From Canada to Kargil with an opportunity to teach ice hockey and figure skating — it has all come together nicely for a memorable end to this couple’s long India vacation.
James Turner (33) and Meighan Mantei (28) have been in India since September and are winding up their holidays with a voluntary assignment they thought was impossible till stumbling on this offer in a travel guide.
“We saw a Leh-based organisation SECMOL (Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) looking for volunteers to teach ice hockey to village kids,” said Turner, an ice hockey referee and certified coach. Wife Meighan is a figure skater who has also coached girls in Canada.
The SECMOL camp is at the Phey village, around 18km from Leh on the Leh-Kargil highway. The facilities at the camp are spartan — there is, for instance, a makeshift rink — but the enthusiasm shown by the children surprised Turner.
“We taught them the nitty-gritty of skating for the first week and gave them basic lessons later. Now, many of them play reasonably well,” said James, on a year-long sabbatical from his government job in Regina, Canada.
“I found a few girls interested in figure skating,” said Meighan.
Later, the boys and girls took part in an ice hockey event in Leh where the girls finished second.
“During winters in Leh, there is a lot of opportunity for ice skating but children in the villages have no access to the skates because of the cost factor. So, every winter we arrange a skating camp. As we have no expertise, we look for volunteers. This is the first time we got volunteers from Canada and also the first time we had a figure-skating coach,” said Rebecca Norman of SECMOL.
After over three weeks at the SECMOL camp, James and Meighan moved to Kargil for an ice hockey coaching camp, on invitation from the Kargil Winter Sports Club. Just as well for a couple hit by wanderlust.