Each year, thousands of people from across the world take time out to do voluntary work in disadvantaged communities. Working on a volunteer project in India is one of the best ways to get to know this beautiful and unique country. As well as providing you with an insight into parts of Indian life that normal tourists never experience, there’s the satisfaction that comes from making a positive contribution to the communities you visit. By working closely with local people you’ll learn about local culture on a deeper level and gain a new understanding of the lives of ordinary people in India.
While it’s possible to set yourself up with a volunteer placement independently, in most cases, it is usually easier and safer to organise your placement via a company. This is especially true for first-time visitors to India, which can be a daunting and challenging country on arrival. A simple online search of “volunteer + India” will lead you to a wide range of companies and charitable organisations that offer volunteer placements all across India, so take your time to thoroughly research the options available to you - and their associated costs. In addition to organising your placement on a project, these companies can also provide training, orientation, accommodation, food and help (example: volunteeringindia.com) with getting settled in your new environment. Visas and flights however, will be your responsibility to arrange and pay for, so make sure you do everything to reduce costs here - from finding the cheapest flights, to raising money to cover your costs. Many placements involve a spell of volunteering followed by a holiday on a guided tour of the local region, so you can work hard and play hard in the one trip!
The range of volunteer work available in India is diverse, so that there should be a placement suitable for everyone. A popular option is working with underprivileged children and orphans, helping to teach English and provide basic schooling. Other ideas include working on empowerment programs for underprivileged women or working with the sick and dying. Alternatively, there are a wide variety of environmental conservation programs and construction projects in India which require volunteers. Likewise, there are placements available for coaching sports and for working on health education projects with rural and tribal communities.
Placements are available from as short as two weeks to as long as six months. On average, most people volunteer for at least a month, giving them a chance to immerse themselves fully in the local culture.
A travel writer and blogger based in the UK, James writes about voluntourism and sustainable travel, with a strong focus on India.