, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, adventure trip to Manali and trekking in the Himalayan mountains. The summer program includes tours in India with one weekend free to spend in Dharamsala.
Of course! If you are continuing travel in India after your Placement ends iSpiice can assist with onward travel, offering advice for itineraries and travel bookings.
No iSpiice will provide private car transfers to and from your work Programs and organise every means of transport throughout your stay including Add On Tours.
We have two fabulous cooks that make authentic home style Indian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day (all of which are included in your Placement Fees). We mainly serve vegetarian food (dhal, lentils, vegetable curries, eggs, rice, and Indian breads) but can cater to any dietary requirements if you give us some warning. Our volunteers miss the iSpiice food when they’re back in their home countries.
There are generally two flights per day from Delhi to Dharamsala. The iSpiice house is only 30 minutes from the airport and one of our staff members will pick you up and drop you off. You will need to book the flight at your own expense and inform us of your flight details.
We will provide a $50 discount to those that choose to fly directly to Dharamsala.
Accommodation is large house in rural Dharamsala. The house is comfortable and the location is beautiful with access to all local amenities. Accommodation is very communal – food is eaten together and bathrooms and living spaces are shared. The number of people you will share with depends entirely on the number of volunteers we have in the house, but the maximum number of people in a room is 5. And in case you were wondering we have western toilets and hot water.
There is of course always a slight risk wherever you live, but iSpiice is not located in turbulent or unsafe area. Take the same normal precautions with your things as you would anywhere – don’t leave valuables out in the open. For extra precaution there is a locker available for highly valuable items.
We do not have wifi at the iSpiice Volunteer House. We have access to the internet via a PrePaid USB Modem, which volunteers can use on the shared iSpiice computer (at no cost). You can prepare for your lessons or stay in touch with your friends and family back home. There are plenty of Internet Cafes and Coffee Shops which offer free wifi, near the Volunteer House.
As with most Indian homes, there is no washing machine at the iSpiice house. You will have to get used to the Indian way of washing your clothes by hand and drying when the sun is out.
Read about our Programs and Placements
To give enough time to make necessary arrangements we advise you apply at least 3 months prior to your preferred start date. Program dates can fill up fast so the earlier you can make your application the better.
Please check with your local travel health departments. The general list is as follows:
Some of these are placement-specific and seasonal, so again refer to your health professional for guidance.