We run a democratic learning centre in a village in Rajasthan, India. We very strongly believe that children have the capability to take care of their learning needs. Therefore, we have no exams, no curriculum, no marks at the learning centre. While we teach nothing, we ensure that all the ingredients for learning are available. "Help when asked for", is our motto. Children are free to do whatsoever they feel like doing, which includes not doing anything and playing all through the day. So children play carom, watch Charlie Chaplin films (Modern Times is the favorite), paint, write stories, dye clothes using tie and dye technique, hand stitch diaries, work on the laptop, etc. Having said so, please note that culture in India, in general, is relatively hierarchical and this is more so in villages. Therefore, our journey as far as being a democratic learning centre is concerned, is yet a work in progress, especially with the younger children.
We do a lot of workshops, which are conducted by practitioners. In the recent past, we have done workshops on photography, film making, stitching, art and wall and floor painting, etc. We also did a cycle yatra where we travelled without money and without any gadgets. The idea was to offer our labor to the villagers in return for which they could offer us food. As a result of this, we have been able to forge a close relationship in all the villages we went to. It was also a great opportunity for people from the urban areas to experience life in rural India. We have also set up a science lab so that the children fall in love with science. At the moment, we are in talks with an established not for profit organization to set up an astronomy lab.
Our learning centre is about 45 miles (about 70 kilometres) from Jaipur. There are 3 direct buses daily from Jaipur to the village and many more to the nearby town, which is about 5 miles (9 kilometres) away. Situated in a village, it can give a Workawayer a taste of the 'real' India. There are plenty of ponds around which get filled with water during the rainy season (July - September). So one can swim in the ponds, ie, in the rainy season, wander away in the jungles around, and if you are lucky, spot a leopard. While there are plenty of wolves and neelgai in the village, they are a little difficult to spot. The village is only about 20 miles (about 30 kilometres) away from the Sariska Tiger Reserve, so that is another attraction. Those who are fond of farming are most welcome to offer their labor in the farms.
We would love to have anyone who can offer any skill to the children - story telling, art, photography, film making, nanotechnology, astrophysics, imparting lessons in English (which the children are only beginning to learn) or anything else. Please note that you may also be requested to offer your skills at the local school to do some English lessons with the children. We would prefer to have people for a longer duration since that ensures continuity. More so, the children take time to make friends. Having said so, we would still love to hear from people who wish to be here for a short duration.
Please note that the children have just started learning how to speak in English and so communication may be a barrier for Workawayers. However, I have always believed that the spoken word is not the only language for communication. On the contrary, sign language / body language / a smile are far more powerful communication tools.
Before you decide to visit our village, I would like to forewarn you. Being a rural area, we have very basic facilities. Especially what may be a concern is that we have a squat style Indian toilet. The food will also be very basic, though served with a lot of love and affection. Being a follower of Gandhi, I believe in stating the truth and nothing but the absolute truth. Some Workawayers in the past did mention that there is a lack of privacy at our place. That is because at the moment, we work out of rented premises. We are looking out for land in the village to build our own campus. There are 2 rooms at our disposal. While one room houses the computer and the science lab, the other one is the bedroom with a double bed, which also serves as our office, storage room, etc. I am proud that everyone who has come to our learning centre has left with a heavy heart, but there could be some issues as mentioned above.
Detailed instructions on how to get to the village:
I have added this section after a Workawayer couple took 4 and a half hours to get to the village ,when it should have taken them less than 2 hours. So please read carefully.
While you can also reach the village from Delhi (via Alwar), it involves a couple of places where you will have to change transport. Therefore, it is best and strongly advised that you come via Jaipur. You will find plenty of buses and trains from Delhi to Jaipur throughout the day.
Buses to Agar (our village) and Pratapgarh (the nearby town) are NOT available from the main Jaipur bus stand. You will have to go to the Ramgarh Mod Bus Stand. Here too, there is the main bus stand (on the right if you are coming from the walled city) where you will see private buses parked. This is NOT the place where you should take your bus from. You need to stay on the Amber Road itself. On the side opposite to the main bus stand (i.e., on the left if you are coming from the walled city), there is a small window from where you can get tickets for Government run buses. Alternatively, you could also take your ticket in the bus itself. Another landmark for spotting the window is IndusInd Bank and Crafts Palace. The window is just before the Bank and the Crafts Palace. The ticket should cost Rs 60 / Rs 65. If it costs significantly more than that, that is an indicator that you have taken the wrong bus. There are 4 direct buses to Agar during the day - at 0700, 1600, 1640 and 1740 hours. The direct bus to Agar should take about 2 hours and 15 minutes and the bus to Pratapgarh should take about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
For booking air tickets within India, you could use any of the travel portals or visit the website of the airline. To name some of the more popular portals, makemytrip.com, yatra.com, goibibo.com, expedia.com. Train tickets could be booked at irctc.co.in or on the IRCTC mobile application.
As far as phone services are concerned, Airtel, Reliance Jio and Idea work fine. Please keep that in mind when buying a SIM card.
Help with Computers / internet
As Gandhi said, "The real India lies in its 600,000 Indian villages". So if a person visiting India really wishes to see India in the truest sense, then the village is the place to be in. Besides, with increasing globalisation, cities are now more or less homogenous. However, the villages still retain their uniqueness and therefore, each rural region would have something unique to offer. For instance, in our region, there are ponds built by the local community in order to harvest water. There is wild life, the Aravali hills. The Sariska Tiger Reserve is right next door. Then, one could have delicious food cooked by the locals, which is straight from the farm (of course, we still have to convince the locals to turn organic).
As far as learning is concerned, with close to a decade of teaching, I have not found any teacher better than a child (other than life itself). So there is plenty to learn and experience at our place.
As already mentioned, we are looking for people with some sort of skill. That skill could be anything - a computer language that the children could learn, or knowledge of organic farming, film making, some form of art, or anything else. We would even be keen to have people who just want to come and spend time with the children. It is always good to meet with people from different parts of the world and from different cultures. It tends to broaden one's horizon, which is so important for our children, given that they would have rarely traveled, if at all, beyond their village or the nearby towns.
Well, our learning centre doubles up as our residence. So you stay and sleep at the learning centre. The options are sleeping in the room (which has a double bed), sleeping under the stars (on a cot) in the outer courtyard or sleeping under a shed in the inner courtyard (on a cot). For those who want to live with the community, that can also be easily arranged. You will be offered food at the learning centre (or by your host if you decide to stay with the community). Those interested could cook as well. While there are no charges at all for the food and lodging, we would be happy if you could make a token gift to your host if you choose to stay with the community, so as to help them cover the cost of food, since these are people with meagre resources. Let me reiterate that this is voluntary and there is a good chance that the host may refuse to accept any money.
Well, there is plenty for Workawayers to do in their 'time off'. Before I go any further, as a clarification, there is nothing compulsory at our place. So in that sense, there is nothing such as a 'time off' since technically all your time is a 'time off'. We trust our children and we also trust the Workawayers who will come to our learning centre, that they will come with an intention to contribute to the children.
Now, there is plenty that you can do. Firstly, I presume that it would be a pleasure for our visitors to mix around with the locals, help them in the farms, etc. One could also jump into the ponds and have a good swim. There are forests and hills around and so one could just wander away into the forests / hills, either on their own or with the shepherds. Then there is the Sariska Tiger Reserve about 20 miles away (about 30 kilometres). Jaipur and Alwar are each about 45 miles (about 70 kilometres) away. And then Delhi is about 140 miles (about 220 kilometres) away. Having said so, the travel time would be more due to an inadequate transport network in the region. The village is well connected by buses. Shared jeeps also ply from the village. However, there is no rail network connecting the village.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
5 hours per day (max 25 hours/week)
In developing countries (Where most hosts are involved in charity work or community development) some of our hosts may ask for a small donation to help the host family or charity (often less then 5 dollars per day) Workaway will allow this listing when the donation goes directly to the family or charity and is just to cover the cost of the volunteer‘s stay. (This will be clearly marked on the host listing).
We will strictly not allow listings posted by agents, “middle men” or projects who we feel are looking to profit from a volunteers stay.