You may be knowing cultural tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism, sports tourism, educational tourism, religious tourism, etc., but these days volunteer tourism (contribution-based tourism) is also becoming extremely popular to understand about the countries and its cultures. You might be wondering what volunteer tourism is all about. In reality, it is a platform where anyone of any age group can learn life skills, career guidance, homestay training, knowledge, and skills to local culture from a closer perspective and share practical knowledge and skills in a better way that too without spending a single penny. And the biggest thing is, that, it is playing a selfless role in educating remote rural residents of the Himalayan region and making them self-reliant.
Himalayan Volunteer tourism in India co founded by Panki Sood (a young man from Tirthan Valley, Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh) around six years ago rest is the history. The famous couplet of Majrooh Sultanpuri, “I started my journey all alone, but people kept joining me and it became a caravan.” (““मैं अकेला ही चला था जानिब-ए-मंज़िल मगर, लोग साथ आते गए और कारवाँ बनता गया”) perfectly fit on HVT. This unique yet practical platform has achieved significant success in a short time, which is commendable. However, Panki Sood reveals that in the beginning phase, writer-journalist and renowned blogger Dr. Kaynat Kazmi also played an appreciable role promoting our HVT concept in media.
In 2019, the founders of Himalayan Volunteer Tourism, Panki Sood and Mahima Mehra (an energetic woman from Pune, Maharashtra) established it as a legal entity and turned it into a historic platform. Today, more than 14K fourteen thousand online members from India and abroad are associated with this unique platform. Panki Sood is himself a tourism expert, mountaineer, animal and bird lover, trekker, supporter of adventure sports, drug addiction counselor, and an active supporter of the conservation and preservation of Tirthan Valley and Himalayan National Park. He initiated projects such as Srot-Gramin Shiksha and Vikas Foundation, and member of Kullu Project. Together with other volunteer colleagues, he regularly organizes drug addiction awareness workshops. In the eco-zone of the Himalayan National Park, Panki Sood is continuously working towards improving the living and working conditions of local people. He is also a TEDx speaker and has thousands of followers owing to these qualities. On the other hand, Mahima Gir Mehra is an author and blogger who actively contributes to various non-governmental organizations on women’s empowerment, education, medical care, issues related to disabled children, youth, and rural development, including environmental issues.
They together, along with volunteer Parth Phalke, initiated Srot Rural Education and Development Foundation to support education for village children.
Another HVT member, a young girl from Delhi named Portia has established a residential school at an altitude of fifteen thousand feet above the sea level called Planet Spit Foundation where local rural children are provided free education with the aim of making them educated and self-reliant. Similarly, Nilay Parikh, the founder of Good for Nothing Humanity, along with his team, selflessly serving the community benefits through knowledge, skills, experience, education, digital social media, teaching, videography, photography, content creation, teacher training, social awareness, environmental projects, sustainable living, women’s empowerment, girl’s education, and theatre in the interior villages of Himachal Pradesh. He is a strong supporter and active member of HVT. Another supporter of HVT, Himani Chandorkar firmly believes being a member of Himalayan Volunteer Tourism platform, one gets the opportunity to contribute knowledge, experience, skills and spent quality time based on volunteering in the Himalaya region.
Now Himalayan Volunteer Tourism is ready to expand future projects and inviting representatives from villages and cities of the Himalayan region to start new projects and involve as many responsible locals and tourists as possible in development projects. For this, a website is soon to be launched where members can choose projects. The registration process is underway. After completing all these important tasks, the CSR fund will be directed towards supporting and developing small-scale projects and socially beneficial initiatives so that they can be further developed and supported. Undoubtedly, Himalayan Volunteer Tourism is playing an important role and making rural Himalayan region self-reliant.
(S.S.Dogra has written three books on media education and Bureau Chief in Delhi, India for Nepal based Hindi magazine Himalini)