A Guide to Volunteering in India

Volunteer India

If you are looking for somewhere to volunteer abroad for a short or long stay, India is an ideal country. Possibly you have watched the film Slumdog Millionaire or seen the tourism campaign 'Incredible India' - this country will not disappoint and through volunteering you will get a fulfilling experience and cultural immersion like no other.

India is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 1.3 billion inhabitants, many of which live in poverty. Working in India and helping people is a highly rewarding experience and there are also lots of cultural and sightseeing activities you will get to do in your spare time. You could soak up some sun in Marina Beach in Chennai, see the Taj Mahal or book a house boat cruise of the Kerala lakes and dining under the stars. 


Why the Need for Help?

India is many things to many different people – the cradle of spirituality, the birthplace of yoga or the home of the snake charmer! It also has a darker side which is inextricably linked to India’s image.

  • 28% of the population cannot meet their daily food needs
  • 0.3% of 15-49 year old are living with HIV/AIDS
  • Farmer’s are committing suicide due to failed crops
  • 53% of children have experienced some form of sexual abuse
  • A crime is committed against a woman every 3 minutes
  • Begging and homelessness is an increasing problem in all age groups

These facts are a stark reality faced by millions of people in India. It is not a hopeless situation as there are lots of NGO’s working to reverse this situation. Through volunteering you could help change these statistics.


Top Reasons to Volunteer in India

Need some motivation? Check out our top reasons to apply:

  • 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, be more than just a tourist
  • India is one of the cheapest and best value worldwide volunteer destinations
  • Meet other people and make friends from all over the world
  • See world famous tourist sights in your spare time
  • Perfect if you would like to spend a productive gap year in India

Location of Projects

You can find programs throughout the country, a lot of projects are based in: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Dharamsala, Goa, Kolkata, Jaipur, Mumbai, Palampur, Pune, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Puducherry, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

Where you choose really comes down to personal preference or the project you are interested in helping. 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 to see if they are right for you.

If you are you looking for a trip with a difference you can join an adventure trip to the Himalaya's and volunteer. There are summer trips, charity challenges and volunteer tours where you can help communities and wildlife. These types of trips are unique as they combine volunteering and trekking, you will need to be in good shape to participate.

You will get to see spectacular views whilst challenging yourself to get off the beaten track. Volunteer on conservation projects with and make an effort to help animals have future in the Himalayas, you can help exotic wildlife who are having their habitats destroyed. You can also join environmental programs where you can learn more about biodiversity. 


How You Can Help

There are so many unique and rewarding volunteeing programs available to join in India all year round.

We have credible partners who are working hard to be the change they want to see in the world. You can find placements with local NGO's and interntational agencies working in numerous development fields including:

  • Advocacy & Human Rights
  • Animals
  • Arts & Culture
  • Children & Youth
  • Conflict Management
  • Community Development
  • Computers & Technology
  • Disabled & Handicapped
  • Disaster Management
  • Education & Literacy
  • Emergency & Safety
  • Employment & Livelihood
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Environment
  • Governance
  • Health & Medicine
  • Housing
  • Justice & Law
  • Media & Broadcasting
  • Micro Finance & Enterprise
  • Organizational Development
  • Philanthropy & Giving
  • Rural Development
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Women Empowerment


Charity Work

Lots of local and international charities work in India to help make a difference on the ground. Charities have community development aims and try to help by working to:

  • allievate poverty 
  • help train local people with a view to improving employment prospects
  • providing improved facilities, clean water sanitation and helping to improve living conditions
  • work in the fight against discrimination and helping womens rights
  • provide children with safe places to live and places to get an education

Some charities recruit skilled professionals who are able to bring real benefit to local people and communities. By helping charities you will be able to put your skills and energy to good use and really make a difference. 


Community Development

India is thriving economically but poverty is a real problem and you can join community development projects with the aim of improving living conditions and infrastructure for local people. 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 can include playing creative games like coaching sports and generally helping. 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. 


Volunteer with Animals

There are lots of programs where you can work to help the environment and wildlife in India. If you would like to help people then medical and healthcare programs will appeal to you. India has an aging population and an increasing number of hospital cases relating to lifestyle as opposed to disease has meant a large increase in funding in recent years for hospitals in India. 


Childcare, Educational & Teaching Programs

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 in India 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 Volunteer Programs

If you are already in a skilled career for example a doctor, nurse, physio / occupational therapist then you can make a real difference to the lives of people less fortunate in India. 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. You will work alongside nurses and doctors, observe specialist surgery and learn more about the world of medicine in Asia!

This is the perfect opportunity for anyone considering a career in medicine. Participants are placed in a hospital chain that has been working for many years to provide an outstanding quality of medical services. With hospitals specialising in cardiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, these medical professionals are committed to providing world-class treatment and service for their patients at affordable prices.

The dedication of the staff, modern facilities and friendly atmosphere make India a fantastic place to learn more about medicine and what it's like to work in a hospital. Prorgams are ideal for medical students as they will be given the opportunity to accompany doctors on their rounds, observing both everyday and specialist procedures and surgery. 

Part-qualified and student nurses taking part can pursue research into tropical diseases that are rarely experienced first-hand in the UK. This experience can really add depth to your CV. Interns will learn all about healthcare in India and the conditions and culture of its people, so you'll return home with extra dimensions to your medical knowledge and experience. By taking a medical internship you can really demonstrate your passion for medicine!


Women's Empowerment Programs

Alexandra Walker volunteered in India last year and below she gives an insight into her experience...

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.

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.



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.


How to Apply

Volunteering in India will be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. 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. Search structured, free and low cost volunteering opportunities in India today or view our Asia volunteer programs for more options.


Volunteer in India for Free

There are hundreds of free volunteer opportunities in India, but if you choose to go with an agencies this usually requires you to pay a fee which provides a structured experience and covers the cost of administration, training, accommodation, and meals. But there is also the option to go direct to local projects which can either be free, minimal cost or a lot cheaper than the normal price.

You will need to be ready to be a bit more independent going this way, usually planning placements, transport and somewhere to stay. You might also still be required, or want to, pay a donation - usually local projects are run by NGO's and have little or no funding so keeping operational throughout the year is difficult.



Q. Is India safe?
A. Yes, India is a safe country. There have been terrorist attacks and in the past so no-one can say it is absolutely safe but any visitor would be very unlucky to be affected. If you are female extra caution is advised. Make sure you visit your doctor for any necessary travel vaccinations before your departure. Bring any medication you might use as this might not be available during your trip, including aspirin, cold medicine and anti-diarrhoea tablets. Bottled water is recommended and remember to brush your teeth with bottled water as well. Avoid any puddles of standing water that may breed mosquitos, and bring an antiseptic cream for any cuts or burns you might incur.

Q. How long do most people volunteer?
A.Most people volunteer for a duration of 8-10 weeks.

Q. Will there be someone supervising/guiding me on a day-to-day basis?
A. Yes, there will be a project guide/supervisor to help you day-to-day basis with your project.

Q. Can I volunteer with a group?
A. Yes, you can volunteer with a group.

Q. How are the living arrangements?
A. The accommodation which is covered in the programme fee is modest with basic facilities like bed, table, cooler/fan and security. Accommodation in rural placements can be with host organizations and in urban placements it will usually be a hostel or homestay.

Q. Where do the fees go?
A. If a fee is required this generally covers:

  • Accommodation
  • Volunteer program
  • Pick up from airport
  • Transportation
  • Program development and management
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Outreach / placement / assistance
  • Orientation
  • General and administrative costs, including accounting, legal fees, office expenses and payroll of staff

Q. How exactly does the placement work? Do I choose my own opportunity?
A.Getting a placement is simple. Browse opportunities featured to find an opportunity that appeals to you and fill out the short form telling us you are interested. If you don’t find an opportunity that interests you, use the Request More Information form to describe the type of opportunity you desire.  Wait for us to contact you to inform you of the availability of your selected opportunity and to provide you with further information. Fill out the application form once you have decided whether or not you want to volunteer. Choose the placement that you like and start preparing to go to India.


India Volunteer Reviews & Testimonials

"I had a good experience with plenty of opportunities to learn about Indian and Tibetan culture on this project. The local area where this project is based provides a fascinating viewpoint of India that challenges the stereotypes of India’s environment, people and mentality. The opportunity to work with a local school was good and for volunteers who have never experienced the education system from another country and it can be an interesting and grounding experience. We worked on renovating the school, beginning the construction of a badminton court and repainting some of the school buildings. The work was beneficial but it was hard to feel a real sense of achievement in what was a relatively short period of time, yet I remain hopeful that the work to improve the school will be continued by future volunteers." - Richard, renovation project 

"I volunteered in India with iSPiiCE which was a magical experience. I helped children in Dharamshala, many of whom didn't go to school. It gave me a valuable understanding of life in these rural areas as well as a better insight into their lives." - Falguni, UK

"It was one of the best experiences of my life and I will think about different aspects of my time there for the rest of my life!" - Joanna, social project in Ahmedabad)

"I spent one volunteering in India and it was one of the best years of my life so far." - Anne, UK

"I had a really wonderful experience volunteering in Delhi for two months in summer. I was placed in an NGO that deals with things like sexuality education and rights. the experience taught me a lot and really broadened my perspective at those issues. GoVolunteerIndia was very supportive the entire time and mixed with its volunteers to ensure that their placement fulfilled their expectation." - Lauren, Yale University, USA.

If you have ever joined a volunteering program in India and would like to write about your experience, review a company or share any recommendations please contact us.


Related Destinations: