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  • kenhaigh


In August and September, I was volunteering at a small primary school in West Sikkim. It was a great experience. The students were wonderful. I worked very hard, but I found the work very rewarding. I was looking for a challenge, and it was certainly challenging. It's nice to know that at my age, I can still try things that scare me. Sikkim is the least populated state in India and very beautiful. I had wanted to see the Himalayas again, and no one I knew had ever been to Sikkim. Part of the reason for this is that the Indian government considers Sikkim a politically sensitive area due to its adjacency with Tibet and India's poor relations with occupying China, so foreigners need to get a special permit to visit. The permit is free, but it has to be renewed every two weeks, up to a maximum of eight weeks, which is why I only spent two months in Sikkim though the school would have liked me to stay longer.

The school was in a small village, and hosted students from kindergarten to grade eight. I taught English, six days a week, to students in grades three to eight. There were more than 100 students in the school, and 35 were boarding at the school, because their homes were too far away to walk every day. I lived in a single room in the hostel and took my meals with the principal and his wife. Here is the view of the valley from the school's hostel:

I would love to show you pictures of the children, but I don't feel I should without their parents' permission, so instead here is a picture of one of the classrooms and the assembly ground. My sole teaching resources were a whiteboard, a textbook, and my imagination--no computers, no photocopier, and often no electricity, like teaching in a one-room school in rural Canada 100-years ago.


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I was invited to my local public library to give a talk on my travels in Sikkim and my experiences as a volunteer teacher there. We had a great turnout, both in-house and online. It was the first tim

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