A great way to know a destination and to give something back to the local community is to contribute a bit of your time. Volunteering tourism becoming increasingly popular in India. While this is a satisfying opportunity, it also gives you access to the real problems or needs of a place. By the end of it, volunteers have developed some resilient relationships and a genuine love for the place.
Here are some volunteering opportunities to consider:
This is the most popular travel specific volunteering programme in India. Many organic farms do not mind the extra hands to take on daily activities while the guests understand how an Indian farm runs. Sustainable agriculture is high on the list to explore in the country. It provides a vast opportunity to dive into field work to learn or contribute to the programme. Join in to learn about pulses, cereals, vegetables and bio-dynamic practices like working with compost.
WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) has been steadily gaining popularity in India and offers opportunities on tea plantations, coffee estates, and within other agricultural communities.
If you are after something short term many plantation homestays can arrange for you to spend a day on the plantation assisting the workers and learning about the crops and processes undertaken.
Small village schools are scattered all over the Indian countryside but often suffer from lack of resources – teachers and books. This is the easiest way to contribute your time by spending a few weeks creating a study model for the children and helping locals in relating it to the kids.
Eco Habitat (Coorg) can facilitate a programme with a local tribal school near the Dubare elephant camp. You can get in touch with Som, the owner, who is a passionate Coorgi and often takes guests for a quick trip. You can also donate books and stationary for these children.
This Calcutta based organisation works with dance to rehabilitate victims of violence and trafficking. They also work with mental health patients, people suffering from AIDS and children on the railway platform. If you have interest in the arts, you can get in touch with the organisation. They have also expanded this intervention work in other parts of the country. Kolkata Sanved uses dance movement as an alternate mode of therapy and rehabilitation and have a number of ways volunteers can help, from donating to to much needed items from educational material to instrumental CDs.
There are a few opportunities in this sector. Short term volunteering can be taken up in Jaipur. A village near the capital, Amber, allows you to tend to the animals before they start their arduous work of climbing the Fort multiple times, plying people in a grand manner. You can understand more about the animals and their working life after spending some time volunteering here.
This is another popular sector to consider for your volunteering break. Many organisations do not insist on medical background, just passion to help out. These can be planned around village hospitals or community health centres. The work can involve you in anything from documentation to counselling.
For those with some medical experience or hoping to study in a medical profession GAP Medics (UK and USA) can help place you with a hospital work experience place in India.
Whatever volunteer opportunity you opt for, the experience is sure to be a rewarding one and much appreciated by the local communities who benefit from your time.
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.