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Seva-Vidya (Service Learning)

Volunteer & Service-Learning Opportunities for Compassionate & Sustainable Living

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’

~ M.K. Gandhi

Dharmalaya Institute provides many opportunities for meaningful service for mutual benefit, some of which include an experiential education component (‘service-learning’ or ‘learning by doing’). Would you like to learn about a new culture or language while doing volunteer work with kindred spirits from other places for a project that benefits the community and the environment? Or, if you’re unable to visit the Himalayas, would you like to support Dharamalaya’s work from the comfort of your own home (or online from wherever you may be)? Read on…

Volunteer & Service-Learning Opportunities at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir

The Dharmalaya Institute offers volunteer and service-learning opportunities in the remote and serene Bir area of Himachal Pradesh (about two or four hours east of Dharamshala by car or bus, respectively), with activities including natural building (eco-friendly earthen architecture), organic farming and landscaping, and other fields related to sustainable and compassionate living. 

Dharmalaya currently offers several types of volunteer and service-learning programmes at different times: 

  • Volunteer Work Periods for Sustainable Living: Several times each year (when we are not running other programmes), Dharmalaya Institute offers opportunities to learn and practice the arts and methods of sustainable living in the Himalayas by doing volunteer work related to earthen building, organic gardening, natural landscaping, and more. During these Volunteer Work Periods, the focus is on hands-on service work: seven hours per day, six days per week (with free time in the evenings and on Sundays). There is no formal instruction as such during Volunteer Work Periods (if you’re looking for systematic instruction and training, see our workshops), but volunteering gives one the opportunity to learn informally by working alongside our local team. Volunteers can apply to come anytime during one of the posted Volunteer Work Periods (with a minimum commitment of two weeks). For the schedule of upcoming Volunteer Work Periods, see the bottom half of our homepage. There is no tuition fee during Volunteer Work Periods, but volunteers must pay modest costs for food and lodging.  › More
  • Long-term Service-Learning (six months or more): For committed volunteers with especially strong interest in both the inner and outer work who are inspired to learn and practice the arts and skills of sustainable and compassionate living, Dharmalaya Institute offers a limited number of long-term service-learning positions for sincere candidates who commit to a minimum of six months of full-time volunteer work. › More
  • Management Team: A limited number of long-term positions for volunteers willing and able to take responsibility for a specific aspect of Dharmalaya’s work or life on campus. For example, managing hospitality, garden projects, karma yoga, etc. Minimum time commitment for management positions is one year, with longer commitments being preferred. Trial period required. › More
  • Karma Yoga Retreats: Active retreat programmes blending mindfulness and meditation with relaxed and joyful volunteer service work doing various activities related to sustainable living, such as earthen construction, organic gardening, natural landscaping, etc.  › See our Events Calendar
  • Intensive Workshops: Short but jam-packed training programmes and practicums in eco-friendly construction and other skills for sustainable living  › See our Events Calendar
  • Earthen Masonry Training: A structured certificate programme in the art and techniques of earthen masonry, including adobe, cobb, stonework, etc. (Minimum commitment: six months)  › More
  • Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture: A formal, rigourous, supervised internship programme for architects and students of architecture, providing hands-on experience and deeper understanding of the hows and whys of earthen architecture in the neo-traditional style of esteemed eco-architect Didi Contractor. Much more demanding than the other programmes. (Minimum commitment: four months)  › More
  • Teaching English: We need long-term volunteers (requires commitment of at least four months) who are fluent in English to provide classes and practice conversations for our local staff, who have requested English classes.  › More
  • Virtual Volunteering: You can also volunteer for Dharmalaya from your own home, or online from wherever you happen to be, by conducting research, writing, social networking, etc.  › More

If you’re intersted in volunteering at Dharmalaya but you aren’t sure which of these programmes to choose, probably the best place to start is with the first option above, the Volunteer Work Periods for Sustainable Living. For more information, or to apply to volunteer at the Dharmalaya Institute, read our information for volunteers at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir.

Volunteering Elsewhere in Bir or in the Dharamshala Area

If you interested in other volunteer opportunities in Bir, or if you are looking for volunteer opportunities in the greater Dharamshala area (in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India), including McLeodGanj and Sidhbari, see our Volunteering in Dharamshala page.

‘All the suffering in the world comes from seeking happiness for oneself.
All the joy in the world comes from seeking happiness for others.’

~ Shantideva, Nalanda University, 8th century CE

› More info on volunteering at the Dharmalaya Institute