Voluntourism has taken off as people increasingly seek something more than just a tourist trip, and want a sense of accomplishment. If you are serious about volunteering, and genuinely wish to make a difference, then going a bit off the beaten track can help avoid that, and India offers a tremendous breadth of possibility.
As English is the official language, learning it can be essential to living and working in India, and so volunteer teachers are always in demand. Opportunities can range from placements in small villages in communities who have not had the chance for real schooling, to teaching those who have newly arrived in India and need the language to integrate. English Language Studies for Tibetans is a charity that focuses on Tibetan communities who migrate to India following the Dalai Lama, and often settle there. You can live with Buddhist nuns and monks high up in the splendour of the Himalayas, or choose the vibrant rush of the city and teach young people at the SOS Tibetan Youth Hostel in Delhi. Teaching is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time abroad, as you learn as much from your students as you can offer them.
If the classroom is not your cup of chai, there is plenty more to choose from. India is rich with different habitats and many species face the struggle for survival in the face of rapid urbanisation and industrial growth, so eco-development and conservation projects have boomed. You can care for crocodiles in the lush south amid the landscape of Kipling’s stories, or teach eco-friendly farming techniques to mountainside communities with Projects Abroad. If you’ve been tempted by India’s vast untouched beaches, then protecting the extremely rare Olive Ridley turtles on the east coast might be just what you are looking for; you even get to escort the helpless little hatchlings safely to the Indian Ocean.
As India’s economy develops at a staggering pace, its companies are keen to adopt ethical practices and protect their countries stunning landscape, so if the office is more appealing than the farm, there are many spots for consultants. What really sets India apart as a volunteering location is this diversity of options, and the genuine need for people to take them up. It is the place to be for anyone who wants to do more than just another typical gap year.
Even though you are giving up your time and working for free when volunteering, it’s important to remember that despite this, you may still have to swallow a few costs.
Here’s a few things to add up if you’re serious about volunteering in India:
- Volunteer Program Fees: Yes, you’re working for free but some programs will have a charge. Be sure to contact any charities beforehand to find out if this is the case, and if so, how much.
- Flights: You will most likely have to pay for your own flights, although you may be able to raise the money for this with a fundraiser before you leave. Websites like Skyscanner can help you find the cheapest prices on flights however be sure to factor in the price tag of your ticket before agreeing to volunteer with any charities.
- Travel Insurance: You may not be the kind of person who normally takes out travel insurance but when you’re travelling to India it’s a different story. As with flights, there are plenty of websites which allow you to compare costs.
- Spending Money: Sure it won’t be the same as back home and your meals and accommodation may be provided for, but you will still want to take a little bit of money with you even if it’s just for covering phonecalls and postcards back home.
James is a travel blogger and writer based in London, UK. When not off exploring exotic destinations like India, he can usually be found blogging about his experiences and planning his next trip abroad.