Why Volunteer in India
Do something positive; make a significant and worthwhile contribution to a community of people
Help the less fortunate, and prepare to have your perspectives challenged
Experience another culture from the inside, as more than a tourist
Location of Projects
You can find programs throughout the country, a lot of projects are based in New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Palampur, Dharamsala, Kolkata and Mumbai. Where you choose really comes down to personal preference, you could spend time living by the spectacular coast in Goa or could join a project in the Himalaya's and help remote communities. This is a great opportunity to live in a spectacular setting which is unique and doesn't compare to many places in the world. Its best to research all projects before applying and check destinations, India is a huge country and you might want to select a place you would like to be based.
Volunteering in Goa
Goa is India's smallest and wealthiest state, and is situated on the sub-continent's South-Western coast. Famed for its white sands and palm trees, Goa has long been a popular travel destination and attracts thousands of travellers every year. Many a life and livelihood has been built around the state's prosperous tourist industry. However, despite this - and Goa's reputation as a palm leaf-filled paradise - it is still home to many people living in poverty. Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities to give something back to this beautiful place, and no shortage of volunteering options for those willing to do so.
Thanks to the legacy of its former colonisation, Goa is home to a fascinating mix of European and Indian culture. This is evident in everything from Goa's famous Portuguese architecture to its language and food. The slightly "mediterranean" feel, combined with the long history of tourism, makes Goa an easy place to adapt to for a long term stay.The quantity of travellers means there is always the oportunity to meet new people, and has in some way contributed to the large amount of guesthouses, shops, and restaurants found throughout the state. Many people speak English, and foreigners draw far less attention than in other parts of India. Goa is very beautiful, with long stretches of beach and a landscape of rice paddy fields and palm trees. It's a great place to live and work and there are many other things to see and do in your spare time.
To get to Goa firstly, you have to fly to one of India's larger international airports (in most situations, this will be Mumbai). The transfer flight from Mumbai to Goa's Panaji Dabolim airport takes around one hour. It can take approximately 12-14 hours by train to reach Goa from Mumbai. There is a train station in Margao, and overnight buses stop here and in other large towns, as well as the capital city of Panjim (sometimes called Panaji).
Types of Volunteer Programs in India
Community Development & Comservation
Participants are needed at community projects in places like Delhi and Bangalore. You'll be able to work and help improve living standards, education and healthcare. Daily general volunteer activities include teaching English and playing creative games like coaching sports and helping ou. We list local charities and NGO's who bring relief to those less well off, these are really tiring placements which can be very emotional but also amazing, the work you will do will be greatly received and you can make a difference. There are also lots of programs where you can work to help the environment and wildlife in India.
Teach slum and street children in inner-city areas. Use your skills and creativity to improve education and help children to escape poverty. In various locations social and economic pressures force children out of mainstream education, making the work of privately-run community schools and learning centres invaluable. Positions include help local teacher, giving lessons, creating fun games whilst giving youngsters attention. Schools are often underfunded and lack resources, you could teach English and help with activities in the classroom and to improve levels of spoken English. Some might be big classes or give one on one lessons to help improve learning.
Girls in India are often treated second behind boys. Sometimes familes put all their emphasis on the boys education and future at the expense of girls. When girls are habitually absent from school, volunteers make individual visits to parents, encouraging them to send their daughters back. Volunteers organize special workshops for adolescent girls and adult women, teaching conversational English, a vital asset to their educational and professional prospects. Gradually but steadily, volunteers help to redress gender inequality by empowering one young girl or adult women at a time with education, skills, and self-confidence.
Medical & Healthcare
On some of these placements you might be required to have certain skills and experience but on others you can apply if you just want to help. If you are already in a skilled career for example a doctor, nurse, in dental work, physio / occupational therapist then you can make a real different to the lives of people less fortunate in the developing world. You could help at an outreach program, hospital, community centre or working with people affected by HIV / Aids. In India's capital - Delhi there are various clinical projects available.
Childcare & Orphanages
Care programs help educate, feed and take care of local Indian children and you could be working at an orphanage which care for up to 100 youngsters. Orphanage's and charities in India are a huge help to the social issues in India and you can help and play a vital important role in providing education and healthcare. Orphanages in India are underfunded and lack the money and people with experience to help which is where you can do your bit, there are a lots of roles available. A large number of poor and disadvantaged orphan children without homes are given refuge in orphanages and shelter homes being run by various non government organizations throughout India. These are distressed children who come from difficult circumstances that detach them from the joys of childhood.
Orphans require love, care, affection warmth and education. Volunteers are ableto provide support to the underprivileged and uncared for children to alleviate their suffering by helping them live a dignified life. Orphans are deprived of many opportunities necessary for their development. Your little help at an orphanage can be of great significance for these children, helping to make their present secure and future promising. Spend time with them. Receive their warmth and affection. Tell them stories. Share their dreams. Working in an orphanage is a truly fulfilling and enriching experience. Day to day activities can include doing homework, making notes, playing with children, helping staff, exchanging cultural views and teaching them about health and hygiene. You can also take the kids out for picnics and for excursions.
Volunteer with Elephants & Other Animals
One of the main attractions of India is the opportunity to ride one of the elephants, for as little as seven hundred rupees, you are allowed a ten minute ride but please avoid these experiences! There are lots of projects where you can actually help elephants and wildlife, if you sign up you can help with tasks like washing elephants in rivers, collecting food or generally assisting.
Accommodation can include hostels, dorms and hotels which can be arrange as part of a placement. Or you can experience the real India by joining a home stay, this is a great way to interact with local people, eat local food and possibly learn some of the local lingo.
To apply a lot of organisations require you to be aged 18 and over and also in good health. Each program is different though and there are summer trips for 16+ year olds. Some projects accept families but age restrictions might apply. You don't need any previous skills but please research all options before applying, these placements may sound great in principle but in reality they are hard work and very draining. We highly recommend always trying to learn some of the local language no matter how difficult or confusing it might seem. By speaking a little of a foreign language, even if it just a few words or basic phrases you will be able to communicate with local people and also make your trip more easier and enjoyable. Knowing some of the local language can also help in case of an emergency when you need assistance.
Health & Safety
Don't be put off by some horror stories involving female travellers in India, although there have been some very high profile news stories this country is safe to visit and it is very rare bad things happen. When abroad please use common sense in a lot of situations, your surrounds overseas might be different but the same rules and things to watch out for are probably the same as back home. Always try to be respectful of local customs, it is not a good idea for women to walk around in bikinis unless you want to attract unwanted attention. Try to dress conservatively and cover yourself up unless at the beach. One thing you might not have thought about is a fake ring, when men see this it might act as a deter-ant and ward off advances from local men. In India men can be quite forward and overly friendly, when this happens you can always flash your ring and then try to beat a retreat. Also if you are travelling with another guy you could always pretend he is your husband.
Start Dates / How to Apply
Placements can be booked online through out website and you can apply today or enquire for more information. Summer and group options are popular but you can join trips every month throughout the year. You might be asked to make a donation or pay a fee which goes towards keeping these operations running.
Past Participant Feedback
If you are looking for somewhere to visit for a short or long stay, India is an ideal location to begin. Alternatively, if you want to do something more than sightseeing and would like to see more than the average tourist and truly start to understand this distinctive culture, volunteering there is a highly rewarding way to do so. Read an experience of how Alexandra Walker got on...
What Can You Do?
I was involved in two separate community projects over a period of several months. My own experiences will differ from other people's, but there are various aims which many volunteer projects share.The focus of many is teaching English, for example. This may be at the most basic of levels, or helping those who already have a fundamental grasp of the language to expand their vocabulary.Below, I have summarised several of my experiences. Hopefully, this will help to give an idea of the sort of work being done in some of these communities.
I worked in a government school in a small village, where I taught the equivalent of the first year of primary school. The class did not have a permanent teacher, and the school was somewhat lacking in equipment. This, coupled with the fact that the children were a variety of different ages (due to some being held behind) and worked at a wide range of different ability levels, created a challenge for myself and my fellow volunteers. The main obstacle was language- as some spoke very little English, and we were not always able to have a translator with us. I, however, soon found myself learning some Hindi phrases, and I would urge anyone not to be put off by the issue of language as it was not the barrier I thought it might be.
The work with the children involved creating maths worksheets, basic counting and English phrases. We also practiced the alphabet, and devised various creative activities such as drawing and colouring (this always proved popular). Working with very young children, I felt it was importnt to create a fun working environment, frequently employing the use of songs and games to help teach a certain topic.This proved particularly effective at re-inforcing basic English words. Some preparation was required prior to each lesson, but it was incredibly satisfying to see the progress made by the children as a result. One boy in the class struggled with aspects of the work; a personal highlight for me was seeing him write his name unaided for the first time.
The role and treatment of women in modern day India has become a major point of discussion in recent months. In this rapidly developing nation it is still the case that some girls - especially those from poorer backgrounds - are not encouraged to pursue their education past adolescence, if they have been lucky enough to recieve any schooling at all. It is for this reason that I think so-called "Women's Empowerment" projects are a fantastic idea, and a really interesting and worthwhile thing to get involved in.
I took part in one of these projects, the aim of which was to help educate young women in a nearby slum. Numerical skills were something that we focused on in particular, with the intention of helping the women keep track of their expenses. All of the young women we met were married, but their husbands were frequently absent, as they would leave to seek work elsewhere. These young women, who were of a similar age to myself and many of the other volunteers, would find themselves solely responsible for the running of their households and the upbringing of their children. Other activities included helping them with their English pronunciation and vocabulary. We also organised creative projects, and all contributed to a large piece of silk painting.
By Alexandra Walker