Experiencing India and Volunteering in India: your time in India
Part of the project campus
Volunteers paint a mural on the classroom wall
Simple vegetarian food is provided for project staff and volunteers
Getting to know local staff and students
Visit other projects and learn more about development: this womens' self-help group is run by one of many projects which have links with VRI
Local schoolchildren enjoy being taught songs and games
Volunteer Dial Sharma, a retired teacher, shows inexperienced local teachers how to make classes more stimulating
amarpurkshi village and surrounding fields
experience a different culture
Your 3-week stay at our partner project
You will spend your first three weeks on the campus of a small project on the outskirts of the village of Amapurkashi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, northern India.
You will learn about and, wherever possible, take part in the different activities run by the project. You will stay in rooms shared with others from the scheme, and eat simple vegetarian meals with project staff in the campus dining area. You will have the option to join in simple yoga sessions each morning, have basic Hindi lessons and take part in evening discussions about issues of development, history and culture. There will be a trip to buy local clothes to help you fit in.
There is often a day trip to another project or place of interest such as a school in a nearby village. In October and March you can take part in the colourful festivals of Diwali and Holi.
"The lifestyle is great and the college environment both safe and friendly. The evening discussions were excellent, very informative and enlightening. One of my best moments was dancing with some of the local girls! " - Jo, England, November 2006
Although it is not a structured volunteer programme, many visitors find they are able to lend a helping hand. Here are some ways they got involved:
- conversational English classes for students
- intensive English lessons with small groups of primary school children
- educational murals and other teaching aids
- sports days
- basic computer training
""My best moments were seeing all our hard work come to a crescendo in the Science Fair and going to a Hindu engagement feast. " Kate, November 2009
You will also have a good deal of free time; it's entirely up to you whether you use your time to befriend local staff and students, explore the nearby small town with fellow visitors, sit in on classes in the local school, or just relax and acclimatise to a different pace of life.
Experiences of previous visitors
It is difficult to provide a fixed programme of events for the 3-week period, because it depends so much on what is happening at the project at the time. But this diary gives you an example of how one project visitor spent his 3 weeks. For more informal accounts, have a look at some of the blogs by previous visitors.
Support during your stay in India
In Amarpurkashi, you will receive a warm welcome from project staff who will be happy to help you. Deepu, youngest daughter of the project accountant whose family lives on the campus, will show you around, take you shopping and teach you Hindi.
"Everyone was so helpful and really friendly. They were all very supportive and I will miss them all." - Kate, September 2009
After your first 3 weeks:
Visit other projects
During your three weeks you can decide whether you enjoy life in a project and whether you would like to visit another one. VRI has information on numerous projects across India. These projects do not have any direct links with VRI but many of them have been visited by other VRI visitors. Some projects are more suitable for short visits: your role will be that of an observer, gaining a deeper knowledge of grass-roots development work. At other projects, there are opportunities for hands-on volunteering over a longer period.
"With the help of APK’s links to other projects, I arranged to volunteer at the Deep Griha Society in Pune, an organisation working in the slums of the city. I helped with teaching English to the young girls who take part in the literacy programme. I was most impressed with the City of Child, a rural home for many of the disadvantaged children from the city and the City of Knowledge, a primary school set up for the rural community just outside Pune." - Monika, November 2009
Get more involved in the Amarpurkashi project
Alternatively, you can remain at (or return to) Amarpurkashi and become more actively involved. Your role at APK (agreed in consultation with project staff) will depend on your own skills and initiative and on the priorities of the project at the time. Therefore, it's difficult to predict in advance what volunteer work will be available. However, teaching English conversation, assisting the primary school teachers, sorting the library and painting murals are tasks that are usually available and actively encouraged. (Note that the project director reserves the right to decide whether a project visitor may continue to stay in the project; however, he is usually delighted when people choose to stay). Here are some of the ways visitors have got involved:
- Shelley (a Hindi speaker) spent several weeks researching teaching in the primary school and provided very valuable information which is now being used as the foundation for a new course in teacher training for the primary school teachers.
- Dial (a Hindi speaker and experienced primary school teacher) trained the teachers.
- Greg (a retired IT trainer) taught English in the degree college and trained some local staff in basic computing
It's a good idea to visit one or two other projects (see above) before deciding where to get involved.
.. or do your own thing
A third option is to spend the rest of your time in India as an independent traveller. Your 3 weeks at Amarpurkashi will still have been a valuable experience, and will have given you more confidence to travel in India.
Wherever you are in India, you can consider APK as your homebase, and return there for advice or just for a visit.
A different way of life
India has very specific cultural traditions and etiquette and these should always be respected. Spending time at a development project can be very rewarding but it can also be frustrating. The pace of life is very slow and attitudes and priorities are often very different from those you are used to. You may not have any privacy and you must be willing to fit in and adapt to a very different way of life. Although our partner project is working to combat injustice, you may still encounter situations you find upsetting, such as gender inequality.
Apply now for an unforgettable experience.(or click here for application form in Word format)
Why choose VRI?
Our past visitors have chosen VRI because:
- it is a reliable scheme which has run for many years
- it is affordable for travellers on a low budget
- it is run by a registered charity and all proceeds go to the charity
- there are no paid UK staff and the scheme is run with minimal overheads
- it is a small and friendly organisation; we are happy to answer individual queries from potential visitors
- it is sensitive to local culture and to the needs of our partner project
- the scheme in India is run by our partner project in India, rather than being something imposed upon the project by a Western organisation
- it has an easily-contactable base in the UK
More informationclick here to return to the first page describing the scheme
click here to read about the experiences of past visitors